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.
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
When American Honda officially announced the new 2015 CB300F this morning, it didn’t take long to realize the naked version of the CBR300R would not be offered with anti-lock brakes. The lack of ABS, even as an option, was one of the things that differentiated it from the CBR300R which offered it at a $500 premium. That’s not the case north of the border however, as Honda Canada confirmed it will offer the CB300F with ABS as standard equipment.
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Honda has signed Dani Pedrosa to a two-year contract extension that will see the Spanish racer stay with its factory MotoGP team through the 2016 season. By the end of the contract, Pedrosa will have spent a whole decade racing for Honda in the premier class to go with another five seasons in the 125cc and 250cc classes. The signing follows a similar two-year contract extension for Pedrosa’s teammate, the reigning World Champion Marc Marquez while over in the Yamaha camp, Valentino Rossi also recently signed a two-year contract extension, making 2016 the year to watch for silly season drama.
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Moriwaki has announced the launch of a new Women’s team for the Suzuka 4 Hours Endurance Race 2014, that will include two team riders, both from the USA: Melissa Paris and Shelina Moreda. The race will take place on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of July. With Synergy Force Japan as the main sponsor for the project, the two American ladies are just as highly motivated as the team members of Synergy Force Moriwaki Club.
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
From custom café racers to beautifully restored Bridgestone motorcycles, a full range of motorcycling interests will be represented at BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring Indian Motorcycle, July 11-13 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Classic Clubs that will be located on Championship Row include the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, Louisville Vintage Motorworks, Café Racer magazine and Bridgestone Motorcycle Club. The Club Corral, across from Championship Row, will include the Indian 4 Cylinder Club, the Kawasaki ZL Owners Association and the Cincinnati Classic British Motorcycle Owners.
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Rob Muzzy, a top tuner, engine builder and race team owner has been elected to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Muzzy, who was elected to the Road Racing category, will be inducted at the 2014 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Oct. 17, in Orlando, Fla.
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The Virginia Tech Bolt e-bike racing team will compete in the July 12-13 zero emissions road race at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville NJ. This race is part of the eMotoRacing series, which runs in conjunction with AHRMA. The 96 volt student-built prototype racebike will compete in the eSuperSport class against a field of production based Brammo Empulses. The Bolt Team is no stranger to competition, as it has previous experience racing in the TTXGP series in 2012.
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Kawasaki‘s Tom Sykes extended his championship lead while a Race Two collision between Aprilia teammates Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri provided drama in the World Superbike Championship round at Portugal’s Portimao track. Sykes qualified on the pole in a sun-draped Superpole session but the clouds rolled in on race day, forcing teams to plan for mixed weather. An overcast sky presided over a dry Race One, leading to a mix of tire choices but all of the racers switched to wet tires for Race Two that saw the scheduled 20-lap length reduced to 18 laps.
Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The Energica EGO, the Italian electric motorcycle which boasts technology borrowed from Formula 1, will be coming to the U.S. as part of the “Where’s My EGO” tour. The made in Modena EGO uses 3D printing techniques on various components, while its vehicle control unit and multi-map riding system keeps the power in check.
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
With 12.22 miles of road winding its way to the 14,115-ft. summit, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb can be a daunting and dangerous challenge. Just ask our own Troy Siahaan who competed in last year’s “Race to the Clouds“ and broke his foot after crashing and falling off a 15-foot drop.
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
British brand Ariel, best known for its high-performance Atom sports car, has revealed a new modular motorcycle platform based around the Honda VFR1200F’s V-4 engine. Dubbed the Ariel Ace, the new motorcycle will be produced in low volumes but can be configured in a number of ways to customers’ specifications to create a unique motorcycle with the ergonomics they want. “Motorcyclists have a real passion for their machines.