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.
Tue, 09 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Legendary English marque, Matchless, is attempting to emulate another famous brand, Indian, by forming a comeback. After being purchased by the Malenotti family in 2012, the brand is now going through a revival. If you’re at all in tune with the fashion world, then the Matchless name might be familiar, as many A-list celebrities wear the Matchless-labeled clothing managed by Michele Malenotti.
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Honda is celebrating the 40th year since the 1975 debut of the Gold Wing with special anniversary editions for 2015. Both the Gold Wing and the Gold Wing F6B will come with 40th anniversary badging. “For 2015 we are proud to be celebrating 40 years of the Gold Wing.
Wed, 03 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0700
You may know Brock’s Performance as one of the leading tuners of motorcycles that go seriously fast. From 200 mph dragsters to 200-plus horsepower sportbikes, but in reality, if it has an engine and two wheels, Brock can help make it go faster. Case in point is the hugely popular Honda Grom. The Brock’s Performance Alien Head Full Exhaust System ($399.95) for Honda’s pint-sized Grom combines legendary, race-proven performance with the distinctive look and sound of a show-polished Alien Head muffler.
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
If you’re like us, you never get enough Isle of Man videos. While the men and machines that fly around the course are nothing short of mesmerizing, let’s take a moment and talk about a crucial aspect of any race: the tires. In this Honda-supplied video, Dunlop technicians, along with 21-time TT winner, John McGuiness, talk about the challenges the Isle throws at tires.
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
More than 2,000 attendees visited America’s Car Museum for its 3rd annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival ‘The MEET’ last weekend in Tacoma, Washington, where over 300 motorcycles and scooters were showcased on the Haub Family Field at LeMay. The event drew pre-1981 motorcycles and scooters from the U.S. and Canada, including an antique motorcycle display, swap meet, cruise-in and a 78-mile roundtrip tour from ACM’s Anderson Plaza to Mt. Rainier.
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
American Honda Motor Corp., Inc. announced today that it has signed Cole Seely to its factory supercross/motocross team with a multiyear contract. As a member of the Troy Lee Designs Honda satellite squad, Seely this year finished a close second in the AMA Supercross series’ 250 West title chase and also performed well during three appearances as a substitute rider on Team Muscle Milk in the premier class.
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have launched a new free online tool that should make it easier for consumers to inspect their vehicles’ safety recall histories. The new search tool, available at http://www.safercar.gov/vinlookup, allows people to look for recall campaigns by entering Vehicle Identification Numbers.
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The stage is set for ”The Meet at ACM” motorcycle show this weekend in Tacoma, WA. While festivities will begin on Friday evening, America’s Car Museum (ACM) will host the third annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival on Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Organizers expect 450 vintage motorcycles and scooters from all over the nation to attend.
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
NGM Forward Racing has signed Stefan Bradl to race in the 2015 MotoGP season. Bradl will ride the Forward Yamaha Open class machine next season after spending his entire premier-class career with the LCR Honda team riding the RC213V. “It’s with great pleasure that we welcome Stefan Bradl in our team,” says Giovanni Cuzari, Forward Racing team owner.
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The 2014 edition of the LA Calendar Motorcycle Show continued its now 23-year tradition as the premier outdoor streetbike event in America with producer photographer Jim Gianatsis moving the show this year to the beautiful green lawns of the Malibu Golf Course among the twisty canyon roads in the Santa Monica Mountains alongside the Pacific Ocean. Highlighting this year’s exciting activities was the emergence of another new and soon to be renown custom bike builder to the sport for which the Calendar Show is known for cultivating. Taking Best of Show in this year’s Calendar Bike Building Championship was Calin Senciac’s Imagine Vehicles International / ImagineVehicles.com motorsports fabrication shop with an incredible custom billet aluminum designed chassis built by Terry Ward and the shop crew, housing a legendary 1979 Honda CBX 1047cc air-cooled in-line 6-cylinder engine.