Honda is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Japan and has been since it started production in 1955. At its peak in 1982, Honda manufactured almost three million motorcycles annually. By 2006 this figure had reduced to around 550,000 but was still higher than its three domestic competitors.
Soichiro Honda began producing motorcycles in 1946 to satisfy a thirst for cheap transportation in war devastated Japan. Honda began his effort by installing military surplus engines in bicycles. As Honda became more prosperous, he designed his own 50cc engine for the bicycles. The first motorcycle that featured a completely Honda designed motor and frame was produced in 1949. It was called the Model D for Dream. Soon Model J Benly appeared.
Honda wanted to sell a more powerful motorcycle that led to the 146cc over head valve four-stroke E-Type Dream with a top speed of 50mph. The motorcycle featured Honda's own designed frame and suspension on both wheels.
In 1952 Honda began producing the Cub with two-stroke engine. Its big sales became basis for future development.
In 1953 Honda began producing a four-stroke single powered motorcycle featuring more engineering sophistication. This small motorcycle was also called a Benly and featured a three-speed gearbox, pressed steel Frame, rear suspension with the engine and swinging arm on a sprung pivot, and telescopic front suspension and produced 3.8bhp.
A revolution in the motorcycle industry began in 1958 when Honda brought the C100 Super Club to the American market. It was the first Honda motorcycle sold in the U.S. The small step through design was easy to ride reliable bike. It was featured in the famous “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” marketing campaign that eventually made the C100 motorcycle the best selling motorcycle of all times. Eventually more than 30 million would be built.
CB models included the CA72 (250cc) and followed by the CA77 (305cc). The parallel twin engines proved very reliable, however their stamped steel welded frames handled poorly at higher speeds.
Performance and handling improved when the company bolted the little parallel twin engines to a steel tubular frame and added twin carburetors for more power. The motorcycles were known as the CB 72 and 77 super hawk models and gained a reputation of reliability.
The first commercially successful large motorcycle was the CB450, brought out in 1965 and called the black bomber. This innovative engine featured torsion bar valve springs that allowed high rpm and was the first serious effort by Honda to challenge English dominance in the American marketplace.
This was followed in 1969 with the Honda CB750 four. A powerful and reliable motorcycle that dominated the motorcycle market. The success of the CB 750 4 cylinder Honda led to a series of smaller Honda motorcycles with 350, 400, 550 cc motors and ushered in the era of the universal Japanese motorcycle.
This design would reach its fruition when it morphed into the cult classic inline 6 cylinder CBX in 1978.
The reliability and power of the four cylinder Honda 750 soon led to a new kind of motorcyclist, the long distance touring rider. Craig Vetter designed a full fairing for the motorcycle called a Windjammer. Before long thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts were touring the countryside on their motorcycles behind a Windjammer.
In 1974 Honda brought out the GL1000 Gold Wing. The motorcycle featured a flat four cylinder 999cc a water cooled engine with power delivered through a driveshaft. It proved to be as reliable as the cars of the day. Soon thousands of Goldwings were bought up and converted to touring motorcycles by their new owners.
With interest running so high for touring models, Honda brought out the Interstate model in 1980. This was the first Japanese produced motorcycle to roll off the assembly line as a complete touring motorcycle. The motorcycle featured a full fairing, trunk and saddlebags.
In addition to touring motorcycles, Honda began developing a series of V-four engines in the 1970s. This led to the production of the Honda Sabre and Magna in 1980. These two models led to a whole series of VF designated high performance motorcycles ranging between 400cc and 1000cc. But due to mechanical problems the VF line was unable to sustain itself.
Following the VF was the new VFR series of motorcycles. The VFR 750R was a sport touring motorcycle with lots of power, good balance and reliability.
In 1996 Honda produced the fastest motorcycle in production with the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (1137cc). The motorcycle became popular with the long range high speed touring crowd.
Soichiro Honda died on August 5, 1991 of liver failure.
Honda's entry into the U.S. motorcycle market during the 1960s is used as a case study for teaching introductory strategy at business schools worldwide. There are a few theories explaining their great success.
Mon, 13 Oct 2014
From an EnduroCross press release:
Factory Beta and Stillwell Performance-backed Cody Webb took a decisive win tonight in Salt Lake City’s inaugural AMA GEICO EnduroCross event. The win was Webb’s second after taking the first round victory in Las Vegas and puts him and his Beta two-stroke 300 into the points lead. The race fans in attendance at the Energy Solutions Arena saw a night go almost perfectly for GEICO-supported Webb.
Fri, 10 Oct 2014
From an AMA press release:
Hollywood actor and longtime motorcyclist Perry King will serve as the master of ceremonies for the 2014 American Honda AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Harley-Davidson, on Friday, Oct. 17, at the Chapin Theater in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The induction ceremony takes place during the 2014 AMA Convention, Oct.
Tue, 07 Oct 2014
American consumers hoping Honda would replace its NC700X with the larger-displacement NC750X will be disappointed to know they might have to wait until the 2016 model year to get the 75cc engine upgrade. The California Air Resources Board has granted an executive for the 2015 Honda NC700X, certifying the motorcycle for sale in the state with the same 670cc engine displacement it had since being introduced in the 2012 model year. Now, this doesn’t mean Honda won’t decide to certify the 745cc engine after all; manufacturers resubmit and recertify models all the time, often replacing models are adding additional model using the same engine.
Fri, 03 Oct 2014
Own a new-ish Honda Gold Wing or F6B? Felt the need to convert it into a reverse trike but don’t know where to go? If you live anywhere near Lake Alfred, Florida, you’re in luck.
Mon, 29 Sep 2014
Graham Coxon, British musician and lead guitarist for Blur, auctioning off seven of his personal motorcycles with proceeds benefitting NSPCC, the UK’s leading children’s charity. See the full press release from Bonhams below. The motorcycles will be sold as part of Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale, an annual event taking place at the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, held on 19th October 2014.
Fri, 26 Sep 2014
From a Honda press release:
American Honda Motor Corp., Inc. announced today that it has renewed its contract with GEICO Honda for an additional three years, ensuring that the Factory Connection-run program will continue running Honda’s factory-supported 250 team through the 2017 season. Honda’s long professional relationship with Factory Connection owners Mike Grondahl, Jeff Majkrzak and Rick Zielfelder started in 1995, when the company began providing the factory team with suspension-related technical support.
Tue, 23 Sep 2014
If you’re looking for Honda-branded merchandise like shirts, caps, or accessories, read the full press release below to find out more. Leading e-commerce solutions developer, Powertex Group, is pleased to announce the launch of a Honda Powersports online store and new Honda Powersports branded merchandise. Powertex Group will manufacture and sell newly designed branded apparel, headwear, and accessories, such as OGIO and Oakley backpacks, drinkware, pens and picture frames, as well as provide existing Honda Powersports licensees with the opportunity to sell their merchandise. This strategy will not only increase visibility for licensed products already in market, but offer a one-stop shop where both Powersports dealers and retail customers can purchase a large assortment of Honda branded merchandise.
Tue, 16 Sep 2014
BMC has just released air filters for the 2014 KTM 1290 SuperDuke, 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 and 2011-2013 Honda CBR250 – which also fit the 2015 Honda CBR300R. These filters are distributed to the U.S. and Canada through SpeedMob Inc.
Wed, 10 Sep 2014
Pirelli’s relationship with the World Superbike Championship started in 2004 and will carry on through 2018, as the Italian company will continue to supply tires for every class of the championship. What follows is the official Pirelli press release. Pirelli has been confirmed as the Official Tire Supplier for all classes of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship having won the tender organized by Dorna, promoter and organizer of the World Championship, in agreement with the FIM, the International Motorcycling Federation.
Tue, 09 Sep 2014
While Honda has never seemed like a company to follow the old saw “We do it right because we do it twice,” the company has just announced a second recall of 126,000 GL 1800 and GL 1800A models to address a dragging rear brake problem that is serious enough to potentially cause a fire. We feel comfortable saying that this is certainly not the type of heated seats Gold Wing riders would want to have. The affected models come from a variety of years.