Honda’s secret V4 Superbike

Is this the 'cheap' RC213V-S we've been asking for?

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Honda appear to be gearing-up to introduce an all-new V4 1000cc superbike to slot in above the Fireblade and take the battle to its more exotic rivals.

Evidence pointing to Honda’s plans includes Honda CEO Tetsuo Suzuki admitting the firm will gauge demand for the RC213V-S before making any further decisions. Mr Suzuki said: “If we get many, many orders for the RC213V-S then perhaps we can look at a cheaper version that could sit between the Fireblade and the RC213V-S.”

The demand is likely to be high, too. It’s been the long-held dream of many Honda fans that a V4 superbike in the spirit of classics like the VFR750R RC30, RVF750 RC45 and the oval-pistoned NR750, would return to the range.

The new bike also looks likely to carry the ‘RVF’ badge – Honda have been careful to retain their trademark on the name in Europe despite marketing no products with that name, and recently applied for new rights in Australia.

In terms of timing, all the patents relating to the new bike were drawn up in 2014, putting them about two years behind the RC213V-S. That would mean the finished version – should it get the green light – could be shown by the end of 2016, with production starting in 2017. That means it would appear just as the limited production run of RC213V-S machines draws to a close, and a neat 25 years after the launch of the NR750.

This month Honda have published no fewer than five patents around aspects of a new V4, road bike, clearly showing that the bike in question is a direct relation of the RC213V-S. However, if the engine is familiar, the rest of the bike is quite new. The most notable difference is the chassis. On the RC213V-S, the hand-welded frame is fabricated by the same highly-skilled team that build MotoGP machines. Replacing it with a mass-produced chassis and swapping the expensive race-spec suspension for something off-the-shelf would slash the price, and that’s just what Honda may be planning.

The new frame is a cast-aluminium monocoque, similar in construction to Ducati’s Panigale. As on the Ducati, the main structure doubles as the airbox with the engine as a stressed member.

As well as being cheap and easy to make – the patents explain how the frame/airbox unit will be cast as a single piece. With no spars surrounding the engine, the motor becomes the widest part of the bike, reducing the frontal area. The cast frame also allows for a main ram-air intake going through the headstock, a set-up that’s fairly conventional on modern superbikes but one that isn’t used by the RC213V-S.

The rest of the chassis components are also cast. There’s a smaller swingarm pivot casting bolted to each side of the engine and the seat subframe is also made from two cast-aluminium structures with a cross-member to mount the rear shock.

The design means that the whole frame is made with no welds, and around a dozen bolts are used to assemble the whole thing around the engine. This simplicity continues to the rear suspension, which drops the Unit Pro Link arrangement in favour of a conventional rising-rate linkage.

End of the Fireblade?

A new RVF would provide Honda an additional superbike, more closely focussed on racing than the Blade, much as it used to have the RC45 and the CBR900RR in its range. Honda insist the Blade will remain in production although sources say that there is no development plan beyond 2017.

Ben Purvis

By Ben Purvis