Detailing the history of the superbike from the Honda CB750 in 1969 to 2001's ground-breaking Suzuki GSX-R1000
This is where the two meanings of the word superbike meet. The RC30 was a road bike specifically built to allow Honda to go World Superbike racing.
Still regarded by many as one of the greatest motorcycles ever built, the RC30 - or VFR750R - was the first race replica which was actually a racer too. It was built as a homologation bike to allow Honda to race it in the TTF1 and WSB championships so Honda basically designed a racer they way they wanted to, added minimal road going parts and sold it to the public. We thank you Honda.
By the mid-Eighties, Honda had experimented with almost every engine configuration imaginable and decided on the V-four layout because it was compact, offered a low centre of gravity and allowed a small frontal area. But after the perfectly crap VFR750S flopped, Honda's R&D boys were told to try again and this time to get it right. And boy did they.
Each RC30 was hand assembled one at a time in the firm's Hamamatsu plant where the factory race bikes were built meaning customers were virtually getting their own works bikes built for them, or as close as dammit. Incidentally, Honda offered to buy back the very first bike built (serial number 00001) but the owner refused meaning he's either too rich or waiting for the price to go up.
The RC30 was also the first production bike in the world to feature titanium alloy - which was used to make the con rod - and no expense was spared on the rest of the machine either. Every component was the lightest and most expensive possible for a road bike and the result was a motorcycle which weighed a paltry 185 kilos (407lbs). Six years later, Ducati's legendary 916 would still be heavier.
Claimed power was 112bhp at 11,000rpm but it was the overall package which made the bike sensational, not just the silky smooth engine which pulled from nowhere. There wasn't one particular trick which made the RC so much better than its rivals, (though it had plenty of trick parts like gear driven cams), rather it was the nose-down chassis, the short wheelbase, the racey riding position, the single-sided swing arm developed from the Elf Honda endurance racer and the brilliant handling which made it a winner straight from the crate in almost every discipline of road racing. Carl Fogarty won the world F1 championship on the bike in its first year and
American Fred Merkel used it to lift the first two WSB titles in 1988 and '89. Steve Hislop and Joey Dunlop took it to TT glory and the RC is still raced round the Island by some to this day.
There were only an estimated 3000 models built between 1988 and 1990 with around 500 coming to the UK, of which only 375 were ever registered for the road.
Honda had already shown their brilliance by practically inventing the superbike back in 1969 with the CB750. The RC30 was another quantum leap. But the big H had another surprise waiting in the wings just four years away. It was called the FireBlade.
Posted: 19/05/2009 at 13:07
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