Inside Info: Honda RN01 – The Silver Bullet
Credits to : www.downhill247.com
One of the most mysterious, secret and probably expensive downhill bikes ever created was the Honda RN01. Raced from 2004-2006 by the G Cross Honda Team, the RN01 was a bike in a class of its own. The chrome finish and the wings all added to the UFO nature of the bike, RN01 stood for Racing, Natural (apparently referring to natures power) and 01 was because it was their first attempt/model . Very little information was released to the public in regards to this bike when Greg Minnaar, Matti Lehikonen, Brendan Fairclough and various Japanese riders were racing them. Mechanics would remove the gearbox from the frame so if the bikes were stolen the gearboxes weren’t. This did pay dividends and two of the team bikese were stolen, without gearboxes! One ended up on Ebay and was later recovered. The hugely secretive nature of the program came at a time when downhill was no where near as professional as it is today, Steve Peat and Cedric Gracia (of course) ran into the restricted access manufacturer’s tent at a race with a camera snapping pictures to have a cheeky dig at the way they were running things.
The first series of the gearbox was said to allow a huge number of gears to be accessed by the riders, so much so the UCI introduced a rule limiting the number of gears to nine for downhill bikes. It was a CVT system as found in modern day cars. That does pose an interesting question as to whether this rule has been updated now that ten speed systems are available?! The second series of these gearboxes were a simpler designer basically a derailleur and cassette within the housing. Other parts on the bike, such as the forks and brakes were made specifically for RN01 and this bike by various Japanese manufacturers. The linkage was a single pivot design, rumored to try and replicate their motorbike suspension. The total bike weight was around 18.5kg/41 pounds, depending on the build. The R and D costs alone ran into the hundreds of thousands! Unfortunately these bikes were never made available to the public, despite many reports they would be and almost all were apparently crushed at the end of the project with only Greg Minnaar having one at his house/shop sans the gearbox. We are willing to bet some Japanese collector managed to get their hands on one RN01 though… Then of course there was the four-cross/dual slalom bike Greg occasionally used!
Few years ago this Honda RNO1 was spotted at Whistler Blackcomb