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, 23 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Kawasaki‘s Tom Sykes won both races at Misano to stretch his championship lead to 39 points as we pass the halfway mark of the 2014 World Superbike Championship. The reigning champion scored his third double-win round of the season while his teammate Loris Baz added a pair of second-place finishes. David Salom on the Kawasaki’s factory EVO entry was also the top rider in the new sub-class for both races to top off a strong weekend for the Team Green.
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Josh Hayes captured his third and fourth wins of the 2014 AMA Superbike season to take the double at Barber Motorsports Park. The two wins moved Hayes to the top of the championship standings from third as the three-time champion put himself in good position to win a fourth. Race One
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rider had a relatively easy Race One as several top rivals crashed on the hot Alabama track.
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The Honda CBR300R will be joined by a naked model, if new certification documents from the California Air Resources Board are any indication. Back in March, we broke the story of a design patent for a new small-displacement naked Honda based on its CBR300R/CBR250R platform. CARB has certified a new model called the 2015 Honda CB300F along with the CBR300R and its ABS-equipped variant.
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Americans reported 45,367 stolen motorcycles in 2013, down 1.5% from 2012, reports the National Insurance Crime Bureau‘s latest Motorcycle Theft and Recovery Report. According to the NICB motorcycle thefts have been on the decline every year since 2007 when 65,678 motorcycles were reported stolen, though the overall trend appears to be leveling off. Japanese motorcycles continue to be the most popular target for thieves.
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
After teasing us for nearly two months, German brand Ronax has revealed its 500cc two-stroke sportbike. Ronax isn’t saying it’s a street-legal replica of the Honda NSR500 that Valentino Rossi rode to win the 2001 Grand Prix world championship – probably because they legally can’t – but that’s essentially what the 500 is. Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
The first ever World Superbike round in Malaysia offered a plenty of drama including both factory Kawasaki riders crashing out on the first lap, a red flagged second race and an overall impressive outing by Aprilia. Under pressure for his lack of results so far this season, Marco Melandri impressed, earning the double for his first career wins on the RSV4 Factory. Aprilia riders led every lap in both races at Sepang, including the red-flagged initial start for Race 2, with Sylvain Guintoli joining his teammate on the podium with a pair of second-place finishes.
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Michael Dunlop won his fourth race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT and 11th in his career, capping off this year’s event by taking the PokerStars Senior TT. It is the second-consecutive year that Dunlop has won four races in a single TT, this time capturing the Senior, Superbike, Superstock, and the second Supersport TT races. It took a while for Dunlop to get going.
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Earlier this week, John McGuinness won the single-lap TT Zero electric motorcycle race at the Isle of Man TT aboard his Mugen Shinden San. In the process, the 21-time TT winner smashed the old lap record of 109.675 mph, setting an average speed of 117.366 mph from a standing start. To put that in perspective, McGuinness’ teammate, Bruce Anstey, aboard a sister Mugen, set the outright lap record earlier this week aboard his Honda CBR1000RR superbike of over 132 mph.
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Dave Molyneux won his 17th career TT as he and passenger Patrick Farrance took the second Sidecar race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT. Molyneux is the career leader in Sidecar TT wins and third overall in total Isle of Man TT victories behind Joey Dunlop and John McGuinness. Molyneux and Farrance won the race by a good 44-second margin but they benefited greatly from a mechanical problem plaguing early race leaders John Holden and Andrew Winkle.
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Michael Dunlop led from start to finish to win the second Supersport TT race, giving him 10 TT victories in his career, tying him with the likes of Giacomo Agostini. Dunlop also joins sidecar racer Robert Fisher, Ian Lougher and Stanley Woods with 10 wins apiece, all tied for seventh overall on the all-time wins list. Riding his MD Racing Honda CBR600RR, Dunlop got off to a strong start, recording a time of 17:55.817 on the opening lap, giving him a 4.6-second advantage over fellow Honda rider Bruce Anstey.