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HONDA RC45 (1994-1999) Review

Published: 06 March 2019

Updated: 21 November 2014

It was far in advance of the competition - a race bike with lights

HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)

It was far in advance of the competition - a race bike with lights

  • At a glance
  • Read more about the HONDA CBR range.
  • 749cc  -  120 bhp
  • 34 mpg  -  110 miles range
  • Insurance group: 17 of 17
    Compare insurance quotes now
  • Medium seat height (770mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

MCN first rode the Honda RC45 back in 1994. The replacement for the all-conquering RC30 continued the Japanese firm’s formula for V4-engined racers, a lineage that can be followed all the way to the modern Honda RC213V-S.

Here’s what we thought of the bike at the time:

"If looks could kill, the RC45 would probably give you a mild headache. The styling of Honda's racer-on-the-road is well balanced and even aggressive if you're the nervous sort, but it hardly looks like an £18,000 motor cycle. Ride it though and it's a completely different story. The whole feel of the machine is of a racing bike, and a top-notch one at that.

"There’s no question about the RVF's ability. It's a superb, high-quality racer for the streets with as much ability as any road rider could want. It makes the RC30 feel like a bike from another era, albeit a fairly recent one.

Honda RC45

"Instead, the RVF's problems are its price and its looks. For the same money you can park a super-sexy SB6 Bimota in your drive, plus a pair of wheels to commute on. Or get yourself a Ducati 916, a BMW F650 and cruise the Med this summer. All for the price of a bike that looks like just another Japanese race replica.

"Like the race version, Honda's road-going RC45 doesn't quite hit the spot, but it's still an impressive piece of exquisite engineering. As the ultimate ‘90s superbike, the Honda RC45 lacks the pure focus of a Yamaha R1, the visceral punch of a Ducati 916 or the exotic edginess of a Bimota SB6R."

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

"The riding-position is undoubtedly track orientated, though RC30 riders will appreciate the extra room the newer bike provides. The original V4 racer perches the rider on top and right over the front wheel and, though the 45 does the same, it's in a less-radical manner.

"The RVF750 (as Honda's race department didn't want the road version of the RC45 called) is larger and broader than the tiny RC30, but this is deceptive. Move it around even at a standstill and the money spent on reducing the RVF's weight shows its influence. Despite being taller, the newer machine carries its weight lower, and feels altogether more wieldy.

"In a straight line the RVF feels as stable as the RC30 - neither crosswinds nor ridges along the road bother it despite the monstrous 190 section rear rubber. But flick the bike down into a turn and the older bike feels like a lorry in comparison.

Honda RC45 side view

"The RC30 swings down into the turn and gets around it with speed and security. The RC45 dives onto its side then turns so fast it takes your breath away. Wall-of-death riders and anyone who's ridden round a test circuit's steeply banked turns know the sensation of a bike thrusting up hard beneath them.

"RC45 owners can experience that too, as the bike changes direction so dramatically you can feel the g-force squashing you down on to the tank. Honda has spent the last few years centralising the mass of its bikes to reduce the moment of inertia and resistance to turning.

"And it's reached a peak with the RC45, which goes around like a spinning skater with his arms drawn in, compared to the hands-flung-wide slow rotation of the RC30. Ground clearance is the limiting factor, the long hero blobs on the footrest scraping before the tyres run out of tread, but this doesn't unsettle the machine.

Honda RC45 rear

"The RVF changes line at the first hint of pressure from the rider, whether through the bars, footrests or a knee against the tank, and for this reason smoothness has to be learnt all over again. Once you've mastered it, it's a delight.

"You feel right on top of a front wheel which does your bidding down to the last fraction of a millimetre. The low, steeply-angled bars which are so uncomfortable at low town speeds (because of their angle as much as position, like a FireBlade's) suddenly start to make sense, offering maximum control and rewarding skilled input.

"It's the 16-inch front wheel that's at the heart of this sensitivity, a dimension only Honda is sticking with. It certainly works, but the rider has to work too. If you're not sure of your line or the road surface (or if you're a poor rider) the RVF will be petulant, lurching on and off the throttle and twitching across the road in response to ham-fistedness.

"It's very much a rider's bike, magnifying ability or lack of it without favour. The tyres and suspension will probably save you if you're struggling. Grip from the new Dunlop Sportmax is far superior to earlier versions, and importantly feedback is good. That monstrous rear rubber digs in hard under power from a turn, letting you nail the throttle with even more lean dialled in than Jack Sprat.

Honda RC45 Michael Neeves

"Do this on a rougher surface and the wheel tracks the road surface with uncanny precision, driving the bike forward when lesser machines would be kicking out the tyre. The front is equally impressive, offering enormous grip and sensitivity even under the immense braking forces available from the four-piston calipers.

"These have less sheer power than some more fashionable six-pot set-ups, but many riders are finding those a bit too much for road use. In terms of usability the RC45's are supreme. The RC30's aren't overshadowed by newer systems, despite their age, and let you play tunes on the front tyre as well as any current brakes.

"Only the bike's increased mass and smaller footprint allow it to be out-stopped by the RVF, and a good rider will pin it down just a few feet further on. The RC's suspension is high quality, too, but has to play second fiddle (with the adjusters) to the RVF's. Like all the best set-ups, the 45 doesn't just supply superb cornering control, but excellent ride quality with it.

Honda RC45 catalogue image

"It's not as firm as you might expect, yet never chops or wallows whatever you do, instead maintaining wheel control and composure on a variety of surfaces never encountered on the track. Aside from the forward-biased riding position the RVF will often be more comfortable than quite a few sports-tourers - the wrists might complain, but the backside will be remarkably quiet.

"Again, the Honda RC45 is so close to perfection, but misses out by having 80s features like a 16 inch front wheel and relatively spindly 41mm forks. It handles impressively, with an uncanny fluidity at speed, but the inevitable march of progress means its overall handling wouldn't seem that advanced nowadays. For the money, you might be disappointed with a Honda RC45."

Engine 4 out of 5

"The Honda RC45's V4 motor is a beautiful hand-crafted statement of excellence. Fire it up and the relationship between 30 and 45 is obvious, even if the RVF's motor is entirely new.

"Honda's V4 engines sing a distinctive flat baritone that racegoers the world over have grown to know and love over the years. The spectator catches the exhaust note, but the rider sits on top of the intake, and it's this snarl from beneath the tank which is so irresistible.

"As the RVF's revs build, which they do with real force from 4000rpm up to and beyond the 12,500rpm red line (with the limiter doing its job 1000 revs later), the gulping 46mm injector bores hit a mid-range resonance which almost stirs the blood as much as a Ducati's lop-sided beat. Not quite, but almost...

Honda RC45 dash

"But first the mechanically-sensitive will warm the motor up which, as you'd expect of a 1994 Honda, involves nothing more than a push of the starter switch. The choke knob mounted on the left fairing inner is actually nothing more than a fast idle lever, as the extra richness a cold motor demands is catered for by the Programmed Fuel Injection system (PGM-FI) lifted from Honda’s technology showcase, the NR750.

"This is fed information from seven sensors measuring critical parameters such as intake air temperature, barometric pressure, RPM and so on and then supplies the right quantity of fuel ignited by a spark at the optimum moment.

"The microchip controlling this is replaceable, meaning carburation and power characteristics can be altered in seconds to suit different tracks and conditions, but this is something the road rider won't need to worry about. Not unless the off-idle stutter can be cured, that is.

Honda RC45 Michael Neeves turning

"This is a racer on the street, so we shouldn't be too critical, but it's still irritating when the engine stalls (repeatedly) if you try to pull away gently. It's overcome by the simple expedient of using more revs before letting out the clutch, but it's a sign that the new technology still has something to learn from the good, old-fashioned 35mm Keihin CV carbs of the RC30.

"Get rolling with the digital temperature indicator to the right of the central tacho showing 70 degrees or more (85 if you're really considerate) and you'll forget all about riding gently. The power supply is almost endless, and though the motor pulls hardest from 9000rpm it'll do useful work from less than half that. 

"But keep it spinning and the acceleration is almost violent. The RVF won't quite match a FireBlade for sheer thrust, but keep reminding yourself, it's only a 750. Against a YZF performance is similar, but in real life the Honda will charge ahead because of its superior mid-range. The RC30 will be consigned to the mirrors too.

Honda RC45 left side

"The older bike being capable of only matching, not beating the latest crop of three-quarter-litre hotshots in a straight line. Not bad for a six-year-old bike though. The RC30's age is felt through the bars too, as a raw, harsh vibration which is at its worst at around 8000rpm. The RVF hints at the same, but though it can be buzzy, it's never as uncivilised as the RC30 in this respect.

"Several grand prix riders have complained that the fuel-injected versions of their 500cc Hondas have needed ultra-sensitive treatment of the twistgrip, and the RVF displays the same trait.

"Trying to feather the throttle for a constant supply of power round a long bend often results in an on-off action which easily throws you off line. It could conceivably load up the already hard-worked front tyre enough to break its grip, though this isn't likely on the roads unless you're completely devoid of any instinct for self-preservation.

Honda RC45 knee down

"The RC30 is definitely superior in this respect, the conventional carburettors allowing much easier and more progressive control when finesse is called for."

Looking back on the RC45 now, 120bhp (claimed) just wasn't enough to see off opposition like the Ducati 916, Kawasaki ZX-7R or the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade. For £18,300 buyers might have expected the Honda RC45 to be a 190mph racer with lights on it, a real Joey Dunlop TT replica. Close ratio gearbox made it a pain to ride in town. 

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

"The Honda RC45 is arguably one of the best made motorcycles of all time, the RC45 is typical of the flagship motorcycles made when engineers were still in charge at Honda.

"Apart from the effects of time, extreme weather, or owner neglect, it's very unlikely that a Honda RC45 will break down or rust to bits. An undoubted classic built to last a lifetime."

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

Back in the 90s, the Honda RC45 was in the same price as exotica like the Bimota SB7 or the Ducati 916 SPS, but its parts bin styling and average performance didn't make it seem worth the outrageous price tag. Here's a sobering fact; the 1996 Suzuki GSXR750 was 10kgs lighter than the supposedly `exotic' Honda RC45 in fully fuelled up trim. Find a Honda RC45 for sale.

Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

"What are 1993 Honda CBR600F wheels, mirrors and indicators doing on such an exotic masterpiece?  It's a shame that the Honda RC45 wasn't studded with some truly unique, one-off parts to help set it apart from the Honda RVF400 NC35 in particular, and from big Japanese sportbikes in general.

"The suspension is fully adjustable of course, but like all the best systems doesn't need to be tweaked to work properly. And if you feel the need to turn the knobs, the next revelation is that they actually make a difference. Turn up the compression damping and the ride firms up, the forks dive less and the front patters in rougher corners this isn't race replica, it's just plain race."

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1994
Year discontinued 1999
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 120 bhp
Max torque 55 ft-lb
Top speed 160 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 11.1 secs
Average fuel consumption 34 mpg
Tank range 110 miles
Specification
Engine size 749cc
Engine type 16v, Vee 4, 6 gears
Frame type Twin spar aluminium
Fuel capacity 18 litres
Seat height 770mm
Bike weight 189kg
Front suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Rear suspension Preload, rebound, sompression
Front brake Twin 310mm discs
Rear brake 220mm disc
Front tyre size 130/70 x 16
Rear tyre size 190/50 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

Honda launched the RC45 as a replacement for the previous homologation special, the RC30. Limited numbers of the bike were produced between 1994 and 1999 to comply with homologation rules.

In order to fight back against a racing charge from Ducati in WSB, Honda produced the RC51 VTR1000 SP-1, which broke the run of V4 racers as it was a V-twin.

Other versions

None

Owners' Reviews

3 owners have reviewed their HONDA RC45 (1994-1999) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HONDA RC45 (1994-1999)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.7 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3.7 out of 5
Equipment 4.3 out of 5
5 out of 5

21 April 2016 by Rudi Steyn

Best features are its looks; sweat motor and tractability around a wet track. Worst feature is getting replacement tyre's.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Very rare; collectors item of note.
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
Buying experience

Private buy. R 600 000. 1900 miles like new.

5 out of 5

RC45

11 October 2012 by Arsey45

Having owned an RC30, I was intrigued to find how the RC45 would compare to such an iconic bike. Firstly the 45 feels a bit larger but just as comfortable and manoeuvrable. The power delivery is quite different with the 45 feeling much sharper but certainly snatchy at low speed. Care must be taken around roundabouts and junctions as the power is very much on and off. This is due to the injection system, but once on the move it's no problem. The gearbox feels slightly notchy in first and second but the faster you go the smoother it becomes. In fact the bike is not too happy at speeds below 50 mph, also the tallish first gear is not so good around town. Once the speed is above 50 mph the bike is a delight. It simply feels better and better as the speed rises. Everything seems to work beautifully. You can really feel the sheer quality of the engineering. This bike was built for WSBK and it really shows when you turn the wick up. Power certainly is considerably more compared to the RC30. The brakes on the 45 are much improved from the 30 and give plenty of confidence. My RC45 has an ohlins rear shock which has improved the handling quite a bit. I was amazed when cornering over nasty bumps how well the bike glided over them with no upsets at all. The USD forks are a big improvement on the 30. The bike feels very stable under heavy braking and direction changes. Overall, I much prefer the RC45 to the RC30. The 45 is much more up to date and generally feels much sharper and more powerful.They may be expensive but worth every penny and there's no other bike that feels that good.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

love it

01 January 2008 by red123

best bike i v ridden in all my 20years of riding . usuall honda gbox but once ridden well words fail me .

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-

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  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
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  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
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  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
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  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
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  • HONDA RC45  (1994-1999)
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