The 2021 EICMA show was a lot more subdued than previous iterations, without very many big surprises. Most of the bikes that were shown were expected to some degree, and many were evolutionary updates to motorcycles that have been around for a few years.
But there was one reveal that seemed to come out of nowhere, and left us with more questions than answers: the Honda Hornet concept. Honda’s display featured a space dedicated to the new Hornet, with a light show projecting onto a white sculpture in a darkened room.
Honda had only this to say about the new Hornet:
Honda is also pleased to confirm that the illustrious Hornet name will return to its line-up in the near future. The Hornet has been renowned for delivering exhilarating engine performance and agility matched to cutting edge street-fighter styling since the model was first introduced in Europe in 1998.
A sneak preview of the concept direction for the new incarnation of the Hornet will be available for visitors to EICMA. Showcased in a special area within the Honda stand, projection mapping is used to full effect in a vivid 3D display of light and sound that both looks back at previous Hornet generations, and forward to what is to come.
The sculpture provides some clues as to what to expect from the new Hornet, though we should acknowledge that Honda likely took some artistic liberty. The statue is in large part a canvas for the fancy light show, and some features like the extremely raked fork won’t be part of the finished product.
The overall styling seems to borrow a bit from the KISKA design playbook, with sharp forward thrusting bodywork similar to KTM’s Dukes and a protrusion on the side of the tank like the Husqvarna Vitpilen.
Honda did provide a few clues about the new Hornet’s engine. The video shows what appears to be a pair of pistons side by side, suggesting a Parallel-Twin. A projection of the engine (pictured above) depicts a Unicam valve cover, and the overall layout of the components suggests a design architecture similar to the engine powering the Africa Twin and Rebel 1100.
The engine looks proportionally shorter than the Rebel’s and Africa Twin’s 1084cc engines, so we should expect a smaller displacement. This is backed up by the description to Honda’s video on YouTube, which mentions “bringing back the illustrious Hornet name, with a middle class naked of ultra-modern design and high-revving engine character, through the new Hornet Concept.”
Honda has long been rumored to be developing a mid-sized Africa Twin (often linked to trademark filings for “Transalp”), and it’s possible we may see that engine first on the Hornet.
While other manufacturers have found success with naked bikes in the 700cc to 900cc range, Honda doesn’t really offer much in that space except the NC750X and the Shadow cruisers. Both have engines displacing 745cc, but neither would be considered to be “high-revving”. A new Hornet streetfighter could give Honda a contender in that class for the first time since, well, the Honda Hornet.
Honda did not provide any indication of when we may learn more about the new Hornet, but we suspect it will come during next year’s show season, either at EICMA or the returning Intermot show, next October in Germany.
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