Bikes

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

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I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate.

On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design.

Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

Where Ducati took inspiration from its MotoGP program, kept the basic elements found there, and created an entirely new machine, the Honda RC213V-S prototype is quite the opposite.

Honda has released zero, and I mean zero, information about the RC213V-S project, but it would not surprise me in the least if each bike was an ex-race bike with lights slapped onto it, as it was put out to pasture so-to-speak.

That might be an intriguing proposition, actually, but the point is that for all the delay and mystery around the RC213V-S, it’s surprising that the finished (or near-finished) product is such an obvious one. It borders on being the easy way out of a two-wheeled problem.

Even the name denotes how far Honda was willing to stray from its MotoGP program pedigree, slapping an “S” to the back of its race bike designation scheme, and calling it done.

Presumably the Honda RC213V-S is an absolute beast, it is easily the talk of the EICMA show, and that is all fair play. Yet, I can’t help but wanting more from Big Red. Something fresh, something new, something…bold.

For as drawn out as the campaign was, the Kawasaki Ninja H2R was certainly a walk on the wild side. I don’t think anyone saw that bike coming, and it has left a mark already on the industry.

The same cannot be said of the Honda RC213V-S, which for all its race-bred power and performance, lacks the x-factor found with the H2R…ironically perhaps because of how many times Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have taken its predecessor to parc ferme. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?

The whole project feels as if someone a few years ago made the bold statement that they would make a MotoGP-derived street bike. Something that would ignite the superbike market again.

Maybe something that would replace the ailing Honda CBR1000RR, or maybe just something that would re-emphasize Honda’s place at the top of the motorcycling continuum. And then promptly after that statement was made, the sheer terror of such a project was realized.

Or maybe instead, the project lost sight of its original goal. Maybe the engineers took over, called the Honda RC213V the best bike ever made, and reconciled themselves to not improving the breed, beyond adding the requisite DOT items.

Maybe the marketers were locked outside when it came time to brainstorm what would light a fire on the industry once again (they certainly were when it came time to name the beast, and same goes for the “True Adventure” prototype).

Normally on these “up-close” photo galleries, I like to talk about the intriguing details of the machine in front of us. But there is relatively little I can say about the RC213V-S, that I haven’t already said about the RC213V race bike.

The lack of information from Honda certainly doesn’t help things, so we are left talking about how the LED headlights have been stuffed into the front air ducts (leaving the question as to how the air moves past them, and into the airbox).

We could postulate about whether HRC’s beautiful serpentine titanium exhaust exists under the tail section, for the undertail exhaust; or we could talk about the adjustable rearsets, which I’ve always thought felt were basic and out of place on the race bike, and here too on the street model.

The truth is though, if a motorcycle’s “soul” (and I loath this term) is the intangible quality that riders attribute to a motorcycle because it moves them on a visceral level, then the Honda RC213V-S is positively soulless in my eyes.

It is beautiful, it is the pinnacle of technology, and it is perhaps the best motorcycle to ever meet street homologation —  and it does absolutely nothing for me. I am unmoved by this exercise in elegant engineering.

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Photos: © 2014 Rob Harris / Canada Moto Guide — All Rights Reserved

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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