Motoart: Honda AX-1, an adventurer ahead of its time

Honda AX-1 illustration motorcycle art

Words & Illustration by: Cherie “Anyhowly” Tan

In 1987, Honda packed its signature indestructibility into a 249cc, liquid-cooled, 4 stroke, single cylinder dual-sport package, and trotted it out to a niche Japanese market. The AX-1 emerged as somewhat of an alien during an era when “adventure motorcycles” were massive Dakar-ready beasts and most other 250cc machines came 2-stroke. Our fathers probably thought it was a fat, ugly dirtbike, and our mothers wondered if it was an awfully slow street racer with aerodynamic issues.

Although the AX-1 enjoyed only a brief moment in the sun, with Honda quitting production in 1994, it actually boasted technology that put it toe-to-toe with today’s smaller dualsports. The AX-1 rolled out of the factory with alloy wheels, aluminium Pro-Link suspension, an electric starter, and a 6-speed gearbox for highway legginess of up to 140km/h. A 9 litre tank and modest fuel consumption of over 35km/l meant it could carry you at least 300km away from a zombie ambush at Caltex. At 133kg wet weight and punching out 29hp, its power-to-weight ratio trumps the 2013¬†CRF 250L, which weighs 147kg wet and puts out 23hp.

You might catch its larger cousin, the Dominator 650, on Singapore’s roads, but not for much longer. Still, the AX-1 is one sturdy little ninja that I wish had made it to our shores back in the day.

*edit: It seems that the AX-1 DID make it to our shores. A meagre handful were brought in direct from Japan, and at least one collector still garages a piece here. That’s incredible! Now, I’d love to watch a showdown between this rare classic and a CRF250L…

For more art by Anyhowly, visit anyhowly.com.


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