Honda RC213V-S makes road debut

Published: 03 June 2015

It’s the nearest thing to a MotoGP bike with lights any factory has ever built, and a week ahead of it being wheeled out at a showcase event at the Catalunya MotoGP round, the factory set the finished production bike off the leash at the Asama Hill Climb in Japan. HRC factory test rider Hiroshi Aoyama rode the new bike for the first time in public at the event on Sunday.

In 2012 Honda announced the firm’s intention to build a road-legal replica of the MotoGP bike, with one of the key reasons behind the development being the desire from the younger Honda engineers to be able to develop their ‘own RC30’. The final prototypes were unveiled at the Milan show in November 2014, with Marc Marquez riding onto the stage on one of the two versions shown.

How close is it to a MotoGP bike?

“Well, Honda don’t like it being called a replica, because it’s not. If you look at Marc Marquez’s bike and also the customer MotoGP bike, this is the next stage down,” says Honda Europe’s Dave Hancock. “But it is so close; chassis, swinging arm, wheels, suspension, crankcases, fuel tank, tank cover, throttle bodies and seat unit are absolutely the same as what Marquez rides. OK, it hasn’t got pneumatic valves and the special gearbox, and some internal parts are different. The con rods are a different material, and the pistons are a different design because it’s a road bike. If we built it as a race engine you’d be constantly checking it over.”

Shinji Aoyama, Chief Operating Officer of Honda Motor Company, recently told MCN: “In terms of the numbers we can produce, we cannot build big numbers because of the way the bike has been built. The method of production is completely different to that of a mass produced motorcycle. There are elements like the sandcasting of the engine that limits very much the numbers of bikes we can build. But right now we don’t know exactly how many we will build.

“One or two units per day is the limit of our production capacity because although engine parts are not exactly MotoGP specification they are still nothing like a mass produced motorcycle and the bike takes a lot of work to build. Our plan will be to build these bikes at the Kumamoto factory in Japan where we have an area where our most experienced assembly workers will build them. This is separate to the main production lines.

“I think there are many crazy guys who will like this bike in the UK! We know many people there have been interested in this bike and we have received lots of information from the UK market.”

The RC213V-S in detail

Engine
The 90-degree V4 delivers a claimed 210bhp at an rpm Honda won’t yet reveal. A sport kit hoiks power further still. Crankcases are aluminium rather than the racer’s magnesium, but otherwise are MotoGP spec. Pistons are modified to increase service intervals, and there are conventional valve springs, slipper clutch and gearbox. Fuel injectors are, however, factory issue. 

Frame
Identical to Marquez’s RC213V. Main spars are multi-section pressed and welded aluminium; the swingarm internal cross-brace is milled from solid. The headstock is exceptionally big and stiff to resist braking force, with eccentric head bearing cups to move the forks closer or further away. Inside the fairing you can see the long front engine mounts that give the frame its full-lean flex.

Footrests
Brackets and levers are machined from solid. Each side has six levels of adjustment. Total fore-and-aft movement is about 25mm, with 12mm up and down. The rear master cylinder is a one-off, but the rear caliper is a conventional Brembo two-pot.

Exhausts
Made entirely of pressed, bent and welded section titanium, it looks ready for production. The welding is beyond anything seen before on a production bike, but the most impressive part is how well the silencers (and presumably the catalytic converters) are hidden. An exhaust valve servo motor lives in the fairing just under your clutch hand, with twin cables going into the bellypan. 

Swingarm
Identical to Marquez’s, the aluminium swingarm features an adjustable pivot to vary how much the rear suspension extends under power. But the most interesting bit is the swingarm length: 655mm spindle to spindle, versus 600mm for a Fireblade. Long swingarms reduce wheelies and calm the interaction between chain pull and suspension movement. 

Wheels & tyres
Chief of development testing Shogo Kanaumi has limited the Bridgestone S20R rear tyre to a 190/55-17, to keep the steering sweet on the road. The wheels are Honda’s own design, identical to the MotoGP ones. Final spec is not fixed but will probably be aluminium for the road and magnesium for the sport kit, with titanium spindles as standard. A 525 chain transmits the engine’s 210+bhp. 

Electronics
Beyond the Showa quickshifter there’s a race-type loom, an HRC display unit in the cockpit, and a MotoGP-issue electronic steering damper in front of the headstock. The main switchgear on the left-hand side looks borrowed from an old NS400R, so don’t read anything into that. It is inconceivable Honda would offer this bike without all the very latest GP-inspired electronic aids.

Suspension
Honda worried that anything less than factory brakes and suspension would debase the idea of the RCV-S. So the bike uses MotoGP-spec Öhlins gas pressurised forks and an equal spec shock, plus top-drawer Brembo calipers and discs. Fork preload adjustment is up top, with compression and rebound damping down by the wheel spindle. The fork foot is machined from solid.

Bodywork
As you’d expect, all the bodywork is hand-made in carbon. It’s as close as you can get to the real thing and still have lights, indicators and a road legal exhaust. So while the ‘tank’ cover is identical to Marc’s, the lower fairing panels have recesses for indicators and a headlight. But best of all are the mirrors, which mount on the handlebar lever guards – far better than spoiling the sleek top fairing.

See more in next week’s MCN.