A recent patent application shows that Honda is serious about regaining its former superbike glory.  And their latest recipe to regain their prominence uses a formula that they conjured up more than three decades ago.

It was in 1992 that Honda turned the superbike world upside down with its CBR900RR. It was equipped with an 893 cc inline-four engine.  While the engine’s displacement was not groundbreaking, the bike’s weight made it stand apart from the other superbikes of the era.  At its introduction, the 900RR weighed in at only 1.8 kg (~ 4 pounds) more than Honda’s CBR600F2.  The next lightest, over 750 cc superbike (Yamaha’s FZR1000) weighed in at more than 34 kg (76 pounds) more than the “featherlight” CBR900RR.

Patent: Less is more

Fast forward to today, and it looks like Honda is going back to its former recipe for success– less weight.  The news of their pending approach comes from a recent patent application spotted by Cycle World.

The patent shows a new machine that is unusual in several ways.  First, the patent application has lots of details.  That’s interesting in itself as many patents only show the new feature and not multiple different features.

The newest Honda patent application includes descriptions and drawings of the bike’s chassis.  But that’s not all that is shown in the patent.  Ancillary parts and assemblies are also shown.  For example, the application distinctly identifies the display, mirrors, bar controls, sidestand, and catalytic converter.

The fact that the patent offers so many details may indicate that the bike will reach production.  It doesn’t seem that it’s just a placeholder for a concept bike or a future track-only racing machine.

Honda patent details

But let’s get down to the patent details, shall we?  First off, the bike’s frame is a significant departure from Big Red’s standard frames.  Instead of the usual aluminum beam chassis, this time around, the bike’s transverse four-cylinder engine forms a substantial part of the chassis structure.

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The front section of the Honda’s frame uses the engine as a structural member.

Using an engine as a stressed member of a motorcycle chassis is not new.  For example, the Ducati Panigale V4 and Aprilia RS 660 use partial frames with the engine as a central structure member.  Even Honda’s CBR929RR used the engine as a structural member back in 2000.

So while making the engine a stressed member is not new for motorcycle manufacturers, including Honda, the new Honda’s design execution is.

Patent shows “Radical” frame

The patent application shows a front chassis section that is made of “cast material.”  It holds the bike’s steering head and connects to the engine’s case forming an inverted U-shape over the cylinders and cylinder head.  And similar to the Ducati Panigale 1199’s monocoque chassis, the section includes the bike’s airbox and air cleaner.   At the front, there’s also a hollow section of the structure that will hold electronic components, including the bike’s battery.

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That hollow section at the front of the frame will hold electronics and the bike’s battery.

In addition to the front frame section, there’s also a pair of small cast frame halves at the rear of the chassis.  Each of the sections bolts to the transmission case and provides the swingarm pivot with additional strength.

The bike’s swingarm appears to be a single-sided affair, although it’s not explicitly stated in the patent.  But it does say that the bike’s sidestand could be bolted directly to the engine’s crankcase or an extension of the rear frame section.

“Radical” ideas

But where the bike significantly differs from most other motorcycles is the machine’s seat unit and fuel tank.  The typically two separate sections are now a single unit.   The entire assembly is a one-piece carbon-fiber component.  And it too bolts to the front frame and is self-supporting.  Because of its monocoque design, the outer skin doubles as a structural element.

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The fuel tank and seat are a single unit.

With the design, there’s no need for rear “bodywork.”  The one-piece unit sits on top of the subframe.  It also holds the bike’s rear light and license plate hanger.

More details

The detail in this particular application is quite substantial.  The patent shows the bike’s display and explicitly states that there’s an analog tachometer on the left of the display that indicates up to 14,000 rpm.  It also shows that the right side of the display consists of a liquid crystal multifunction readout for speed and other information.

Further, it discusses the bike’s hydraulic clutch.  It points out that the brake reservoirs and clutch master cylinder are made to follow the bike’s design.  Finally, the patent discloses details on the bike’s bar controls.  It shows a left had pod with additional buttons that will likely give access to menus and settings on the dash.

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All of the bike’s body panels are upfront and are divided into four separate elements.

Back to basics?

While the Honda patent reveals a great deal of detail in several areas, it seems that other parts of the machine are pretty conventional.  The bike’s transversely mounted engine appears to be similar to the current Fireblade’s lump.  In addition, the bike’s conventional forks, brakes, and rear suspension may hint that the new mount is a viable production project.

Backing up the near ready for production possibility is that the patent refers to reducing manufacturing costs.  This would seem to indicate that Honda is thinking about the production aspects of the machine.

Less is more again

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this patent application.  Having more bikes where manufacturers consider less weight a key parameter can only be a good thing.  Stay tuned.

 

All image credit: Japanese Patent Office

 

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