Before Ducati’s monocoque chassis design was all the rage in superbike design, the folks at Honda were busy toying with the same idea.

Outlining a patent in 2006 for a motorcycle whose engine would be fully utilized as a part of the chassis, Honda’s design, which differs in minutiae, predates Ducati’s patent by almost a year and a half.

A noticeable departure from Honda’s MotoGP design, one can argue whether Honda’s monocoque chassis was destined for the next iteration of the CBR1000RR or the next generation VFR at the time of its conception.

While the patent covers any amount of cylinder numbers (as long as there is a forward and rear cylinder head), its drawings tip the design for use on V4 and V5 engines, with the headstock attaching to the two cylinder banks, while the seat, tail section, and swingarm attaches lower on the engine, closer to the crankcase and gearbox.

Of note is how Honda’s engine drawing depicts a 90° cylinder V configuration, with the cylinders at equal angles to the plane of the ground. This differs from Ducati’s “L-twin” configuration, where the forward cylinder head is nearly parallel the ground.

These two differences are currently expounded upon by the companies’ two MotoGP packages, and give example to the two different approaches to mounting a monocoque chassis to the stressed engine.

Interestingly enough, Honda’s configuration allows for three mounting points to the engine (Honda calls them “M-shaped” or “W-shaped” mounting projections), compared to Ducati’s two pointing mounts — with three points making a plane, it could explain some possible differences in front-end feeling between the two brands.

With the Honda VFR1200F never getting this chassis design patented here, one has to wonder if/when Honda will use its monocoque design on a production motorcycle (or any motorcycle for that matter).

Could it be part of the much talked about, though regrettably tardy, MotoGP-derived V4 sport bike? Only time will tell, though it would explain part of Honda’s delay in bringing that bike to market. We have already supposedly seen drawings of the bike’s engine, could this be its chassis? Only the engineers at Honda likely know the answer.






Source: Google Patents

  • paulus

    Once royalty invoice from Honda to Ducati for a small % of all Panigale’s and new monsters…. should cover Hondas 2014 racing costs :)

  • yooperbikemike

    A 90* Honda V-4 rotated back in the frame? That was news back in 1983…

  • Mike


    I think you missed the point…

  • Brian

    “it could explain some possible differences in front-end feeling between the two brands.”

    Honda doesn’t employ this design in any of their bikes. I’m not sure how a drawing of an imaginary bike could explain differences in front-end feel.

  • Mitch

    Well, that is the silhouette of a 5th gen VFR in the first drawing.

    Something weird I never knew before: The Honda CBR 929 doesn’t have a lower portion of frame behind the engine; the swingarm/rearsets connect to a block that hangs off the engine case.

  • teanau
  • Ari

    Honda… the best.

  • Jim

    Gee I wonder what John Britten or Phil Irving (Vincent) would think of all this

  • chris

    and long as we’re calling all of these framed bikes frameless, bmw was doing it with the r1100rs in 1993 (followed by gs, r) and they still do it with the latest r1100r/gs/rs. most of what you see is the subframe… it was designed in the 80’s.

  • Westward

    I’m thinking the Britten estate is not a legal minded bunch…

  • Vincent, Norton, Britten…even Honda have all played with this concept before this patent’s conception…that’s not really the point of this article, though I can understand the allure of screaming “FIRST!!” on the internet.

    Within the last 10 years, Honda thought enough of this design’s merits to patent it, with obvious clues of it ending up on a street bike.

    With Ducati currently dabbling with a similar design with the Panigale, and chasing its tail in MotoGP, I think it raises some interesting questions about where superbike design is, or is not, headed for the future — especially as Honda has a brand new (and reportedly expensive) sport bike in the works.

  • sideswipe

    What this was for who knows but what is interesting is how it differs from the beleaguered Ducati take on the same idea. The frameless Ducati and the the first desperate attempt at a beam frame attached to the engine high up on the head case. This Honda’s M/W mounting points are much lower on the engine cases. What that means? That is the million dollar race engineering question but the slightly improved feeling GP14 that’s being raced now has properly long extensions of the frame that reach down to much lower (or central) mounting points. In the end I don’t see what this frameless thing achieves other than to say “Look! Different”. If it needs to mount lower on the engine then the 0nly thing this “frame” is missing is a very, very short section connecting it to the rear frame pieces. Nice exercise but maybe a wasted effort.

  • teanau

    From the britten documentary, John was concerned that high mounting points constricted heat deflection of the piston heads causing the to deform the cylinder sleeves enough to rob a few HP when hot.
    Mounting lower would allow them to float freely and not distort along the piston stroke.

  • How about we stop misusing the terms “monocoque” and “frameless?
    This Honda, Kawasaki’s ZX-14 and C-14, Ducati’s 1199 and MotoGP bikes are not even remotely of monocoque construction, nor are they frameless. In the Honda’s case it could be called a multi-piece frame (the antithesis of a monocoque) and in Ducati’s cases, they would more accurately be called abbreviated frames. The only truly frameless designs were the Britten and Vincent but they were not monocoque. They are not interchangeable terms.

  • The Motoczysz E1PC is an example of true monocoque construction as well as the first version of Honda’s NR500.