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, 01 May 2014 00:00:00 -0700
In only its second race appearance, the Brough Superior Taylor Made Racing Moto2 bike competed in the WERA F1 and B Superbike events on April 27th at the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana, California, run in conjunction with the first round of the GEICO Superbike Shootout, presented by Yamaha. During the F1 race, rider Shawn Higbee moved up to as high as 2nd place from a 5th row start on the Brough Superior TMRGP2 bike. The TMRGP2′s lightweight all carbon fiber chassis and 600cc Honda powerplant demonstrated impressive cornering speed on the tight infield sections but could not match the top speed of the heavily modified 1000cc F1 bikes on the long straights. On the last lap Higbee was shuffled back to 4th place at the finish line.
Wed, 30 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Nilox, the official action camera sponsor for the World Superbike series, has provided this clip of a lap around the Assen circuit in the Netherlands. “The Cathedral of Speed,” as it’s known, is a fan favorite because of its rich history. Its layout has also lent itself to some spectacular racing over the years.
Mon, 28 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
A crowd of 62,217 fans in East Rutherford, N.J. witnessed the coronation of Ryan Villopoto as the 2014 AMA Supercross Champion. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider took the holeshot and led very lap in a decisive victory to clinch the championship, his fourth in a row.
Mon, 28 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Heavy rains and a fortuitous red flag were the difference in the World Superbike Championship‘s visit to The Cathedral of motorcycle racing, the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands. Aprilia‘s Sylvain Guintoli captured his second win of the season in Race 1, which was halted early by a red flag with five laps to go just as it looked like reigning WSBK champion Tom Sykes was gearing up for a final challenge. The second race was also shortened, not by a red flag but because of a rain, turning the 21-lap race into a 10-lap sprint.
Mon, 28 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Guinness World Records has officially recognized the Barber Motorsports Museum as the world’s largest motorcycle museum in the world. The 144,000-square-foot, five-story museum is home to nearly 1400 motorcycles, of which about 700 are on exhibit. We’ve featured the Barber Museum before, and are completely blown away each time we step foot within its doors. It’s simply awe-inspiring.
Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
A strong fourth quarter helped Honda see a 9.8% increase in motorcycle sales and a 9.3% increase in motorcycle revenue for its fiscal year ended March 31, 2014. The Japanese manufacturer reported sales of 17.0 million motorcycles and ATVs over the fiscal year, up from the 15.5 million sold in the previous year. Honda’s worldwide motorcycle sales increased in each of the previous seven quarters going from 3.8 million in the Q2 last year to 4.5 million in the most recently completed quarter.
Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
After a successful 2013 campaign in the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, where Honda’s own Jeff Tigert won the Pikes Peak 450 class and set a new record, Honda is stepping up its involvement for 2014, as both a sponsor and race participant, with plans to field products in seven distinct race classes. In addition, Honda will be working with the AMA and the Pikes Peak sanctioning body on improvements which will provide new levels of safety to the Motorcycle / ATV / UTV / Sidecar competitors. American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
In June, Flagstaff residents Eva Rupert and Josh Remer will be riding vintage 100cc motorcycles across the state of Arizona to raise money for Blood:Water Mission, a Nashville non-profit that builds HIV/AIDS clinics and clean water wells in Africa. Both Josh and Eva are avid motorcyclists and wanted a way to use what they love to make a difference in the world. They see their ride as a more exciting version of a walk-a-thon.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Endurance racing is perhaps the ultimate test of both man and machine. In the past, teams would pace themselves in order to rest both elements enough to make a final push at the end. These days, however, motorcycles are more reliable than ever, and riders train like triathletes.
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
We’ve featured custom motorcycles from Deus Ex Machina before and for good reason. Michael “Woolie” Wollaway, the in-house bike builder for the Venice, California location, makes some fantastic creations. This one, however, is especially interesting.