Honda RC213V-S: World first full test & review

By Marc Potter
marcpotter Tested every new bike since 1994, loves anything on two wheels, runs Potski Media, ex-BikeSocial boss. Recently discovered elbow-down riding - likely to end in tears.

Hand crafted road version of the RC213V-S at Valencia with Bike Social's Marc Potter dialling in the 159bhpAnd the full 214bhp+ sports-kit version

Honda's RC213V-S is the nearest thing we will probably every get to a MotoGP bike for-the-road. A full fire-breathing V4 Honda crafted by HRC and hand built race bike for the road.

So when Honda asked if I wanted to be one of just 20 journalists in the world to ride it, I was already running to the airport.

When the mystical RC213V-S (S-for street) was announced at last year's Milan Show and ridden on stage in its black carbon-fibre fairings in a prototype form by MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez I actually said out loud: "It actually exists!"

I'd written so many stories about Honda's dream of a MotoGP replica during my time at Motorcycle News that even I started to doubt the reality of it.

But at a price of 188,000 Euros, and available in either standard 157bhp road trim or 212bhp-plus race kit trim, here it is in pit-lane at Valencia and I'm about to ride it. All those times I wished on a star have finally arrived in one great big HRC coloured dose of adrenalin.

The finest mixture of carbon-fibre, magnesium, titanium and aluminium ever turned into a road bike. Meet Honda's RC213V-S.

A pre-production bike that's not even numbered sits in pit lane, I'm handed the Smart key to put in my pocket, and we're ready. This is it. For six years I'd been writing stories about this bike, and I'm about to ride it.

IN PITLANE

There are so many Japanese engineers around that it feels like we are in Japan, not at Valencia in Spain.

But then this is Honda's new ultra-rare limited run build baby, and the men who built the bikes, from the Project Leader to the man in charge of electronics are here to see what the 20 lucky journalists blessed to ride Honda's €188,000 golden child really think.

Rocket Ron is Honda's choice of guide rider. Here he shows Bike Social's Marc Potter the way around Valencia.

This is the Marquez of motorcycles. Limited to a build of one per day and expected to be a total of just 250 bikes, the RC213V-S is the most exclusive road going motorcycle Honda has ever produced. A MotoGP bike with a number plate? You better believe it, well as close as anyone could ever get to it anyway.

Honda started with the RCV MotoGP project and then worked out how to make it a road bike. This is the result. It has come in for some flack for only making 159bhp by angry men in bedrooms. But weighing in at 170kg dry, Honda say the power to weight ratio is about bang on. Thankfully we're at Valencia for the global, exclusive launch to find out.

It has been seen at shows last year, but was always on a podium just out of reach of prying hands.

In the metal, it is an exquisite delight of titanium and carbon of the likes never before seen on a road bike. Even Ducati's £42,000 Desmosedici wasn't this rare.

Big man tucked in on "diminutive bike"

It's small, diminutive and in its sport kitted form makes an incredible 214bhp-plus (Honda won't say exactly how much power).

In standard form the RCV is simply stunning, get up close to one and you can't help be sucked into the detail. If you have any bone in your body that loves petrol and adrenalin you’ll be dribbling.

From the welds on the swing arm, to the aluminium, gold-painted top yoke, to the carbon-fibre bodywork, the underseat exhaust, the raw aluminium frame that means it needs to be kept in a heated garage.

There are titanium bolts everywhere, and that V4 buried in the diamond frame, it is the kind of bike you could leave in the garage and just look at all day long. Many owners will, and plenty have been ordered as very expensive ornaments, but that's just a waste. The world's most exclusive race bike for the road needs to be ridden. And hard too.

The fit and finish of the parts is unlike any production motorcycle, even Kawasaki's exclusive Ninja H2R. The infamous Honda NR750 may be the only bike that truly feels special in this company.

Ohlins TTX forks, Brembo calipers, Marchesini wheels, HRC engine with the same crankcases as the pukka RC213V, and a chassis based on the earlier 800cc RCV.

Like a real MotoGP bike, the RCV oozes HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) class and attention to detail.

Basking in the moody light of the Valencia circuit pit lane

In the same vein as the RC30, the NR750, and the RC45 before it, Honda's new grown-up V4, 1000 is king of its class. It may not be the most powerful. In fact, at 159bhp it's a little power compared to the new 200bhp kids like the BMW S1000RR, the Yamaha R1 and the Ducati 1299. But for sheer class, engineering and the fit and quality of parts it kicks them all into a production hat. As an experience this bike may not be the fastest, but it feels hand built.  It feels like nothing else. As small as a 400, with a reasonably roomy riding position, it feels special even rolling down pit lane. Because it is. Honda's engineers also told me that because the bike is basically blueprinted, each one is ever so slightly different, just as a fine handmade suit would be.

From an idea that began as 'why don't we fit a number plate to a MotoGP bike?' to help bring sexy back to Honda's image to a bike ready for limited hand built production, the RCV is here and there's nothing else like it.

They are hand built in Japan in a specially constructed 'boutique' factory that's not even a production line. It's way more 'Factory' than that. Just two or three people are trained to build these bikes up, hence the build time, and to give you some idea - Honda build around 120 Fireblades a day.

The RCV frames and top yokes are actually made by famed race team and Honda parts manufacturer Moriwaki. The parts are then lovingly welded welded together at Honda's special RCV plant. The yokes too are Moriwaki.

But aside from the detail, it's the way it rides that is special.

Forget the power (of the standard bike), and ride it. Honda claims this is the world's easiest machine to manoeuvre. That means it's agility is like a MotoGP bike, and they're not wrong.

Its race bike small, this is developed from the all-conquering RC213V MotoGP bike that Marc Marquez rides in MotoGP. And it feels every bit the racer as the weight falls on to your forearms and puts you in a racey riding position. It's way more radical in terms of riding position than anything else. The footrests are six way adjustable and the bars are low. The clocks are small, and race bike like. They use TFT technology so are full colour, and feature the bare essentials.

The standard Honda Fireblade switch gear also features a button to adjust engine modes, engine braking and traction control. A first for Honda on a road going sports bike, though Honda call it Torque control.

A MotoGP-derived motorcycle and an empty Grand Prix circuit. This is what dreams are made of.

RC213V-S FIRST RIDE

With the bike in level 3 setting, which gives plenty of traction control and a nice throttle response, full power, but delivered in a gentler way, we’re ready.

As factory mechanics whip off the tyre warmers and send me down pit lane, I'm Marc 'Marquez' Potter for a few brief laps behind GP legend Ron Haslam.

To start it, you don’t need a key. Use Honda's Smart key system, which is a keyless ignition that you stick in your pocket. The key is made from carbon too, of course. Then flick the kill switch on, push the starter to fire it into life once, then again for the noise button, and we're on.

Though it's silenced for the road, the RC213V-S has a meaty, MotoGP sound to its revvy engine, and the noise from the standard pipes is unlike any V4 road bike you will ever hear. 

Lead rider Ron Haslam nods for me to go and then we're off.

Ron has been briefed to keep it slow as if it’s a fast road ride because of the road-based Bridgestone RS-10 tyres. But it allows me to feel the smoothness of the engine, and the crisp response in the lower gears.

The gearing is long legged, the engine is incredibly smooth and falls almost lazy at low revs. But it's easy to ride at low revs, and when the pace picks up  it picks up cleanly and quickly. Look, 159bhp is never going to feel that fast compared to the 1000cc sports bikes of 2015, but for the road, it's fast enough with a glorious rasp as it approaches the digital 14,000rpm redline.

Mode three gives you traction control at level 5 (out of 8), power at level 2, and engine braking at level 3.

The electronics work well. You can feel the engine braking slowing the bike, and the slipper clutch is factory slick, just like the tiny gearlever with a quick shifter on the upshifts. There's no blipper on the downshifts like the BMW S1000RR and Ducati 1299, but it's so precise you quickly forget all about it.

But aside from the feeling you get that everything is engineered to perfection and is so tight and precise, the stiffness of the chassis, and the feeling of agility is unlike any road bike I've ever ridden. It takes lefts to rights like a Samurai sword through butter. And once in the corner it is incredibly stable.

On the way in, the brakes don’t give quite the power you might expect from their specification, but the feel is there, so much feel and the plushness of the Ohlins TTX forks allow you to bury it into a corner.

It really can be used on the road with its indicators, mirrors, headlamps and registration plate holder

Unfortunately the tyres felt like you could never quite get the feel that the chassis offered and even with traction control dialled in to level 5 I had a couple of rear wheel slides in both my ten minute sessions. Under normal road-riding conditions that would never happen, but I'd expect a road tyre to feel better on circuit.

Yes, two 10-minute sessions is all we were allowed, but I'd fly half way round the world to do it again for ten minutes, the bike is so special to ride.

It's a lot of money, but the fact that Honda had way in excess of 250 serious enquiries means that people want them. But as some of them may be hoaxes, there could still be chance to get your name down on this amazing piece of engineering, sure to be a future classic.


OTHER RC213V-S STORIES YOU MIGHT LIKE:


FIRST RIDE - SPORT-KITTED €200,000 HONDA RC213V-S

VIDEO: An onboard lap of Valencia being guided by Ron Haslam:

After the incredible experience that is the RC213V-S, it's hard to put into words what the sport-kitted RC213V-S is really like. Sitting somewhere between a full-blown 260bhp + MotoGP RCV and the standard RC213V-S road bike, the sport-kitted bike is just wow on wheels.

The difference in power between the 159bhp standard bike and this 214bhp-plus bike is some 55bhp. Yes, it makes 55bhp more. That's like a whole CBF500 extra, yet the kitted bike also weighs 10kg less. So that's 214bhp and 160kg.

Even Marquez said the RC213V-S leans like his GP bike

Most of that weight is lost in the exhaust, but this bike also loses the lights, the side stand, the indicators and mirrors. Yet it also gets retuned electronics to unleash its full potential, and a handmade Titanium exhaust system, upgraded Brembo Racing brake pads, and on this test bike, Bridgestone slicks.

We all dream of riding a MotoGP bike, and I’m lucky enough to have done that right here at Valencia on Hayden's RCV back in 2006. But this is the closest I will probably ever get again. Incredible doesn’t do it justice.

Looking menacing in full black carbon fibre bodywork, the RC213V-S is full attack MotoGP winter testing stealth. Until it fires up, then the 116db exhausts will let the whole of Spain know your bike is running. Where you can ride a bike that loud is another matter, certainly not in the namby pamby state of the UK.

I'm handed the key to slip in my pocket, the tyre warmers are whipped off and Ron Haslam gives me the nod. We ride down pit lane like two MotoGP warriors going into battle. Except one is a dreamer, the other has a GP 500 career under his belt, and numerous British Championships.

But right now, we have the same bikes, and the same Bridgestone slick tyres, an empty Valencia, and 214bhp to play with.

GP legend Ron Haslam shows our man the Valencia line

Even down pit lane the bikes sounds fierce. It barks and pops as 214 angry horses wait to unleash their demons. But on track the bike is so manageable. Well, as manageable as a 214bhp motorcycle can be.

The way the chassis acts is next level. The Ohlins front and rear are perfectly set-up for and the front especially translates every ripple to your brain and throttle hand. Everything works to a clinical precision. The down changes, now using a race shift pattern, need the gentlest touch of your toes. Every little input you make translates to forward motion. Never has it been so easy to go so fast on a motorcycle. Yet one that is so fearsomely Kawasaki H2R accelerating fast at the same time.

It's not quite a MotoGP bike fast, but it's not far off. It’s so fast you barely have enough time to think when flying down the straight in 5th gear. It just digs in and fires itself out of corners.

In full glorious winter-testing carbon livery

Yet all that power can be delivered, especially with the traction control set to number 2. That allows the bike to wheelie slightly off a corner so it hovers in the air, the warning lights flashing, but always allowing maximum forward momentum. In level three it hangs on to the wheelie but always feels like it's interrupting too much. Level one is even sharper but I never got to try it.

It barks, howls and screams yet is always on track exactly where you point it. Get it in to a low gear, use the full travel of the Ohlins forks and trail brake to the apex and it just keeps coming for more. At this speed, a 1299, R1 or RSV4-RF would be out of shape, the RCV is just begging for more.

Even GP legend Ron Haslam said it took him most of the day to feel like he was  on top of it in terms of pushing the bike near its limits. It’s that good. In fact, so good that it's hard to fault how it rides.

Everything is mind blowingly quick. The way it gets off a corner, Marquez engine sound barking. The way it gets into a bend. the way it holds a line, and the way it flicks from one side to the other. Nothing else is like it, apart from a full MotoGP bike. It would run rings round any production sports 1000cc bike, even with the same tyres on.

It’s a bike that I could ride all day long. Worth every single penny, and a bike that has just gone right to the top of my dream bike list. Thank you Honda.

Wheelie control: check.

Potter last rode at Valencia on Nicky Hayden's MotoGP World Championship-winning RC213V the day after he won  the championship in Valencia, 2006. That was a V5, but it gave him a real feeling for what a genuine MotoGP Honda feels like.
Potter riding Hayden's RC213V at Valencia back in 2006.


THE RC213V-S IN DETAIL, AND MAN, WHAT A LOT OF DETAILS IT HAS...
The RC213V-S is the most technologically-advanced road bike ever made. Make no doubt about it.
Seat unit is self-supported carbon, the LED rear light makes it road-legal. The motor is a very similar spec to the RCV1000R production MotoGP bikes, and the seat and tank unit mimic the RC213V centralising the bike's mass for better handling.
Brakes, swingarm and Ohlins TTX forks are straight out of MotoGP. Wheels are 17-inch instead of MotoGP spec 16.5-inch rims and use Bridgestone R10 tyres.Full colour TFT clocks, beatifully engineered top yokes, and mirrors on stalks. The RCV might have standard Honda switchgear, but that's about the only thing on it that is standard.

FULL TECHNICAL SPEC: MotoGP bike v. street bike v. street bike with sports kit 

Model name

RC213V (MotoGP bike)

RC213V-S (Road bike)

RC213V-S (with kit)

Overall length

2052mm

2100mm

2100mm

Overall width

645mm

790mm

770mm

Overall height

1110mm

1120mm

1120mm

Wheelbase

1435mm

1465mm

1465mm

Minimum ground 
clearance

115mm

120mm

120mm

Seat height

n/a

830mm

830mm

Vehicle weight (kg)

Over 158kg 
(after racing)

170kg (dry)

160kg (dry)

Maximum number of riders

1 person (if you're Marc Marquez or Dani Pedorosa)

1 person

1 person

Minimum turning 
radius

n/a

3.7 metres

6.4 metres

Engine type

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC 4-valve V4

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC 4-valve V4

Liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC 4-valve V4

Total displacement 
(cm3)

999cc

999cc

999cc

Bore × Stroke

n/a

81.0 × 48.5

81.0 × 48.5

Compression ratio

n/a

13.0

13.0

Maximum output 

Honda say over 234bhp (but estimated to be 265bhp+)

157bhp @ 11,000rpm

Over 212bhp @ 13,000rpm

Maximum torque
ft-lbs @ rpm

n/a

102ft-lb@10,500rpm

Over 118ftl-lb @10,500rpm

Fuel supply

n/a

PGM-FI (Programmed fuel injection system)

PGM-FI 
(Programmed fuel injection system)

Starter

n/a

Self

Self

Ignition

n/a

Full transistor, battery ignition

Full transistor, battery ignition

Fuel tank capacity

20 litres

16.3 litres

16.3 litres

Clutch

n/a

Dry multi-plate, coil
sring

Dry multi-plate, coil
sprin

Transmission

Honda seamless gearbox

Constant mesh, 
6-speed return

Constant mesh, 
6-speed return

Transmission gear ratio

1st

n/a

2.125

2.125

2nd

n/a

1.647

1.647

3rd

n/a

1.368

1.368

4th

n/a

1.217

1.217

5th

n/a

1.100

1.100

6th

n/a

1.032

1.032

Reduction gear ratio
(primary / secondary)

n/a

1.933 / 2.471

1.933 / 2.353 ∼ 2.933

Caster angle (degrees)

n/a

24.6

24.6

Trail (mm)

n/a

105mm

105mm

Tyre

Front

16.5-inch

120 / 70ZR17

120 / 70ZR17M / C

Rear

16.5-inch

190 / 55ZR17M / C

190 / 55ZR17M / C

Brake

Front

Brembo, hydraulic double disc

Brembo, Hydraulic double disc

Brembo, Hydraulic double disc

Rear

Brembo, Hydraulic disc

Brembo, Hydraulic disc

Brembo, Hydraulic disc

Suspension

Front

n/a

Ohlins TTX forks

Ohlins TTX forks

Rear

n/a

Pro-Link

Pro-Link

Frame

Diamond

Diamond aluminium

Diamond aluminium

Note - Values may vary as Sports kit allows adjustment of various settings.

If you still want one, there's still time to get your request in at http://www.rc213V-S.com 

Have you placed an order or do you know of anyone who has? We'd love to hear from you.  or !