History And Mystery Of The Honda V65 Magna - SUV VEHICLE

History And Mystery Of The Honda V65 Magna 


Summary

  • The V65 Magna was one of the fastest bikes of the ’80s with 116 HP & 125 MPH quarter-mile timing.
  • Magna’s theoretical top speed was 160 MPH but realistically hit 140 MPH due to traction issues.
  • The V65 Magna was criticized for its discomfort on long rides, vague steering, and poor fuel economy.



In 1983, Honda unveiled the VF1100C V65 Magna, a powerful cruiser that would define the muscle cruiser segment. It joined the already-existing V30 and V45 Magnas, but it was new from the ground up. A milestone in motorcycle design, merging the best parts of a sports bike and a cruiser. It was a monstrous V4 cruiser in the world of V-twins.

Harley-Davidson had been making cruisers for decades, but none broke the 100 MPH barrier, whereas Yamaha had just started dabbling in cruisers at the time. So none were as powerful as the V65. For the first time, one of the most powerful bikes in the world was a cruiser, with a laid-back riding triangle and lazy steering. The Big Red had a winner on their hands.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Honda and other authoritative sources, including Cycle World Magazine, Motor Trend, and Motorcycle Specs.


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One Of The Fastest Motorcycles Of Its Time

Power Output: 116 HP @ 7,500 RPM

The Honda V65 Magna used a 65ci, double overhead camshaft, V4 engine that delivered over 100 horses to the back wheel. It may not be much for 2024, but back in the 80s, that was superbike territory already! Such a power output made the V65 Magna one of the fastest motorcycles of the 80s; it had a sub-11 second quarter mile timing at 125 MPH. For reference, the 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 had a quarter-mile time of 11.2 seconds @ 121.3 MPH.

Theoretical Vs Practical Performance

The Guinness Book of Records listed the V65 Magna as the fastest production bike of the time with a top whack of 160 MPH. The story was a bit different in the real world, though. Cycle World Magazine’s test revealed the bike’s top speed as 140 MPH in the fifth gear. With barely any pull in the sixth (overdrive) gear, there was just no reaching that 160 mark on the road.


In other words, the V65 Magna was much faster in theory than in practice. Not everyone could pull such quarter-mile timings or top speed, thanks to its design. The tires never kept up with the power delivery, and the weight distribution didn’t help either. The front-to-rear weight bias of 45-55, plus the laid-back stance, pulled the front wheel up when the bike caught traction. All these things didn’t stop this bike from being a stop-light drag special for the owners, though.

Engine Highlights

  • Each pair of camshafts was driven from the center to the four-main bearing crank by a chain
  • Four valves per cylinder opened at a narrow 38-degree angle via screw-adjustment rockers
  • Straight-cut gears with a split gear on the crankshaft in the primary drive reduced lash and gear noise
  • Semi-slipper, diaphragm spring clutch allowed half of the plates to release during aggressive downshifting
  • Five-speed gearbox (with a sixth overdrive) was driven via two bevel gears and a shaft
  • 36mm Keihin CV carbs drew air from the airbox set in a recess cut into the fuel tank
  • An electric pump fed the secondary fuel tank tucked under the seat


Performance Specifications

Engine Type

Four-stroke, 90-degree V4, DOHC, liquid-cooled

Displacement

1,098cc

Bore x Stroke

79.5 x 55.3 mm

Compression Ratio

10.5:1

Power Output At The Wheel

100 HP @ 9,500 RPM

Torque Output

69.33 LB-FT @ 7,500 RPM

Standing Quarter-Mile

10.75 seconds @ 126 MPH

Top Speed

140 MPH in fifth gear

(Specs sourced from Motorcycle Specs and Cycle World)

The Best (Or The Worst) Of Both Worlds

Honda V65 Magna side profile
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The successors of the V65 Magna looked more like traditional cruisers. Yet, the V65 was anything but that. Yes, it featured a shaft drive that kept your denim clean, but other than that, cruiser elements didn’t work in its favor. It was either the best or the worst of both worlds, depending on your perspective. For owners, it was either a fast cruiser or a lazy performance bike.

For instance, the bike wasn’t comfortable for long journeys despite the laid-back stance. With your weight on your butt, you’d be sure to lose an inch of your height after a long ride. And when you dialed back the fully adjustable twin shock unit at the rear, you’d be met with shaft drive jacking. The ride comfort wasn’t what you’d expect from a cruiser.


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Things got worse the moment you started getting frisky in the twisties. The front was suspended on air-adjustable 41mm forks with an anti-dive unit, but the rake resulted in over four inches of trail. The lazy steering was made worse by the weight bias, meaning the front end was vague, and running wide in corners wasn’t uncommon for riders. The cornering clearance was limited, too, so say goodbye to your pricey leather boots.

The explosive acceleration came at yet another cost — fuel economy. At a sedate pace, you’d get good fuel economy. Ride it like it’s meant to be ridden, though, and the fuel economy would drop to low 30 MPGs. The V65 also lacked a fuel gauge or reserve; a low-fuel warning light was all you got. So owners found the fuel level the hard way by pushing the bike to the nearest gas station.

Model Highlights

  • TRAC anti-dive front suspension setup
  • Self-cancelling turn indicators
  • Gear position indicator (yet no fuel gauge!)
  • Honda Fiber Optic Integrated Lock (FOIL) anti-theft system
  • Taillight failure warning light (yet no fuel gauge!)
  • ComCast alloy wheels


Chassis And Dimension Specifications

Frame Type

Double down tube, full-cradle frame with tube/box-section steel swingarm

Front Suspension

Leading-axle, air-assisted 41mm forks with 5.9 in travel

Rear Suspension

Twin shock, fully adjustable, with 4.1 in travel

Front Brakes

Dual 270mm discs with twin-piston calipers

Rear Brake

Single 282mm disc with twin-piston caliper

Rake

30.3-degree

Trail

4.1 in

Wheelbase

62.8 in

Seat Height

31.6 in

Ground Clearance

5.9 in

Wet Weight

589 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcycle Specs)


The Start Of The Power Cruiser Segment

Production Years: 1983 to 1986

1986 Honda Magna V65 1100 side right shot
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The V65 Magna, even with its shortcomings, was a terrific motorcycle designed for the American market. The world may not be so interested in cruisers, but the American market was quite fond of this bike. Unfortunately, the V65 never swayed Harley-Davidson riders to ditch their American metal like Honda expected. Still, it found many lovers; some that still swoon over the Big Red power cruiser.

The Magna meant more for motorcycling than it did for Honda’s bottom line. It was the fastest cruiser of the time. Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles were 14-second bikes (quarter-mile timing) and barely crossed the ton. They also cost at least three grand more than the V65 Magna. For the lovers of speed, there wasn’t a cruiser better than the Magna. To no one’s surprise, the idea was picked up by Honda’s contemporaries as well.


Suzuki Madura: Equally Fast But Softer Cruiser

The first was the Suzuki GV1200GL Madura, a more laid-back and softly sprung offering than the Magna. In a straight line, it was an equal, but it had shortcomings everywhere else. It had a range of only 100 miles, the power delivery was abrupt, and the handling was super compromised. Think of it as being closer to a Harley-Davidson (albeit with more power) than the Magna.

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Yamaha V-Max: Mold-Shattering Power Cruiser

Then came the Yamaha V-Max — the sole survivor of the 80s power cruiser war. This one nailed down the formula, becoming the fastest and most powerful cruiser for years to come. This was Yamaha’s bullet of choice for the bull’s eye, the V65 Magna. The V-Max was brutally fast and intimidating even at a standstill; its eye-flattening acceleration made it an instant cult classic. The same can’t be said for the Magna or the Madura.


All in all, the V65 Magna had a bit of an identity crisis. It was a performance-oriented bike with lazy handling or an uncomfortable cruiser with an eager throttle. The imperfections didn’t matter for most owners, though. Honda sold the Magna units faster than it could manufacture them, outselling even the Sabre V65 and the VF1000F! So, let’s call it what it was: a reinterpretation of the cruiser segment. It set the groundwork for the Madura and the V-Max, and many other power cruisers that followed. A list that today includes the Ducati XDiavel or the Triumph Rocket 3.



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