2000-2006 Honda RC51
It was the millennium year, the Y2K bug was in full effect, and despite a decade of 750cc V-four-powered racebikes, Honda stepped up with a proper replacement that packed a 999cc V-twin engine into a road-going racer called the RC51.
Although World Superbike deemed 999cc V-twin engines legal for competition in 1988, it took Ducati winning eight championships for Honda to finally catch on. But when Honda's V-twin finally dropped, it hit hard with Colin Edwards winning WSB championships in 2000 as well as 2002 and Nicky Hayden also nabbing the AMA crown in 2002.
But, for everything the RC51 was on track, it was also a winner on the street. Up against stiff competition from other 1000cc V-twins in the form of the Suzuki TL1000R, the Aprilia RSV Mille and the Ducati 996R, the RC51 frequently won different comparos with its rock-solid handling, rev-happy motor and typical Honda refinement.
Power from the 90-degree V-twin...
Power from the 90-degree V-twin was strong with 124 HP and 73 LB-FT at the rear wheel. These numbers translated into 10.44 @ 133.5 mph in the quarter-mile on the way to a top speed of 163 mph, despite a heavy wet weight of 483 pounds.
The RC51 can be broken into two model designations, the SP1, which was produced from 2000-'01, and the later SP2s from 2002-'06, which received suspension and fuel injection updates. Though all RC51s are quite rare, the 2003 Colin Edwards replica and 2004 Nicky Hayden edition are the most sought-after models. Some stickers and a few minor additions are all that differentiate them from a standard RC51, but because they're limited-editions ensures strong resale.
As with any niche model the owners are fanatical. They unanimously mark the sound and torque of the big twin at the top of their lists, with the great chassis not far behind. Following closely in tail is the unmistakable panache of an RC51, as few bikes carry the rich racing pedigree this Honda holds. From a modern standpoint the RC51 is down on power compared to the present stable of liter bikes but speed still comes easily.
Though Hondas are typically flawless in form, common problems include high coolant temps in traffic thanks to the side-mounted radiators and poor fuel range, as typically they need a refill before 100 miles. Other complaints include an LCD tachometer that can be hard to read and excessive weight (it tips the scales at 483 pounds wet).
Gripes aside, if you were riding when RC51s were new you've likely got a soft spot for the big twin. And while they're a step behind the modern monsters, these heavyweights offer far more than just performance. The RC51 is a conversation starter and a modern relic, representing a time when AMA racing was commendable, 750-fours and 1000cc V-twins battled and the RC51 ruled the roost.
If you're looking for one helluva bike with timeless looks and a rich racing history then look no further...just make sure you do everyone a favor by adding a proper exhaust system because an RC51's exhaust note is simply stunning.