After setting a budget and getting company approval, the three hung posters at the R&D Center to recruit other participants. With twelve volunteers, they at last had a respectable project team. Now they could start building the motorcycle.
"We chose the Silver Wing, a large 400/600-cc scooter, as the base model," said Ono. "Instead of a large sport bike, which most lead motorcycles were made from, we wanted something that was easy to ride at marathon speeds and had a friendly exterior style that made marathon competition more inviting."
"To be honest, we underestimated," said Murayama. "There's a huge difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. As a Honda associate, I thought I already knew that, but I must have let my guard down somewhere."
The battery layout posed the greatest problem. To achieve their targeted cruising range of 80 km, or roughly twice the distance of a marathon, with current technologies they would need a total of 60 kg of batteries.
"We used the space where the engine and gasoline tank used to be, but that wasn't enough so we even used the luggage space underneath the rear seat," Murayama continued. "After much trial and error, Ikeda somehow managed to pack it all in. Balancing the bike felt like riding double with an elementary student on the back seat."
Ono said he paid particularly close attention to the accelerator control program.
"Riding for more than two hours at the same speed without stopping can be taxing on the rider. My goal was to come up with a control system that made the bike stable and easy to operate in the marathon speed range so the rider didn't have to work so hard."
As the electric motorcycle gradually took shape, there was one feature Ono was dying to make: a "running navigator."
"It's a system that uses GPS to accurately calculate distance and speed and displays the values in real time on a monitor mounted to the rear seat. GPS wasn't as common then as it is today, so it was a pretty revolutionary system at the time. Runners could keep track of their pace with this data and make necessary adjustments. A lead motorcycle equipped with this device wouldn't just point runners in the right direction; it would function as a real pace setter, maximizing their athletic potential."
This finishing touch would make their motorcycle the optimal tool for helping runners set new personal records. But setting a new world record would require a level of accuracy far beyond that of a conventional speedometer and odometer. That's why Ono developed a new system employing the latest GPS technology.
The team named their now complete electric bike the "Dream Queen."
"'Dream' is the most basic force that drives our actions. It also represents our dream to make a motorcycle that helps break the world record in marathon competition. 'Queen' comes from Q-chan, the nickname of long-distance runner Naoko Takahashi, who held the world record when we created the bike [smiling]."
The Dream Queen was tested in ekiden (long-distance relay) competitions held for Honda associates at the Sayama Plant and Suzuka Circuit from 2004, and finally made its official debut at the Tokyo Arakawa Marathon in 2006. Ono and another project member, Tomoyuki Okamoto, participated as riders.
"The developers should obviously be the ones to ride it," said Okamoto. "There are things you can find out only from real-world use, not testing. That, and police officers are only allowed to ride police vehicles for work, so when using the Dream Queen as a lead motorcycle, we were the only ones who could ride it."
From that time until spring of 2012, the Dream Queen led several marathon competitions a year.
"It's quiet and doesn't give off any fumes," said Okamoto. "The bike has built a good reputation among both athletes and spectators, who say they can focus on the competition better. It has also made participating in the marathon more meaningful for us riders, since we can hear the runners breathing and the sound of their feet on the pavement."
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