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, 20 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
British racer Simon Andrews succumbed to injuries suffered in a high-speed crash during 2014 North West 200 street race in Northern Ireland. The Penz13.com BMW racer passed away May 19 at the age of 29. “In such moments I have no words.
Tue, 20 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
HeliBars, one of the leaders in replacement motorcycle handlebars and riser systems, is pleased to announce that installation labor of its innovative, patented products will be just $100–half price–during the Americade rally, in Lake George, New York from June 2nd to 6th. Americade attendees will have their new HeliBars installed and custom-tailored during the rally by factory certified HeliBars installer, Sportline Power Products, in nearby Queensbury. The shop will have on hand a wide selection of Heli comfort kits, headlined by the just-released Luxury Sport Touring Horizon handlebars for Honda Goldwings and F6Bs.
Thu, 15 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
A newly-published patent application reveals Honda is working on a retro-styled dual sport. The application, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, reveals a streetbike with round headlight and mirrors but with hand guards, wire spokes and a high-rising exhaust suggesting some off-road capability.
Wed, 14 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Marc Marquez has signed a contract extension with Honda Racing Corporation that will see the reigning MotoGP champion stay with the manufacturer through the end of the 2016 season. “We are very satisfied to have reached an agreement to keep Marc in the team for a further two seasons,” says Shuhei Nakamoto, executive vice president of HRC. “Of course, as Honda, we wanted to keep Marc in our family, and he also wanted to stay with us so … it was natural to renew the contract even if it is very early in the season!
Wed, 14 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Nilox, the action camera sponsor for World Superbike, makes it a point to film an on-board lap of each track on the calendar before each race weekend. A few weeks ago we brought you footage of Giuliano Rovelli lapping a Honda CBR1000RR SP around Assen. This week Rovelli is back, this time aboard a Kawasaki ZX-10R, giving us a rapid tour of Imola, the track made famous by the tragic passing of Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna 20 years ago, and also by the legendary battle between Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards in 2002 which decided the championship.
Thu, 08 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Continental’s Road Attack 2 Classic Race tires offer racers a modern high-performance tire in sizes suitable for classic machines. The Road Attack 2 Classic Race tires features contemporary components like high-performance compounds, radial construction, a multi-compound tread design, and other modern technologies not found in other tires designed for classic bikes. Proof of the tires’ performance is evidenced by victories around the world during the 2013 season.
Wed, 07 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Care to lap a race track alongside racing legends Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Bubba Shobert and other greats? Curious about what really takes place during a new-motorcycle test session? Want to know how those cool action photos you see in the magazines are created? All this and a whole lot more is within the digital pages of Dain Gingerelli’s new tome; Motors For Nothing (Kicks For Free).
Mon, 05 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Ryan Villopoto capped off his fourth-consecutive AMA Supercross championship with an impressive victory at the season finale at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider clinched the title at last week’s New Jersey round so he didn’t have to prove anything in Vegas. But he did, leading all 20 laps and winning by nearly 14 seconds.
Mon, 05 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
With the AMA Supercross season now over, the American Motorcyclist Association congratulates the three riders who claimed AMA No. 1 plates during the 2014 AMA Supercross season — Ryan Villopoto, 450SX champion; Justin Bogle, 250SX East champion; and Jason Anderson, 250SX West champion. Ryan Villopoto, from Seattle, Wash., locked up his fourth straight AMA Supercross premier class title in the series’ penultimate round, clinching at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Thu, 01 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Arai Helmet has thrown its proverbial hat in the ring by signing up to sponsor the next two events of the new GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Shootout Presented by Yamaha. In addition, Arai has been named the official helmet of the series. The Arai Pacific Nationals will be hosted by the AFM next weekend, May 3-4, at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.