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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Honda and Hero Showcase the Future … and It Isn’t Pretty



Hero Leap

Okay, ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, right? Nevertheless, we think we know our readers well enough that we are about to hear a collective groan over the styling of future models recently unveiled by Hero and Honda.

We figured most MD readers would be interested in Hero MotoCorp’s Hastur concept, the 620cc middleweight naked designed by Erik Buell Racing, so that was the big news from Hero’s booth at the India Auto Expo last month. However, new details have bubbled up about two other important concepts on display as well.

First is the RnT (pictured at top). Yes, it looks like a supermoto got some Ikea bathroom fixtures drunk, creating an illicit and unnatural lovechild, but there’s method behind the madness. The 300-pound motorcycle (despite its step-through design, it has a chain drive and gearbox, so it’s not a scooter) uses diesel fuel, has enhanced cargo capacity thanks to the broad, flat fenders and flip-up side racks and big wheels to make it suitable for bumpy, off-road terrain. It should be useful as an inexpensive, cheap-to-operate utility vehicle in emerging economies. The headlights even unclip to act as a portable lantern! Best camping mount ever.

A 1.6-gallon gas tank should offer prodigious range from the diesel 150cc Single, which promises 13.5 horsepower and an incredible 25 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1600 rpm (and could be the first mass-produced diesel motorcycle sold, at least in this country). The alternator can pump out 1500 watts of electricity, making it useable as a (very) portable generator. There are even plans for an optional hub-mounted electric motor in the front wheel, giving a much-needed boost to the bike’s claimed 0-37 mph time of 5 seconds.

Will it come here? Hero MotoCorp CEO Pawan Munjal said it’s “also going to be targeted at the overseas markets,” and if Erik Buell had a hand in developing it, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it here.  I can see such a ride being popular amongst urban Hipsters—remember how cool Japan was in the 1980s? Look to India being the Japan of the late 20-teens and 2020s.

Hero’s other vehicle of interest is the Leap. Cyclopean headlamp aside, it looks like most any scooter, until you realize what’s inside. The first publicized Hero/EBR collaboration, the Leap made its first debut in 2012 as a concept—this is a pre-production version and promises a hybrid gas/electric powertrain.

Instead of the two power sources working in unison, the Leap is a “range extended” plug-in electric scooter with an onboard gasoline generator. Claimed weight is 312 pounds, and there was no claim for battery-only range (or indication of the lithium-ion battery’s size), but total range with the 124cc gasoline engine draining the .75-gallon tank is a claimed 210 miles—not bad (we don’t know if that’s city or highway—probably city). Top speed is also left unsaid, but I’d guess about 55-60 mph, given the 10-hp electric motor and the weight of the bike.

Necessity is the mother of invention, no? And if the new world demands a high standard of living with a minimal use of resources, Indian manufacturers of motorcycles (and all products) might have an edge, given the high-tech, high-poverty, low-resource reality of modern India. Pass the popcorn and stay tuned.

032514middle Honda NM4-01

Meanwhile, at both the Osaka and Tokyo Motorcycle Shows, Honda is displaying two future production models, including the NM4-01 and the NM4-02 (with integrated “utility boxes”). The unusual design, apparently influenced by anime, incorporates a version of the 745 cc parallel twin used by Honda in existing production models. Both bikes have the rider seated low, and incorporate an adjustable backrest. They will also feature Honda’s latest automatic transmission technology, all as part of an effort to attract a new generation of rider. Here is what Honda has to say about these new models on its Japanese web site:

TOKYO, Japan, March 21, 2014 – Honda held its press conference at the 30th Osaka Motorcycle Show 2014 today and unveiled the world premiere of two types of its new production model “NM4” as an exhibition model (planned for production).

The NM4 was developed under the keywords of “the Neo-futuristic” and “COOL,” pursuing new, unique styling.

This NM4 was designed to realize two points; the design concept “the Front Massive Styling” and “the cockpit position” focusing on the sense of unity with the rider, that the rider can smoothly get into the vehicle. The low-setup cockpit position and adjustable backrest provide an enjoyable new riding feel. The instrument panel was designed to provide clear readability and the fun riding, as if the rider was experiencing part of a movie scene.

LED lamps are used on the headlight of the powerful-looking front fairing, the tail lamp and the turn signals. In addition, the utility boxes are set up on the right and left sides of the front fairing for small articles.

Two NM4 types were unveiled at the motorcycle show; the simply-configured “NM4-01” which emphasizes its wide, dynamic rear tire and attractive low silhouette, and the “NM4-02” which emanates a unique presence and features a prominent rear design (containing utility boxes on each side of the rear body).

The NM4 will also be exhibited at the 41st Tokyo Motorcycle Show from Friday, March 28 to Sunday, March 30 at Tokyo Big Sight.

032514bottom Honda NM4-02


  1. Crim says:

    I can see the photos online now….. an Indian family of ten all crammed on an RnT along with a few chickens and a goat. As others have said, that bike will sell. The Honda will be gone in a few years. Left on the garbage heap with the Rune and Fury, the ugliest of them all.

  2. One day, Honda and maybe even Zero will figure out that Fugly does not normally sell well.

  3. Gurcan says:

    Hero and Honda have broken partnership. What ever you see under the Hero badge will have nothing to do with Honda and lots to do with E.Buell. Hero seems to have very ambitious plans for volume and respectively has very interesting pre-production bikes on the way.

  4. Sal says:

    I have been interested in the idea of a mass produced reliable diesel motorcycle for some time. Liked the idea of the Military KLR or the Track T800CDI concept. Essentially take the utilitarian element in the RnT and apply it to an ADV styled all terrain 800 to 1200cc bike worthy of highway commuting or off-road exploring. Add solid high capacity panniers, premium fit and finish, 5 gal fuel tank. I think Volkswagen (excellent TDI motors in use for decades) needs to partner with KTM. I’d guess upwards of 100 mpg easy. I’d be the first in line.

  5. HM says:

    The diesel job up top looks best of this bunch and sounds to be quite functional.Being as form follows function for me,it wins easily in this case!Beautiful in the same sense that TZ 750s and RG 500s were,simply tools for a task at hand and both were fantastic!

  6. rider33 says:

    If this is the future I think Hero is going to win.

  7. John says:

    More useless concepts from Honda. Is it too much to ask for you to just update the XR650L? You know, the bike you haven’t touched in 20 years?

    • MGNorge says:

      When you start seeing the younger generation put down their Play Stations, Xboxes and iPhones, clamoring for a large trailie then you’ll see them updated. Same reason the large KL and DR have stayed mostly untouched. Besides, it keeps their prices down.

  8. jimjim says:

    Oh my eyes……….I’ll keep my Tiger 800 with the beak.

  9. Vrooom says:

    The RnT has potential. That will sell in the states or anywhere. That Honda is literally the ugliest bike I’ve ever seen. It looks a bit like a Victory Vision, which I never liked, got hit repeatedly and relentlessly with the ugly stick.

  10. garrett says:

    The more i see of the future, the more i yearn for the past

  11. Eric says:

    Hero’s bike makes sense as a full-on utility scoot. Camp ground champion indeed! The Honda looks like Darth Vader’s scooter – a cross between Judge Dredd’s mount and, well, I don’t know what. Maybe it’ll sell in the far east but it Just Looks Stupid.

  12. PatrickD says:

    I think that the RnT is a very useful looking machine which would sell massively anywhere. Just because it isn’t ‘styled’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t cool looking, and it’s the sort of machine that any motorcycling household might buy and have as a family fixture. It’s a very interesting and (shock! – for a concept bike) practical machine.

  13. todd says:

    I like the RnT, especially because it has a diesel. 13.5hp is miraculous for a 150cc diesel without a turbo. That means it can probably keep up with 150cc gas scooters. Don’t underestimate the value of that.