Visiting the Honda Campus

As focused as we are on Honda’s MX bikes and race team, it’s almost easy to overlook the fact of exactly how huge the company is¿until you visit there, that is. That point was driven home when we stopped by Honda’s Torrance, California, headquarters this week to meet up with Lee Edmunds, Honda’s Motorcyle Press Manager. Lee gave us an overview of their impressive facility, and showed off a few of the highlights in the ’05 Honda lineup.

“The Honda campus covers 100 acres in Torrance, CA, and has been there for about 17 years. The entire site serves the motorcycle division, as well as the Honda and Acura auto lines. Among the facilities are an R&D center and clay modeling center to mock up cars. R&D are is sort of self-contained, and has its own entrance. It also has its own set of key cards, so a key card that works in the building here doesn’t do anything over there. They also have a separate display area so when they’re doing displays they can show things out there and not worry about people seeing the wrong things.”

There’s also a parts warehouse that serves some of the western states, service for automobiles and motorcycles, motorcycle race team facilities, and a full photography studio and print center. There’s even a recreation center that includes tennis courts, basketball courts, a beach volleyball area, softball diamond, and a complete gym.’

Lee also had a selection of bikes to show off in the spacious lobby of Honda’s HQ. “Every year after our annual dealer convention we bring the display that we showed to our dealers to American Honda to show the rest of our employees. So for everyone who didn’t go to the convention, they get a chance to see all the new models and get excited about them. There are a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts here. Not only in the motorcycle division, but within the auto division as well. It’s throughout the culture of Honda. We’ll bring everything that was significantly new, or something that we wanted to show. Like we have Ricky Carmichael’s race bike, Johnny Campbell’s desert bike, Ben Bostrom’s Supermoto bike, and Miguel DuHamel’s Formula Extreme bike.”

When quizzed about the three hottest items in Honda’s ’05 two-wheeled lineup, Lee came through with his choices. “It would have to be the CRF450X, CBR600RR, and the VTX1800F. The CRF450X follows the same formula that we used on the 250X last year. We started off with a CRF450R, and turned it into an off-road competition-level dirt bike¿but with electric start. It’s not a motocross bike. It’s more for off-road competition.” He also pointed out that the bike doesn’t use exactly the same frame as the CR450F (the X features different flex characteristics), and that both the engine and suspension feature tuning tweaks to make it more compatible with general off-road use.

Lee’s other hot picks, the CBR600RR and VTX1800F, are both pavement burners. “The CBR dropped nine pounds this year, got upside-down forks, and radial-mounted front brakes.” The VTX is just a bad-ass performance style cruiser that is available in three styles.

There was no shortage of activities for the Honda employees during the week that the bikes were on display. “They do a slow race out on the grass with CRF50s or 70s, and you have to have the slowest time,” said Lee. “Then they have the employee bike show, where the employees will bring their personal motorcycles that they’ve fixed up. There’s also usually a big Ride For Kids raffle, which is a charity that benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation that Honda’s been involved with.” Of course, all this followed a week where the IRL Indy Car drivers made a visit to Honda before the next-to-last race of their ’04 season at Fontana.

Anyway, enough of this sneak peek into Honda’s headquarters. It’s Friday, and we’re suffering from a sudden urge to ride. Wonder what could have brought that on?