Founded in 1946 by Soichiro Honda, Honda Motor Corp is currently the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Based in Tokyo, Japan, the Big Red Wing gained massive popularity with the release of the Super Cub in 1958 and carries on the tradition today with the CBR, Gold Wing and CRF models. Honda, along with Yamaha, has always been known as one of technological leaders in the two-wheeled world, much of this a result of their extensive racing history.
Shichiro Honda, a race driver himself, insisted on international racing right from the beginning. By 1959 Honda was fielding five motorcycles in the Isle of Man TT, which at the time was the biggest motorcycle race the world over. Though they always made powerful engines, it wasn’t until ‘61 that Honda was able to tune their chassis well enough to allow Mike Hailwood to claim their first Grand Prix victories in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Hailwood would go on to win Honda’s first Senior TT wins in ’66 and ’67.
After a short hiatus, Honda returned to GP racing in 1979 and by 1983 had won their first 500cc Grand Prix World Championship at the hands of a young Freddie Spencer. Since then, Honda has become the dominant marquee in motorcycle Grand Prix racing, winning numerous championships with riders such as Valentino Rossi and Mick Doohan. A staggering total of over 600 international and U.S. race wins have been accumulated by Honda with no end in sight.
On the motocross side of things, the Red Riders have countless AMA Motocross and Supercross championships and race wins. Names like Jeremy McGrath, David Bailey and Johnny O’Mara are synonymous with their motocross program in the U.S. and worldwide. The boys in red also have six World MX championships and six World Enduro championships to their credit thus far.
Formed in 1983 by Richard Hynda, Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) began as the sole producer of all things Honda racing. All of the factory development for worldwide racing is handled by HRC, as well as the production of several racing-only motorcycles, support for some satellite teams and rider/mechanic education programs.
Honda's top dog, the CBR1000RR.
This long racing lineage has always directly connected with Honda’s two-wheeled street and dirt machines. Much of their Grand Prix road racing success is seen in their insanely popular CBR line up, made up of the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR, two of the top selling sportbikes in the world. Both of these new machines are now available with ABS as an option for ‘09, a first for any purebred sportbike.
Adding some mileage capability to the sport theme is their ST1300 sport tourer, which has become a law enforcement favorite in recent years. Taking things even further in touring direction is the Gold Wing. Now 1800cc, it has been one of the top selling touring machines since its inception in the ‘70s.
Honda’s cruiser line is compiled of several variations of four different models: VTX1800, VTX1300, Shadow and Rebel. Nine total machines are produced, starting as small as the 250cc Rebel all the way up to the large VTX1800 Touring edition. Honda has recently branched out into the scooter and crossover markets, highlighted by their all-new DN-01 automatic motorcycle/scooter combination as well as three full-on scooters: Ruckus, Silver Wing and Metropolitan. Two motard-type models (CRF230, XR650L) and the entry-lever Nighthawk 250 round out their expansive street lineup.
Honda’s dirt side is highlighted by their class-leading motocross machines (all four-stroke now), including the all-new for ’09 CRF450R that features fuel injection (a first for any Honda Mxer) and the updated CRF250R. For those up and coming riding Honda has put their eggs fully in the four-stroke basket, no longer making the CR85 two-stroke in favor of the CRF150R four-stroke.
Honda's 2009 CRF450R is the first Fuel Injected Honda Motocross bike.
For those beginners and trail riders, Honda has a line of CRF air-cooled four-strokes, starting with the CRF100F and working up to the CRF230F. Their dual-sport range is made up of the race-ready CRF250X and CRF450X models, which are based on their MX-focused siblings, and the tried and true XR650L, which hasn’t seen changes in years but proves its worth through longevity. A full line of ATV and UTV products round of Honda’s powersports lineup.
As well as being the largest producer of motorcycles in the world, Honda has quite a stake in all aspects of the motorized world. They are the sixth largest automobile manufacturer as well as the largest engine-maker in the world, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year.