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Honda’s 2000 RC51: Is It A New Class Of Motorcycle? The Affordable Exotic?

You’ve all read about Honda’s 2000 RC51 — the $9,999 bike Honda will race (in highly modified form) in the Superbike class all over the world next year. If you want more details, look back at MD’s articles on the RC51 on September 9.

This is an essay on what this motorcycle means to Honda’s competitors, and the future of sport motorcycles in general.

It’s not just that Honda will provide this bike to the public with such a high level specification (including fuel injection) and handling that, according to Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda’s World Superbike pilot), makes the bike incredibly easy to ride fast. The price point Honda chose is the real revolution.

By manufacturing the RC51 in high volumes at a suggested retail price under $10,000 (U.S.), Honda is breaking new ground that other manufacturers must follow. The RC45 (Honda’s V-4 predecessor to the RC51) was available in very limited quantities at a price exceeding $20,000. Although some of the RC45′s components were higher spec (such as the suspension), it was an ill-handling bike that offered very little horsepower stock in most markets. By contrast, the RC51 promises to offer higher horsepower, and better handling, than Ducati’s $16,000 996.

The price Honda announced for the RC51 was so shocking that its competitors must be scratching their heads. Ducati, for example, now must make the successor to the 996 quite spectacular to justify the price differential.

We aren’t sure, but the RC51 just might be a landmark in the history of motorcycling. We’ll have to ride one first, and see how the rest of the world, including the motorcycling press, reacts to the production bike early next year.