THE first time I saw an RCV213V-S was in the paddock at Suzuka Circuit during the 8 Hour race. It was parked beside a 2017 CBR1000RR, Honda’s latest and greatest Superbike. They were in Honda’s corporate tri-colour of white, red and blue. What struck me the most was how small the RCV was, and having ridden the CBR once before, I wondered: how on earth did Honda achieve this feat and how would the RCV feel like on the road compared to the CBR?
I finally got the chance to ride the RCV (twice!) and I came to the conclusion that this is the very best Honda ever made. Period. Imagine all the Hondas that you have ever ridden; how slick the controls were, how right the riding position was, how easy it was to control the power. Multiply that feeling by ten and you may come close to the feeling the RCV exudes.
What exactly is the RCV213V-S? First off, the moniker deserves some explanation. The RC designation is specially reserved for special racing versions of Hondas, from the RC71s of Mike Hailwood to the RC51s of Colin Edwards et al. The V is for the V4 formation of the engine. The twenty-one means 21st century and three-V means third version. The S denotes Street. So its actually called the RCV twenty-one, three V-S.
The chassis is based on the 800cc version of the MotoGP RCV. The frames and top yokes are made by Moriwaki, the famous Honda boutique manufacturer. The parts are then lovingly welded together at Honda’s special RCV plant in Kumamoto (sadly now defunct due to an earthquake). There are no production lines, just two to three people hand-building one RCV at a time. No rush.
Hence, the quality that dribbles from every nook and cranny of the RCV will astound you. If you are a proper motorhead, you will appreciate every spatter-free weld, every titanium bolt and every detail on the RCV. The world’s most exclusive production motorcycle will entertain you even without moving.
The chassis is graced with a gas-charged Ohlins TTX25 racing forks and a remote adjustable TTX36 monoshock on a Pro-Link swingarm. The mass centralisation is reputedly better than any other Honda before it. The footrests are six-way adjustable. The front Brembo monoblocks grip slotted 320mm discs. The wheels are carbon-fibre Marchesinis. The instrumentation consists of a full-colour TFT screen. A carbon-fibre/aluminium Smartkey enables the single push starter button and ignition system. Only the best components grace this motorcycle.
The engine is a water-cooled 999cc V-4 with a 360 degree crankshaft and gear-driven DOHC. Four valves per cylinder are fed by Honda’s PGM-FI injection system. The engine is an exact replica of the RCV213V MotoGP bike, only that one is moulded from unobtanium. In the interests of longevity, the street version is moulded in aluminium. Each engine is hand-built and blueprinted from the HRC factory.
There are 3 versions of the street engine; a European-spec 157hp@11,000rpms, a US version 101hp@8,000rpms and the poor Japanese-spec 68hp@6,000rpms. Then, there is the race-kit version, with 212hp@13,000rpms. The race kit (which costs nearly RM50,000.00) consists of various carbon-fibre parts, a cover that exposes the dry clutch, turn-signal removal plugs and an airbox inlet duct that replaces the headlight assembly. Included is an adjustable rear-ride-height shock link, load-cell-type quickshifter rod, inverse (GP pattern) shift drum, and a comprehensive selection of final-drive sprockets. The kit also includes a datalogger that records GPS speed, engine rpm, throttle position, bank angle, and more, along with an analysis software application.
Brembo race brake pads and a remote front-brake lever adjuster cable are included, but the HRC beast is unleashed by the replacement ECU, spark plugs, lower temperature thermostat, and 5kg lighter titanium muffler set. Once calibrated for use with the ram-air duct and exhaust modification, the kit ECU enables launch control and a five-level shift lever pressure sensitivity adjustment.
Of course, the motorcycle being warmed up in Sepang Circuit for me is not the kit-version. It is the US-spec 101hp version. That kit-version is reserved for Zaqhwan Zaidi and Khairul Idham Pawi, our track guides.
Seating arrangements on the RCV is a racing crouch but being a Honda, it is still surprisingly roomy. The bike feels 400cc small and super-light on its wheels (it is; 170kgs to be exact). The race gearbox needs a handful of throttle to overcome the tall first gear, something my fellow journalists learned the hard way.
Honda promised that the RCV would mimic Marquez’s racebike in dynamics, claiming that it was the easiest machine to manoeuvre, ever. The lightweight and diminutive size, as well as the mass centralisation, would allow that claim but the proof is in the riding.
Despite the Bridgestone RS10s being almost three years old (the RCV being built in 2015) and basically street/track day tyres, they warm quickly and at knee-scraping lean angles are just about good enough. They also allow the quality of the chassis to shine through; the agility of the RCV is excellent. A slight shift of weight to the inside and the RCV is on its ear, ready for more throttle input.
The RCV swishes through Turns 5 and 6 like an agile 400 class bike, the lack of revs not bothering the front RS10 here. It chops and changes direction on the throttle just as easily as a 250 class bike and the initial two scouting laps needed some racing-line adjustment (ahem), since the RCV turns so quickly. I am no Marquez, but if this is how his RCV handles, I can see how he gets away with what he does. The RCV just does what you ask of it.
The feeling you get is that everything on the RCV is engineered to perfection and so tight and precise, from the agility of the chassis to the responsiveness of the engine. The RCV213V-S is just so much motorcycle that it is hard to fathom why Honda would build it.
Perhaps there is only one answer to that: Only Honda could build this motorcycle, and that is exactly why it exists. Thank you for building this gem, Honda (and letting me ride it).
P.S.: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.