2016 Honda RC213V-S

Editor Score: 94.5%
Engine 19.5/20
Suspension/Handling 15.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls5.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 10.0/10
Desirability 10.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score94.5/100

Hard braking into a corner, rear wheel skipping across the pavement trying to come around one side or the other, release a little brake pressure, tip it in, pass a couple riders before the apex then begin accelerating toward the next corner. I didn’t do this during the press intro for the Honda RC213V-S at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia Spain, but having now piloted a bike similar to the one Marc Marquez rides in the heat of MotoGP combat provides insight into how the two-time Grand Prix champ manages to make the impossible seem like child’s play.

Prior to our ride day, Honda compelled us to understand that the entire purpose of the RC213V is not to have the fastest MotoGP bike in the paddock, but for it to be the most rideable one. This philosophy was applied to the S model in a way that doesn’t replicate the race bike’s absolute power but rather recreates the riding experience through exceptional maneuverability. In other words, Honda thinks the RC213V-S is the ultimate expression of sportbike handling and is betting deep-pocketed enthusiasts are willing to pay $184,000 for the pleasure of experiencing motorcycle performance previously only available to a chosen few.

The Honda GP bike referred to as the RC213(two-thirteen)V is actually the RC twenty-one three V, the numeric nomenclature signifying that the bike is of the 21st century and the current model being the 3rd iteration (this was news to everyone in attendance at the media event, even American Honda employees). The first version was the 990cc V5-cylinder RC211V and the second the 800cc RC212V. But Honda never offered street-legal versions of those two bikes. In fact, never before in the history of modern grand prix racing has Honda brought to market a motorcycle directly from HRC. The 1992 NR750 comes close, but that was more of an exercise in engineering bravado rather than the distilled performance of the RC213V-S.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - No Body Work

Like the race bikes, the RC213V-S is hand-built at the Kumamoto factory by a dedicated team of specially trained employees. Most components – frame, swingarm, pistons, engine block, etc. –  are direct descendants of the MotoGP machine. The S model does not have the seamless transmission or pneumatic valves of the factory bike, but it does have the same camshaft gear train of the RCV1000R Open Class racer.

We thoroughly covered the specifications of the RC213V-S when the bike officially broke cover June 11th, then followed that report with an in-the-flesh unveiling from John Burns during the Catalunya Grand Prix. Since then there’s been nothing but speculation regarding whether or not the RCV-S’s value equals its MSRP. Can it really be worth $184k? Is it actually $165k better than the MotoGP-for-the-street Yamaha R1M, Aprilia RSV4 RF, BMW S1000RR or Ducati 1299 Panigale?

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Action

Ownership is a small club. Upwards of only 250 RC213V-Ss will be constructed (wouldn’t 213 be a more appropriate figure?). European customers will be first served, U.S. availability was yet undetermined. Standard versions come shod with Bridgestone RS10s, which performed well at track speeds but certainly gave the Honda’s Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) – Honda speak for traction control – a workout.

Then of course there’s the unavoidable elephant in the room; the U.S. version’s electronically neutered 101 horsepower RC213V-S – a bike costing approximately the same  as the  European version that puts out 157 horsepower in stock trim – one that can be outfitted with the race kit, bumping hp to a robust 212. Seems as though the U.S. is getting the raw end of the deal until you learn the RCV-S in its country of origin produces a mere 68 horsepower. 

I framed this question to Honda, asking why the same bike lacking 55 horsepower wasn’t deserving a price reduction. The reply I got is the RCV-S does not generate its value based on horsepower because the horsepower potential is the same for all RCV-S’s regardless of their manufactured state of tune. But Honda isn’t making the race kit available stateside, leaving American RCV-S’s $184,000 worth of untapped potential.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Instrument Panel

The full-color display has five preset modes. Within each, the settings can be customized for Power 1-3, HSTC 1-10, Engine Braking 1-4. Street mode (pictured) displays speed, while circuit mode displays lap times and a lap counter. Installing the race kit ECU changes the tachometer so that RPMs begin at 2,000 and redline at 14,000.

What I’ve come to terms with is the person who can afford a $184k motorcycle can also afford to find a way to circumvent Honda’s stonewalling and unlock the full potential of the RCV-S. Having now ridden the Euro spec RC213V-S and its race-kitted counterpart, I’ve also come to understand that horsepower – although important – plays somewhat of a sideshow to the bike’s magic-carpet-ride experience. Sure, would I have been less thrilled to be testing the 101-horsepower model coming stateside instead of the Euro-spec model and race-kitted versions? Absolutely. But even if that had been the case I’d still have come away from the test with a look behind the curtain of how good a MotoGP bike can be.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Power Modes

Engine output according to power mode.

Every component on the RC213V-S is composed to work as fluidly as possible, not just as an independent function but as a package. The S model isn’t equipped with Honda’s secret seamless transmission, but the attention to detail in the drivetrain is felt in the perfect engagement of the of the quick-shifter grabbing a higher gear in the cassette transmission, the light action of the dry clutch felt at the lever, and the ability of the slipper assist to mask any interference after dropping three gears and dumping the clutch upon entering a fast sweeper. Performing in conjunction with the RCV-S’s arsenal of electronic technology makes for the most technologically advanced street-legal Honda sportbike to date.

It’s not until you put the Honda on its side, though, that you begin to appreciate how confidence-inspiring the RCV-S really is. Never before has the term mass-centralization meant as much as when applying the phrase to RC213V-S. The bike’s ability to cope with any hard-braking or cornering situation is well above the skills of most mortal riders. The RCV-S inspires so much confidence you feel as if grand prix road racing may have been your true calling. Upon further reflection you realize you’re barely scratching the surface of a motorcycle with such depth of performance you’ll never mine the entirety of its potential.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Action

The street bike RCV-S is good, but things got way more interesting when Honda cut us loose on the race-kitted version. Gone is the headlight and in its place a ram-air duct. The titanium exhaust system roars with full MotoGP effect increasing the Marquez daydream. Altogether, the race-kitted bike is about 22 pounds lighter and produces a claimed 212 crank horsepower.

The closest production superbike emulating the RCV-S’s handling characteristics is the Aprilia RSV4 RF, but even this bike (one of MO’s favorites in terms of handling) is a step behind the Honda. Certainly the RCV-S has a weight advantage (claimed dry weight of 379 pounds), but it’s also a matter of the chassis package comprising the RC213V-S. Many of the same components used on the GP bike have been carried over to the S model including the forged Marchesini magnesium wheels (slightly thicker to increase durability), Brembo front and rear brake calipers and master cylinder, and Ohlins TTX25 fork and Ohlins TTX36 shock (based on MotoGP bike’s specifications); these all conspire to elevate the handling performance of the RCV-S to a level of transcendence.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Brake

Former Grand Prix racer and current Honda development rider, Shinichi Ito, was in attendance to lead our first few laps around the Ricardo Tormo circuit. I assumed he had arrived in advance and set the suspension to perform best around the tight and twisty track. Surprise is an understatement when after a few sessions I discovered both the street bike and race-kitted versions were running stock suspension settings. The Brembo brake components are the same as used on the MotoGP bike minus the carbon brake discs, fluid and pads.

Honda chose the twisty Valencia track to highlight the agility and handling attributes of  RC213V-S, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to hustle the RCV-S down one of my favorite, super-tight set of SoCal switchbacks. At the track, however, the RCV-S doesn’t chastise the pace you’re setting or complain about ham-fisted movements but rather willingly complies with the speed of travel and rider inputs in the most unassuming way a motorcycle of this caliber can. From the first lap onward, the biggest aspect demanding my attention is when we switched from the normal shifting pattern of the street machine to the reverse-shift pattern of the race-kitted model. 

Both bikes are outfitted with quick-shifters, but where the base model RCV-S uses a switch-type function, the race kit replaces it with a load-cell one. Both versions worked flawlessly during our track testing, but neither system includes an auto-blipping downshift function.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Action

Colin Edwards once said his YZR-M1 was an easier bike to ride than the YZF-R1 at the time. That analogy applies here in the aspect that the RC213V-S is easier to ride fast than other production superbikes on the market. Honda says the dry clutch in the RC213V-S should be serviced every 2,000 miles. Cost of ownership also comes with a price tag.

Engine characteristics between the two models, however, remain similar, with the V-Four engine willingly, quickly, excitingly revving to its redline with incredibly linear power outputs. Of course the RCV-S’s electronics are working in the background, but power is easily manageable with the ride-by-wire throttle. Those already familiar with Honda V-Fours and their power delivery know, to some degree, what to expect from this engine. It’s deceptively fast without feeling like it’s that fast. A BMW S1000RR with similar rear-wheel horsepower may actually feel more potent. 

The riding position is also derived from the MotoGP machine and, as such, is unforgiving in terms of streetable comfort. This isn’t a concern on the track, but as Honda keeps telling us, this is meant to be a street experience. Ironically, as much as Honda kept mentioning this fact, Honda admitted to never having tested the RCV-S on the street, and the press launch was a track-only affair where Honda asked the attending journalists to ride the Euro-spec street model in the same way we would had we been on public roads. As if…

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Colors

The RC213V-S is available in the tricolor design or unpainted carbon fiber. For those willing to afford this bike the idea of a few thousand more for a custom paint job is but a drop in the financial bucket.

After having spent a day aboard the RC213V-S, and if we were to pretend I could actually afford one, was I convinced it’s value is worthy of the price tag? Yes. Not only is it a sublime motorcycle in every sense of motorcycle performance, it’s also something so unique and rare it could command an even greater retail value, and most likely will over the coming years. Like similar predecessors from Honda (RC30, RC45, NR750), the RC213V-S represents another benchmark motorcycle that’s unlike anything currently available. 

Sure, it can be argued that if it’s a streetbike, where’s the ABS and C-ABS? For the price, how come there’s no auto-blipping downshift function on the quickshifter? You’d be right for asking these questions, and the easy solution is the affordable availability of production superbikes that have these technologies. But like a $50k wristwatch that doesn’t keep time any better than a $50 wristwatch, there exists a relative value to individuals who can afford such hardware.

2016 Honda RC213V-S First Ride - Marquez Action

The RC213V-S is out reach for most of us, but the next time you see Marquez entering a corner all crossed-up, seemingly on the knife’s edge of crashing, only to flick his RC213V into a 60-degree lean angle and two-wheel power slide, keep in mind that the bike he’s aboard is a rolling encouragement built to emphasize his otherworldly riding skills. And for those who can afford the street-legal version of Marquez’s e-ticket ride, don’t hesitate. Honda’s only taking orders until September 30 of this year, and then the opportunity ceases to exist. 

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  • john phyyt

    Gosh: front wheel/fork/brake/caliper is Sex. Ooohhh such engineering porn before you even get to the motor: I confess I was uninterested in this bike before ; Now I would pay just to see one up close. ( Preferably in a state of victoria’s secret undress)

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Check out this close-up I snapped of the machined caliper carrier.

      • Ducati Kid

        TR,

        While employed at an Aviation Defense sub-contractor toiled nearby the Finishing Shop which removed those ‘stress risers’ depicted, they resulting from previous CNC Milling operations.

        May appear interesting but to be avoided metallurgically – wager Marc’s racer is devoid this ‘unfinished’ appearance.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        Left -to- Right differences aside, still not the same model or materials as the actual race bike’s fork and carrier.

      • john phyyt

        Drool! Incredible; This is just so much better than ; even the best “home build” .. Just like fantasy photography ; But this is real: Thanks for close up ( money shot?) :too: Sean. .

      • Robbie

        Nice shot Tom, thanks. A few observations though, for what they’re worth.
        Being a manager of a manufacturer of high precision machined components for various markets, we specialize in 4 and 5 axis machining. I can’t think of a customer, especially our orthopedic OEM, who would accept this finish. The step-over and scallop-height are way too rough. Why Honda would leave this finish is perplexing to me. It is probably to show that the part has been machined from a solid hog-out and not a casting. (I’ll refrain from using the often wrongly used word “billet” in this writing). Their machine shop could easily have machined this part smooth and done a grit-blast to make it appear much more like their prototype but wouldn’t have looked quite as cool. No doubt a beautiful component but in the real world of precision machining (aerospace,medical) it barely passes.
        CNC machining has certainly transformed the world we live in and competitive motor sports for sure, I still often cringe when seeing the term or the discipline mis-used. Recently at the Indy MotoGP, Yamaha’s cut-away R1 in their tent showed “CNC combustion chamber”. Huh? Ok, we know they mean the domes in the heads were machined, but it is confusing to the average person and only perpetuates the ignorance of this machining discipline. Come on, this is Yamaha! An engineering Goliath. The least they could have done is add the word “machined”!
        My rant is over, you guys rock, keep up the great work!

  • Craig Hoffman

    For 184K and to honor what this bike is about, Honda really should nod and wink, and include a box marked “track use only” with the race kit parts in it with every bike. Come on Honda, be real here.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      I totally agree, Craig. No excuse from Honda that I heard seemed to justify Honda not making the race kit available stateside. I’m beginning to believe Honda’s legal department is larger than its engineering department. They play by the rules to a fault.

    • ‘Mike Smith

      It should also come with the full Marquez or Pedrosa paint scheme.

      • DickRuble

        Yes, we all know that a good paint job is what makes or breaks the bike.

        • ‘Mike Smith

          Are you joking or serious? A great paint scheme can make a great bike even better, but a horrible paint scheme (or even poor paint job) can really sour the deal.
          It clearly doesn’t make or break a bike, just look at all them ugly lime green kawi’s out there, ha ha ha!

    • TheMarvelous1310 .

      The race kit is an extra 15k and boosts power to… 215? I could be wrong.

  • TBW

    Limited number? Huh, no mass production for an underpowered, overpriced, overhyped crotch rocket? No kidding.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Honda’s 1992 NR750 was heavier, slower and far more expensive than a GSX-R750 of the same model year. A ’92 GSX-R750 is worth practically nothing today while the NR750 is valued at twice its original price (if you can find one for sale).

    • Craig Hoffman

      A “problem” really rich people have is finding cool stuff to deploy money on. Money is not scarce to them, but cool stuff that really gets them going is. A lot of rich people use their money to bid up the price of incomprehensible abstract art and other silly things. The cool ones will buy this bike 😉

      • TBW

        Hey, more power to them. To each his own.

  • CREGHermosa .

    You have to be very wealthy and have disposable income near limitless levels to want to purchase this bike. If you have that kind of funds available, good for you. As for the review of the bike, a few liberties about of Marquez’s bike. First, we don’t know if this version has the same frame and specs as the 2015 race bike, if so, Marquez did not like this bike and switched back to the 2014 frame. Furthermore, he didn’t like the engine characteristics of the new engine either which hampered his legendary riding style. The seamless transmission was also a big part of what made the race bike in the beginning (2013 and 2014 seasons) well above the competition. As noted earlier, suspension components may also be different along with I’m sure many other differences. So, its rare and unique and if you have the funds to park one in your garage for whatever reason, teach me how you make a living. For the money, I’m sure you could approach other race teams and purchase real GP bikes that will not at the level of the factory Honda or Yamaha bikes, would still be worlds apart from this one.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      The S model specs are based on the 2013 version of the RC213V. I know someone with a Ducati GP13. It takes a virtual team of Ducati engineers to get the thing running and keep it running. The Honda comes with an electric starter and standard maintenance routine except for the recommended clutch servicing.

  • Alclab Ventek

    Lot’s of flaming has been done in regards to the HP (specialyy the US/Japanese version), but if I had the cash to burn, I would be fighting for one. Riding such a machine as far a your ability goes on track and then keeping such a piece of mototrcycle racing history is beyond pricing, although it is certain ti be worth even more as time pasess, which means the bike would make sense even as a long term investment/saving

    • Alclab Ventek

      Great writeup to let us know what it feels like Tom! Hope we can get a video sometime

      • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

        Thanks, Alclab. The video is in the works, look for it next week.

        • Rene

          Yeah, great writeup Tom, any chance there will be a shootout with other superbikes?

          • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

            Thanks, Rene. It’d be great to compare the RCV-S to other superbikes, but doubtful that will ever happen. It’s highly unlikely that American Honda will get one for its press fleet, leaving only a willing owner who’ll let us test his/her bike, and that’s highly unlikely as well.

  • DrSubie

    I’m taking a guess that Honda expects to ‘lose money’ on every one of these bikes they sell–surely, the target audience for such a bike is limited to ultra-wealthy individuals who just want a garage queen (how many of those ultra-rich are able to actually ride this kind of bike on the track to 50% of it’s potential even?). On top of this, they would have to be Honda/Marquez fan boys, and I’m sorry, Honda just doesn’t evoke feelings of desirability like the Ducati Desmosedici RR did…

    Ultimately I believe Honda will use this technology on their long-overdue 1000cc superbike overhaul–? 2017 or 2018? You heard it here first… of course, Honda is so conservative on their engineering (at least for the masses) that by then, all the other manufacturers will have surpassed them again…

  • Greek7

    I have to say any one that buys this bike at that price is nuts!!! This is not a real gp bike if it was than maybe $180,000 but it has to have the 270 to 280 hp. But this is just a bike that Honda is going to see how many suckers are out there. Anyone knows that this bike is not worth that kind of money. If you do by one you are a fool and just waisted a lot of money that could of did so much for you and your family. Wow Honda now I know why I will never buy a sportbikes from you. You will never see me on a Honda!!! Hell even the duck was not roping people off yes $60,000 for a bike is a lot but $180,000 is just crazy dum. Enjoy your way over price bike who ever buys one. And no I am not jealous I have money to buy one, hell I own a viper and love it yes that was a lot too but look at what you get. As for anything that has wheels 4 or more $100,000 and 2wheels $25,000 any more then that I will keep my money or buy property or houses. People be smart not dum. This is just me.

    • Tumbles

      “… be smart not dum”
      Why don’t we start by spelling words correctly, and not slacking in our punctuation?

      • Greek7

        One more thing people do not care about spelling and or slacking in punctuation! We are talking about a sportbike that you probably don’t know how to ride or fix.

      • Greek7

        I love people that think they are teachers. It’s a phone thing. Old phone. whay do you know you just a baby.

      • Greek7

        You cares you jack ass!!

  • Zentradi

    “Upon further reflection you realize you’re barely scratching the surface of a motorcycle with such depth of performance you’ll never mine the entirety of its potential.” Simple as that sentence may read at first glance, you’re turned quite the elegant phrase. Well done.

  • Greek7

    First off if you are worried about people about how they spell or write you my friend have a problem. First off have you heard of a phone that does your fixing for you. You think I am on a computer? No I am on a phone and my I phone sucks. Just so you know I worked 14 years at a school. Can you fix Ac Heating, can you do electric work? Can you do any construction work? I have done more things in life then you. I do not work for the school any more why? I have a 22 man air condition company. I own it and do not work for the school system any more. So as for you little problem of being insecure and trying to make your self feel better by bitching about people’s grammar and bull shit. There are more people out there that can not read or write but they know about more things thing what you are bitching. My father was one of them people and he also had his own business just like me. He came from Greece. My father put in chillers it’s what my co. Does look it up? You would not have a clue of how to assemble or what it is? So you need to go back to school and learn about how to treat people and not worrie about how people spell write or bitch. You are a person that is no happy with him self and I feel sorry for you. This has been done on a phone so if you do not like the way it came out go bitch to Apple! I am not go back to proof read my shit I am not a writer.

    • Alexander Pityuk

      This kid is so funny :)

      • Greek7

        You are a dum person, we are talking about bikes and you want to be a school teacher. Sorry boy that’s another subject. Lol

  • Shlomi

    I wish $180K would feel like nothing to me, i would buy the bike in a second. Living in Silicon Valley, there are tones of those very new rich kids who can spend this kind of money without a blink. Unfortunately they are looking at Facebook and Twitter to see if someone like their selfy rather than riding motorcycles. I still hope for more common V4 1000 from Honda with Ohlins and some of those goodies for $20K…

    • Steve Cole

      Get a RSV4 RF/RR. They’re truly awesome. You can have something better than Honda is going to build you, and you can have it right now.

      • Doug Erickson

        i’d love to hear how this compares in terms of feel (not power) to the updated 2016 rsv4.

  • john phyyt

    This bike is a high end extression of a sporting motorcycling ; from a company which actively competes at the highest level of motorsport. Honda has heritage ,history and engineering excellence, at it’s very core: Any owner would get an authentic experience of “The state of the art” If you try and compare it in the Auto world ; you really can’t : Road going Ferrari Autos are simply nothing like F1. Mercedes is even further apart.
    Now to the crux; In the modern USA, a good pay slave, who REALLY wants this Dream cycle; could probably raise the money. Yes ; in our section of this crazy world; You can have it if you want and that makes me smile.

    • appliance5000

      And what world is this? Dream on.

  • Enntense

    Sweet! A super exotic GP race bike. Who makes parts for it?..You know the ones you need when you break a bike racing it, or crash it..How much of a parts reserve will there be for a bike with paltry production numbers? Think about that for a sec. If you drop any modern sportsbike out there you can easily spend 5-6k repairing it..Just from dropping it. That’s nearly 1/2 of what the bike costs. And they make parts for those.. So…You drop your 184k bike?..

  • grosir batik pekalongan

    It ran into its rev limiter, so a gearing change would probably allow it
    to break the double ton if given enough room. But, importantly, it was
    also approaching the mythical aero brick wall, evidenced by how its
    top-end acceleration was slowing in comparison with the more slippery
    cars.

  • Douglas

    Well, we’ll know if this is really worth its $ & hype if Leno decides to get one. He seems to be a pretty good judge of what’s “good” or “hot”…..and he’s not too bad a rider, either.