Arguably the most famous motorcycle brand of all time, Honda is the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer of all time. Founded by Soichiro Honda in 1946, the Honda Motor Company has been responsible for the vast majority of the world’s internal combustion engines, producing more than 14 million engines every year, making it one of the most important automotive manufactures of all time, and one of the principle driving forces of the twentieth century.
While Honda produces a broad range of products, from automobiles to advanced robotics, the company is best known for its motorcycles. From their first working prototype to their modern super bikes, Honda has cultivated a reputation for excellence that is supported by the brand’s history of mechanical reliability, forward-thinking innovation, and overall affordability. Honda’s original company mandate was to produce efficient and affordable transportation solutions for the masses, and while the world has moved on from devastated post-war economies, Honda still hold on to their original company values.
Today, Honda’s motorcycle range includes more than the simple small-capacity scooters that defined the brand early on its history, and now includes world class super bikes like the CBR1000R, trans-continental capable touring machines such as the CRF1000L Africa Twin, efficient commuter motorcycles like the CB500F, heavy-duty cruisers like the legendary Goldwing, and much, much more. In fact, Honda’s premier class racing team are the current MotoGP world champions, with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez consistently delivering incredible results onboard the RC213-V prototype racer. While Honda might be one of the biggest companies on the planet today, it wasn’t always that way.
A Brief History Of Honda
The Early Days
Honda takes its name from its founder, Soichiro Honda, a man whose passion for racing, mechanical skill, and head for business single-handedly launched one of the most successful automotive companies of all time. Soichiro Honda began his journey by manufacturing piston rings for Toyota under his own Tōkai Seiki banner. However, the onset of World War II, and a catastrophic earthquake quickly put an end to his dream. Fortunately, Honda dusted himself off and started a new company in 1946: the Honda Technical Research Institute.
The Honda Technical Research Institute was a small operation consisting of 12 employees who manufactured improvised motorized bicycles powered by small two-stroke 50cc engines; surplus war supplies that formerly powered military radio equipment. Eventually, the war surplus supply dried up, and Honda began manufacturing its own engines, which gave birth to the first Honda motorcycle: the Honda Type-A, or Bata-Bata as it was affectionately known thanks to its distinctive engine noise.
In 1949, the Honda Technical Research Institute was dissolved and replaced by the Honda Motor Co., Ltd. The company expanded and before long Honda had produced more prototypes, starting with the first every all-Honda motorcycle: the 1949 D-Type, which became the first ever Honda Dream. Throughout the 50s, Soichiro Honda continually developed new and exciting motorcycles, and in a short space of time, Honda became the most popular motorcycle brand in Japan. The company cemented its success with the introduction of a new model in 1958, the C100 Super Cub – a 50cc, step-through scooter with a three-speed gearbox and a centrifugal clutch. The Super Cub came in three sizes, 50cc, 70cc, and 90cc, and it was this very model that catapulted Honda into the history books.
In 1959, the Honda Super Cub was the first Honda to arrive in the USA, and it was an immediate success thanks to its simplistic, practical, and non-aggressive nature. Between then and now, the Honda Cub has sold more than 100 million units worldwide, with very little modernization required. While the Cub was winning acclaim in the USA, Honda were also attempting to topple well-established European marques by entering into the most prestigious race on the planet: the Isle of Man TT. In 1959, Honda fielded no less than 5 entries into the Tourist Trophy but it wasn’t until 1961 that Honda began to harvest the fruits of their labor. The ’61 Isle of Man TT saw Mike Hailwood secure Honda’s first Grand Prix victories in the 125cc and 250cc classes – an unprecedented feat by a Japanese manufacturer.
The 60s continued to be a racing success for Honda, but their successes on track were dwarfed by the company’s sales figures. By 1964, Honda had officially become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. Honda’s incredible sales were largely down to the success of their innovative marketing campaign that explained how “you meet the nicest people on a Honda,” which nicely contrasted to the usual negative connotations more commonly associated with motorcycle riders. The advertisement helped dispel previous prejudices based on 50s youth rebellion and replaced it with a friendlier, more approachable attitude to two-wheeled transportation.
To truly stamp their authority on the decade and flex their motorcycling dominance, Honda played an outrageous card at the end of the 60s, unleashing the Honda CB750 unto the world. The CB750 was one of the most important motorcycles ever developed that helped re-define what a motorcycle could be. Powered by a 736cc air-cooled inline-four engine that offered 68 horsepower 8,500 rpm, 44 lb-ft of peak torque at 7,000 rpm, and hit speeds of up to 125 mph, the CB750 signified the start of a new era: the world’s first superbike had arrived.
Between Then And Now
Honda’s CB750 gave birth to a kind of Japanese arms race that saw rival Japanese companies such as Kawasaki and Yamaha enter the superbike segment. Sports bikes were one thing, but there was also an emerging interest for off-road oriented, enduro motorcycles and Honda were quick to jump on the bandwagon, fueling the enduro boom of the 70s and paving the way for the dirt bike craze that would explode in the 1980s. Similarly, motorcycles had evolved from being simple economical tools into recreational vehicles, as the cost of cars came down and economies began to boom. Motorcycle touring became a popular pastime and Honda filled the niche with their own dedicated touring motorcycles that came complete with full-fairings, storage cases and saddlebags. No matter the category, Honda had a machine for the job.
As technology advanced and improved over the next few decades, Honda continued to ride on the crest of the wave of innovation, extensively investing in research and development. The company would experiment with innovative V4 engine configurations with oval pistons, play with gear-driven overhead cams, and eventually produce the company’s first fully-faired, four-cylinder street bike that vaguely resembles the popular sports bikes of today: the 1987 CBR600F Hurricane. Honda’s CBR-series helped fuel a new interesting in road-focused sports machines that continued to evolve throughout the 1990s up until the present day.
Today, Honda may have interests outside of the motorcycle industry, as one of the world’s most popular car manufacturers, as leading researchers into electric propulsion and hybrid technology, and as an engine supplier for anything from aircraft engines to power tools, but the company and its world famous “wing” logo will always be best remembered as motorcycle manufacturers first and foremost.
While Honda has cultivated a reputation for reliability, how do their motorcycles really rank on the reliability scale? It’s no secret that the company owe much of its success to the dependability of their motorcycles and the quality of their engineering but do modern Honda motorcycles have the same trustworthy nature of their forebears? The answer, in fact, is yes.
According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports that gathered information from over 11,000 riders who discussed the reliability of more than 12,000 new motorcycles bought and ridden between 2008 and 2014 over a twelve month period, we’re able to get a good impression of many manufacturers’ reliability ratings. Consumer Reports assessed the mileage and compared motorcycle failure rates to rider experienced and formulated a reliability index, which scored manufacturers. The lower the percentage of failure, the better the score. Honda came in second place, clocking a 12% failure rate within the first four years of ownership. It’s a remarkable figure considering that the likes of BRP’s Can-Am scored an uninspiring 42% failure rate.
Engineering Over Performance
Honda’s success is down to the level of engineering that goes into their motorcycles, with the company using forged parts over cast, impressive levels of quality control and assurance, and a design principle that favors longevity, reliability, and ride experience over outrageous performance specifications. Generally, Honda motorcycles are not as powerful as their competition but what they lack in out-right power they make up for in handling, engineering, and reliability. The most impressive example of this is the flagship CBR1000R model, which isn’t as powerful as other Japanese motorcycles in its class. Since it doesn’t push mechanical limits, Honda’s motorcycle components don’t suffer so much stress, and generally fail at a much lower rate.
Like most manufacturers, Honda has issued its fair share of recalls, with the brand totaling 33 in the past decade alone. It might sound like a daunting figure, but recalls should generally be considered as good things, with manufacturers taking account for their mistakes and remedying the situations. Fortunately, the vast majority of Honda’s motorcycle recalls were for very minor issues such as incorrect sealant application over an electrical component, or a small fluid leak.
Thanks to Honda’s thorough quality control and the company’s positive attitude towards safety, major issues are few and far between. In fact, Honda has been working hard over the past few years to raise the industry’s safety bar to a whole new level, experimenting with modern technologies and introducing innovative safety features.
The Future Of Honda Motorcycles
Honda and innovation go hand in hand, and thanks to the modern trend in electric vehicles, Honda has been quick to embrace new technology. At the moment, Honda doesn’t formally have an electric motorcycle in their line-up save for a few interesting prototypes, however, the company does formally support a brand called Mugen, which specializes in developing electric racing machinery. Mugen has consistently impressed spectators at the Isle of Man TT: Zero event, winning every year since it first appeared. Although Mugen and Honda are classed as separate entities, they’re widely considered to be one and the same.
Live Computer Instructor
In terms of riding safety technology, Honda have also previewed their impressive “Live Computer Instructor” technology that utilizes a whole host of onboard sensors, including gyroscopes, lean angle sensors, GPS technology, video cameras, and an accelerometer, that quickly assesses road conditions and provides real-time advice to riders to help them ride better. At the moment, Honda hasn’t released too many details, and whether this real-time riding instruction is for race-purposes or road-riding remains to be seen. Either way, it proves that Honda has a vested interest in promoting riding safety.
Similarly, Honda has also recently revealed a self-balancing motorcycle. The Honda Ride Assist-E is one of the aforementioned electric prototypes from Honda which is able to support itself of two-wheels without falling over, and without any remote assistance. Honda have explained that it could help encourage riders to get on two-wheels without fear of falling off. Interestingly, the Honda Ride Assist-E can also “come when called” similar to a dog responding to an owner. As you can see, Honda take research and development seriously, but they still push the boundaries of creativity every step of the way.
DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission)
Honda has pioneered plenty of new technologies over the years, from oval shaped pistons to revolutionary variable valve timing systems. One of the most exciting new technologies being implemented by Honda is the addition of Dual Clutch Transmission to some of its bigger bore motorcycles. Essentially, DCT is like a semi-automatic gearbox, which is something usually reserved for the scooter class. However, Honda have decided to include it on their flagship adventure motorcycle, the Africa Twin. With the option of choosing from a fully manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic ride experience, Honda foresees DCT being a revolutionary way to help attract riders to motorcycling by eliminating gear shifting for good.
There’s no shortage of seminal Honda motorcycles, however, there are a few models that have helped to define categories, styles, and eras, as well as setting the benchmarks for the rest of the industry. For example, as street bikes go, there are none more famous nor more influential than the original 1969 Honda CB750 – a motorcycle that many consider to be the world’s first superbike.
Honda also managed to stamp their authority off-road as well as on when they unleashed the legendary 1974 CR125M onto the world. As far as dirt bikes go, the CR125M wasn’t the most advanced, and nor was it the best in its day – but it certainly was the most popular, largely due to the fact that it was incredibly fast, incredibly reliable, and most importantly: it was cheap. This model essentially fired the starting pistol of a dirt bike boom in the United States.
Tucked nicely between the world of street bikes and dirt bikes, Honda has also carved out a reputation for itself in building highly versatile sport touring and dual sport motorcycles. One of the most admired sport touring motorcycles of all time is the Honda VFR800, a model that blurred the lines between sport performance and touring comforts, offering 105 horsepower, and a sporty profile but wrapped in a practical chassis that you could ride for hours without tiring. As for dual sport machinery, there are very few dual sport aficionados that could deny the importance of the Honda XR650L: the model that defined the dual sport segment. First released in 1992, the XR650L has been in continuous production up until the present day. Many consider the XR650L to be one of the most indestructible and versatile motorcycles of all time.
Honda’s global headquarters is in Minato, Tokyo, Japan, but the company has offices all over the globe and manufacturing plants in more than 20 countries including China, Pakistan, Canada, Belgium, England, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Taiwan, Peru, Argentina, and the United States. Despite their global presence, Honda generally manufacturers their products in the location they plan to sell them in. For example, as of July 2010, 89% of Honda vehicles sold in the United States were manufactured and assembled in North America. Unfortunately, this no longer applies to motorcycles.
Where Are Honda Motorcycles Made?
In 2008, Honda decided to close down their American motorcycle plant. Today, Honda motorcycles are manufactured in different countries depending on the model. The Honda CBR600RR and CBR1000RR, for example, are currently manufactured at the firm’s Hamamatsu factory, while the Honda Shadow is currently manufactured in Manaus, Brazil, along with the CB600F, selected CRF models, and the XL700V Transalp. Different Honda motorcycles are made in different plants, but none are currently manufactured in the United States.
North American Sales
In 2017, Honda sold more than 294,000 motorcycles in North America alone, which is massive increase from the 189,000 units sold in 2010, showing that the motorcycle industry is recovering from the 2008 financial crisis which severely hurt motorcycle manufacturers. The progress is slow, and while many opinion pieces suggest that millennials aren’t buying motorcycles, Honda have managed to inspire a new generation of riders and their efforts are helping the industry recover. That being said, it will be a long time until Honda (and the vast majority of motorcycle manufacturers) will enjoy the same sales figures as they did in the early 2000s.
Despite the uninspiring sales over the last decade, Honda has managed to keep its head above water and has even managed to expand its workforce. Globally, the company is bigger than ever, and its North American operations has also grown. Today, Honda directly employs more than 30,000 in the USA, with over 73% of those in manufacturing roles. Honda also employs more than 160,000 in US dealership jobs, and tens of thousands more in parts and OEM supply roles. Interestingly, in over 50 years operating in the United States, Honda has never laid-off a single employee.
Honda Motorcycle Dealerships
While Honda has a massive global presence, in the USA alone the firm has 997 dealerships (not including Acura dealerships), 12 US-based manufacturing plants, 14 R&D labs, and employs more than 30,000 US workers. From their dealership network, Honda has officially recognized those that are a cut above the rest and identified them as Honda Powerhouse dealers. What this means is that these Honda motorcycle dealers carry a broader selection of products than the average dealership. These retailers are recognized as exemplary Honda motorcycle dealerships which offer a greater selection of genuine Honda parts and accessories, as well as access to more factory trained Honda service technicians.
Pied Piper Dealership Rankings
Despite its enormous presence, Honda only ranked 13th out of 17 motorcycle manufacturer’s dealerships with regard to customer satisfaction in a 2017 study conducted by Pied Piper. The Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) is an independent survey of the major manufacturer’s dealerships and how they interact with potential customers. Over the last few years, Honda has performed well below average, however, the company is steadily improving, scoring higher points every year and generally performing better across the board. Honda’s size and enormous customer base is one of the major reasons why it under performs compared to the higher ranked dealerships, which usually specialize in more “exclusive” motorcycles such as Ducati and Triumph models.
Honda Motorcycles: Financial Incentives And Deals
Unfortunately, most internet searches relating to Honda’s financing options direct you straight to their incentive schemes for Honda automobiles and their Acura brand rather than for their two-wheeled offerings but don’t despair, because Honda Powersports offer a wide range of financing options through the Honda Financial Services arm.
Honda Financial Services offer a wide range of deals including installment financing for new and used Honda motorcycle products sold through licensed Honda dealers, with tailored plans with terms lasting between 24 and 72 months, optional 90 day deferred first payment, or 60 day no interest options and more. Also, Honda motorcycles financial plans include a interesting graduate program that offers recent or soon-to-be graduates special financing options for Honda motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and other off-road vehicles. The Honda Graduate Program does not require a co-signer, and it an attractive way to start building credit.
While deals vary from dealership to dealership and throughout the year, Honda Financing generally offers attractive Factory-to-Dealer Incentive schemes, fixed low (or 0%) APR financing options, and interesting cost reductions for veterans and active military personnel. For the most up to date information, contact your local Honda motorcycle dealer.
Honda Rider Education
As well as offering attractive financing deals, Honda also has its very own training program to help inspire new riders to get on two-wheels and to improve the skills of already experienced riders too. Honda’s Rider Education Centers provide in-depth rider tuition for a wide range of disciplines at purpose built training facilities. For example, a learner scooter rider will learn how to ride a scooter in an environment similar to what they can expect on the road, rather than a glorified parking lot. Honda offers rider training for scooters, street bikes, dirt bike and ATVs. They also offer an Experienced Rider Course (ERC) for riders who already own a motorcycle.
Honda holds these classes regularly except on major holidays, and new riders can enjoy the use of the Center’s helmets and gloves, although Honda recommends that students wear their own gear. The age restrictions conform with the local State requirements, except for the dirt bike courses which will accept children as young as 6 years old for training.
Honda’s Other Business Interests
While Honda is best known for its motorcycle production, the Japanese firm actually manufacturers a broad range of products and has interests in many areas. Like all major multinationals, Honda owns numerous subsidiaries and has countless business that fall under its banner, however, there are a few arms of the over-arching Honda company that are a cut above the rest.
Honda can trace its automotive history back to 1963 with the company’s first model being the T360, a kei-car truck built specifically for the Japanese market. Following on from the success of their first model, Honda’s automobile division grew to manufacturer a roadster model, a small delivery van, and other small models until they built the Honda 1300 in 1969: the company’s first four-door sedan. The company went from strength to strength, introducing industry mainstays such as the Accord and the Civic, and even forming their own in-house luxury brand called Acura in 1986. The early 90s were difficult for Honda with the death of company founder Soichiro Honda in ’91, but after some management restructuring and a small image change, the troubles quickly evaporated. These days, Honda’s automotive arm is one of the most successful names in the automobile industry.
Of course, Honda’s early success was built on top of Soichiro Honda’s knowledge of re-purposed military engines that were used to power a wide range of apparatus, so it’s no wonder that the company has always had a vested interest in producing power equipment. Honda’s power equipment division builds engines that power a wide range of tools including: tillers, lawn mowers, trimmers, blowers, sprayers, hedge trimmers, electric generators, water pumps, outboard engines, and more. 2007 was a pivotal year for Honda’s power equipment division, which saw the company set record sales with over 6.4 million units sold. As of September 2008, Honda had produced more than 85 million power equipment engines in total, but that number has been eclipsed by the company’s current output.
Since 1986, Honda has been interested in the future of robotics. The Research & Development Robotics program has produced plenty of fascinating robot prototypes from the Honda E0, a basic walking, humanoid robot that enjoyed six incarnations over a seven year period before it eventually evolved into the Honda P-Series. The Honda P1 was essentially the first version of the famous ASIMO robot, and the original prototype weighed 385 lbs and stood at just under two meters tall. The most modern version of ASIMO was built in 2005 and weighs in a 120 lbs, can walk at a speed of 3.7 mph, and it can ascend and descend stairs independently.
ASIMO actually stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, and the original purpose of the project was to create a humanoid robot that could move like a human being. Honda challenged themselves to produce what many considered to be impossible and they eventually succeeded. These days, ASIMO can walk and even communicate with sign language. Honda have stated that the purpose of ASIMO is develop new technology that could be helped to aid and assist human beings in their daily life in the near future, ideally as walking aids for those with disabilities. It’s an ambitious project, but Honda has certainly produced results.
The Honda Aircraft Company
Honda’s interest in aviation began in the later 80s, with the firm experimenting with aerodynamic technology and designing small business jet models that could be powered by outsourced engines. Thanks to new breakthroughs in lightweight construction methods and a better understanding of drag and aerodynamics, Honda sought to design small sized jets that could run at reduced operating costs thanks to their advanced design. Honda’s first jet, the SMH/MH02 was a turbo prop plane with laminar flow wings which eventually led to the Honda MH02, a small plane built and assembled at the Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. Using carbon fiber and epoxy, the MH02 was the first business jet to fly using all-composite materials.
In the late 90s, Honda took a new interest in aviation when the Honda Aircraft Company’s founder, Michimasa Fujino, drew up plans for a new jet arrangement. After extensive testing in the Boeing windtunnel, the concept was declared viable, and the first prototype HondaJet went into production. With Honda’s aviation arm headquartered at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, it seemed appropriate that the new jet would be built and tested there. After years of refinement and testing, the Honda HA-420 HondaJet was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration on 8 December 2015, with the first customer deliveries occurring weeks later.
While Honda’s main two-wheeled focus has always been on engine powered bikes, the company has also dabbled in pedal powered vehicles. The Honda RN-01 was the company’s first ever downhill racing bike and it’s actually one of the most technologically advanced bicycles ever made, with many of its unique components being a closely guarded secret. Unlike most bicycles, the RN-01 uses a unique gearbox rather than a conventional derailleur system, features top of the range Showa suspension, and uses a continuously variable transmission to assist gear changes. Naturally, the RN-01 is reserved for professional racers only and is not available to the public.
Honda’s ATV Division
While Honda enjoyed huge motorcycle sales for the North American market throughout the summer months in the 1960s, the winter sales figures were not quite as successful. To remedy this, American Honda tasked Osamu Takeuchi from Honda R&D Ltd., to design a new product for the American market for dealers to sell during the colder months. After three years of intense research and development, the world’s first all-terrain vehicle was born: the US90, which would eventually be marketed and sold as the ATC90 in 1970. The first ATV’s were squat three-wheeled machines with low centers of gravity, powered by 89cc four-stroke, single-cylinder engines, with 7 horsepower that could take riders over any obstacle and through any terrain. Little did Honda know at the time that they’d given birth to an entirely new industry.
From then on, Honda’s ATV range expanded to accommodate smaller engines for younger riders, and bigger engines for the more adventurous. New Forest Service-approved technology was implemented, adjustable suspension was introduced, disc brakes and other high performance parts became standard, and reverse gears became the norm. Despite the ATV’s fast evolution, the first four-wheeled ATV didn’t appear on the scene until 1984 when the TRX200 surfaced, closely followed by the groundbreaking 1986 FourTrax 250R, a two-stroke single with all the mod cons of the era that was aimed at expert riders and thrill seekers only.
These days, there are plenty of ATVs on the market that follow Honda’s lead, and all-terrain vehicles have become popular vehicles that can tackle a wide range of outdoor pursuits, ideally suited to challenging terrain. The world didn’t know it needed it until Honda created it, and that’s one of the company’s defining characteristics: creating new products that don’t fit in to any other niche.
Honda Renewable Energy
Between 2008 and 2014, Honda piloted a solar cell program called Honda Soltec that specialized in manufacturing solar cells for residential use. Unfortunately, the program came to an end, but Honda’s interest in renewable energy continuous to this day. While the company’s primary concern is focusing on developing alternative and sustainable fuel systems for automobiles, winning numerous awards for their efforts, Honda also has a vested interested in other environmentally conscious energy systems.
The Honda Smart Home US program is a platform that showcases what technologies are available for consumers to live a low-carbon lifestyle. The Smart Home, built on the University of California’s Davis campus is a show home that utilizes renewable energy sources to power itself and even store enough charge to power a Honda Fit EV too. Using efficient building materials and solar panels, Honda have proven that it’s possible to switch to renewable energy without making huge sacrifices.
Similarly, Honda also implements renewable energy into its operations wherever possible. For example, Honda became the first US auto manufacturer to derive a significant portion of its electricity consumption from renewable energy sources when it installed two wind turbines to help power its Russells Point transmission plant in Ohio. Honda’s plan is to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by the year 2050, and the addition of these two turbines alone has reduced Honda’s CO2 footprint by 8,138 tons per year, proving that actions speak louder than words.
The Honda Racing Corporation (HRC)
Arguably, Honda’s most famous subsidiary has to be HRC, the Honda Racing Corporation. HRC is Honda’s dedicated racing division that specializes in designing and building prototype racing machines to compete at world class levels. Originally, the Honda Motor Company took care of its own racing interests but as the company expanded, Honda’s executives saw the benefit of creating a dedicated racing enterprise. In 1970, Honda formed the Racing Service Center (RSC) which oversaw all of Honda’s racing concerns. In 1982, RSC was disbanded and replaced by HRC, the Honda Racing Corporation, a new division that exists to this day that looks after Honda’s motorcycle racing interests in the road racing, endurance, trials, and motocross fields.
HRC’s main role is to develop and prepare racing machines for a wide range of racing activities. Since these motorcycles are not designed or developed for mass production, it allows Honda to experiment and push the boundaries of their normal development practice, inventing cutting edge technologies that could one day be the norm on regular consumer-level motorcycles. Developing new technologies is one of HRC’s main priorities but the company also supports the motorsport industry in a number of other ways. HRC sells machinery to other racing teams to compete with, offers support for other Honda endorsed racing teams, helps train new talent in race technology development, supplies top of the range parts to racing outfits, and of course, trains the next generation of world class riders.
HRC is mainly based in Japan where it has 23 individual Service Shops, but it also has seven other sites overseas. These shops provide user support for existing HRC customers, in the form of troubleshooting, tuning advice, and race assistance. The shops also supply a wide range of kit parts for satellite and customer racing teams, as well as private individuals. While HRC supplies teams for a variety of different motorcycle racing disciplines, there is one championship and one racing team that stands head and shoulders above the rest: the MotoGP’s Repsol Honda racing team.
Honda’s most successful racing team was born out of a partnership between HRC and Spanish energy giant Repsol. The Repsol Honda fielded their first team in to the MotoGP in 1995 and has become one of the most successful racing teams of all time. Since 1995, Repsol Honda have won 15 world championships and have been responsible for the success of legendary racers such as Mick Doohan, Àlex Crivillé, Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner, and the current MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez.
Honda’s current premier class racing machine is the RC213V, a powerful sports bike powered by a liquid-cooled 1000cc V4, 16-valve DOHC engine. While the actual specifications of MotoGP race bikes are closely guarded secrets, it’s known that the current RC213V boasts a lightweight aluminum twin-spar chassis, telescopic front forks from Öhlins, a rear Pro-Link rear shock (also from Öhlins), carbon ceramic Brembo brakes, and weighs in at under 350 lbs, as per FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) rules. The RC213V has a power output in excess of 250 horsepower, and has a top speed of over 225 mph. The name “RC213V” is formed by the letters RC which is Honda’s traditional letter designation for four-stroke racers, 213 which explains that it’s the third works bike of the 21st century from HRC, and V for its V4 engine configuration.
Other Honda Motorcycle Racing Success
Honda’s MotoGP domination might be the most talked about but Honda motorcycles have also performed incredibly well in other disciplines. The Isle of Man TT’s lap record of the Snaefell Mountain Course was formerly held by John McGuiness, who piloted a CBR1000RR around the course maintaining an average speed of 132.701 mph. Honda sees regular success at the TT races, having claimed more than 227 victories across a wide range of classes, including the Sidecar TT too.
Honda has also claimed no less than six Motocross World Championships, eight titles in the World Enduro Championships, and three overall world championships in Motorcycle Trials. Of course, Honda has also experienced roaring success in four-wheeled racing events, such as the Formula 1, the Indy 500, and the World Touring Car Championships, but the teams automobile racing success is covered in more depth our automotive articles.
If you’ve ever wanted to see the full history and evolution of the Honda brand laid out in one place then you’re in luck. There are plenty of Honda exhibitions and learning centers dotted all over the globe, but when if you’re looking for permanent museums there are two places that should be on top of your “must visit” list. The first is American Honda’s museum, the Honda Heritage Center, which is based out of Marysville, Ohio, and the second is the Honda Collection Hall which is located at the Twin Ring Motegi raceway which is approximately 93 miles north of Tokyo, Japan.
Honda Heritage Center, Ohio
The Honda Heritage Center in Ohio is a symbol of the company’s success in North America ever since the brand first emerged in the USA. The museum itself is built in the former Marysville plant and features a wide range of exhibits and showcases the very best Honda products from the past, present, and future. Popular attractions include the 1980 Elsinore CR250R, which was the first motorcycle to be produced at the Marysville plant, a 2009 Honda GL1800 Goldwing which was the last motorcycle to be built there, on top of that Honda lay on a full showcase of their American made V6 engines, celebrate the Acura brand, and even have a working ASIMO robot too.
Of course, there are plenty of other historical and interactive exhibitions too. Opening times are Tuesday to Friday and selected Saturdays, and entry is free. It’s advised to check the Honda Heritage Center’s website in advance to make sure it’s open on the day you plan to visit.
Honda Collection Hall, Motegi, Japan
If you really want to take a stroll through the history of the Honda brand you’ll have to travel to Japan. Honda has a permanent exhibition at the Twin Ring Motegi racing complex, which is approximately 93 miles north of Tokyo. Aside from being a world class racing circuit, Motegi houses the Honda Collection Hall, a three-floored museum that showcases the best technology that Honda has ever produced.
The third floor deals with Honda’s racing heritage and hosts an impressive collection of Honda racing motorcycles and cars through the ages. The second floor focuses on the history of Honda and its manufacturing methods, beginning with bicycle engines right up to modern day examples – the display features actual artifacts from the different eras. The ground floor takes a special look at the history of Honda and the Twin Ring Motegi race track, with a display of six more Honda racing motorcycles. The museum also plays host to an ASIMO robot, an extensive reading room with plenty of Honda related literature, and a cool interactive experience for kids which involves building and test driving miniature electric cars!
Check with the Motegi website for opening hours and admission costs. Since the exhibition is located at a race track, tickets become more expensive on race days, and the opening hours are subject to change.
5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Honda Motorcycles
#01. The most expensive Honda motorcycle ever sold at auction was a pre-production CB750 prototype that was built for promotion purposes in 1968. The rare motorcycle, one of only four built and one of only two to survive, was put under the hammer at the British National Motorcycle Museum on March 4th 2018. It sold for a record £161,000 ($263,75) which was around $200,000 more than the estimate! This record breaking CB750 not only became the most expensive Honda motorcycle ever sold, but the most expensive Japanese motorcycle ever sold too.
#02. At the very same auction in the United Kingdom, a very special 1969 Honda Z50A Monkey Bike was also put up for auction. The special thing about this Honda was that it was previously owned by John Lennon of The Beatles. While it’s not the most remarkable motorcycle ever built, its star ownership inflated the price to a heady £57,500 ($94,187) making it one of the top 10 most expensive Japanese motorcycles ever sold at auction.
#03. We’ve all heard of Honda motorcycles and Honda automobiles, Honda ATVs, power equipment, and watercraft, but did you know that Honda is a massive exporter of soy beans too? The company grows soybeans near its Ohio plants and exports them using the same containers that usually arrive filled with automotive parts. It’s a massive part of Honda’s US economic strategy, and they’ve been doing it since 1986!
#04. The Honda “Wings” logo was originally penned by Soichiro Honda after he took inspiration from the Greek goddess Nike. In Greek mythology, Nike was a symbol of strength, speed and victory, and took on the role of a divine charioteer, often symbolized with a winged motif. Honda adorned his first motorcycle (the A-type) with a winged motif, and over the years it evolved into the emblem we know today. The first recognizable wing logo first appeared in 1968, and remains relatively unchanged to this very day.
#05. Despite being the largest Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, Honda is actually the youngest of the “Big Four.” Yamaha was founded first, in 1887 as a piano manufacturer; Kawasaki was founded next in 1896 as the Kawasaki Tsukiji shipyard in Tokyo, followed by Suzuki in 1909, who began life as a manufacturer of weaving looms. Honda wasn’t founded until much later in 1946, making it a relatively young company in comparison.