Honda may be synonymous with cars, but they’ve also made some incredible motorcycles, including the V65 Magna, introduced in 1982.
A landmark design
The V65 was a power cruiser that could rival even the bikes being put out by Harley-Davidson. At the time, a cruiser with over 100 horsepower was unimaginable. While there were forward-leaning riders with a need for speed as well as casual cruisers, there wasn’t a bike that offered the best of both worlds.
Honda loved nothing more than putting a show-stopping motorcycle on the market. Their focus was as much about pushing the boundaries of design as it was a craving for recognition. Honda wanted to be known for their motorcycles, and the Magna was how they would get there.
Honda vs Harley-Davidson
Honda designed the V65 Magna with the American cruiser in mind, with the hope that this design would lead to market success. They also wanted to blow Harley-Davidson’s cruisers out of the water. While the standard Harley-Davidson of the time sat in the 14-second category and had a top speed of less than 100 mph, the V65 hit the 10’s and could reach speeds up to 125 mph. Not to mention, this impressive bike rang in for almost $3,000 less than a Harley.
The big reveal of 1982
Honda’s goal was to hit the market with a machine that would provide shock and awe, and the V65 Magna hit both marks. The first model boasted speeds of 80 mph, while the model released in 1983 nearly doubled that with top speeds of up to 150 mph!
Honda utilized a liquid-cooled V4 engine for the first few models which meant longer, smoother rides. This bike also featured a shaft drive, which meant quieter rides and a longer life (plus, it was much easier for riders to maintain).
Part of the success of the V65 comes from its V4 motor technology, the first of its kind since the Matchless Silver Hawk was for sale. The motor design allowed for impressive speeds, like completing a quarter of a mile in a mere 10.838 seconds. It was the fastest production motorcycle of its time.
Power Meets Cruiser
In the 1970s and 1980s, motorcyclists around the world favored the more comfortable cruiser models, but still craved the speed of racing bikes. Here is where the V65 Magna filled a hole in the market. This bike was designed for comfort, with foot pegs in front of the seat, pull-back handlebars (two features often associated with Harley-Davidson bikes), and higher speeds (over 100 mph).
New and improved fuel capacity
Riders could enjoy 43 miles per gallon, which was impressive considering the capacity of the tank. On average, riders could go 138 miles before needing to fill up. This wasn’t the best, but it suited the riders of the time.
Riders always want the most bang for their buck, and part of that means investing in a motorcycle with staying power. The Magna maintained great performance even after 100,000 miles, easily lasting for 30 or more years if well cared for.
The V65 Magna gets an upgrade: 1983-1986
The V65 was quick to see improvements like faster speeds and an overall stronger bike in 1983 which led to immediate sales success.
However, new tariff regulations for imports that hit in 1984 meant Honda had to change its engine design, dropping it back to 698cc.
But the lower cc engine design didn’t stop Honda from finding new ways to improve the V65. They increased the speed once more in 1985, making the bike a serious contender against models from BMW and Suzuki. Honda also reintroduced the chain drive, the most popular choice among riders (and often considered the most convenient).
1987-1992: enter the second generation
Honda had no plans to slow down on such a successful bike, emerging with an extensive redesign in 1987. This new model featured a larger wheelbase and tires, giving the bike an even more impressive presence.
Honda once again hit a snag in 1988 with the emergence of new tariff rules. Because of this, the Magna’s popularity plummeted, leaving Honda to temporarily pause production in 1989 while they brainstormed solutions.
1993: the Magna makes a comeback
Honda re-entered the motorcycle world with a bang, thanks to the Magna 750. Unlike its predecessors, this model only offered a five-speed transmission. This was disappointing to many riders who had come to love the six-speed of 1982.
This bike was more of a mash-up than a true original, combining elements of the VFR750, cruiser design, and chrome. It performed well and had a long life, but it was more expensive than other comparable bikes. The higher cost is one reason consumers turned to bikes from other companies that produced more affordable motorcycles.
2004: the end of an era
While Honda shifted its focus to other products due to the lack of interest from consumers for its more expensive motorcycles, the V65 Magna is still a highly regarded bike that changed the face of what a motorcycle could do. It’s the reason cruisers now offer both comfort and speed.