Honda NR750: A Sports Bike Icon On The Streets Of Tokyo

I haven’t done a motorcycle feature in quite some time, probably because I don’t actively seek them out. When it comes to two-wheeled machinery, it’s more a case of whatever-I-uncover-in-my-travels sort of approach.

You might be wondering why I’m presenting you with a feature on a completely stock 28-year-old Japanese sports bike. Well, regardless of its age, this model definitely isn’t your everyday motorcycle. Blake touched on the Honda NR750 in a recent story on the manufacturer’s Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi, and today I’m here to give you the full story on this iconic Japanese machine.


This is the equivalent of a company putting all its best engineering know-how together for the sole purpose of, well… showing off. The Honda NR750 came at the end of the economic bubble in Japan, where a lot of companies were spending up large on special projects, just to show the world what they could do.

What Honda did with this bike was pretty amazing, starting off with a design that almost 30 years on remains remarkably fresh.


The bike was laden with carbon fiber, ran magnesium wheels, featured tail-mounted exhausts that sprouted out from a little grille under the passenger seat, used a single side swing arm, and an iridium windscreen. But craziest of all was its v-four engine with four oval pistons each mounted to a pair of connecting rods, 8-valves per cylinder, and an 15,000rpm redline.


At ¥5.2 million in 1992, the NR750 was expensive. Factor in that only 200 units were ever built, and they’ve been a collector’s dream ever since.


Given their rarity, you’d be extremely lucky to see an NR750 out and about these days (or even back in their day), but thanks to Greg, this particular bike’s owner, we were able to change that on one late summer’s night in the heart of Tokyo’s Azabu district.

If there’s ever been one bike I’ve wanted to shoot, it’s the NR.


In the late 1990s, right before Twin Ring Motegi opened to the public, I remember my father receiving special tickets from the Honda dealer he bought his Accord from, to take a preview tour of the facility and the Collection Hall. We took up the offer of course, and among the countless Honda models on display, a shiny red NR750 sat on a special pedestal. This was only the second time I had ever seen one in person; the first time was at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, which was also my first time visiting the Makuhari Messe.

Being able to check out the bike up close has always stuck in my mind. Reading the detailed specs of the engine was simply fascinating, and to this day every time I’m at Motegi, I make a point of going to see the display bike and the cut-away ‘oval piston’ engine that sits alongside it.


I mean, seriously… what on earth was Honda even thinking with this engine?

The oval piston design spans back to 1979 when Honda raced the two-stroke NR500 in the World GP. The idea was to craft something akin to a V8 engine in order to make more power, but with race regulations stipulating a maximum of four cylinders, they had to think outside of the box. Combining what is essentially two round pistons into a single elongated oval one with a pair of titanium rods was the solution – a tiny 500cc ‘fused’ V8.

But the NR500 race bike didn’t find true success in competition; it seems like Honda was more interesting in showing the world that this radical idea could be done, rather than attempting to make it successful in any way, shape or form. Then it took more than a decade for a viable four-stroke version of this motor to be used in a production bike.


Greg tells me the 750cc engine runs smooth as silk, purrs into life effortlessly, and makes this bike a joy to ride around town. It’s been reliable too, which is good, because the thought of having to replace the three rings each of the elongated oval pistons use to ensure a proper seal against the oval cylinder walls sounds like a nightmare.

That said, the 125hp produced pales by today’s standard where 2020 model 600cc sport bikes have a similar power output to the NR750, and Ducati’s wild Panigale V4 R packs around 100hp more with the race kit exhaust. But for Greg, it’s more about the experience of riding such a special motorcycle than anything else; he doesn’t need on the throttle to enjoy it.


Not that he rides it much, but probably still more than most NR owners out there. Mainly little excursions within the city to keep it running well, and not just sitting in a garage all the time.


Looking over the details is akin to dissecting a car like the McLaren F1. Every part is beautifully designed and built, and there because it serves a purpose.


Case in point, the carbon fiber intakes that guide air from the front of the bike into the 90-degree engine sitting low in the frame, while merging into the carbon fuel tank.


Even the original stickers on the tank are preserved. There isn’t a single blemish on this bike.


After feasting over the mix of engineering perfection and a build quality that you don’t often see these days, you notice the frame. You’d be forgiven for wondering why Honda didn’t got all the way and sculpt it out of carbon fiber, but the quality of the alloy, the perfect welds and the mirror-like polished finish, has to be seen to be believed. Even the way other components are arranged and and seamlessly integrated is impressive.


The side air outlets, designed to help air diffuse outwards with a clean path, feature a cast one-piece grille mounted with a pair of titanium Allen bolts.


I always love seeing bike exhausts neatly tucked under and inside the tail, a style that was popular in the ’90s. These days exhausts have shrunken to short little contoured stubs that poke out a little from the lower section of a bike, but I much prefer the original alternative. Plus, it cleans up the sides and overall profile of the bike, allowing more design features to be incorporated into the bodywork. In the case of the NR, that includes the large air intakes to help cool the twin silencers under the rider’s butt.


If you needed another example of Honda’s maniacal attention to detail with this bike, check out the foot stand. Notice how there are two small carbon fiber panels mounted against it? These slide away from each other via a hinged mount that allows the foot stand to disappear into the cowl and the two panels to slide away from each other and seal up flush against the rest of the carbon body work. Amazing. 

The magnesium alloy wheels too are drool-worthy; the back wheel especially, along with the single-sided swing arm it’s mounted to.


With the NR750 Honda didn’t want to create a hardcore race replica for the street, but rather a refined machine; a concoction of complexity that highlighted their technical abilities. This was a celebration of the original oval piston idea, which Honda actually managed to make reliable for use on a street bike that everyday customers (albeit with deep pockets) could buy.

But more than that, you could say the NR750 potentially paved the way for ’90s sports bike design language, while also pushing the boundaries for motorcycle price points and technology.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



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This superbike article is as enjoyable as many of your car articles before, Dino. With such techno-madness, the NR750 would qualifies the "superbike" status.

If I might add, Japanese superbikes in general tend to carry aluminum box frames, while the Italian prefer chromoly steel tubular ones.
Personally, I love the tubular ones because its more "bike-like" traditionally.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks! Don't know too much about bikes but they are equally interesting as cars. This one especially is bonkers!


well executed! it is relaxing to read something like this

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks, great to hear!


An amazing machine and an understated design aesthetically compared to the marvel of engineering lurking beneath the fairings.


As a non bike person I knew nothing about this, but now I want one :D

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Join the line lol


Great read Dino!

I'm very much into my bikes (I have my dream garage currently) but I've always lusted after an NR in a 'love the idea of owning but couldn't face the potential financial ruin of owning' way. A local specialist dealer had one in a couple of years ago that I got to drool over but the £90k+ price put me off a bit! Had no idea about that stand, typical Honda detail that they (and everyone else) seem to forget about these days.

On the carbon frame front, Ducati tried to use a carbon frame on their MotoGP bike in 2007 but had plenty of complaints about lack of feel due to the stiff nature. I wonder if the use of alloy here was because of that, or that it hadn't been considered as feasible at the time?

As an aside, a certain Honda supported rider at the time was gifted an NR as part of his contract. Rumour has it that he had a low speed off and the replacement rear fairing was in the region of £45k and consequently he had it fixed and sold it - can't imagine the Honda brass were too happy about that!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Glad you guys are liking this. Interesting you mention carbon frames. Friend of mine in Italy, moto gp legend Luca Cadalora, once told me a story about testing out a race bike with a carbon frame for a manufacturer that was not Ducati and he said that it was just too stiff. The vibrations were insane and it was too peaky and hard to handle. They dropped the program after that.


Drops NR750 and then hanging out with Luca. You are winning today Dino. Always been a great fan of Luca. Thank you for the great feature.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I really need to do a story on Luca one of these days. Back when we used to hang, 10 years or so ago, he was crazy into Japanese cars, predominately Evos which he used to modify himself. Miss those days of going to Varano with the Italian Evo guys!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Holy cow that foot stand cover idea! Why doesn't any other bike makers do that design today?!


Weight, cost and complexity

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah I can only imagine the meetings that went into finalizing and getting the ok for something like that. Pretty badass though, blew me away when I saw how it worked.


Look at you guys talking about bikes now, I'm impressed, keep it up!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

haha gotta step out of the comfort zone once in a while right


Really enjoyed this, the images are great!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Sounds like I need to be hunting out more bikes! What should be next though?


In my view an area that would be very interesting would be bikes that competed in the Suzuka 8hr race. From factories throwing everything at it including their star riders to the more oddball entrants.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Noted, any bikes in particular that wouldn't be impossible to track down?


What a beautifull bike! The pictures are amazing. I have bern driving honda's all my life and i wish i can drive one eventually!


Nice to read an article on these almost forgotten gems. As a previous VFR 800 owner (I know, not quite the same) Honda makes a fantastic V4 engine, silky smooth and the sound once uncorked is glorious.


Gracias speedhunters por mostrarnos historias increibles y maravillosas de motocicletas, por favor no dejen de hacerlo, todas sus historias de automoviles y motocicletas son realmente espectaculares sigan asi, un saludo de un lector desde Colombia!!!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Gracias Julian!


This bike has what's missing from modern vehicles: a sense of ambition.

I too think undertail exhausts are great on sportbikes, and you know what else I miss?

Big dual mufflers on a literbike, like on the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird.


I got a Bird, I can always use the "I got the NR rear view mirrors" cope, lol


This article really reminds me of that game called "Midnight Club, LA" back in the xbox 360.


About time! Been waiting on the article about the NR750!
Man that's an awesome bike!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Glad you like it!


Akira style light trails in the cover photo. Big respect!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah there is always cars about in Tokyo, even at 1am when this was shot!


Long long time Dino Dalle fanboy here, absolutely stunning shots, perfectly balanced pro shots with gritty vibes, the NR on Tokyo streets at night, stunning really. One small remark about the article though, every NR sold, 300 or 500 of them whatever the conflicting Honda numbers are, is fitted with a restrictor, eco regulations on different markets and also risk of selling high tune machine with such price tag, Honda decided to play it safe (oval piston twin spark twin rod safe lol) and cap them to 125, and 100 in France. Unrestricted NR puts out around 200hp, young Loris Capirossi tested it on Nardo with a special tank (5L of fuel I think) and hit 299.5 kmh or something very close 300. Also I have to say I hate that the bike is gaining traction online now just because its becoming ultra collectible $$$ object, but that's the case with the entire youngtimer scene, bike or car, and that's another story. Sorry for the blogpost lol.


According to Honda themselves "engine designer Suguru Kanazawa. We could have obtained over 140 bhp in street from the 32-valve 750cc engine if they’d wanted to," and "Loris Capirossi in August of '92, riding a de-restricted, 155-bhp NR750 at Fiat's test track in Nardo, Italy."

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks man, appreciate the positive feedback :)


The editing style on these images is by far the best that has been on this page for a while, so well done.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks, that makes me very happy!


Man, that red paint really pops right off the screen. What kind of filter did you use to capture it?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

No filter just post editing where I tried to keep the red as close at it really looks like up close and under street lights.


Your article says it was a v twin engine. That's incorrect. It was a v4 with 4 ovalized pistons with dual connecting rods for each piston. It was pretty much unheard of, having 4 ovalized pistons, and 8 con rods. I always wondered how the piston rings held up on these bikes, not being round and such, but with how few were made, I doubt many were/are ever run. It's nice to see that at least one has been out in the wild and not in a museum for all of eternity.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Correction made thx for pointing our the error


I'm a big Honda bike fan. Have an NC30 in the garage and would love to own an RC30. The NR750 annoys me. It was just a 'willy waving' exercise by Honda. It was underpowered, slow, heavy, had a pointless (never copied) engine design. It brought nothing revolutionary to the bike world. Its only legacy in my mind is the ugly second gen re-styling of the VFR750F to mimic the NR, and a couple of styling cues stolen by Ducati for the 916. Loved your story though, and photos!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks Matt. I see what you mean about the fact that nothing ever came from the engineering that went into the NR, but at the same time it's always fascinating to see what can be created if the OK is given. I think all car and bike manufacturers should do 1 willy-waving exercise every decade or so just so oddball creations can become a reality.

Fabrice Carpentier Perso

On the nineties vw studied a oval piston motor too

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Can you share more info on this? For car applications?


@Dino Dalle Carbonare
The NR500 was not a 2-stroke race bike but Honda's 4-stroke answer to the onslaught on 2T racers from rival companies. it was the first oval piston racer and redlined at something like 22,000rpm. the NS500 was the 2T V-3 bike Honda finally caved and built when the NR proved unsuccessful. Fantastic article and all the pictures are drool worthy!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks for the clarification and glad you liked the story & pix! Need to find another rare Japanese bike to shoot to chase this feature! This was so much fun to shoot and write about, which means I have to give a big thanks to Greg for allowing it all to go down!


Great article and especially the photos, Dino.

You shot it the first night I owned the bike. Can see the trip meter at 8.7km. Since then I've logged about 500 in and around Tokyo in 25km or so increments.

Can still remember the shooting vividly including the 2 drunken salarymen excited and surprised to see one. So happy to share it with others.

For next bikes, let me have a think and see if I can connect you with some people... you said Japanese but Bimota made some crazy cool stuff...


Amazing photographs of a rare machine. That two pictures of the dash off and dash on wonderfully illustrates the lighting and the dials that we just dont get these days. Love it! More motorbikes!


Amazing photography. Great writing and keeping my faith in consistent content. Love you all. Found you in 2013.


Saw this article earlier this week on mobile and was saving it for this weekend when I could sit down enjoy the photos on my iMac. Thanks for the awesome photographs and relaxing, enjoyable read. Great stuff! Rad Honda, count me as a fan!