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Old 05-27-04, 06:29 PM   #1
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Hondas debut

From MBA - http://www.mbaction.com/detail.asp?id=971



"HONDA DEBUTS AT BIG BEAR NATIONAL--MAY 26
May 27, 2004
R. Cunningham

Honda unveiled its novel RN01 gearbox downhill racing machine at noon Saturday, at the Big Bear national event. Team leader and reigning downhill champion Greg Minnaar and his youthful French protégé, Cyrill Kurtz were on hand to sign autographs and make small talk about the workings of the Japanese Giant's monocoque masterpiece. Honda sent a team of engineers to oversee the project, headed by Kenji Morita and Tomiji Niitsu. Standing proudly nearby was Team Honda G-cross manager and Minnaar's rep, Martin Whitely. We interviewed the lot, hoping to discover any technical information about the NR01's gearbox or performance without success.

When not on the course, the Honda bikes were whisked out of sight into the team's tent, where at least one was laid open on the operating table during practice. The no-see, no-talk operation was handled in a polite, but tight-lipped manner--very "works" Honda.

The NR01s made a cool mechanical sound that emanates from the carbon fiber-encased gearbox as they pedaled by in the pits. The latest versions use trigger shifters, which is unusual because the transmission is infinitely variable. This must be a compromise to make the gearbox feel more conventional for the racers. The suspension was made by Showa, and it was as trick as it gets--a shock with a machined magnesium reservoir, an inverted fork with carbon fiber uppers and monocoque crowns. Oh yeah--and a team of Showa suspension techs were on hand to fine-tune the NR01’s. Insiders say the bikes weigh 40 pounds, which is light by pro-downhill standards.



We did find out that the Hondas arrived with bar codes on virtually every part. The team records every run and reports the information to Japan on a daily basis--and that there are at least four complete NR01s in this country, four in Europe, and the team has a couple of spare chassis on hand just in case. The team will concentrate on the US National series, and will appear for at least three World Cups.

Greg Minnaar served notice that the Honda was capable of winning, after qualifying almost two seconds faster than his nearest rival on the Big Bear downhill course. The four-rider Downhill format, however, proved to be Greg's undoing as he was eliminated by a nose at the line and did not factor into the finals. Minnaar was openly encouraged by his Qualifying results and mentioned that his Honda was working well for him.



What's next? There is some information about the inner workings of the Honda gearbox in the current issue of MBA. After his debut at Big Bear, Minnaar's chances of taking Honda to the podium are a matter of "when," not "if." Both Honda and Minnaar are proven winners. The big question, however, is: "What is a motorsports leader like Honda going to get from its involvement in a human-powered niche sport like downhill mountain bike racing?"
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Old 05-27-04, 06:59 PM   #2
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Interesting.
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Old 05-27-04, 07:15 PM   #3
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Interesting that Honda, the worlds largest engine manufacturer, is doing this. Possible diversification in the face of dwindling oil supply? They've already started with the Insight. As gas gets more expensive bikes are only going to increase as a more viable option.
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Old 05-27-04, 07:21 PM   #4
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Well, Honda has already made an infinitely variable automotive transmission, and has some very nice dirt bikes...so i could see how they went this route.

I love the gearbox idea though...less external stuff to break off, a shorter drive chain ,and simpler rear-wheel layout...which could lead to a narrower rear end...could be a good thing.
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Old 05-27-04, 07:34 PM   #5
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Incredible that they spend so much money in a sport they have so little marketing interest in. Their DH bikes are basically entirely custom.

I would love to demo a bike with a CVT!
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Old 05-27-04, 07:57 PM   #6
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It will be interesting to see if they have as much luck crossing over to mountain bikes as cannondale did with motorcycles.

Is the irony of the trigger shifters on the debut bikes based upon the fact that if the ratio is infinitely variable, it would make more sense to have a twist type shifter?
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Old 05-27-04, 08:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrocnemius
It will be interesting to see if they have as much luck crossing over to mountain bikes as cannondale did with motorcycles.

Is the irony of the trigger shifters on the debut bikes based upon the fact that if the ratio is infinitely variable, it would make more sense to have a twist type shifter?
Or maybe a magnetic or hydraulic system that could go infinitely up but be clicked in increments.
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Old 05-27-04, 08:42 PM   #8
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or a friction type shifter, like the ones on older road bikes.
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Old 05-27-04, 09:00 PM   #9
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I would think a grip shifter would make far more sense...who knows maybe someday Honda might come up with a second grip knob...hopefully ot adjust the suspension on the fly....if they made that..I would have to find things to sell off to get one
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Old 05-27-04, 09:12 PM   #10
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Wow, all that technology gives me a hard on.
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Old 05-27-04, 10:03 PM   #11
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I got a feeling that could be the first bike banned from racing.
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Old 05-27-04, 10:06 PM   #12
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How come?
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Old 05-27-04, 11:11 PM   #13
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What Honda wants, Honda gets. They're not selling products, they're trying to buy the world. Just my midwest, closed mind point of view.
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Old 05-28-04, 12:56 AM   #14
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Hahaha...trying to buy the world. They would have to pay off your gov't first

Whatever they are trying to do I love the fact they are trying to create yet another way to get rid of the deraileur. It might be overpriced but at least the money is going somewhere useful...down with the deraileur.

Its just a prototype to get the name out there. I doubt they would ever offer full production runs. It could also be another way to test some of their suspension technology as it is possible mtb offers different stresses then mx (this would be a long shot but seems reasonable)
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Old 05-28-04, 12:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KonaRider24
I got a feeling that could be the first bike banned from racing.
Curious but why? Does it offer that much technological advantage? Is it too non 'bicycle' a bike?...
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Old 05-28-04, 02:27 AM   #16
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well...infinitely gearable is a rather big advantage...so is the fact that the shifting systems are entirely enclosed...so the bike will definately fare better when treated badly than a regular bike.

Basically it's like strapping armor onto your downhill bike, but without much of the weight.
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Old 05-28-04, 08:02 AM   #17
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Personally I am excited that Honda has entered into the fray of mountain biking. Hopefully Honda is on the forefront of a resurgence of popularity for the sport. All those advertising dollars certainly can't hurt. I also know that RC rides mountain bikes as well. As one of Honda's elite athlete's maybe he had some influence.

The HUGE Technology that Honda has available can ONLY be good for mountain biking. Look at what happened when Carnutt developed the inertia valved suspension for bikes. This isn't NEW technology, it's been around in off-road racing for some time. Just a new application. What do you think Honda will improve? I imagine EVERYTHING!

Heck, the Gearbox is just one area. Look at their frame. This frame was designed without any preconceptions about how a frame SHOULD be built. If I remember, it was designed BY a computer to deal with the applied stresses.

Of course the suspension is top notch. We all know that early suspension designs were borrowed from MX. Heck, look at a Marzocchi Monster T, it's as big as some MX forks.

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Old 05-28-04, 03:47 PM   #18
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Don't know what for, I just have a feeling it will.
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Old 05-28-04, 03:57 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a2psyklnut
Heck, the Gearbox is just one area. Look at their frame. This frame was designed without any preconceptions about how a frame SHOULD be built. If I remember, it was designed BY a computer to deal with the applied stresses.L8R
Man that is pretty cool. I can think of so many weak spots on dh and fr bikes. Its really unfortunate we adopted so much from road bikes instead of bmx. Hindsight is 20x20 but some of the issues people have would easily be fixed using bmx style parts.

I wonder what the specs are. Do the use a scrawny 9mm QR, 10mm TA or something really meant for the stresses of dh. Headtube, bb...deraileur...so many places could really use a fresh look from a company not stuck in the grind. Of course in my world they would have to become standardized into its own class of bikes for dh and fr. A few things have been tries but without the coinage most of the ideas were quashed (except the 1.5 headtube)...maybe honda will bring that money in.

Or maybe its only for advertising and it will really be no benefit to us.
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Old 05-28-04, 07:24 PM   #20
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When I was younger, I read about a road bike being banned from some races because the radical design was considered too advantageous. The next year, it was allowed in those races and other companies had developed similar technology. I'm afraid that's all I remember, but I suppose it was one of the first carbon fiber frames. It shows, though that there is precedence, at least on the roadie side, for bikes being banned. I personally doubt any of the major races will find sufficient reason to ban this rig.

Hasn't Honda been building a very limited number of DH bikes for several years now for advertising? I'm pretty sure this isn't a new venture, just a new design.
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Old 05-28-04, 09:06 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by iamlucky13
When I was younger, I read about a road bike being banned from some races because the radical design was considered too advantageous. The next year, it was allowed in those races and other companies had developed similar technology. I'm afraid that's all I remember, but I suppose it was one of the first carbon fiber frames. It shows, though that there is precedence, at least on the roadie side, for bikes being banned. I personally doubt any of the major races will find sufficient reason to ban this rig.

Hasn't Honda been building a very limited number of DH bikes for several years now for advertising? I'm pretty sure this isn't a new venture, just a new design.
Road bike racing seems to ban alot of things. There is a minimum weight limit for bikes, I think it was a Trek Yfoil or something that was banned for being too aerodynamic and other bans as well. Road bike racing strikes me as a bit more conservative and tradition oriented though.
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Old 05-29-04, 01:32 AM   #22
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I wonder if they will claim it as a MLEV (Mega Low Emmissions Vehicle). Probably depends if the rider hits Taco Bell before the testing or not.








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Old 05-29-04, 05:16 AM   #23
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With all the enginiers that Honda had at the races I would assume that there is a MX crossover and possibly they are using the bike to gain info on new designs and it is cheeper to test ideas out on a mtb then it would be to build a new mx bike.

As for selling to the public, who knows? From what I saw and heard the bike works great and Minnaar and posibly Kurtz will both have a lot of podium finishes. I do not think the bike will be banned. Most pros ride pre-production/test rigs all the time that are not available and never will be to the public.

I am wondering if they are going to hit up the WC DH as well or just keep it in the states. Lets hope they put some money into the sport and get it bake to they way it was in the early 90's when top racers were making 6 figures and the races were flooded with spectators. Now that would be great.

Next thing you know Kawi, Suzuki and Yamaha will be joining the mtb ranks as well May we could see a Kawi KDH500 or a Yamaha YDH400

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