Honda VF 1100C Magna V65
Honda's 1983 V65 Magna hit the street like a 600-pound chrome sledgehammer.
Americans had built a long-term relationship with horsepower and high style
on four wheels, but a motorcycle with acres of both was news. This
was more than a new model. The V65 made big muscle look cool. Thus the power
cruiser was born. "The best part of the V65," according to Cycle
magazine's March 1983 road test, " is a mid-range punch that would do
justice to Larry Holmes."
For street riders, the good news was Honda engineers made sure the bike was
easy to live with as well as fast. The four-cam, 16-valve V-4 cruised
through a daily commute as happily as it devoured drag strips. Around town,
the V65 was surpassingly agile for its size. A durable, diaphragm-type
hydraulic clutch modulated power to the shaft drive, and one-way sprag
clutch kept downshifts from chirping the rear tire. Anti-dive valving in the
41mm front fork helped stabilize the chassis under braking. An overdrive top
gear in the six-speed transmission kept the V-4 serene at freeway speeds.
Tired of cruising your hometown? Strap on some saddlebags and the Magna was
comfortable enough to cruise to some town three or four states away.
Honda builds a motorcycle mean enough for those
guys who are tough enough to dip your heart out with a wooden spoon
The term "Special" suggests highly styled
motorcycles that go limp wristed when it's time to perform. But the V65 is a
urban streetfighter through and through, a bike that can kick almost anything
flat in a stoplight to stoplight brawl.
To a man, the cycle staff raved about the engine.
With its wonderfully potent and flexible powerplant, this big four is a strong
and willing worker that hums along happily at 1500 rpm or sings fortissimo at
the 10,000 rpm redline. The best part of the V65 is a mid range punch that would
do justice to Larry Holmes. Whack the throttle open at 5000 rpm in first gear
and the front wheel claws for the sky while the Magna catapults forward. These
antics are interesting enough when you’re mounted on an open class motocrosser
but when a 589 pound motorcycle with a wheelbase of nearly 63 inches takes off
like a carrier based F-14, it gets your full attention.
The V65 benefits from Honda's extremely compact
Vee engine design; at 17.4 inches, the 1100's engine is barely an inch wider
than the narrow 750 V four. The Magna’s 90 degree Vee angla sets the two front
cylinders low and nearly horizontal, while the rear cylinders stand almost
vertical. This right angle configuration produces perfect primary balance, and a
short stroke limits secondary imbalances.
Except for the size increase, the 1100's top end
appears identical to the V45's. The cylinders are an integral part of the upper
case half, making the entire unit rigid. The liners are cast in freestanding
cylinders--the cylinders and jackets are not connected to any sort of webbing.
Each pair of cylinders has a set of dual overhead camshafts to actuate the valves. The cams spin directly in the cylinder head material in a plain bearing setup. A single cam lobe acting through a forked follower equipped with screw type adjusters actuates each valve pair. A silent type cam chain drives each set of cams, and an automatic chain tensioner eliminates maintenance chores.
Straight cut gears transfer the power from crank
to clutch, the clutch gear a split, zero backlash type to damp out gear whine.
The clutch itself is hydraulically operated, an enlarged version of, the VT750 V
twin's rather than an upscaled version of the V45's. The, V65's diaphragm clutch
spring and clutch plates are larger in diameter than the VT750's, and the 1100
holds two more plates than the Shadow. The diaphragm spring clutch is more
rugged than one of conventional design fitted in the same space. Considering the
abuse the V65 is likely to absorb during streetfights, the diaphragm spring
setup is indeed a good idea. As an anti-lockup device during downshifting, the
V65's clutch like the V twin's houses a one way sprag clutch.
The Magna carries its engine in a full cradle
frame equipped with an air adjustable, anti dive fork. Twin shocks adjustable
for rebound and compression damping as well as spring preload grace the rear.
The 1100's wheelbase, a whopping 62.8 inches long, is less than a half inch
under a Gold Wing's. This figure, combined with the V65's rake and trail of 30.3
degrees and 4.1 inches, suggests the Magna might be cumbersome and slow
steering. Not true. Around town and in 'parking lots the V65 handles just fine.
The VF1100 feels distinctly long and unmistakably big, yet it requires only average steering effort through the handlebar. The 31.6 inch high seat is not especially low, but the Honda still feels fairly agile for an 1100. Honda engineers have done much to keep the weight low in the bike-the basic engine design, of course, is instrumental. her features such as the small under saddle gas tank contribute as well. Actually, styling trimmed the main tank's volume, and the V65's under tank airbox and filter also steal space from he main tank. The under seat tank and it’s fuel pump were the answer.
Following Special styling, the rider's portion of
the two tiered seat is wide and well padded, although the steep step confines
the pilot's space. While most riders will find it adequate for in town trolling,
passengers get shortchanged; their pegs are too high, and the narrow, firm rear
portion of the seat has the comfort of a bird cage bar.
Arm, back and stomach muscles must position him
against the windstream. This sort of onboard isometrics is no sweat for short
hops. After 30 minutes though especially if you're riding at supra legal speeds
you'll feel as though you’ve been working overtime at your Nautilus club.
Although long legged riders can use the passenger pegs for, a brief change in
position, the reach back leaves their legs nearly folded double in the process.
Shorter riders can't reach the rear pegs at all. For them, a radical forward
crouch proves most effective, though it places their torsos at an awkWard angle
and their faces mere inches from the handlebar. Short of changing the
bar/seat/peg relationships, the best remedy is to ride in half hour spurts.
The up and down torque reaction of shaft driven bikes forces manufacturers to make trade offs when selecting rear suspension components. Typically, light spring and damping rates provide a soft, cushy ride at the expense of backroad handling, while a taut, well damped rear suspension makes fast riding easier and steadier at the expense of slow cruising comfort. Adjustable shock damping and air adjustable springing usually provide an effective, albeit expensive, compromise that gives a rider latitude in setting his bike up for specific tasks.
The Magna's rear shocks have state of the art
adjustability: two way adjustable compression damping and four way adjustable
rebound damping. The springing is not air adjustable, and Honda engineers
selected spring rates that are decidedly stiff. Our heavier (185 pound) testers
found the rear end firm, but acceptably soft for freeway cruising when the
springs were set at minimum preload. Lighter testers found the ride stiff and
harsh, and the riding position tends to exacerbate this assessment. The
reclining riding position centers most of the rider's weight back toward the
tailbone, and every bump and seam in the road transfers a sharp jolt directly to
the rider's spine.
Honda's FOIL ant theft System uses an integrated
cable alarm setup, if the cable is cut, the alarm sounds. Cable fits neatly in
the tail compartment.
On twisting roads as well as around town, the 1100 requires only a moderate amount of steering effort. Nice. However, when you're busting along hard on curvy roads, the Magna feels disconcertingly vague through the handlebar. Several factors may contribute to this feeling. First, the V65's seat and controls push the rider's weight more rearward than on a sporting bike. On a sport bike a frisky riding pilot naturally moves himself even more forward than normal, applies weight to the bars, and rides with the balls of his feet on the pegs. It's an active riding position. In fast going the Magna's more passive position does little for rider confidence. Our staffers didn't like the bar - we felt as if we were steering the V65 with a tiller. Second, the V65's percentage of weight distribution (dry and unladen) is 45 front/55 rear (the CB1100 F's is 49 front/51 rear), and it's reasonable to assume that the V65 rider would bias that distribution even more toward the rear - though what makes the front tire stick in corners is more complex than where the weight is.
Third, the V65 engine punches so hard out of corners that the front end naturally will feel light under acceleration. And there's nothing like horsepower to quicken up the steering of any bike. In more practical terms, you'll have to go riding with your friends and their full sporting 1100s only once to decide you won't clean up on them when the roads get twisty.
The Magna's brute torque and mile wide power
spread make the bike a joy to ride. With a little deft clutch work, the VF will
idle away from a dead stop, even carrying two riders, without so much as a blip
of the throttle. That's low end torque! Still, the engine revs readily up to
redline, and it's all too easy to send the tach needle deep into the red zone
because the bike runs so smoothly. When you cruise the 1100 in freeway traffic,
everybody else seems to be poking along, clogging the road at a snail's pace.
But a quick glance at the instruments explains the situation; thanks to the tall
gearing, strong engine and smooth ride you're cruising at 80 mph or more. Riders
must make a conscious effort to observe the legal limit. Passing in top gear is
effortless, but if you want to swoop by cars with authority, dropping down to
fifth or even fourth delivers passes in an eye blink or two.
A It up tank provides access to the air filter.
Working conditions are cramped. The paper filter requires changing only every
Our Magna started easily on chilly mornings, and the handlebar mounted choke lever is conveniently located for left hand adjustment. The Honda runs happily after minimal warm up and carburets well, hot or cold, under all engine conditions.
The hydraulic clutch actuating setup eliminates
any need for lever adjustment, and gives good clutch engagement and feel. Clutch
pull is moderately stiff, considerably stiffer than the VT750's.
This king size Magna exhibits some bothersome driveline snatch. Gearplay in the drive train, combined with the CV carb's tendency to snap the carb slides open and closed, accentuates the Magna's low speed jerk and lurch routine. Long stints of stop and go traffic become irksome, and in congested, slow moving traffic, riders can skirt the problem by shifting to a higher gear and idling along slowly.
The Magna has a number of attractive standard
features. They include an LCD gear position indicator, microprocessor controlled
self cancelling turn signals, and FOIL, Honda's built in security cable/alarm
system. Last year, FOIL was the exclusive feature of the V45 Sabre. We think the
V65's engine and its streetfighter styling make the King Kong Magna
motorcycling's prime candidate for Midnight (and sometimes Daylight) Liberation
Forces. Honda's fiber optic security cable is pretty innovative and probably
offers as much protection as one can reasonably expect.
The 65's power is irresistible. The 1100 Vee would make an ideal starting point for a full fledged, pavement ripping sport bike; and while the VF750F Interceptor is a gorgeous piece, the 750 can't have 1100 punch. You have to wonder how many ways Honda can find to use the V65. A VF1100F is an obvious possibility, and the 1100's broad powerband, six speed gearbox, driveshaft and excellent vibration control also make the V65 a wonderful platform on which to build a full dresser. But for now, Honda has taken its premier performance engine to the streets to create a stoplight to stoplight blockbuster extraordinaire.