Journal: Did Honda Design The Most Tasteful Sports Bike In 1987?

Did Honda Design The Most Tasteful Sports Bike In 1987?

Avatar By Joel Clark
March 30, 2016
12 comments

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!

Image sources: Honda, Mark Coughlinnorthdenvernews.comraresportbikesforsale.com

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nlegallForrest SmithWeimlerRolfie RobertoSam N Recent comment authors
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nlegall
nlegall

I don’t see where a debate could start here. We’re talking RC30. Final.

This bike has been the most desired one in my 2 wheels life, and still is on the top of my list even if I was lucky enough to have one 10 years ago.

But as it’s a pure collector, I don’t want it anymore. Not good on the road, too old to trackday and now way too expensive to crash it…

What I can’t drive, I sell.

But still, dear RC30, you’re a beauty.

Forrest Smith
Forrest Smith

This was my dream bike! Honda used to run a commercial late at night “Come Ride With Me” that featured this bike and a CBR-600 (I think?). Such an awesome, timeless bike.

Weimler
Weimler

My first bike was an ’87 VFR 700 (During the Harley tax tariff thing). RC30 came out shortly after but 15K for a bike in the day was just a dream.

Rolfie Roberto
Rolfie Roberto

Very nice bike. But hardly mould breaking in terms of design. Early 80’s Bimota HB series were equally stunning.
http://www.autoevolution.com/moto/bimota-hb2-1981.html#aeng_bimota-hb2-1981-901

Jeff Wiltshire
Jeff Wiltshire

I bought mine in 1988 for £9200, new, from Harry Gill Motors in Gosport. I’d bought a VFR750F 6 months previously for £3300 so it gives you an idea of the price differential.

I used the RC30 for everything, weekends away, commuting and even going to the supermarket. I didn’t have a car licences and this was my only bike. Happy day, 30mph before the clutch was fully out in 1st and 82mph before you had to change to 2nd. Sold it 2 years later for £6000, wish I still had it.

JB21
JB21

It was an incredible bike back then, absolutely nothing like it ever. Suzuki started the whole racer-for-road thing (sure there were truly racy bikes before, but RG/GSX-R really broke the mold of what the road bikes can be and to some degree, should be), and in some ways, it peaks with bikes like RC30, OW-01, Yoshimura Suzuki Tornado, and it really trickled down back then…likes of insane 2-stroke 250s and 4-stroke 400s (F3 class bike). My god those were seriously good times in some respect, and stupid, too…Touge was our race track, we were stupid as hell, so reckless and… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Uh oh … best beware ! There are those here that will condemn posts , comments and opinions that exceed the limits of their Twitter account ! Luckily .. I’m not one of them ! As for your comment . As I stated in my comment when it came to function .. absolutely Big Red nailed it with this beast , When it came to form though [ and this remains true to this day ] Ducati even with their by 1987 aging F1/F3’s made Honda’s design crew look like the bunch of inept by the numbers designers they were… Read more »

Sam N
Sam N

Spot on!

Sir Mouse
Sir Mouse

er… No.
Sorry, but the design is visually unbalanced, and that 2 headlight treatment never works on a bike. Plus there are much better sounding Honda’s than the V4.
For my money the 79 CBX is a far better design, style wise and the sound track is to die for but , l’m bias because the CBX is the bike l always wanted and then one day splurged and bought one.

JB21
JB21

For those who grew up with endurance racing scene of late 70s/80s, those twin round headlights were the coolest thing out there.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

@ JB21 – Hate to tell you this but I was one of those that grew up with all forms of motorsports back then and well before for that matter … and I hated … and still do despise those twin tatties headlights misbegotten by some seriously deluded designer not to mention the engineers thinking those twin tatties had any real or viable benefit on offer . As to the last bit … I’f you’d read the racing press not to mention any of the M/C press of the era you’d know exactly what I’m talking about . … tatties… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Did Big Read design the most ‘ tasteful ‘ sports bike back in 1987 ? Why no they did not . That honor goes hand down to Ducati and the F1/F3

But did Big Red build the best sports bike bike of 1987 ? On that there is no doubt . A definite …

Yes !