After 53 years, Honda announces the end of air-cooled inline-four bikes

After over half a century, Honda will end production of its iconic air-cooled inline-four motorcycles. It’s a lineage that began with the seminal Honda CB750 Four, a bike that reshaped the motorcycling universe when it debuted in 1969. The announcement came on Honda’s Japanese Twitter account, where the company posted a teaser of a CB1100EX and sportier CB1100RS Final Editions.

When the original CB750 debuted in 1969, it single-handedly created a new class of motorcycle. The largest bikes on the market at the time used 2-cylinder engines with about 650cc of displacement, but Honda brought a 736cc SOHC four to the fight, with each cylinder given its own exhaust pipe. Along with a front disc brake, it was the kind of engineering you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of a race track. A new word, superbike, had to be coined to describe it.

At the time Kawasaki was developing its own 750cc-class game-changer, but Honda got to market first. When Kawasaki saw what Honda had accomplished, they scrapped the entire project and went back to the drawing board. What they eventually came up with became an icon in itself, the 1972 900 Super Four, or Z1.

The air-cooled four has been a staple of Honda’s line ever since. While displacements and technology have grown over the years, Honda has refused to give up on the old school design until now. Other rivals, like the Yamaha XJR or Kawasaki Zephyr, had already been quietly discontinued over the years.

Japan is facing ever more stringent emissions rules. The government told Honda that if updated laws weren’t met by October 2022 they would have to end sales. By nature, air-cooled engines emit more hydrocarbons since they have a harder time maintaining a constant operating temperature. Unfortunately, that very aspect is essential to the character of the bike, and so Honda had no choice but to stop production.

The CB1100 Final Edition will be revealed on October 8 in Japan. Immediately afterwards, Honda will begin taking orders. The window for orders closes at the end of November, and when it does it’ll be the end of an era.

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