Interview with Masanori Aoki.
As Large Project Leader (LPL) on the Valkyrie Rune, Masanori Aoki was
challenged to make a personal and professional odyssey of sorts.
Originally a specialist in Honda sport bikes, Aoki brought to bear those
high-performance tricks of the trade while designing the new-generation
Gold Wing, the GL1800, which has more sporting appeal and ability than
most people ever imagined possible.
Armed with such an intimate knowledge of F6 design and production, he
was called upon to work his engineering sleight-of-hand once more with
the Rune, producing a machine the likes of which has never been
attempted. How did Aoki accomplish that task? That's exactly what we
Usually new models begin with an engineering design, but the Valkyrie
Rune design was created from an HRA prototype model. Has Honda ever done
this before, starting with a styling model?
There were some production machines that started with styling models
but the Rune is the first model that reproduced the original design
fully and faithfully.
What other vehicles did the Rune/T2 mock-up remind you of?
Because the Rune/T2 mock-up is a new design with a full measure of
originality, no other motorcycles come to my mind. When I think about
automobiles, however, it brings the images of American cars from the
1940s and 1950s.
What did you think as an engineer when you were first assigned to
create a running replica of a styling design? Did this process seem
To be honest with you, I thought it would be impossible to
mass-produce the product without changing the styling design. It was
just too radical of a design. And yes, as an engineer I thought the
process was completely backward; we've never seen anything like this
With the sport bikes you've worked on and even the GL1800, you
probably began the projects with a certain engineering mindset. How did
you approach the Rune assignment, which was styling oriented above all?
Since there were no distinct function or performance goals that had
to be met, we were free to focus on capturing the styling and design
from the mock-up. That included all elements such as the location of the
front and rear tires, and the location, position and dimension of the
To that end, we had to spend a significant amount of time creating a
clay model to maintain the original design. Also, we had to incorporate
11 new technological and production methods to achieve our goals-that's
a significant amount of new production technology.
Was it easy for you to relate to the Rune/T2 from the start, or did
you have a time when you finally embraced the concept in full?
Honestly speaking, when I first saw the T2, I said to myself, "Are we
really going to produce a motorcycle like this?" It was pretty wild
looking. But when I attended the Cycle World motorcycle show held in
Long Beach and saw the reaction from the customers on a first-hand
basis, I completely grasped the concept.
We were hoping that the T1 mock-up would be most popular because
new-model development had already begun based on the T1.
Frankly speaking, people at the show who saw the T2 mock-up expressed
a most unusual degree of excitement. In fact, the customer response was
so strong it was difficult for many Japanese to understand such
The T2 was nearly four times more popular than any of the other
designs-far and away the overwhelming favorite. I remember how one
person even said, "I will bring $30,000 in cash, so please sell it to me
How did your experience with the GL1800 help you with the Rune
During the development time I spent in preparation for the GL1800, I
learned how Americans enjoy riding motorcycles.
The Rune has similar aspects such as "enjoying the appearance" and
"enjoying the exhaust sound" besides the more measurable aspects of a
motorcycle such as accelerating, stopping and going around curves.
Our understanding is that the Rune exhaust system was one of the more
difficult challenges to overcome. Why was this so, and how did you solve
The styling design had already been decided, and the short length
posed a potential problem with exhaust pipe volume.
Also, we wanted the Rune to have a distinctive exhaust sound that was
a reflection of the bike's visual image. So we had to design a unique
silencer, and we changed things in the exhaust collector.
Also, to achieve the complex shape of the muffler end cap, we
employed the lost-wax casting technique, a manufacturing method
typically not used in the motorcycle industry.
But when I look at the production version of the Rune, I can smile
and know that all the work was worth it in the end.
Courtesy of Hondanews.com