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The History of Honda Motorcycles

May 17, 2021 ·
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Soichiro Honda started his own company in 1937 to develop piston rings for Toyota. Though the initial designs were rejected, he eventually became an important supplier of these parts. Honda sold his business in 1946 after the building was bombed twice during World War II.

It was around this time that Soichiro recognized another opportunity — the need for reliable and cheap transportation in Japan. He began mounting two-stroke motors onto bicycles, which eventually led to the production of a completely motorized bicycle called the A-Type.

Since then, the Honda Motor Company has accomplished a lot and developed a reputation that has stood the test of time. Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) and Honda have a relationship that led to the creation of the Honda HonTech specialized training program in 1986.

Keep on reading to learn more about the history of Honda motorcycles and the relationship the brand has with MMI.

Early Days

Soichiro had always been interested in automobiles. As an apprentice mechanic at the Art Shokai garage in Tokyo, he worked on cars and entered them in races. Eventually he founded Tokai Seiki, which is where he began manufacturing piston rings.

It took several trips back to the drawing board before he could produce something that was acceptable to sell to Toyota, but eventually things worked out. The automated process he developed helped employ unskilled wartime laborers.

Soichiro eventually sold his land and building to Toyota after World War II. This chain of events helped lead Honda to notice that people in Japan needed a new way to get around.

The creation of the motorized bicycle, referred to as the A-Type, took place in 1947. It featured a two-stroke, 50cc engine. This brought about the formation of the Honda Motor Company in 1948.

After the name change, the first Honda motorcycle was created from the ground up and released in 1949. It was known as the Model D, or the Dream D. It featured a two-stroke, 98cc motor. The success of the bike was quick right off the bat.

In 1950, Honda built a new manufacturing plant in Tokyo. This became the start of the brand’s history of producing high-quality motorcycles for a range of uses.

Models by Decade

Covering all of the different Honda motorcycles by year would take a long time! So we’ve gathered information on some of the brand’s iconic releases throughout the decades, starting after the release of the Model A and Model D.

1950s Honda Motorcycles

1953 Dream E: Soichiro found himself getting frustrated at the fumes and noise coming from two-stroke motorcycles, leading to the creation of the first four-stroke motorcycle, known as the Dream E.

1958 Super Cub: Also known as the C100 or “the Honda 50,” the Super Cub was introduced as a mix between a motorcycle and a moped. The advertising campaign for the model made a lasting impact on the image of Honda and helped shift American attitudes toward motorcycles.

1960s Honda Motorcycles

1961 CB77: Also called the Super Hawk, this model became known as Honda’s first sport bike. It is commonly referred to as one of the bikes that helped set the standard for modern motorcycles due to its power and reliability.

1968 CB750: Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, the CB750 made a huge impact as it had the first modern mass-market four-cylinder engine. It also was the first mass-market bike that came with a disc brake.

1970s Honda Motorcycles

1973 CR250M Elsinore: Honda’s first production two-stroke motorcycle and its first purpose-built competition model. It was followed in 1974 by the CR125M.

1974 Gold Wing GL1000: The first of many Gold Wing editions was introduced at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in Germany and reached the American market in 1975. The introduction of this model helped distinguish Honda as a leader in the industry.

1978 NR500: The NR500 was another model developed out of a desire to compete in grand prix racing. The motorcycle was introduced as a four-cylinder V-8 with 32 valves and oval-shaped cylinders.

1980s Honda Motorcycles

1986 VFR750F: Also known as the Interceptor, the VFR750F is a road bike that was a complete redesign of previous VF models and had numerous improvements, including a more powerful and reliable engine. It became referred to as “the best all-around road bike.”

1987 CBR600F: The vehicle, also known as the Hurricane in the United States, was Honda’s first inline, four-cylinder sport bike.

1990s Honda Motorcycles

1992 CBR900RR: Also called the Fireblade, the 900cc motorcycle made a big impact in the sport bike world. It was much lighter than other large-displacement motorcycles in the superbike class.

1995 EXP-2: This vehicle was an off-road prototype motorcycle featuring a two-stroke engine that was developed by Honda to comply with emissions standards. The engine concept utilized a valve that would close the exhaust port.

2000s Honda Motorcycles

2001 RC211V: This four-stroke racing motorcycle was developed to replace the NSR500 (which debuted in 1984) and to comply with new regulations for the World Championships. It was also the first bike to feature a V-5 engine.

2003 CBR600RR: This 599cc sport bike was marketed as the brand’s top-of-the-line middleweight bike in its class. It won eight of 12 titles in the Supersport World Championship from its introduction through 2015.

2010s Honda Motorcycles

2010 VFR1200F: Production of the motorcycle began in 2009, and models were introduced in 2010. It’s the first production motorcycle with an optional dual-clutch transmission.

2011 CBR250R: This vehicle followed the style of the VFR1200F closely, which featured a Y-shaped headlight. The motorcycle was developed to try and tap into the beginner-bike market.


Honda continues to produce high-quality motorcycles suitable for a range of uses. By choosing to enroll in the Honda HonTech program at MMI, students get the opportunity to work exclusively with the brand.27

Honda HonTech Program at MMI

The HonTech program was endorsed by American Honda Motor Co. in 1986 to allow MMI students to learn to become technicians on Honda brand motorcycles.

After completing the core Motorcycle Technician training program at MMI, students are eligible to enroll in the 12-week HonTech program. The course is split up into four different modules:

  • Module 1: Students are focused on learning design characteristics of different engines in Honda motorcycles, side-by-sides and ATVs. They also become familiarized with the electronic parts lookup system.
  • Module 2: All aspects of ATV servicing are covered in this module, including model identification and safety procedures. Students also will learn how to service steering systems and suspensions.
  • Module 3: The third module is designed to give students an understanding of Honda electrical systems and wiring diagrams that are used on a range of vehicles.
  • Module 4: The final module focuses on maintenance, encompassing a range of Honda vehicles. Other topics covered include learning about fuel delivery systems and emissions control systems found on street bikes.

Program Benefits

The Honda HonTech program is available at two MMI campuses and offers several benefits for students choosing to enroll. These include:

  • Certification: After completing 60 days of tenure in a Honda dealership, MMI HonTech students get the chance to receive Bronze field designation.
  • Current Honda Technology: Information presented to students in the HonTech program comes directly from American Honda training centers. This information is regularly updated, so it coincides with what is most current in the industry.
  • Variety: Not only does the HonTech program offer students the opportunity to work on motorcycles, they can also train with generators, small-powered equipment engines, side-by-sides, dirt bikes and ATVs.

Receive Specialized Honda Training at MMI

If becoming a Honda motorcycle technician is something that interests you, enrolling in the HonTech program at MMI is something that could help give you a leg up in the workforce. Specialized training can help you prepare for an entry-level position at a Honda dealership.1

You can find out more about admissions requirements by visiting us online and requesting more information. You can also contact us at 1-800-834-7308.

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