Only one machine can claim to be the highest-selling motor vehicle of all time – Honda's Super Cub 125 ABS, which has sold well over 100 million units worldwide since its 1958 introduction. In addition, it's the motorcycle model that put American Honda on the map with the "You meet the nicest people" advertising campaign of the 1960s. For the 2022 model year, "the little motorcycle that could" gets several updates, including a new, more efficient engine and reduced weight, meeting the demands of the modern miniMOTO rider while retaining the timeless Super Cub look. It's also offered in a new Matte Gray Metallic color.
The year is 1956, Honda's eighth year in existence. Honda president Soichiro Honda and managing director Takeo Fujisawa have just returned from Europe, where they had traveled in search of inspiration for the next major Honda product. They realize that it should be a commuter bike—a stylish, fun, inexpensive motorcycle that can be ridden by anyone, and designed around just four key features:
- A high-powered four-stroke engine that is quiet and fuel efficient but has strong, reliable performance
- Chassis and bodywork with a size and shape that enables male and female riders to easily mount, ride and dismount the motorcycle
- A gear-shift system that doesn't require operation of a clutch lever
- An advanced design that is also friendly, fresh and timeless
Two years later, the first Super Cub C100 is wheeled out of Honda's production plant. With the stated aim "to provide the joy of playing a useful part in people's lives," it's an immediate star in Japan, and Americans will only have to wait one year to get their hands on it, with the first "Honda 50" (as it is called in the U.S.) crossing the Pacific following the June 1959 launch of Honda's first overseas subsidiary, American Honda Motor Company. California students and trendsetters are early adopters of the small, inexpensive motorcycle. Instead of the loud, oversized models that the public had hitherto associated with motorcycling, this unit looks friendly and stylish. It's wildly convenient and fun too, offering not only excellent mobility to and around college campuses, but also enjoyable transportation to offices and local hangouts. The door to an all-new world has been opened, and the Honda 50 is the key to it all.
Following the launch of the 1962 CA100, specifically designed for the U.S. market with tandem seat and no turn signals, Honda launches the award-winning advertising campaign featuring the "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda" tagline. Combine the CA100's friendly, stylish nature with a feature in the Beach Boys' international hit ("Little Honda") and a Life magazine story examining the ways Americans have fallen in love with the brand, and it's not long before the model becomes a social phenomenon, with U.S. model sales peaking in 1965. There are even seasonal booms, with teenagers often waking up Christmas morning to find a Super Cub parked beside the tree.
Stylish, fun, and inexpensive, the model changes people's understanding of not only motorcycles, but also mobility and the enjoyment available through riding. Discontinued in the U.S. in 1974, 15 years after the Honda 50 was first introduced, the Super Cub continues to be offered in Japan, where it's popular with business users like the postal service, and in Southeast Asia, where it retains an important role in people's lives as private transport. In 2017 the little motorcycle surpasses a production milestone of 100 million units, making it the highest-selling motor vehicle in the world, and in 2018 it returns to American customers as a modern evolution of the legendary name. Today, the Super Cub continues to be offered worldwide, and its simple attributes of unique styling, reliability, frugality and sheer usability have never gone out of fashion, leading it to quietly achieve exactly what Mr. Honda and Mr. Fujisawa wanted: to get people mobile and keep them mobile.
DESIGN / STYLING
As always, Honda's time-tested Super Cub styling – defined by the word "universality" (ease of use for a wide range of people) – provides the cues for the model, the Super Cub C125 ABS featuring an S-letter silhouette that reaches from the steal rear fender to the step-through space. There is significant wind protection, with the rider positioned upright and close to the lower fairing, yet the Super Cub is still easy to mount and dismount.
An upright riding position provides the rider with optimum visibility on crowded city streets, and a pocket on the right side offers storage for essential items. The forged, tapered handlebar is positioned comfortably and is wrapped in curvaceous molded resin incorporating the display and instruments, paying homage to the original machine's wing-shaped handlebar. Aiding comfort, the seat uses thick, high-density urethane foam, and it narrows at the front so it's easier for the rider's feet to touch the ground.
Through the incorporation of LED lights, which require minimum space, the Super Cub C125's headlight shape matches that of the first-generation Super Cub. The instrument display has an outer ring housing an analog speedometer, while an inner ring contains information in understated digital form, including two trip meters and six-segment fuel-level indicator.
A Honda Smart Key needn't be inserted in order to operate the motorcycle, and it also controls the vehicle theft deterrent. The key is equipped with an "answer back" function whereby the turn signals will blink at the push of a button to make finding the Super Cub easy in busy parking lots, and it allows electronic locking of the seat. In a nod to the motorcycle's forebears, a historical three-dimensional Classic Wing logo crowns the key fob.
ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN
Efficient and durable, the Super Cub C125 ABS's new 124 cc air-cooled four-stroke engine combines the bottom end (with redesigned crankcases) from the current Japanese-market C110 with the SOHC, two-valve top end of the new Grom. Offering great power for around-town riding, the 124 cc engine is also fuel-efficient and quiet, and it has a new, easier-to-service oil filter for 2022. Compared to its predecessor, it's more undersquare, with a 50.0 mm bore (down from 52.4 mm) and a 63.1 mm stroke (up from 57.9 mm), and compression ratio is 10.0:1 (up from 9.3:1). Fed by PGM-FI, the engine produces useable, enjoyable power (slightly more than before) all the way through the rev range, and efficiency is improved for even better fuel economy.
The new, smaller airbox is designed to match the new engine. It smooths airflow on the clean side of the filter and – along with the new connecting tube and injector position – improves driveability.
While the outward appearance of the muffler (one of the many elements of the Super Cub's "mythology") stays the same, the internals are revised; with the gain in combustion efficiency, a single, more efficient catalyzer replaces the pair of catalyzers used with the previous exhaust. The ECU has new programming to maximize performance and efficiency, and the alternator output has been increased.
As before, the transmission has four speeds (with neutral at the bottom), and in true Super Cub tradition, it's operated via an automatic centrifugal clutch, eliminating the need for a clutch lever. At standstill, the rider simply selects the gear required with the left foot lever; as the throttle is opened, the clutch operates automatically, and it continues to so through each ratio change, up or down. The front and rear sprockets have 14 and 35 teeth, respectively, and a helical primary gear reduces mechanical noise. For optimum shift feel and reduced shift noise, the engine has a high-quality shift-drum bearing, shift-arm rubber, and optimized clutch-damper rubber material.
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION
Fun, straightforward handling has always been a Super Cub characteristic, and to this end, its tubular steel "backbone" frame has a rigidity balance carefully tuned around the headstock and between the engine-mounting points. There are also new mounting hangers for the redesigned engine. For vibration-damping comfort, the handlebar and seat are rubber-mounted, and the footpegs feature rubber inserts.
The twin shocks are color-matched to the body and suspension travel is 3.3 inches. The 26 mm telescopic fork also has 3.5 inches of suspension stroke.
The elegant, 17-inch die-cast aluminum wheels have machined rims and spokes and are produced using a special cutting process to enable the use of a tubeless tire; front and rear tire sizes are 70/90-17 and 80/90-17, respectively. Stopping power comes courtesy of a 220 mm front disc with ABS and a 110 mm rear drum.
Wheelbase is 48.9 inches, while rake and trail are 26° and 2.8 inches, respectively, for predictable handling. Wet weight is 238 pounds – down 2 pounds – and the seat height is 30.7 inches, making the Super Cub both easy to get on and confidence-inspiring in around-town riding.
SUPER CUB FACTS
- The first Super Cub prototype wasn't drawn out on paper, but using a clay model, into which Mr. Honda himself had strong input, using some ideas from a fact-finding trip to Europe in 1956.
- The first 1958 Super Cub C100's low-floor backbone frame (for easy step-through), large leg shields (for protection from dust on unpaved roads), fully enclosed bodywork (to hide the engine and harnesses), seagull-inspired handlebar shape and blue fairing laid down a universal template for decades to come.
- The 17-inch wheels (relatively large in order to handle Japan's uneven road surfaces) were designed and made exclusively for the Super Cub.
- The Super Cub has always used a four-stroke engine.
- Engineers for the original Super Cub had to avoid the need for a clutch lever, so a delivery rider could carry a stack of Soba noodle boxes on the left shoulder.
- Honda's Suzuka factory was built in 1960 to help meet the demand for the hit product.
- The Super Cub has been produced in 16 factories across 15 different countries, and it has sold in 160 different countries.
- The Super Cub went on sale in the USA in 1959, with a sticker price of just $295. It paved the way for much bigger things for American Honda.
- The "Honda 50" starred in the "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" ad campaign that changed the American perception of motorcycles to being appropriate for normal citizens.
- The Beach Boys made it even more famous in 1964 with their song "Little Honda."
- Introduced to South Asia in 1964, the Super Cub became prized family transport that neatly dealt with the overwhelming traffic of the ever-growing major cities.
- The Japanese Patent Office awarded the Super Cub a 3D trademark registration in 2014, recognizing its shape and design as an iconic Honda product, and making it the first vehicle to achieve this status.
- Original sales were projected to be possibly 30,000 a month, which was amazing at the time as total motorcycle production in Japan was around 40,000 units a month, but that ultimately proved to be something of an underestimate.
- In typical, low-key Super Cub fashion, on October 29, 2017, a commemorative ceremony was held at Honda's Kumamoto factory to mark worldwide production of 100 million units.
The 2022 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS will be available in January, in Matte Gray Metallic, with an MSRP of $3,799.
For more information, visit powersports.honda.com