Honda Trials History Introduction

Born in November 1906 in Tenryu, Japan, and died in August 1991 (aged 84), Mr Honda founded in 1948 the Honda Motor Company

The Honda Trials History begins in the early sixties.

As all these stories the start is not exactly clear, but I’ll try to give a little light on this not very clear history.

Of course any help will be welcome, I’m open to receive any information and pictures in order to share to everybody interested on this  exciting four-stroke Honda’s engine world.

Brieve Introduction

In 1947 Honda made, manufactured and sold his first complete motorbike. It has a ½ horspower and was known as Honda A-type, but maybe was most known as the name of “Chimney”, why? Because it gave a lot of smoke and a stench of turpentine.

In 1953 Honda produced one four-stroke motorbike, a sophisicated 90cc , 3,8 horspower engine, was known as the Benly that means in Japanese lenguage convenience. The bike was a great success and were sold as a rate of a 1.000 units a month.

In 1958 Honda introduced in Japan and later in 1959 the US the world’s best-selling motorbike, the C100 Super Cub. 30 million units sold!!


The Super Cub used a 50cc four-stroke OHV engine with three speed gear box. The innovarive frame without cross bar became so popular with the ladies population and set a new trend in conmuter motorcycling. The word “scooter” born at this moment to denominate this style of motorbikes wich sold in 50, 70 and 90cc engine capacity versions.
In 1959 first Trials transformations were made as this nice document shows us. Thanks to Shizuo Ito (on the picture) to sent me this information.

Shizuo Ito sent me this picture taken in October 1959. The bike an Honda Cub C100

At early’s 1965 Ken Ives was a UK Honda dealers that made one of the first transformations from the “street” Hondas to ride on Trials races.

Ken Ives took a 1965 Honda S90 and made several modifications and improvements to well adapt on atrials riding.

One of the reported original ones pictured, thanks to Olivier Barjon

One of the first Ken riders was Cleve N Mills in 1965. Picture thanks to Andrew Mills.

At same time the Japanese Hideo Tanaka made his own transformation and rode with his S90. Tanaka, some time later was working on the RTL305 development.

In 1968 Honda introduced a new concept motorbike, a new word to described it born: “Superbike”

The bike was shown at Tokyo Show in 1968, the fastest and powerfull bike on the world at this moment. 750cc, four cylinder that was called Honda CB750 Four.

In 1970 Honda entered on the off-road market with a two-stroke motocross bike and later with different trail versions, the MT125 and MT250.

Also no more time later, in 1972 Honda introduced the four-stroke SL125 and the SL 250 equipped with a long travel suspension achieving a good and succsseful off-road motorbike.

In 1971, Toshi Nishiyama took place at the SSDT (first Japanese rider to compete there) with this Montesa Cota 247.

Based on the SL engines, Honda produced the also successful XL versions in 1973 with improved off-road performance.

These XL off-road engines were the basis for the development of the well known Honda Trials bikes.

The TL 125 first in 1973 and the TL 250 in 1975 were the first production Honda Trials motorbikes. The begining of the nice and amazing history of this brand on Trials line narrated here at this webpage: The Honda Trials History.

In 1973 three Japanese riders took place at SSDT with the little TL 125, Nishiyama, Narita and Mazawa.

Peter Gaunt was one of the first UK engineers who in developed a transformation using a Honda bike as a base. The bike was sold under the Jefferies Honda name, this is because Jefferies bikes, located at Shipley, Yorkshire, was the dealer.

Honda seriously began on the Trials Bike competition in 1974 with one of the most important persons on the Honda Trial Bikes History: Sammy Miller. He was a key person on the Honda Team, as a rider, as a bikes development and as a strategist.

In April 1974 Sammy Miller flew from Heathrow to Tokyo, Japan. Sammy signed a contract with Honda for the new range trials bikes development.

Sammy was impressed on his first travel to Honda R&D headquarters. High security level, special sections constructed for testing new trials bikes, and everybody waiting for him.

He started working with the TL125 and XL250 engine. The TL125 was the first Honda Trials attempt using the small 121,9cc two-valve sohc engine from the SL125 Trail Honda.

Honda R&D team was benn placed at Sammy’s disposal to develop the new Honda Trials bike and Sammy decided to start with the XL250, but found a lot of difficulties to adapt it from the Trails needs to Trials requirements.

Sammy did a giant work on this development, big efforts to improve carburation, completely new frame (he based on its also designed High-Boy for the Bultaco trials), new upper yokes, also replaced the rims for alloy ones, and a lot of work on the suspension definition.

The silencer was also redefinedto obtain the maximum efficency. 

In 1974 Sammy scored several wins on the Honda 250 first prototype. In October of this year, Sammy Miller won his first victory with the second prototype Honda at Sturminister Newton Trial at Gillingham.

This second prototype had a 248,6cc (74 X 57,8mm) alloy cylinder barrel with chromed bore, four-valves, using 24mm Keihin carburetor. 

Honda TL250 Sammy Miller

This prototype was famous for having the number plate SAM 1N.

The bigest success on the Honda Trials History arrived at 1982 by the hand of the most important rider that never Honda had, Eddy Lejeune. He won the Honda first Worl Trials Championship!! 

After long time fighting practically alone on four-stroke trial bikes (Spanish, Italian, Japanese and French bikes were two-stroke engine) Honda had his recompense, Eddy also won the World Trial Championship in 1983 and 1984.

Thanks to Gabriele Milan for this picture.

The History of this rare and speciall bikes is for the four-stroke engine fans really exciting!!

Eddy Lejeune at 1983 World Round in Texas, picture thanks to Albert Wing.

Take a llok at this interesting Eddy interview made by James Brown from Retrotrials.com

Thanks James to share!

http://www.retrotrials.com/the-best-eddy-lejeune-interview-ever-page-1.html

From the Sammy Miller first prototypes bikes to the nice RTL 270SW Rothmans through the special RS’s or the world champion RTL 360, Honda made maybe the best and nicest trials bikes that never nobody did.

1988, The pink RTL250S (Ex Lejeune 270cc, supplyed by Derrick Edmonson) from John Shirt at Irish Experts Trial. Picture thanks to Stuart Martin.

Again, John Shirt Jr. at the SSDT 1988 with the nice RTL disk brakes. Picture thanks to John from Trialmag.

*John Shirt Snr. Picture Copyright

Here, thanks to Patrick Jay from Aspen Cafe at Samoëns, French Alps we can see a representation of some of the most excellent, historic and rare trials bikes on the all world!! © Copyright of this picture by Jean Caillou. Thanks also Jean for its comments and information about these pictured bikes

  1. Honda 305 Long Stroke, 1974 SAMMY MILLER Prototype
  2. Honda RTL 305 Long Stroke, 1975 Marland Whaley
  3. Honda 1977-78 RTL 306 (short-stroke) as ridden by Marland Whaley at the SSDT (hence the big alloy tank).
  4. Honda RTL 360, Eddy Lejeune 1982
  5. Honda RTL 360, Eddy Lejeune 1984
  6. Honda RTL 270SW Rothmans, Saunders, Lejeune.

These Extraordinary Hondas were joined at 2008 Honda Meeting in the French Alps. Organizer was the RTL Honda Club Europe.

The RTL Club Europe is an association of fans and collectors of historical four-stroke Honda trials.http://rtlr.club.free.fr/

The Aspen Cafe is famous for its whiskey and usually hosts trials meetings. Located in a lovely place, Samoëns, has a long history and tradition. www.aspencafe.com

Pat (Aspen Cafe owner and Trials passionate) and Joan (The Honda Trials History) at Aspen Cafe bar last winter 2011

Aspen Cafe is an important meeteing point for all the natur lovers and trials bike passionates. You can find there people from everywere of the world, Japanese people, French, English, Spanish, Italian, German,….from everywere!! Charm place, carried from a friendly and hospitality way by my friend Pat.

The Honda Research & Development

For the development of special racing motorcycles and parts Honda created a separate company, first in 1970 this company was called RSC, Racing Service Center Corporation, later in 1982 the company was renamed as HRC, Honda Racing Corporation. Best Honda Trials bikes were designed and developed by RSC or HRC company.

Racing Service Center

In the early 1970’s Honda created a separate company to oversee racing, the company was called RSC, Racing Service Center. In 1973 RSC was established as a separated entity from Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

Later, in September 1982, RSC changed to HRC and began the Honda’s racing, endurance, trials and motocross racing programs.

Honda Racing Corporation

The HRC logo began to be applied on 1982. Honda Racing Corporation was founded on September 1982 replacing RSC. 

His first President was the legendary engineer Shoichiro Irimajiri.

HRC Division headquarters is based in Saitama, Japan and Aalst in Belgium. Tetsuo Suzuki is the President and Shuhei Nakamoto his Vice President. The main service is the Research and development of racing motorcycles and parts Its main mission the development, manufacture and sales of motorcycles and parts for racing. Since then HRC has become a byword for high-performance engineering excellence and winning performance.

Do you have riders pictures? please send me at honda@onlytrial.com

Thanks to ask to Honda Trials History web page owner before reproducing any part of the publication inside this website.

The success of this web page is the result of the efforts of the HTH owner with the valuable help and collaboration of the all Honda Trials History fans and collaborators.

*The Honda Trials History owner has the permission for the use of all pictures sent by his collaborators to be used for only the purpose of this website. For this reason the use of any picture shall be authorised by his owner through The Honda Trials History web page.