Showing posts with label Honda Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Honda Motorcycles. Show all posts

Honda VFR750R-RC30

Honda VFR750R-RC30 1980s Japanese sports bike

In many ways, Honda's VFR750R - better known as the RC30 - was the ultimate 'race replica'. Visually, at least, there was little to distinguish it from the RVF 750 racer, on which it was based. Technically, too, it was along the same lines - allowing for the fact that no roadster is ever really going to compare with its competitive sibling. The RC30's exhaust, for example, could not compete with the racer's super-light, free-flowing set-up. Not if it was going to make it through the MOT, at any rate!

Nor, of course, was the RC30's V4 engine going to be anything like on a par with the race version. That said, it still managed to output 112bhp - at 11,000rpm. Which gave a top speed of 153mph. More than enough for most wannabe GP stars! In like manner, the RC30's handling was not going to get close to that of the apex-slashing track tool on which it was modelled. Again, though, optimal tuning of its suspension enabled a passable emulation of the race god of your choice!

American rider Fred Merkel took two consecutive WSB titles on the RC30 race bike - in '88 and '89. Briton Carl Fogarty did the same in motorcycling's Formula One series. Endurance racing, too, was meat and drink to the RVF 750. So far as Honda were concerned, the RC30 was first and foremost a racer. There was little doubt, though, that the roadster benefited hugely from it. Certainly - with its low-slung front end, aluminium twin-spar frame and single-sided swingarm - the street bike looked seriously stunning. Honda's commitment to the project, then, had paid double dividends. On both road and track, the VFR750R-RC30 did the business - in every sense of the phrase!

Honda NR750

Honda NR750 1990s Japanese superbike

Few road-going superbikes are quite so race-bred as the Honda NR750. It was a direct descendant of Honda's NR500 GP bike. The NR roadster was released in '92. That was a decade or so on from when the four-stroke racer had been slugging it out with Suzuki and Yamaha 'strokers'. Well, trying to, at any rate. The plucky Honda was always disadvantaged against its free-revving two-stroke rivals. As a result, Honda's NR500 race bike was retired in '81.

The feature for which the NR is famous is its oval pistons. To be pedantic, they were not actually oval. They were lozenge-shaped. The 'ovoid' pistons, then, were the NR's most clear-cut connection with its racing ancestry. Ultimatey - whatever precise form they took - they worked. The NR delivered 125bhp - at 14,000 rpm. Top speed was 160mph. That was notwithstanding the NR's weight - a tubby 489lb. While the NR's performance was impressive - it was not earth-shattering. Honda had done its best to pull a V8 rabbit out of a V4 hat. Effectively, to double it up. With that in mind, the NR's V4 engine was fitted with eight fuel injectors and titanium conrods. Four camshafts depressed thirty-two lightweight valves. Sadly, though, the modifications did not equate to twice the speed!

The NR's styling was almost as adventurous as its engineering. Its screen was titanium-coated, for instance. That was backed up by a brilliant finish - in every sense of the word. The paintwork and polished aluminium frame were particularly lustrous. The bike's build quality was equally dazzling. In every department, then, the NR delivered. Above all, it oozed charisma - mainly on account of its unique engine configuration. Bikes like the NR tend not to clock up too many owners. And not just because of high price tags and running costs. Such a machine grants access to motorcycling's inner sanctum. Arguably - more than any other roadster - the Honda NR750 mixed visual and technical exoticism. Put simply - glamour was never an issue!

Honda CB77

Honda CB77 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

The CB77 was a landmark bike for Honda. The firm started up in Hamamatsu, Japan. In a wooden shed! Just as Harley-Davidson had done, in Milwaukee, USA ... except theirs was made out of tin! Okay - so sheds is where similarities end between the two marques! Of course - like Harley-Davidson - what Soichiro Honda's company went on to achieve is the stuff of motorcycling legend. Not surprising, really. That small shed was home to the Honda Technical Research Institute. In its early days, that is!

Three years in and Honda produced its first bike. The 98cc machine was dubbed the Dream. Sales were sound. That set the scene for the two bikes which put Honda on motorcycling's map - the CB72 and CB77. The larger of the two - the 305cc CB77 - was launched in '63. It was up against the 'Brit bikes' of the early Sixties. They ruled the two-wheeled roost, at the time. Not for much longer! Next to the likes of Triumph and Norton, the 'Jap bike' came supremely well-equipped. In engineering terms, it blew them away, basically. While it did not quite clock up the mythical 'ton' - the 100mph so beloved of British riders - its acceleration was scorching. By comparison with Brit bikes, anyway. And - with a top speed of 95mph - it came close. The CB77's parallel twin motor revved out to 9,000rpm. The bike weighed in at just 350lb dry. Do the math, as they say!

Several factors gave the CB77 the edge over similarly-sized British bikes. Top of the list was engine design. A 180° crankshaft allowed the two pistons to move up and down alternately - balancing each other out. That took the smoothness of the ride to another level - at least, relative to the Brit bikes. The engine was held securely in situ by a tubular steel frame. Telescopic front forks - and twin rear shocks - raised the suspension game, too. Two sets of solid, sure-stopping drum brakes were fitted. The net result was that the CB77 accelerated smoothly, handled well and pulled up in short order. On top of all that, it was oil-tight and reliable. Not something that could be said of every British-made bike! In the States, it was sold as the Super Hawk. The CB77, then, was Honda's first attempt at a full-on sports bike. Suffice to say - there were others in the pipeline!

Honda CB750

Honda CB 750 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

There is a case to be made for considering the Honda CB750 to be the point at which motorcycling's modern era began. Technically, it was released in '69 - but its presence so suffused the Seventies that it cannot but be grouped with bikes of that decade. Kawasaki's Z1 is often thought of as the first Japanese 'superbike'. Timeline-wise, though, it was the CB750 that was first out of the traps - and by a full four years, at that.

The CB750's four across-the-frame cylinders were a clear signal there was a new kid on biking's block. The shiny quartet of chrome exhausts reinforced the message. The CB750 was a muscular-looking motorcycle. But, it was stylish muscularity. The rounded tank was sleek and shapely. The multi-spoked wheels were a latticed delight. Paintwork and chrome vied for attention. At the time, the CB's front disc brake was technologically advanced. Highish handlebars - and a well-padded seat - were tailor-made for long journeys. So, it made sense for the 750 to be pitched as the perfect all-rounder.

Unsurprisingly, the CB was a big success in the showrooms. That was only to be expected from a bike which topped out at 125mph - and also handled well. Honda's rivals duly fell over themselves to try to match it. Over time, then, the CB750 furthered motorcycling's cause. By setting a benchmark, it forced manufacturers worldwide to follow suit. In the form of the Honda CB750, the day of the modern Jap classic had dawned!

Honda VFR 750F

Honda VFR 750F 1980s Japanese sports bike

The Honda VFR 750F was about as versatile as a motorbike gets. Indeed, it is often cited as the ultimate all-rounder. The VFR played footsie with perfection ... then improved on it! Fast, fine-handling - and styled with finesse. What more could a motorcyclist want?

In engine layout terms, the Japanese in-line four had the market pretty much covered. Until the VFR arrived, that is. Its water-cooled, 16-valve V4 was to prove a more than viable alternative. The motor's 100bhp output gave a top speed of 150mph. Sweet stats, by any standards! Combined with that, the VFR's 460lb dry weight was reasonably slim for a bike of its size. Plus, the VFR was fitted with a sturdy twin-spar aluminium frame. That was state of the art chassis technology, at the time.

As if all that were not enough - the VFR impressed visually, too. Not only did its bodywork sear through air, but the paintwork was sprayed to last. Hondas have long been known for their build quality. Deftly designed ducts sat by discreetly drawn graphics. Neat tucks and folds were the order of the day. Sales-wise, the VFR was a banker from the off. And Honda needed it to be. The VFR's predecessor - the VF750 - had damaged the Japanese giant. It had taken reliability issues to another level! Technically, then, the VFR 750F more than restored bikers' faith in Honda. As a bonus - it did so in impeccable style!

Honda Fireblade

Honda Fireblade 1990s Japanese sports bike

The launch buzz around the Honda Fireblade was electric! It was released in '92 - to rapturous applause, from press and public alike. In the unlikely event that you saw one stationary, it was sure to be engulfed in a gaggle of onlookers. Months of speculation had induced a feeding frenzy of interest in the new Blade. Tadao Baba was the boffin in charge of its development. The Fireblade - or CBR900RR - was the first Honda to sport the 'RR' nomenclature. The bike's racing traits had been duly declared!

The Fireblade screamed street-fightin' bike! Squat - and barrel-chested - it looked like it would be up for a ding-dong at the drop of a hat. Steep steering geometry - and a super-short wheelbase - meant the Blade cut corners to ribbons. Suspension settings were decidedly 'firm'. 407lb dry was no weight at all for a bike of its size. Factor in 113bhp - at 10,500rpm - and the results were always going to be explosive. Top speed for the Blade was 167mph. How much the holes in its fairing helped is not known!

Visually, too, the Blade was well up to speed. Blessed with eye-catching graphics - and a super-big tank - it was a brilliantined bobby dazzler of a bike! A beefy twin-spar frame - and braced swing-arm - visibly signalled the strength of the cycle parts. The sunk-down seat - and bulbous tailpiece - lent rock-solid support. Too solid for some, no doubt. Padding was minimal. Very minimal! But then, comfort was never the name of the Blade's game. The Fireblade was a single-minded superbike. High-speed hats off to Honda!

Honda Gold Wing GL1000

Honda Gold Wing GL1000 1970s Japanese classic motorcycle

In its day - between '74 and '79 - the Honda Gold Wing GL1000 was a luxury motorcycle. Then again, Gold Wings always are! Whichever 'Wing' you plump for, there will be a few constants. It will be big, it will be heavy - and, surest of all, it will be comfortable. So much so, indeed, that extra care may be called for. When riding a motorcycle, it pays to be alert. On a bike as relaxing as the Gold Wing, that could pose a problem!

Not that such concerns have harmed the Wing's sales. The GL1000 had a five-year production run - from '74 to '79. Obviously, it was doing something right. Overall - given its gargantuan girth - the Wing was a smooth and compliant mount. A dry weight of 571lb was a lot to coax through corners - and a handful to haul up. On both counts, though, the Wing scored well. Just in case, the 'Aspencade' came with a compressor ... for on-board suspension adjustment.

The Gold Wing is a bike with a cult following. For an owner, the 'season' starts early and ends late. Summer rallies cascade like confetti ... for those married to a Wing! The bike was always big in the US. And the Gold Wing has graced many a European get-together, too. In fact, the Gold Wing has gone global. Wherever there is a road, there will be a Honda flying up it, sooner or later. And - with a top speed of 122mph - the GL1000 will probably be sooner!

Honda CBX1000Z

Honda CBX1000Z 1970s Japanese classic motorcycle

The Honda CBX1000Z was a child of its times. In the Seventies, performance was everything. Japanese superbike performance, that is. At the time, the 'Big Four' - Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha - were more concerned about how a bike went than how it looked. The 'CBX' could have been cited as a case in point. Its inline-six motor was prioritised over other areas of the bike. Its 24-valve DOHC air-cooled inline-six motor, to be precise. It had been designed by a one-time GP engineer. Most famously, Mike Hailwood's Honda RC166 racer had displayed the virtues of a 6-cylinder layout.

Given the girth of its 6-pot block, the CBX handled well. Its manoeuvrability was still more impressive when its cycle parts were factored in. By today's standards, the tubular steel frame, telescopic forks, narrow wheels and high-profile tyres were spindly. And dwarfed by the mass of the motor. Straight handlebars - and twin rear shocks - were similarly conventional. In fact, the width of the engine was deceptive. Just 2″ wider than the CB750. That was due to its unusual layout. The alternator and ignition parts were located behind the block. Well out of the way, should the bike ever find itself sliding down the road!

Flat out, the CBX did 140mph. Striking though that was, it was as nothing next to the noise the bike made reaching it. The high-pitched howl of a CBX at full chat is something that once heard, is never forgotten. Especially with a slightly less than legal pipe fitted. At which point, it sounds as much like a jet plane as it does a motorcycle! Sadly, the CBX did not sell well. In time, its design would be diluted down into less extreme machines. But, motorcycling would be the poorer without bikes like the CBX. Look on them as a challenge. Get a corner just right - and there are few feelings like it. The Honda CBX1000Z was flawed, for sure ... but fantastic fun!