The best motorcycles are characterised by their speed, reliability and appearance. Few machines have enjoyed as much success as the Honda Super Cub. It’s been estimated that over 87 million models have been sold, making it the most produced motor vehicle in history. The original bike was introduced in 1958 and served as a blueprint for future models.
The idea for a new motorcycle was first conceived in 1956, when Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa toured Germany and saw the popularity of mopeds and lightweight machines. It was Fujisawa who pushed for a concept that capitalised on this popularity, though at the time Honda was more focused on winning the Isle of Man TT.
Fujisawa’s concept was a bike for the everyman, one that could work in an urban and rural environment. It was meant to be a technologically simple model that could survive in various situations. One of his main requirements was that it could be ridden with one hand so owners could carry a tray of soba noodles. Fujisawa said to Honda “if you can design a small motorcycle, say 50 cc with a cover to hide the engine and hoses and wires inside, I can sell it. I don’t know how many soba noodle shops there are in Japan, but I bet you that every shop will want one for deliveries.”
The first Super Cub debuted in 1958, but it sold poorly at first because of the recession in Japan. It also had an issue with the clutch, so Honda salesmen and factory workers gave up their holidays to repair the bikes that were affected. Honda embraced the learning curve and improved the bike over time.
The reason the Super Cub became so successful was down to its design. The bike has been compared to the Ford Model T and VW Beetle as an icon of 20th century transport. Due to its step-through design, it’s very similar to a scooter. The plastic fairing ran from beneath the handlebars and under the footpegs, protecting the rider’s legs from road debris.
Unlike a scooter, the engine and gearbox wasn’t fixed to the rear axle. This had several advantages, including bigger wheels being installed and the bike having greater balance. The wheels made the Super Cub more stable than a scooter. All of these characteristics made the Super Cub a durable workhorse.
There have been several variants over the years, such as the C102, C110 Sports Cub and Mini CZ100. The Super Cub will continue to be a reliable model for motorcycle fans around the world.