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Honda GL 650 Silver Wing Interstate
From the beginning,
Honda's CX500 defied stereotyping. Since its debut in 1978, this unusual
middleweight Vee has confounded those intent on pigeonholing the
bike—one-dimensional labels such as special, tourer or sport bike just don't
stick. The original CX was a multifaceted machine, a motorcyclist's
This year Honda has broadened the appeal of the CX/GL series by turning to a time-honored fix—increased engine displacement. A cursory inspection of the engine reveals little; the GL650 powerplant looks so much like the old CX500 engine you might think Honda added 177cc with a simple bore job. But the transformation required much more; although engine design remains unchanged, virtually all the 650's engine pieces are new. The GL still uses water-cooled, crankcase-integral, chrome-lined cylinders set in an 80-de-gree Vee, but Honda increased bore and stroke from 78.0 x 52.0mm to 82.5 x 63.0mm, taking displacement to 674cc.
To ensure reliability with the elevated power output, Honda engineers upgraded almost every engine component in the 650 series. They strengthened the big end of the connecting rods, the rod bolts, main bearings, cylinder studs, clutch and transmission, increased both the water- and oil-pump flow rates, and replaced the cam-driven radiator fan with a new electric, thermostatically triggered unit. The engine cases are all new, and a finned oil pan boosts oil capacity 0.9 quart to a total of 4.1 quarts.
Since the R&D people knew the extra displacement would practically ensure the
650 of better low-end and mid-range, they performed a mild hop-up job to
increase peak power as well. The four-valve heads still use a
cam-shaft-and-pushrod valve-actuation system, but the GL has more valve lift,
longer duration and more overlap than
The 32mm intake valves are one millimeter larger than before, though the exhaust valves still measure 27mm across. Honda dropped the compression ratio a touch, from 10.0:1 in the 500 to 9.8:1 in the 650, and engine redline has edged downward over the years from 10,000 rpm in the original CX to 9000 in the current model. A pair of 35mm accelerator-pump-equipped Keihin CV carbs replaces the 34mm CV pumpers used on the smaller V-twin. Honda moved the new carbs inboard a bit, straightened the inlet tracts slightly to improve intake flow, and enlarged the airbox.
Honda also altered the clutch and gear ratios to better suit the GL's new power characteristics. The primary reduction ratio is taller than the pairing in last year's GL500, but not as tall as the Turbo's. Like the CB1100F, the GL now uses a twin-gear clutch hub to reduce gear noise and backlash. The clutch holds one more steel plate and one more friction plate than the 500; additionally, to cope with the added loads, the clutch springs are 19 percent stiffer than last year's and all transmission gears are stronger than those in the 500 engine. While first through fourth gears use the same ratios as the pairings in the 500 Turbo, the gears are not interchangeable. The 650's overall gear ratios in first through fourth are a little lower than those in last year's Turbo, but a bigger jump between fourth and fifth gives the 650 an identical calculated top-end speed of 120 mph.
The 500 Vee never was a drag-strip terror, and though stirring the gearbox would extract a reasonable response for sport riders, the half-liter engine lacked the torquey grunt tourers demand. That's changed. The substantial displacement boost toughens the basic nature of the GL, and riders of all sorts will welcome the 650's extra punch. The GL pulls well down low and in most cases has enough mid-range oomph to pass on the freeway without a downshift. Our Silver Wing ran through the quarter-mile in 12.96 seconds at 99.55 mph, the best drag-strip performance we've obtained from a normally aspirated CX/GL. Still, the GL trails the leader of the 650 class, coming a slight wallow in very bumpy corners. The GL's steering feels remarkably light and responsive considering the bike's size: 515.5 pounds spread over a 58.9-inch wheelbase. Honda further improved the running gear by upgrading the tires from "S"-rated to "H"-rated items and replacing the old single-disc front brake with a dual-disc setup; the new brake provides plenty of stopping power with excellent feel and a linear response at the brake lever.
The GL's new suspension will please most riders—especially sport riders— but long-range purists may protest. Despite the fork's compliance, the new rear suspension is much less responsive than last year's; it gives a firm ride even when the shock is charged with minimal air pressure. Heavier (185-pound) testers did not object to the taut rear end; lighter (140-pound) riders thought it a little harsh for truly comfortable riding over extended periods. All riders, regardless of size, found fault with the Silver Wing's riding position. Though less radical than some of Honda's newest Specials, the GL does incorporate cruiser styling. The bar reaches back much too far for comfortable riding and bends at an awkward angle; the pegs sit too far forward to offer good support. Consequently, at freeway speeds the rider must use his back, shoulder and arm muscles to fight the wind—a losing battle. After coming a slight wallow in very bumpy corners. The GL's steering feels remarkably light and responsive considering the bike's size: 515.5 pounds spread over a 58.9-inch wheelbase. Honda further improved the running gear by upgrading the tires from "S"-rated to "H"-rated items and replacing the old single-disc front brake with a dual-disc setup; the new brake provides plenty of stopping power with excellent feel and a linear response at the brake lever.
Several small amenities help the GL maintain its role as a fine touring bike. The seat is padded and well shaped, and its fairly long front section allows the rider to shift position. When not holding a passenger, the rear portion of the seat can be replaced with a 15-liter (900-cubic-inch) tail trunk—having about the capacity of a medium-sized tank bag. Although too small for full-fledged touring, the little trunk does hold enough for an overnight trip, and it's great for carrying lunches, papers, small tools and other commuter-related items. A new seal on the lid improves water resistance, and the ignition key operates the trunk lock as well as the two helmet locks which fasten the trunk in place. For $88.95 you can nearly double your carrying capacity with an optional 28.5-liter trunk. It comes as standard-issue on the Silver Wing Interstate and is available through Hondaline.
Despite the increase in engine displacement and
carb size, our 650's average of 45.5 mpg nearly matched the GL500's 46.3 mpg;
the bike covers
about 200 miles between fill-ups. Our 650 always started readily on chilly
mornings, and the choke lever is located up by the instruments for easy access.
The GL carburets well, hot or cold, and is not fussy about gasoline. Honda
Source Cycle Guide 1983