We Americans don’t often think of motorcycles as being purely utilitarian, since we use them mostly for traveling to interesting places, sporting along back roads and maybe a bit of backwoods exploring. But Honda figured there could be a market for this eminently efficient little go-anywhere 125, rigged to do all sorts of jobs around the farm or on the ranch. Back when horses were considered the standard get-around vehicle, roads and tracks were often narrow and twisty, prone to getting muddy after a rain, and that darned critter had to be fed even when it wasn’t being ridden.
Honda first used the CT designation in 1964, for the CT200, a high-piped explorer bike with a single seat. And a 90cc engine; obviously some marketing type felt the 200 number would sell more bikes than the diminutive 90. By 1966 Honda understood that buyers appreciated a more honest designation and changed the alpha-numerology to CT90. The T stood for Trail, as in a machine that was capable of following rustic paths through the woods, perhaps leading to wondrous adventures.
Then in 1971 Honda introduced a little 122cc OHC single-cylinder engine with a one-piece cylinder head in the SL125 Motorsport model, later used in the TL125 Trials version and a few months later in the XL125 dual-purpose bike. For 1976 this engine was modified slightly, with a two-piece head and the cubic capacity increased to 124cc.
After the XL125 was introduced, the Australian importers decided there could be a more useful purpose to this machine. First, they made the saddle more comfortable, since riders might have to spend a long time on the bike. And the saddle was for just one person, backed up by a big luggage rack good for carrying lots of stuff, from sacks of grain to sick lambs. Sheep stations in Australia often ran to thousands of acres, and here in Texas we had the King Ranch. A smaller front wheel was preferable for handling, and the CT got a 19 incher rather than 21 on the XL. The first three gears in the transmission were lowered for more plunking power. The original CT125 frame had a geometry that was similar to the Trials bikes, useful in the rough but not on the road; that was changed in 1976 to improve rideablity.
American Honda decided to import this model for 1977. That piqued the interest of someone in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ordered a bunch—how many appears to be unknown. Apparently the government soon lost interest, and American motorcyclists were equally disinterested. Honda had to get rid of its stock, so dealers who wanted Gold Wings and CB750s and XL350s had to buy some of these. Besides Honda’s official “Motorcycle Identification Guide 1959- 2000,” the only mention of the CT125 that I could find was in a 12-page color ad in the February 1977 issue of “Cycle” magazine describing many of Honda’s 34 models that were available that year, including the three-wheeled ATC 90. Rather than being touted as a useful working vehicle for farm or ranch, the CT was described as being a pleasant little adventure bike good for traipsing off the roads.
Its engine had a bore of 56mm, stroke 49mm, with a chain-driven overhead camshaft. A single Keihin carburetor fed the engine from the 1.6-gallon tank, while a trochoid pump circulated 1.6 quarts of oil through the engine and transmission. Compression ratio on the XL was a hefty 9.4:1, while on the CT it was lowered to a modest 8:1, considering the engine would probably spend a lot of time idling. The Australian model actually had a clutch that could be locked in disengagement while in gear, perhaps useful for opening and closing gates without having to fumble for neutral. Apparently U.S. laws were not happy with that notion and the device did not appear on the version sold here.
Power went back via helical gearing to a wet multi-plate clutch, then through five gears, and onto the 14-tooth front sprocket that was connected to the big 52-toother at the rear wheel. And the chain was fully enclosed, which meant it rarely needed adjustment. A tubular steel frame cradled the engine, with an inverted (upsidedown) oil-damped telescopic fork up front having 4.5 inches of travel. A pair of oil-damped shock absorbers at the back had 2.5 inches of movement. Small single-leading-shoe drum brakes were on both wheels, good for stopping in the rough, and capable on paved roads since the bike had a top speed of less than 60 mph. A modest 51 inches connected the two axles.
The single seat was 32 inches above the ground and quite comfortable, the only distraction being the 80-mph speedometer, with turn signal, high beam and neutral indicator lights. Wide handlebars had brush protectors to keep vegetation from beating on the rider’s hands. The crankcase itself had a long steel loop protecting it on both sides, as well as a bash plate underneath. An interesting addition were the big mud flaps on the back of both fenders, a sure indication that this Honda was expected to go to very muddy places. At the back of the left side of the swingarm, close to the shock, was a small handle bolted securely in place. Now, this could be used for dragging a deer out of the woods, or more likely it was a handhold for when the rear wheel was properly stuck in the mud and needed to be lifted out. With gas in the tank, the bike’s weight was only 250 pounds.
Worldwide, the CT125 was on the market from 1975 to 1985, but in the U.S. it was one year only. Farmers and ranchers appeared much more interested in the ATC 90 than in this two-wheeler. And sporty types opted for the XL125.
Honda has just announced significant updates to its high-performance off-road motorcycle lineup, which includes the 2021 Honda CRF450R, CRF450RWE and CRF450RX models. These motocross and off-road competition motorcycles benefit from engine, chassis, suspension, and electronic rider aid updates for model year 2021.
From Press Release:
Nearly two decades after its introduction to the motocross world, Honda’s CRF450R begins a new chapter for 2021, this latest version inspired by a “Razor Sharp Cornering” design philosophy. Already the industry’s top-selling motocross model along with its exclusive CRF450RWE sibling, the CRF450R is guided by three main goals for 2021: improved power (particularly on corner exits), improved handling and more consistent lap times over the course of a tough moto.
Honda’s lightened, latest-generation twin-spar aluminum frame headlines the update list, with changes that reduce lateral rigidity for improved cornering performance and stability. Out back, a new swingarm improves rear traction. The Unicam® engine features updates to the decompression system, intake and exhaust (including a switch from two mufflers to one), resulting in improved low- and midrange performance and a narrower layout. A stouter clutch with hydraulic activation is new, delivering reduced slip and a lighter lever pull for more consistent performance. The new bodywork and seat offer a slimmer, smoother rider interface, as well as simplified maintenance.
“Having already earned a place on the list of all-time successful Honda models, the CRF450R continues to demonstrate Honda’s commitment to winning,” said Lee Edmunds, Senior Manager of Powersports Marketing at American Honda. “With its emphasis on cornering performance, we’re confident that the all-new 2021 model will help Red Riders write their own names in the record books with dominant performances from gate drop to checkered flag.”
Each of the CRF450R’s updates is transferred to the closed-course off-road-focused CRF450RX and the high-spec CRF450RWE motocross machine, which in addition to its already illustrious list of trick parts, features a Twin Air air filter plus Hinson clutch basket and cover for 2021. Benefiting dramatically from the reduced weight and increased attention to low-end power delivery, the CRF450RX adds off-road-focused features and, new for 2021, handguards. The CRF450X, which has amassed an incredible 13 Baja 1000 wins, returns alongside the renamed CRF450RL dual-sport bike, both models adding handguards and updated graphics to an already proven formula. Honda’s mid-displacement ADV, the CB500X, returns in a new Matte Black Metallic color while the TRX®90X sport ATV returns with updated graphics and color-matched front shock springs.
While the focus is on the all-new 2021 CRF450R, Honda is happy to announce that it will continue to offer the 2020 CRF450R—the production version of the factory machine raced by Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton this season. Available at a permanent price reduction and made possible through an additional production run, the model is a standout option for customers seeking high performance and a good value.
2021 Honda CRF450R
The industry’s benchmark motocross machine, Honda’s CRF450R has amassed an impressive collection of awards and titles over the years. Rather than rest on its laurels, Honda has gone back to the drawing board for the 2021 model year, endowing the legendary machine with updates aimed at improved power, handling and consistency, with a focus on “Razor Sharp Cornering.” Drawing on lessons learned from Honda Racing Corporation’s global race program, including Team Honda HRC’s AMA Supercross and Motocross efforts, the 2021 CRF450R features engine updates focused on low- to midrange performance, a newly designed chassis with revised rigidity and a slimmer overall package. The combination yields a machine that performs at a high level for the duration of a tough moto.
For motocross enthusiasts who demand the absolute best when it comes to performance, the premium CRF450RWE (“Works Edition”) benefits from the same improvements as the 2021 CRF450R, plus a long list of elite-level updates based on the machines in the Team Honda HRC factory race shop. As with the CRF450R, this model is endowed with important updates aimed at improving power, handling and consistency and—befitting its status as the clear benchmark when it comes to lap times—it boasts additional features aimed at refining power, suspension performance and aesthetics. New for 2021, the CRF450RWE now comes standard with a Hinson clutch basket and cover, as well as a Twin Air air filter.
Ridden by Phoenix Racing Honda, SLR Honda and JCR Honda at the national-championship level, the CRF450RX is well-suited for closed-course off-road competition such as GNCC, WORCS and NGPC. For the 2021 model year, it’s better than ever, getting the same important performance upgrades as the motocross-focused CRF450R and retaining off-road-specific features like dedicated ECU and suspension settings, an 18-inch rear wheel and an aluminum side stand. New for 2021, the CRF450RX comes standard with handguards and a revised 2.1 gallon fuel tank that narrows the bike width at the radiator shrouds. The combination yields a race machine that’s ready to chase arrows and ribbon along trails from coast to coast.
It’s tit for tat really, as Honda Goldwing was the first with Apple CarPlay in 2018 and Harley followed a year later with the software update to its Boom! Box GTS Infotainment Systems on their Touring models.
Android Auto is similar to Apple CarPlay and allows riders to access some phone apps such as access Google Maps for navigation, traffic and weather reports, as well as some other apps such as Spotify.
Honda’s official press release says:
Android Auto is a simple, safe way to use your phone on the motorcycle. With simplified interface, and easy-to-use voice actions, it is designed to minimise distraction so you can stay focused on the road. Android Auto makes it easy to access your favourite music, media, and messaging apps on your motorcycle. With your Google Assistant on Android Auto, you can stay focused, connected, and entertained, keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the handle bar, while using your voice to help you with your day.
But Honda won’t just add it to the Goldwing.
They are planning to add both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to more models.
Harley Street Glide with Apple CarPlay
Harley-Davidson Australia says they are not sure when the Android version will be available here nor the price, but the Apple version is a free software update, anyway.
As with the Apple feature, the phone must be plugged into the bike via its charging cable.
The screen will mirror the phone, allowing riders to access it through the touchscreen, Google Assistant voice control or a handlebar control.
Google Assistant is available in Australia, Canada (English), France, Germany, India (English), South Korea, United Kingdom, and United States.
Honda has announced that Android Auto will be integrated with the current-model Gold Wing. At no additional cost, customers with Android 5.0 or later smartphones and the Android Auto app will be able to seamlessly enjoy application services such as music, phone calls and messaging. When utilizing it while riding a Gold Wing, connection with a Bluetooth headset (sold separately) will also be required. App and communication costs may apply. The method to update software is planned to be available in mid-June, 2020.
Since the Gold Wing GL1000 went on sale in North America in 1975, the Gold Wing series has evolved as Honda’s flagship model for over four decades. In October 2017, the all-new Gold Wing was announced in North America, becoming the world’s first motorcycle with Apple CarPlay integration. Navigation features to enhance the ride experience and application-specific services have been well-received by many customers.
Android Auto is a simple way for customers to use a phone on the motorcycle. With simplified interface, and easy-to-use voice actions, it is designed to minimize distraction so riders can stay focused on the road. Android Auto makes it easy to access favorite music, media and messaging apps while on the motorcycle. With Google Assistant on Android Auto, riders can stay focused, connected and entertained, keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the handlebar, while using their voice to help with their day.
With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration coming to more models, Honda plans to bring more comfort and convenience to customers’ motorcycle lifestyles worldwide.
Honda has filed patent designs for a bike that seem to suggest they will build the CB4X concept shown at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan last November.
New patent drawing
Not a lot is known about the concept and the patent filing doesn’t reveal any extra details.
It appears to have a mid-capacity engine, possibly an old 600cc engine from the CBR600RR, but down-tuned to meet Euro5 emissions targets.
That is a good way to use old engines. Ducati has successfully done that with its 03cc and 1100cc Scramblers, using old Monster engines.
At EICMA, Honda described the CB4X as blending sports, naked and touring, although it doesn’t look like much of a touring bike to me.
However, it does have an adjustable windscreen.
The CB4X also features a diamond-shaped headlight, daytime running lights, aluminium subframe, sharp tail and 17-inch front wheel.
The bike has been designed by Valerio Aiello and his team of young designers at the Japanese company’s Rome centre for design and research.
Honda’s official EICMA press release said:
The CB4X features flowing, yet compact lines, designed to enhance the contrasting personality of a motorcycle that’s born to use every day on urban routes, and on carving mountain bends or long journeys on the weekend.
The fuel tank hunches forward, like a cobra ready to attack its prey.
The Honda CB4X is an idea dedicated to those riders who live for sports riding – but don’t want to give up the possibility of relaxing, two-up travel experiences whenever or wherever.
Unfortunately, it’s not the six-cylinder CBX that Honda filed patent drawings (below) in 2018 that looks a little like its 1980s six-cylinder CBX with a bubble fairing.
But don’t get too excited yet about the CB4X or CBX.
As we know, Honda has been busy with a lot of patents for various bikes, engines and innovations in recent years.