Honda Motor

  • The Honda Motor Company, Ltd. has produced some revolutionary models since their inception in 1959.

  • Their bikes illustrate their “Power of Dreams” principle.

  • These are only ten but there are really (too) many more.

As the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the Honda Motor Company, Ltd. has produced some revolutionary models since their inception in 1959. Operating behind the “Power of Dreams” principle, some of these motorcycles, their technologies, innovations and ideas went to influence how the industry approaches motorcycles.

5. NSR250R (1987 to 1999)

If there’s one bike in Honda’s arsenal that’s closest to Grand Prix bikes (prior to the RC213V-S) was the NSR250R. This two-stroke sportbike had the looks, performance, handling and even smell of a GP bike. Boy racers and veterans welcomed it with glee.

At its heart was a 249cc, liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-Twin two-stroke with crankcase reed valve induction. It also had Honda’s RC Valve powervalve system, and the bores were coated with nikasil-sulphur hence the “NS” in its name. it produced 57 hp but carried only 132 kg dry.

There were four distinct generations starting from the MC16, through to the MC18, MC21 and finally MC28. Each generation used the PGM ignition system, from PGM-I to PGM-IV. The 1994 to 1996 MC28 was the best-looking of all, since it had the single-sided Pro-Arm swingarm.

The bike was immortalized in the Hong Kong film, “Full Throttle,” starring Andy Lau.

4. Africa Twin (1988 to 2003, 2015 to current)

XRV650 Africa Twin

The BMW R80GS may have started the dual-purpose segment, but it was the Africa Twin which arguably opened the eyes of enthusiasts to the Japanese adventure bikes (along with the Yamaha Super Ténéré).

The Africa Twin lineage began in 1988 with the XRV650 (code RD03) which was built by the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). It was the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” bike after the company had won two consecutive Paris-Dakar rallies in 1986 to 1987 with the NXR750 race bike which made its debut in 1985. They would win again in 1988 and 1989 with the upgraded NXR800.


XRV750 Africa Twin

As such, the NXR750 became the basis for the XRV650 and the succeeding XRV750. The former had a 52-degree V-Twin engine which was carried through the entire Africa Twin lifespan. This first engine had three valves per cylinder and produced 56 hp. Dry weight was 193 kg.

Honda then introduced the XRV750 (RD04) in 1990. The engine was enlarged from 647cc to 742cc, but retained the 52-degree V-Twin and three-valve format albeit with dual spark plugs. This engine would be developed until the RD07 in 1993 and RD07A in 1996.

The RD07A was a facelift model and production continued until 2003.

The bike was reincarnated in 2015 as a wholly different creature yet maintaining the bike’s emphasis on easy handling. Called the CRF1000L Africa Twin, but now a 270-degree cranked parallel-Twin instead of a V-Twin.  It produces 94 hp and 98 Nm of torque. It was offered with the standard 6-speed manual transmission or Honda’s own Dual Clutch Transmission II (DCT II). It was a modern bike through and through, featuring PGM-FI fuel injection, ABS, and traction control.


Finally, the CRF1100L was introduced for 2020 to cater for the Euro 5 emission standards. The bike is lighter and more powerful than before, with redesigned chassis and bodywork.

3. CBR900RR Fireblade (1992 to 2003)

The CBR900RR Fireblade is one of the most important motorcycles in history and shows what happens when the manufacturer thinks outside the box.

Competition in the sportbike category had centred around 750cc bikes, as the Superbike World Championship was now a hotbed for four-stroke racebikes. Honda was knee-deep with developing a replacement for the RC30 which was starting to show its age.

But project leader Tadao Baba insisted that Honda in all her might should create something different. If they were to produce something powerful and light, the public will buy it, 750cc be damned. In fact, Honda already had a CBR750RR prototype at that point in time. First, they elongated the engine’s stroke and ended up with 893cc, thereby bridging the 750cc and 1000cc gap. It produced 122 hp and 88 Nm of torque.

Then with typical Japanese OCD, they pared away every bit of weight that’s non-essential. This resulted in a motorcycle that weighed only 185 kg, which was only 2 kg heavier than the company’s own CBR600F. The next lightest 1000cc sportbike, the Yamaha YZF1000 was a whole 34 kg heavier than the CBR900RR’s wet weight of 205 kg.

Baba was right, enthusiasts lapped up the CBR900RR (SC28) while the sales of other bikes fell at the wayside.

The bike would evolve through another five generations: The uprated CBR900RR (SC28) in 1994, 919cc CBR900RR (SC33) in 1996, CBR929RR (SC44) in 2000, and CBR954RR (SC50) in 2002. The CBR1000RR replaced the CBR900RR lineage in 2003.

Each generation would see increase in power but Honda retained the easy handling characteristics of the original bike through to the 2019 CBR1000RR. This was one reason why the bike is so loved by fans.

2. CB750 Four (1969 to 2007)

The overhead camshaft, inline-four engine format wasn’t new, as many manufacturers had used it in racebikes since the end of World War 2. But it’s the CB750 Four was the bike that popularized the inline-Four engine for production motorcycles. It’s also the first production bike to feature a disc brake.

Hence, it’s the first bike that called a “superbike.”

Sold at just US$ 1,495 when it made its debut in 1969, it’s markedly cheaper yet offered more performance and refinement over its American and British rivals.

It went through many revisions in its lifetime, including gaining a DOHC head in 1979 and hydraulic valves in 1991. Production went on for 38 years!

1. Super Cub

No other Honda deserves the No. 1 spot than the Cub. The company had sold 100 million Cubs from 1958 to 2017, and production is still ongoing in some countries.

From its humble beginning as a 50cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder bike, Honda kept the bike just as humble without pretending to be something else other than a mightily affordable and simple machine. Both these principles went hand-in-hand to ensure low maintenance and high reliability. A common person with just a little more mechanical knowledge could fix the bike, or at least to keep it running. While superbikers fret over which synthetic engine oil and petrol are best, the Cub chugged along with cooking oil and kerosene.

That 50cc grew to 70cc, 90cc, 100cc, 110cc and 125cc. The new Super Cub C125 made its debut in 2018 and is a direct homage to the Cub but features modern PGM-FI fuel injection. A Super Cub 50 is also in production.

  • The Honda Motor Company, Ltd. has produced some revolutionary models since their inception in 1959.

  • Their bikes illustrate their “Power of Dreams” principle.

  • These are only ten but there are really (too) many more.

As the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the Honda Motor Company, Ltd. has produced some revolutionary models since their inception in 1959. Operating behind the “Power of Dreams” principle, some of these motorcycles, their technologies, innovations and ideas went to influence how the industry approaches motorcycles.

Here are ten best production motorcycles. They are picked due to their groundbreaking ideas and not necessarily their sales figures.

10. NR (1992)

Honda NR

Honda is a “four-stroke” company, first and foremost. Although the had dominated the 500cc two-stroke GP championship for many years, they still believed the benefits of the four-stroke engine.

Honda had to think outside the box to compete against the two-strokes, which led to the developing of the four-stroke 500cc NR500 GP racer. It featured oval pistons to increase the cylinder’s swept area and each piston had two conrods. Each cylinder was serviced by 8 valves! The four oval pistons were fitted into a V-Four configuration, but it was actually more like a V-Eight.

NR750 endurance racer’s oval pistons, dual conrods and 32 valves

This technology was brought to the buying public in the form of the 750cc NR superbike. Apart from the oval pistons, the bike had underseat exhausts and a single-sided swingarm. These two designs were later adopted by Massimo Tamburini into the groundbreaking Ducati 916.

Sadly, the bike was way too expensive and had problems. Only 300 were built but collectors do seek them out.

9. VFR750R (RC30) (1987 to 1990)


Honda VFR750R RC30

The FIM had shut down Formula TT to make way for the first Superbike World Championship (WSBK) in 1988. As it was a production-based championship, manufacturers must homologate the bike they wished to race in the series. Besides that, most parts and components of the of the race bike must be the same as those on the homologated bike. Honda was quick on the ball and built the VFR750R, model code RC30.

It was made to win from the start, featuring 748ccc V-Four engine (four-cylinder engines were limited to 750cc back then), with gear-driven cams. It produced 118 hp, which was really high at the time. That wasn’t all, the engine and entire bike was full of race-ready components. For example, the piston connecting rods were made of titanium, making the RC30 the first road bike to use such component. The first gear was geared “long,” which allowed it to hit 132 km/h. There was a slipper clutch to eliminate locking up the rear wheel under aggressive downshifting.

Its aluminium spar frame appeared just one year after Suzuki debut it on a road bike on the GSX-R750. And just like the Suzuki, Honda had adopted it from the NSR500 GP racer, along with the dimensions of the bike.

It was clear that Honda earmarked the bike to enter endurance racing, as well, especially at the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour. Hence, the bottom of the forks had quick release nuts to allow the front wheel and axle to drop free for quick wheel changes. Similarly, the rear wheel was carried on a single-sided swingarm where the sprocket and brake were mounted, while the wheel was held in place by a single lug nut.

American rider Fred Merkel took the RC30 to the inaugural World Superbike title in 1988. He followed up his success the next year.

He was not the only one to taste success. Any RC30 rider around the world owned the competition, including Robert Dunlop and Steve Hislop at the 1989 and 1990 Macau Grands Prix.

Only 3,000 VFR750R RC30 were ever built and it is still very much sought after.

8. RVF750 (RC45) (1994 to 1995)

Honda RVF750 RC45

The VFR750R RC30 had started showing its age by 1992, having being beaten soundly by the Ducati V-Twins, despite the latter’s lower horsepower. Kawasaki had also defeated Honda and Ducati for the 1993 title.

If there is one manufacturer that absolutely hates getting beaten, it is Honda, regardless of motorsport. Thus, they stepped up the game by having the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) build a new no-expense spared bike to wrest the title back. This resulted in the RVF750 (RC45) in 1994.

It was still a 750cc V-Four but with many differences over the RC30. It had PGM-FI fuel injection, titanium conrods, lightweight and low-friction pistons, ceramic and graphite coated bores, engine parts cast from magnesium, and much more.

While the roadgoing version officially produced 118 hp (the same as the RC30), its strength was in the configurable PGM-FI fuel injection system. It came to produce an “official” 190 hp in its last years in racing form, although some claimed that it actually produced more power than Honda’s all-conquering NSR500 two-stroke GP racer (as in above 200 hp).

Honda had wanted to squash the competition in World Superbikes, but it did not happen until 1997 when John Kocinski joined the team. However, the RC45 was an invincible beast that no one could beat in other championships and races, including in the AMA Superbikes and Isle of Man TT. It also won the FIM Endurance World Championship six times.

Only 200 were made for the road, each one hand built. It’s one of the rarest production Hondas.

7. CBR600F and CBR600RR (1987 to 2007)

Honda CBR600F

The CBR600F made its debut in 1987. It was Honda’s first fully-faired inline-Four bike along with the CBR750F and CBR1000F.

Although the CBR600 and its subsequent iterations appeared sporty, and were entered into competition, it distinguished itself as the everyday supersport bike. Riders loved it for its torque and midrange horsepower, but most of all, it was comfortable for street riding and sporty enough for track work. Hence, its lineage continued until the CBR600F4i which stopped production in 2006.

Honda released the sportier CBR600RR in 2003 as the contender for the supersport titles and production continued until 2007.

Honda CBR600RR

The current CBR650 continues the CBR600F and CBR600RR’s heritage but the engine was adopted from the naked Hornet.

6. Gold Wing (1975 to current)

1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

There is no other leader in the luxury touring segment than the Honda Gold Wing. BMW had come very close to snatching the title with the K 1600 line-up, but Honda had simply moved the goal posts even further away.

The Gold Wing began as the Gold Wing GL1000 in 1975 (introduced in the Cologne Motor Show in 1974). It featured a 999cc, SOHC, flat-Four and shaft final drive. Although meant as a sport-tourer, it did not have factory fitted windshield or luggage. But the American market loved it and Honda sold 13,000 units in that one year alone.

The Gold Wing grew through the years and the “full-dress” touring bodywork was offered in the GL1100 Insterstate option in 1980.

1980 Honda GL1100 Gold Wing Interstate

Its engine capacity grew bigger and bigger due to close competition from other Japanese rivals such as Yamaha and Kawasaki. Finally, the fourth generation Gold Wing was introduced in 1987 (for model year 1988) along with a 1500cc engine and its now signature 6-horizontally-opposed (flat-Six) engine.

1988 Honda GL1500 Gold Wing

The fifth generation made its debut in 2001 with an 1800cc engine, which is the capacity through to the current sixth generation model which was introduced in 2018.

2018 Honda GL1800 Gold Wing

The Gold Wing has so many onboard luxury options that rivals cars, including an airbag, so much so that some joke that it’s actually hiding two extra wheels underneath. It may be true (just joking), given how easy it is to ride the bike.


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