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business models, strategies and technologies

Reduxing the redoubtable Honda Cub

IMHO, one of the biggest cultural deficiencies of Danish life is that there are no Honda Cubs on the road. Time to reconsider, 60 years on?

In my humble opinion, one of the biggest cultural deficiencies of life in Denmark is the absence of the ubiquitous, unbreakable Honda C50 Cub – tiny, tough and quirkily wonderful. In continuous production since 1958 with output passing 100 million by 2017, more of these little wonders have been manufactured than any other motor vehicle in history. Unfortunately, it’s an unknown phenomenon in Denmark where I live, because it’s banned by the all-smothering mantle of Danish bureaucracy and vehicle regulatory restrictions. By contrast, the Honda Cub is a force of nature throughout Asia, where a lot of the current design and engineering revitalisation is taking place for this huge market.

The Honda Cub/Super Cub is technically a “step through” or “underbone” motorcycle (reactionaries and purists would call it a moped, but they don’t “get” it) with a pressed steel monocoque chassis and the engine below the central spine. It had a three-speed gearbox with an automatic clutch, and the left-foot gear shift was a work of unmitigated mechanical genius. You just had to mash some part of your foot down on the front of the rocker arm to change up, and on the back to change down. Totally idiot-proof, and therefore ideal for me. And millions of others.

Honda C50 (not mine, unfortunately)

Honda C50 (not mine, unfortunately)

My little grey Honda C50 taught me to ride a two-wheeled motorised thingy, taught me to explore the architecture of tiny country churches all over Yorkshire and taught me to look after (simple) things mechanical. It was a vital part of my university education, and (indirectly) turned me on to two profoundly influential books by the amazing Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) and then Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991). It’s only with hindsight that I realise how much of an impact these books and this mindset had on my whole way of thinking, as well as on my style of writing.

Top Gear seal of approval

The PC-averse motoring connoisseurs from Top Gear classic have echoed my sentiments. The baleful glare of Top Gear scathing attention can kill or bless any automotive product, but the Honda Cub just blissfully sailed through it all. James May rode a Honda Cub all the way up through Vietnam, with a marble statue on the carrier. And I’m pretty sure I also remember Richard Hammond toughness-testing one, with the multiple misdeeds involving fuelling it on used deep-frying oil from a fish’n’chip shop.

Even the redoubtable petrolhead Jay Leno is a big fan – see his video about the Honda Cub here.

Next-generation oomph

Six decades on, the Honda Cub/Super Cub isn’t dead. There’s a 2019 model, and in 2018 Honda got the Thailand-based motorcycle shop K-Speed to craft this delectable customised version.

K-Speed Super Cub to mark 60th production year

The pressed steel monocoque chassis and the engine below the central spine. This makes it a bit difficult to modify, but that hasn’t stopped custom builders from tweaking this design icon in all directions – some tasteful and low-key, others bordering on the insane. Honda Cub customisers have their own YouTube channels like this and Pinterest sites like this – no less wacky, skilled and imaginative than any of the big-league horsepower honchos.

Honda Super Cub kitted out by K-speed and Storm Aeropart

Heritage mining candidate

Over the years, engine capacity has ranged from 49 to 124 cc., so a Cub is never going to rip your arms out of their sockets. But what the Cub lacks in performance, it makes up for in style as well as utility. The Honda Cub was never a snarling technology monster or torque triumphator. It’s sedate, safe and almost sassy in its timelessness. It lasts for ages and its tiny engine uses hardly any fuel, so in terms of overall environmental impact you might even argue that it’s just as responsible as new electro-transport solutions. In fact, Shanghai Customs has developed the eCub 2, by combining the classic Super Cub chassis with an all-electric drive train, providing an ideal personal transport solution for Chinese cities.

Whatever the Cub may lack in performance, it more than makes up for it in quirky kudos and timeless style. Not for nothing does Thai Honda market these redoubtable machines as “Forever retro“. In a modern world of low-impact personalised transportation, couldn’t it be a good candidate for the kind of heritage mining that has revived the gorgeousness of the E-Type Jag, Aston Martins, Jensen Interceptors (in the UK) and Singer Porsches in the US? Sign me up …



External info
and for seriously serious Honda Cub geeks .... https://www.pinterest.dk/pin/271271577538130677/