How to Identify Honda Motorcycles

Written by jillian o'keeffe Google
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How to Identify Honda Motorcycles
The VIN can be found on the frame of a motorcycle and used to identify the bike. (the chromeplated engine. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from

Honda motorcycles are generally split into categories such as cruisers, sports-bikes and tourers, and of course the classic motorcycles. Bikes built from 1981 onwards can be identified through the Vehicle Identification Number, where the Honda manufacturer will be specified, and older bikes can be identified through comparison with online catalogues by sight and comparison of specifications. Although the name of the bike may have worn away from the bodywork, the VIN is resistant to wear and should be legible, even on older bikes.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Pencil and Paper for rubbings if necessary
  • Internet

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  1. 1

    Inspect the motorbike to see if the make and model is still legible somewhere on the fuel tank, on the fairings (exterior plastic bodywork), or along the bodywork below the seat. Bikes usually have this information written in one of these places, but the writing can fade over time, in which case you'll have to get your hands dirty finding the Vehicle Identification Number.

  2. 2

    Clean off the VIN, which can be found on the frame or on the engine case of the bike. For motorbikes that appear to have been built after 1980, the VIN will be a 17-character code. If the VIN is visually unidentifiable, try placing paper over it and rubbing gently with a pencil to lift the characters. For bikes older than 1981, the VIN can be made up of 11 to 17 characters. Bikes built from 1970 to 1980 have a VIN that can be found on a tag on the frame. Older VINs are much less straightforward to decode than the newer, post-1980, VINs.

  3. 3

    See if there is a H in the second position of the 17-character VIN. This H signifies that the bike is definitely a Honda.

  4. 4

    Identify the year the motorbike was made by looking at the number or letter in the tenth position of the 17-character code. From 1980 to 2000, the code runs from an A to a Y. (I, O and Q are omitted for purposes of clarity). For bikes built from 2001, the character will be 1 onwards.

  5. 5

    Reference online motorcycle catalogues such as or by bike year. Compare the results to your motorcycle and you may get lucky and be able to identify the bike by sight. Good identifiers are style, such as cruiser or sports-bike, whether the bike has disc or drum brakes, and the suspension type used. Be aware that each model year may have come in different trims or editions.

  6. 6

    Use an online VIN decoder such as to decode the 17-character VIN. Simply input the VIN and the code will be broken up into decoded sections for you. The first character tells you where the bike was manufactured. For U.S. bikes, this will be a 1, a 4 or a 5. The third character is the make of bike. Characters four through eight will tell you the details of the bike such as body style or engine size. The ninth digit is a check number or the letter X to prevent VIN fraud. The tenth character is the year of manufacture. Character 11 denotes the assembly location. The final sequence of numbers refers to the production sequence of the bike, and is individual to each bike.

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