Did Honda Design The Most Tasteful Sports Bike In 1987?
As far as looks are concerned, this is the road bike that beats its track bike counterparts.
Even though my current studio project means I’m totally engrossed in four and 18(!) wheelers, it was a quick glimpse of the Honda team for this year’s British Superbike Championship that immediately focused my thoughts to that of two wheels—plus I spent time on the weekend doing a ‘blowing-off-the-cobwebs’ ride on my old TL1000S…
That contender is a good looking racing bike, but when I think of the company, my mind will always open up on the iconic and legendary RC30, or its full name, the Honda VFR750R RC30. This choice for an article about aesthetics does, however, put a small spanner in the works: most racing examples sported relatively boring or totally lurid race liveries.
The purple and black monstrosity of Fred Merkel’s World Superbike RC30 is a perfect example of how purple can often ruin even the purest of form and design. Freddie Spencer’s Two Brothers AMA Superbike doesn’t escape a telling-off either, as it managed to make the bike look as though the vinyl applier was using up scraps of red and blue off-cuts to create the livery. Even the period TT-winning bike of Carl Fogarty looked more like a Ducati road bike with a Honda decal in place of the Italian one.
All this is negative, but goes to strengthen my case to illustrate just how well Honda designed the road-going version of this motorcycle. Any livery has to be as iconic and legendary as the bike it dresses. The red, light blue, and dark blue stripes graced with fine gold pinstripes over the crisp white bodywork manage a very rare feat in motorcycle graphics: one of elegance.
Everything about the RC30 screamed class and expense. The V4 motor sounded exotic, the performance chassis parts oozed class, but to me, all were shrouded by the depth and richness of its color palette. Using a deep navy alongside a regal royal blue and rich red, finely held together by gold pinstripes of just the right weight, acted as a first indicator of just how special this bike was. Upon first glance, this design gives the viewer clear clues that this was bike very different to the rest of the pack.
Honda had long been using red, white and blue, and continued to adapt the design to work on other road going race bikes long after the RC30 was replaced, but none even got close to anywhere near the RC30’s elegance. In fact, few have, even when you consider Ducati or MV Augusta—of whom don’t have a standard livery, per se—the world of motorbike racing just never seemed to go after this elegant and racy look.
When considering these liveries, I always hope to measure success against on-track performance: does “the look” live up to the cars’ race results? But the RC30 is a very rare breed, in that the road going version completely drowns its racing counterparts as far as looks are concerned. For what it’s worth, I’d move over quickly if I saw a red, white, and blue VFR750R in my rearview!