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The Man Behind The Honda CRF450

by Jody Weisel on 09/24/2010

Written by Adam Duckworth.

This is an excerpt of an interview published in the August 2010 issue of Motocross Action Magazine. Please subscribe to this magazine as they are a great supporter of two-strokes.

You may be surprised to find out the man in charge of the world’s best-seling motocross bikes is named Honda. A former All-Japan National Motocross Championship rider, Taichi Honda has helped to develop every Honda ‘crosser from the first aluminum-framed CR250 two-stroke right through to the current CRF450.

Promoted from a test rider to a development engineer, Taichi Honda is now the director of the powerhouse company. Most significantly, Taichi was the driving force behind Honda’s new breed of fuel-injected CRF’s. He also heads up Honda’s global factory racing division, HRC.

Just 35 years old and living near Tokyo, Taichi Honda is very young to have such a senior position-a testament to how much faith the company has in him.

Are you any relation to the founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda?
No, it’s just coincidence. In fact, one of the senior Honda directors is Mr. Suzuki. Suzuki is one of the most popular names in Japan. But when I go to Honda buildings around the world, lots of people think I am related to the founder and I get special treatment!

What was your first job at Honda?
I was a test rider for Honda’s production bikes and HRC factory bikes. Of course, at first it was the two-strokes. Then my job became not just to test, but to develop future production models and HRC bikes, which obviously included the four-strokes, I have now been working on CR’s and CRF’s for 15 years.

Which bike are you particularly proud of?
I have worked on many bikes through the years, and I liked the 250 two-strokes. I was part of the development team that went from steel frames to aluminum beam frames, for example.

1997 Honda CR250


Will we see a lot of new technology on the production bikes soon?

It depends on the economy-the economy for Honda as a whole, not just the motocross bikes. If the whole company is not doing well, development is slower and new ideas will take longer to get into production.

How fast can a motocross bike be developed?
Sometimes this can be quite fast. For example, on the 2009 CRF450, we started testing some new ideas on the HRC bikes in Japan in 2007. We tested lots of parts and had lots of choices to make. We then made prototypes and tested them. When a bike is close to production it is tested by my employees in Japan. They’re not famous riders-just test riders. It is then tested in Japan and America, and finally Europe. Sometimes we use our factory riders to get their comments.

How long does it take from start to finish?
Typically it takes three years from design to production.

Is there a future for two-strokes?
There is no future for two-strokes at Honda. Our policy is 100-percent four-stroke. It’s a green issue. Honda strongly believes in this in every product it makes, from motorcycles to garden trimmers. I know there is a two-stroke resurgence and that they have many good points. In fact, I own a 2005 and a 2007 CR250 two-stroke and ride them a lot. They’re completely stock with no HRC parts on them. I don’t race anymore. I just ride for fun with my son. But overall, 450 four-strokes are far better than two-strokes now.

What were the worst bikes Honda ever made?

I cannot say! But the CR125s were never very strong. In the very early years they were powerful, but in later years, not so good.

What is Honda’s goal in motocross?
Good bike sales and good production bikes. A lot of emphasis is put on building a really first-class production bike. That’s where a lot of effort and finance is put. Racing success is left to our riders and teams.

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