Honda RC213V-S review - £200k MotoGP replica ridden on the road

The RC213V-S road-going MotoGP bike

Ticking off a big box on his bucket list, Toad had the chance to sample the stunning Honda RC213V-S, ticking off plenty of miles zooming about the Welsh mountains on what is effectively a detuned version of Marc Marquez’ 2013 MotoGP machine

The chance ride came about thanks to Honda UK, which took the sensible decision to keep hold of one of the RC213V-S MotoGP replicas when they landed in the UK in 2015. Now, the bike spends much of its time under lock and key at Honda Racing UK in Louth, although every now and again they let it out of its cage and into the hands of very appreciative journos like me.

The ride on the bike wasn’t straightforward though, with twisting Welsh roads and mountain passes making up much of the route - not to mention the inclement weather. I did though get a few chances to stretch its legs, and that is something I’m never going to forget.

Honda RC213V-S price and value

As pretty much every motorcycle fan knows, the RC213V-S is the road-going version of the bike Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa had so much success on in the MotoGP championship. It’s quite different, though, featuring a lower power output, softer delivery and numerous other changes to allow it to get through homologation and type approval.

At the time of its launch, the RC213V-S carried a price tag of around £150,000 and another £15,000 for the optional ‘race kit’ of parts - which boost the output north of 200bhp, reduces the weight and increases the aural pleasure. Today the price of an RC213V-S is significantly higher, and un-used, still crated bikes are changing hands for more than £200,000.

Honda RC213V-S review

Swinging my leg over the bike for the first time is, even without turning on the engine, a daunting task. I carefully lift it off the side stand and gaze down at the bling that sits beneath my chin. Ohlins TTX fork tops are grasped within a gold anodized top clamp bearing the HRC logo and the serial number of the model: 031. It’s all a reminder, if one were needed, that this is a special machine, and with only 250 of them ever produced, it kicks the Desmosedici RR with its population of 1,500 into the weeds for sheer exclusivity.

With the Honda Smart Key in my jacket pocket, I arm the kill switch, and thumb the starter button. The bike’s TFT dash fires up and the throttle valves buzz away within the fairings. Thumb it again and that MotoGP-derived V4 splutters into life, struggling to keep on a constant RPM thanks to the low air temperature. 

“For god’s sake don’t blip the throttle ‘till it reaches at least 60 degrees engine temperature,” I’m told by one of the Honda technicians, who adds, “These engines really don’t like being stressed when they are cold!”. I noted the point but it wasn’t really needed - with a racy cooling system that holds a minimal amount of liquid, the engine is up and into the safe zone in just a matter of minutes. With the green light given, I pull in the featherlight clutch and kick the bike into gear. ‘This is it! This is your chance to sample the RCV,’ I think, ‘Please Toad, don’t fuck this up’.

My first taste of the bike was taking place on the famous Horseshoe Pass in Wales, where we’d just had a coffee at the Ponderosa bike cafe. The weather on the day could only be described as ‘sub-optimal’ for riding a bike like this. It wasn’t raining at the time, but there was moisture in the chilly air. It’s also one of those roads where you can quickly go from hero to lying in a ditch wondering what went wrong. Thankfully our lead rider was taking things steady, and I took the opportunity to get familiar with the machine. 

My first impressions are that it’s small - very small. Think grey import 400 with a more aggressive peg position and 30 per cent less front fairing. Oh, and double the power output. After a few miles, we turn off the A542 and I have a stretch of smooth, grey, flowing tarmac ahead. For the first time, I’m feeling confident enough to pin the throttle to really see what this thing can do. I let the lead rider build up a gap and go for it, and initially, not much happens. From low in the rev range, there isn’t much torque, and you only really begin to feel things happen above 3,000 rpm. From there, though, the world becomes a very different place, and before you know it you’ll be hitting near 100mph speeds in first gear before hooking the second ratio. By the time I do that, I’m right on the tail of the lead rider.

Although the overall design is closely related to that of the MotoGP bike, there are some inevitable concessions for rideability, type approval and homologation. For one thing, you don’t get the complex and expensive pneumatic valves on the road bike, with conventional valve springs having the unenviable job of opening and closing 233 times per second! It also doesn’t get a seamless-shift gearbox, and instead utilises a conventional cassette design. It’s still a beautiful thing to use, and as you’d expect from a creme-de-la-creme creation, it snicks faultlessly up and down the ‘box. There is a quickshifter fitted as standard, although on the bike we ride no blipper on the downshifts, meaning you’ll be manually blipping the V4 engine or using the clutch at lower speeds. The gearing on the RCV-S is ridiculously long, and as mentioned first gear will see you all the way up to nearly 100mph (allegedly - cough). 

For much of my time on the bike, I’m solely in that gear, revelling in the most linear power curve I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Unlike a lot of road-homologated sports bikes, which need choking to get them through the ever more stringent emissions regulations, the RCV-S seems to have no bumps, dips, or flat spots anywhere in the rev range. You just get seamless, brutal acceleration from 3,000 rpm all the way to the redline. It’s not dissimilar to the progress that can be made on a bike like a Panigale V4 S, although in this machine the delivery just feels very different. There was a lot of chatter when the bike was launched about the power output being low - they are claimed to make around 150bhp in standard trim although each bike differs due to the hand-made nature of them. It’s no slower than the current crop of 1,000cc sports bikes, it just gets down the road in a very different way. During my time on the bike I never once felt it could do with a bit more power. On this bike, on these roads, 150bhp is more than enough to be dealing with.

The Honda is also blessed with one of the best exhaust notes you will ever come across, and just like the MotoGP bikes of the era, when you get it near the top of the rev counter it sounds like it’s tearing up sheet metal as it hurtles you through the countryside.

One impressive trait of the bike is, as on any other Honda sports bike, when you get off the twisty and into a town or a village you can pop it into second gear and pootle along at 30mph without any real grumble from the 999cc V4 engine. Try that on some of the other V4-powered sports bikes and they’ll be bucking and shaking beneath you, pissed off that you’re wasting its potential on such a menial activity.

As the ride carries on I can feel the bike starting to come to life, and the Pirelli hoops are getting warm and into the groove. Now it really is time to see how it handles. At a claimed 160kg dry, the RCV-S is a featherweight of a bike, and about on par with the current crop of supersport machines. That translates to a ludicrously fast-turning motorcycle. The steering is sublime and regardless of how late you brake, you’re going around that corner, whether you like it or not. Surprisingly, the suspension is fairly comfortable over lumps and bumps and is nowhere near as harsh and unforgiving as I thought it would be. There’s a minimal amount of dive under braking, as the Ohlins TTX forks and rear shock seem to be able to tell the difference between a pothole and a braking event, responding in just the right way every single time. Kit of this quality also gives you so much feedback, and the chassis is constantly talking to you as you ride, telling you what’s going on beneath you like you’re running your hand across the top of the asphalt.

And while we’re on the subject of going around corners, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever out-brake yourself on the RCV-S as the four-pot Brembo stoppers offer an otherworldly amount of braking power. For general road riding you’ll only really ever need a single finger on the lever, and even then you could have yourself over the handlebars should you get a bit greedy with the brakes. 

If there is one thing about the chassis that could catch out the unwary, it’s the slim amount of steering lock. You have a turning circle of just under four metres, meaning you have to be very careful turning the bike around. With some of the panels on the bike costing upwards of £10,000, that’s a clumsy crash you really don’t want to be talking to your insurance company about! It’s the cost of the bike that in a way tarnishes the riding experience. You never truly feel like you can wring the neck of a bike like this. That feeling does improve the more you ride it, but it’s always there, every time you tip into a turn or open the throttle at the exit of a corner. 

My ride ends with some photography and video shot on a bumpy Welsh mountain road. I complete my job, pat the fuel tank and hand the keys back to Honda’s PR person. I’m gutted to hand it back, but also feel slightly relieved that it’s no longer my responsibility. Whatever happens now isn’t on me, it’s somebody else who can deal with that stress. There is though a part of me that feels a bit sad about the bike, and what it represents. Part of it is the knowledge that I’ll probably never get a chance like that again - it’s not often Honda wheels out the bike, let alone hands the keys to others! But also about what this bike signifies and that we might never see its kind again. For me, the Honda RC213V-S is a two-fingered salute to the nanny state, the fun police, and the health and safety brigade. It’s Honda showing the world that it is still the top dog, and with the shackles off it can create a motorcycle the likes we have never ever seen. It could also be the last of its kind and with the world looking to electrification and decarbonisation - will a motorcycle maker ever have the audacity to create a machine that is this single-minded in its quest for performance? I’m not so sure. I hope to god they do, but if they don’t, I rode this one, and that’s one fleeting ride on a motorcycling legend I’m never going to forget.

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