Classic Bike Guide

Never stop learning


Back in the 1960s when Honda was competing in almost every class at GP level, the twin cylinder, DOHC, 50cc machines were seriously threatened by Suzuki’s two-strokes. In one race on Japanese soil, team honour was seriously at stake and Honda needed to win. The rider was told that the

R&D team and mechanics had been up half the night fettling and tweaking the engine to get the best from it and under no circumstan­ces was the rider to exceed the new, revised red line on the tacho. In the race, the Suzukis had a small edge over the Hondas and it looked likely that the strokers were going to win. On the last lap, the Honda rider overtook the leading Suzuki and screamed to win. Back in the pits, the mechanics were initially delighted and asked how it happened. The reply was that he’d ignored the red line by 1500-1750rpm. The R&D top brass went ballistic, arguing that the rider could have blown up the engine and lost a potentiall­y valuable race. A very loud exchange of views ensued until Soichiro Honda walked into the pits asking what was going on and the Honda boys gave him a deferentia­l view of the potential disaster. Mr Honda then asked the rider, who explained what he’d done and why. The oriental genius then barked orders at the pit crew, who instantly removed the still-warm engine from the bike and swiftly laid it in the back of his Toyota estate car. Mr Honda thanked the rider for his hard work and sent the engine to the R&D centre for analysis. The following season, the 50cc twin reappeared as per its last race but with the red line revised by 1750rpm. Honda never accepted a limit had been reached or a mechanical task was impossible until something was scientific­ally proven, and it was precisely this mind-set that delivered the CB750/4 and a legion of other, supremely reliable, air cooled fours.

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