On February 25, 2022, Honda announced that its upcoming Hawk 11 would officially make its debut at the 2022 Osaka Motorcycle Show. So far, we know that the newest addition to Honda’s two-wheeled family will utilize the same 1,084cc parallel twin engine that currently powers both the Africa Twin and the Rebel 1100. The 2022 Osaka Motorcycle show is scheduled to take place between March 19 and 21—which is just over two weeks away as I write this.
If you’re new to Honda motorcycles, then the name “Hawk” may not mean much. However, as many moto history and Honda enthusiasts can tell you, it’s a title with a storied Honda past that goes back almost all the way to the beginning. Maybe you own a past Hawk right now, or you’ve previously owned one. Maybe you grew up riding one. (If you’re me, perhaps your Hawk GT 650 is sadly staring at the inside of the garage door right now, impatiently waiting for spring.)
In any case, here’s a crash course in Honda Hawk model history.
1960-1967 Honda CB72 Hawk
- Power: 20 horsepower and 18 newton-meters (or 13.2 pound-feet) of torque
- Engine: 247cc air-cooled single overhead cam parallel twin
- Distinguishing Features: Four-speed gearbox, tubular steel frame; telescopic fork; combined speedometer/tachometer unit located atop headlight nacelle, just ahead of the handlebars
Hindsight is often a benefit—and with it, we can easily observe that in markets with tiered motorcycle license structures, lower-displacement motorbike sales are more likely to hold their own.
Timing also plays a role—as was seemingly the case with the CB72 Hawk. While this 247cc bike had plenty of charm, Honda’s choice to closely release the more powerful CB77 so soon after the CB72 in the U.S. may have, in effect, cannibalized some of its sales potential. More power for only a little more money? What would you choose?
1961-68 Honda CB77 305 Super Hawk
- Power: 28.5 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 23.1 newton-meters (or 17 pound-feet) of torque at 6,000 rpm
- Engine: 305cc air-cooled single overhead cam parallel twin
- Distinguishing Features: Steel-tube frame, telescopic fork, electric starter, and the kind of careful attention to engineering excellence that vintage spares specialist CMS Netherlands says made it “the finest Honda from the 1960s … probably!”
Cubs, while they’d been Super for Honda since their 1958 introduction, were unquestionably great little bikes for everyday transport. They were cuddly, yet practical—and displacement was low enough to mostly keep new riders out of too much trouble. Still, if the regular CB72 Hawk was cool, then how much better would it be if it was Super?
A lot better, as it turns out. The CB77 is widely credited as Honda’s first sport bike, and it offered both greater displacement and more power than the CB72, with only a minor weight (and price) difference. Still, every little bit of horsepower counts, especially when you’re in the low double-digits of horsepower.
The CB77 reportedly reached an astonishing top speed of 105 mph in a Cycle World test of the time (with a tail wind, on a single run, etc.), which certainly seemed pretty Super at the time. 305cc may not seem like much in modern times, but the Super Hawk was regularly scrapping with 500s and holding its own with its contemporaries.
As Honda’s star continued to rise within the motorcycle firmament, Elvis Presley also rode a 1964 Super Hawk in the 1964 movie Roustabout. A 1966 CB77 also played a pivotal role in the journey that later became the basis for Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In fact, the actual bike Pirsig rode was later donated to the Smithsonian by Pirsig’s wife in 2019, following her husband’s death.
1977-1981 Honda CB400T Hawk and CB250T Hawk
- Power: about 34.16 brake horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 21.03 pound-feet of torque on the 400s (varies by model); 17 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and 19.6 newton-meters (14.4 pound-feet) of torque at 8,500 rpm for the 250T
- Engine: 395cc air-cooled, single overhead cam parallel twin for the 400s; 249cc air-cooled, single overhead cam parallel twin for the 250T
- Distinguishing Features: Three-valve-per-cylinder configuration (two intake; one exhaust); 360-degree crank layout with counter-rotating balance shafts to keep the vibes in check; CDI ignition; engine-as-stressed-member design.
As Honda continued to sell its bikes in international markets, like plenty of other companies, the same model started to gain multiple names according to the prevailing company wisdom of the time. Thus, the CB400 series was known as the Dream in the U.K. market, and the Hawk (or “HaWk,” and we couldn’t tell you why) in the U.S. A CB250T was later introduced as a learner bike for the U.K. and other markets where such a bike was needed—but it wasn’t incredibly popular, and was soon superceded.
The CB400T came in multiple flavors for the American market over its lifespan. The CB400TI Hawk I was a kick-start-only budget option with drum brakes at both ends. If you were willing to pay a little more, you could get a CB400TII Hawk II with both electric and kick starts, as well as a front disc brake. The CB400A Hawk Hondamatic featured Honda’s semi-automatic motorcycle transmission, which featured a low gear and a high gear with a torque converter, as well as a parking brake(!).
By 1980, Honda trimmed down its Hawk options (Hawktions?) to just one: the CB400T Hawk, which only came with an electric start. By 1981, it had a two-piston disc brake setup in front.
1982-1986 Honda CB450SC Nighthawk; 1982-1984 and 1991-2003 Honda CB750SC Nighthawk
- Power: 450: 43.3 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 42.1 newton-meters (31 pound-feet) of torque at 6,500 rpm; 750: 1991: 62.6 brake horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 40.5 pound-feet of torque at 7,000 rpm
- Engine: 447cc, air-cooled, single overhead cam parallel twin; 747cc air-cooled inline four
- Distinguishing Features: 400: Comstar alloy wheels came stock for the first year; six-speed gearbox, electric start, chrome front fenders from 1982-1985 with 1986 switching to a body-color front fender
Lots of people have had Nighthawks as first bikes, return-to-riding bikes, and/or project bikes—maybe even Dick Grayson, somewhere along the way. It’s a workhorse, has been a workhorse, and will continue to be a workhorse until the last Nighthawk owner gives up on the last Nighthawk and finally stops maintaining it. The 450’s ergonomics also offered generous accommodation for taller riders—something certainly not always common for smaller-displacement bikes.
While they were never the absolute fastest or the best in any one specific area, they accomplished most things admirably well. That’s why so many riders have enjoyed their time on a Nighthawk along the way. The earth-shattering CB750 superbike eventually evolved into the Nighthawk 750, which certainly wasn’t without a lot of criticism.
1988-1991 Honda NT 650 Hawk GT
- Power: 56.1 horsepower at 7,897 rpm and 43 pound-feet of torque at 6,053 rpm
- Engine: 647cc liquid-cooled V-twin
- Distinguishing Features: The Hawk GT—also referred to as the RC31—was the second bike Honda produced that used an ELF-licensed Pro-Arm single-sided swingarm and Pro-Link monoshock. Besides its single-sided swingarm, the other most immediately visually arresting piece of the Hawk GT is that aluminum frame. The three-spoke alloy wheels are pretty easy on the eyes, too.
The Honda Hawk GT 650 was the first modern naked bike—before Ducati had its Monster, and before Suzuki had its SV650. However, unfortunately for Honda, it was also a case of “right bike, wrong time.” While they’re appreciated as the classics they are by those of us who love them in modern times, the Hawk GT 650 was an eye-watering $3,995 in 1988.
Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $9,494 in 2022 dollars—which actually doesn’t seem so bad. However, as Motorcycle Classics points out, a 1988 motorcycle shopper could have bought a CB600F—which made a claimed 85 horsepower—for only an additional $400. (As a small child at the time, I never would have been buying a Hawk GT new anyway—but they’re also much more attainably priced now, if you’re looking.)
As is true of so many bikes, though, a set of figures on paper (even digital paper) can’t tell you everything. No single quality alone makes a great bike; it’s finding a balance of a huge range of elements, all working together to give you a memorable, pleasurable riding experience.
1997-2005 Honda VTR1000F Super Hawk
- Power: 110 horsepower and 64.9 pound-feet of torque
- Engine: 996cc liquid-cooled dual overhead cam V-Twin
- Distinguishing Features: Side-mounted dual radiators, pivotless twin-spar frame, absolutely gigantic 48mm flat-slide CV carburetors, loads of innovations to make it light, narrow, and pleasing for spirited road riding; extremely wide, usable powerband
In the rest of the world, the VTR1000F was known as the FireStorm, but in America, it was the second coming of the Super Hawk. As in most families, though, a whole lot had changed between the time of the CB77 and the era of the VTR1000F.
This newest member of the flock drew some serious inspiration from the only other sporting V-twin in the bunch, the Hawk GT 650. The aluminum twin-spar frame and narrow, nimble, 90-degree sporting V-twin general layout clearly had their roots in the 650. Still, while you could definitely see that they were related, you’d never mistake one for the other.
This particular Super Hawk was, indeed, super—at least, according to motorcycle journalists who rode it at the time. Sure, it wasn’t destined for heavy track use, but ripping through the twisties on it was reportedly a genuine joy. Did this Super Hawk soar? It certainly sounds as though it did.
Bearing all that in mind, what will Honda bring us with the introduction of the Hawk 11? Thankfully, we won't have long to wait and see.