Honda builds a motorcycle mean
enough for those guys who are tough enough to dip your heart out
with a wooden spoon.
Don't be deceived. The 1100 Magna is not just another Special.
Writing off the V65 as simply another boulevard parade float is
like calling a 10 inch switchblade a pocket knife. It's true,
but misses the point entirely. The term "Special" suggests
highly styled motorcycles that go limp wristed when it's time to
perform. But the V65 is a urban street fighter through and
through, a bike that can kick almost anything flat in a
stoplight to stoplight brawl.
What makes this Special so special? In a word, the engine.
If you talk horsepower, the Magna speaks your language. Its horsepower
translates directly into an immediate gut wrenching rush unmatched by any other
production'. street machine. 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.
Honda built the V65 engine with technology carried over from the V45, but
the big Magna has all new hardware,. it shares no parts with the 750s. Though
the designs are virtually identical, everything has been scaled to 1100cc specs.
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 angle 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
Finally, to ensure the 1100 Magna's smoothness Honda completely rubber mounted
the engine Within the full cradle frame, following the practice of last year's
750s. End result: a monster engine that's a pussycat to live with.
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.
The highly over square 79.5 by 55.3mm engine displaces 1098cc. Like the 750s, the
1100 uses a high 10.5:1 compression ratio; it also incorporates similar
anti-detonation features: water cooling to lower combustion chamber and exhaust
valve temperatures, a swirl inducing intake tract that promotes quick burning of
the fuel/air charge, and a carefully shaped combustion chamber that concentrates
most of the charge near the spark plug to promote rapid flame travel. The 1100's
30mm intake and 26mm exhaust valves sit in their four valve head at a narrow 38
degree included valve angle the V45's intake and exhaust valve diameters are
26mm and 23mm respectively.
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 upscale 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 street fights, 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.
Vertically staggered transmission input and output shafts
reduce overall engine length; the output shaft lies below and aft of the input
shaft. Honda's six speed gearbox is unusual for an 1100cc bike. Because the V
65's gear box was designed as a "five speed plus overdrive sixth transmission;"
top gear is really tall; calculated top speed in sixth works out to 173 mph at
the 10,000 rpm redline. At 60 mph the engine loafs along at 3460 rpm. Final
drive is via a maintenance free shaft.
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.
Once the rider enthrones himself in the saddle, the
pullback handlebar and the forward mounted foot pegs define his position. The
pegs aren't as radical as the VT750C Shadow's, and that's good for comfort and
control ' Given the V65's eyeball flattening acceleration, a riding position
mimicking a tipped back rocking chair would be dangerous. The forward mounted
pegs are convenient if you’re paddling the V65 around a parking lot, and while
the bar has two way adjustability, it has, too much pullback to please our
Although the riding position may be a strong selling point
on the showroom floor and a viable stance for stoplight to stoplight warfare,
the bike's ergonomics offer the rider very little support, at freeway speeds.
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.
In a somewhat surprising move, Honda equipped the VF1100
with suspension components biased for sport riding. 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 back road 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.
For back road riding, Honda's choice of sporting shocks
pays off handsomely. Set up stiffly, the VF's suspension damps well over all
types of road surfaces, from fast sweepers to slow, knotty corners; however, the
air adjustable fork flexes perceptibly when winding through unusually bumpy
sweepers. The Magna's triple disc brakes offer excellent feel and stopping
power, and the anti dive valving effectively preserves ground clearance during
simultaneous braking and turning. The 1100 offers a good amount of ground
clearance, and the stiff rear end does a good job of controlling the shaft
drive's up and down motions. The stylishly wide tires put a big patch of rubber
on the road.
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
We paid for our right handed excesses with mediocre
mileage results. Steady cruising netted figures in the Iow 40 mpg range, but our
average fuel consumption rate worked out to an un-spectacular 36.1 mpg. The low
fuel warning indicator, which lights up when only 0.8 gallon remains in the 4.5
gallon tank, usually winked on after about 135 miles, giving the rider about 30
miles to find a gas station; the Magna has no reserve capacity.
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.
The six speed gearbox is a wonderful luxury though not
really necessary, thanks to the broad power band and smooth engine. The 700 rpm
drop in engine speed between fifth and sixth gears at 60 mph is welcome for
straight line cruising. The gearbox proved a reluctant shifter, especially when
the engine was cold; slow, deliberate shifting is the best way to combat this
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 street fighter 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.
For sheer visceral attraction, nothing beats the 1100
engine. By far, it's the V65's best feature, and motorcyclists who buy the V65
on looks will quickly find themselves enchanted by the 1100's performance. 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 power band, 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.