Honda Super Cub: The World's Happiest Bike...
The legendary Super Cub has been in production for over 60 years and it changed the game for motorcycles. Let's recap the Cub's history...
The Super Cub story began in 1956, when the bosses of Honda saw how popular small motorcycles and scooters were in Europe. However, there wasn't many being made due to Europe still recovering from World War 2, and the scooters that were being made were not fit for purpose. These scooters had tiny wheels which resulted in agonising ride comfort and a vast number of reliability problems.
The Honda bosses, Soichiro Honda and his long-time business partner Takeo Fujisawa, wanted to create a vehicle that would change the way people travel. It was a massive gamble by the Honda brand, but one they were wiling to take on. Over the next two years, Soichiro and Takeo came up with a bike which was described as the 'every mans bike'. It would be easy to use, maintain and would be equally at home on a mountain and on the tarmac. Oh, and it had to carry noodles, a lot of noodles. This was the Honda Super Cub, and it would soon become a two-wheeled star all around the globe.
Cub production started in '58 in a 10 billion Yen factory and saw the use of leg shields, big wheels and a simple frame. This resulted in a bike that was easy enough to repair with minimal tools. It would be the vehicle for the people, a bit like the Volkswagen Beetle. The heart of the Super Cub was a single-cylinder, 4-stroke 50cc engine producing 4.5bhp, which was plenty. It would reach 43mph on a good day, I presume when running on noodle power. It used a centrifugal clutch system, so you could ride the Cub with one hand and noodles in the other. This was Honda at their very best.
Honda had hoped to sell around 50,000 Cubs per month, which was ambitious if you bare in mind that they were selling 2000-3000 bikes a month at the time. At first, this new creation did not sell well; Japan was in a recession which plummeted sales by a substantial amount. When they did eventually sell, customers would complain about the cutch slipping, but it was okay; somebody from Honda would come to your house and repair it for you. That doesn't happen with Harley-Davidson, does it?
Finally, in 1963, the Honda Super Cub began selling in the USA, which was terrific news for Honda. This was after they released the tagline, "you meet the nicest people on a Honda." This simple tagline saw the gained interest by many. The USA motorcycle market opened out from hairy men with big cigars to grannies nipping out to grab the latest newspaper. Sales would soon increase drastically in Europe.
"You meet the nicest people on a Honda."
Recently, they've also become massively popular amongst the custom bike scene, with people all around the world customizing their Cubs to their own taste. Some people paint them, some fit huge tyres, some even engine swap them to allow for more power. In my opinion, they do look pretty cool! Some of them look staggering, and some rather questionable. Which takes your pick, standard or custom? Comment below.
Now then, over 60 years since the Super Cub's launch, it's still in production and over 100,000,000 have been made which is an astounding figure. Engines now range from 49cc to 124cc, giving a buyer plenty of choice. Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa's gamble was a gamble never to forget; the Honda Super Cub will live on for many more years to come.
Do you think there is a happier motorcycle with a better story? Comment down your suggestions below...
Daniel Achterhuis is a 15-year-old motoring journalist at DriveTribe, presenter of 'The Piston Podcast' and YouTuber. Daniel has written for various newspapers, magazines, and was the youngest-accredited press at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. He aspires to become a full-time automotive journalist in his later years. Follow him on social media and check out his work here:
Daniel Achterhuis is a 15-year-old car enthusiast based in Cheshire, UK. He is a motoring journalist, YouTuber, and presenter of The Piston Podcast. Daniel aspires to become an automotive journalist and to be around cars in his later years. Daniel Drives is a platform where Daniel can share his passion with others. Whether it's his Fiat Panda 100hp, or even just a random car review, excellent content for all is guaranteed. Support the Daniel Drives YouTube channel by subscribing for car-related content like reviews, trips to showrooms, motor shows and lots more. You can follow Daniel on social media @DanielCars05 for video updates and more. Don’t forget to also subscribe to 'All Things Auto' - Daniel's sub-channel with his friend Matthew.