Honda’s history with V4s is legendary but it’s been decades since there’s been a Honda V4 superbike. That might be about to change, though.
We’d never question the abilities of Honda’s latest-generation Fireblade but there’s no denying that it’s a warmed-over revamp of the previous design. And that dates back to 2008. It’s capable and well-developed, but ultimately lacks the frisson of a really cutting-edge new bike. What Honda needs is a fresh superbike contender. One with a V4 engine to tug at the heartstrings. With MotoGP heritage to give the right technological cues. With a real chance of bringing back some silverware on the track.
And that’s just what the firm appears to be developing.
This is just the latest in a string of patents that show a Honda V4 superbike is in the works, but it gives the clearest look yet at the bike. Here’s another design that Honda patented earlier.
The engine appears to be straight from the RC213V-S, which in turn uses a development of the RC213V MotoGP engine. That’s a good start, and one that neatly matches Ducati’s plan to launch a Desmosedici GP-derived V4 next year. But where the RC213V-S was a hand-made limited edition with a ridiculous price, the new bike is expected to be under the €40,000 cap for WSB homologation machines.
The saving comes from a mass-produced, cast aluminium frame instead of the hand-beaten, hand-welded chassis of the RC213V-S. It’s actually a half-length chassis, using the engine to provide much of the structure and reducing weight and width in the process.
This new patent reveals several key details. One is its date. Honda applied for the patent on 21st December 2016. That’s long after development work on the RC213V-S had finished and shows that this is still an active project. The application was published today, 29th June 2017, in America.
The second new feature is the subject of the patent. It surrounds the layout of the exhaust, which is notably compact while still reducing emissions and noise enough for road use. The trick is that the engine is treated as two 500cc parallel twins, each with their own exhaust. The front cylinder bank’s pipes are routed under the engine, through a collector box and into a conventional silencer on the right hand side. The rear bank, though, has its exhaust routed forwards under the engine before wrapping around and going back down the left hand side. There they meet a belly-mounted collector box and silencer, with the exhaust exiting through stubs near the rider’s left foot.
As well as being compact, the system frees up more space for the rear suspension, allowing Honda to use a MotoGP-style swingarm. This has its bracing underneath rather than above the main section of the arm, and features a low-mounted shock that tucks under the engine’s rear cylinder bank.
Details including the exhaust silencers, the radiator fans and the rear licence plate hanger leave no doubt this is a street bike rather than a pure racer. But its MotoGP-derived engine and sophisticated chassis design mean it will also make a formidable track weapon in WSB form.
The Honda V4 has yet to be officially confirmed but there’s widespread speculation that it will appear at some point in 2018. This patent appears to add substance to that speculation.