History of the Honda C50

Lyle Ellerbee

First seen in 1958, the Honda C50 Super Cub is still in production today, easily making it the world’s most popular motorcycle. Of course, many changes to the basic specifications were made in the five decades, but the basic appearance and design has remained true to the very first 1958 C50. A very small vehicle, it was powered by a tiny 49cc engine that produced barely 4.5 hp. When Honda first began to export the Super Cub in 1959, they faced an uphill challenge against the much bigger British motorcycles. With the slogan You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda, they managed to find acceptance from people looking for a decent ride that came with a clean reputation.

Right from the start, the design of the Honda C50 made it stand out, looking colourful and petite next to the larger chromed motorcycles. While other smaller motorcycles used two stroke engines, Honda introduced a four stroke engine in the C50, increasing RPM to squeeze out additional power and improved fuel efficiency in excess of 300 mpg. Weighing just 170 pounds, this tiny bike has a simple three speed transmission, making it easy to learn and ride at any age. The Honda C50 also had a large wheelbase that made it a stable ride, even if the top speed was not much above 50 mph.

The first major upgrade took place in 1967, when Honda tweaked the engine to deliver a slightly better 4.9 hp by using a new SOHC 49cc engine. In this year, the C70 and C90 bikes were also introduced. These were basically the same Honda Super Cub design, but with larger engine displacements. Since then, Honda has continued to improve on the C50, with minor cosmetic changes and new features such as CDI ignition and electric start (select models).

Today, the Honda C50 remains a very popular compact motorcycle for short commutes in crowded cities and towns. In fact, sales in Japan have been improving, with the latest C50 models providing an even better ratio of power to fuel efficiency. For many young riders, it is the ideal choice for a basic run-around and fun ride. Motorcycle enthusiasts also love collecting older Super Cubs, especially since there is a large choice of variants such as the Baby Cub, the Press Cub and the Street Cub. If you take care to use genuine spare parts, you can keep any Honda C50 model running in perfect condition, joining the 60 million other Super Cubs on the world’s roads.

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