these shores in 1975, to be
followed by the Kl the following year. The latter had a wiper for the sight
glass and grease nipples for the drive-shaft splines, but otherwise the
machine was unchanged. The nipples were retro-fitted to the KOs by dealers.
In 1978 the K2 got snazzier
cosmetics and taper roller bearings in the steering head, but the engine was
not to change the whole time it stayed at one-litre capacity until the KZ of
'79 to '80. This got the black paint and gold pinstripe treatment plus the
new Comstars in place of the spokes. The exhaust turned to chrome and the
dummy tank changed configuration, with gauges set in a console at the front
The engine changed at last,
becoming 2bhp less powerful, at 78bhp, thanks to smaller carbs and softer
valve timing. Torque moved down the range and suddenly the bike was a
better, easier to use tourer.
The GL1100 of 1980 was basically
an overbored one litre, being bored out, with a strengthened crank and more
equipment. A De Luxe version also appeared in 1980, with fairing, panniers
and top box, which saved the aggro of fitting them yourself. Considering its
intended use, the G-L1000 was remarkable for its nakedness.
Faults and Quirks
Since this was Honda's first
attempt at a water-cooled four-stroke, they engineered it thinking of the
extreme temperatures and stress of an air-cooled engine. The result is that
they last forever. Don't be put off by high mileages since they really will
go on into six figures on the
milometer if they are looked
after. Happily, most owners tend to be older and richer and so look after
their bikes and spend what is necessary on them.
The three things to watch out for
are the exhaust system, the clutch and, on early models, the spoked wheels.
The black-painted pre-KZ model exhaust rusts within ten seconds, while the
latter chrome ones simply rot New systems are around £500, but aftermarket
ones can be had from people like Gazelle, in stainless steel, for about half
The clutch is down at the back of
the engine and hard to get at, but do listen to it carefully as early
clutches were overwhelmed by the power and they do slip.
For spoke-wheeled bikes it would
be well to check that they are all there and are straight since theirs is a
Obviously most bikes will be
fitted with some sort of touring gear, but equally obviously factory stuff
is better - although later GL1200 parts won't normally fit. If you get the
option, take one with Vetter. Pantera or Rickman accessories.
The American S&W rear shocks are
another welcome addition, as stock units were far from wonderful when new.
King 'n' Queen seats are not so welcome, but the stock seat is very average
for long-distance work.