The One Year Wonder (And Why)

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When it was new, the ’83 Honda GL650 Silverwing Interstate seemed like a sure-bet winner. The basically identical GL500 had been successful for several years prior and before the GL, there had been the CX – the first of the series to use the transverse “twisted” 80 degree pushrod V-twin, which was (being a Honda) a better-engineered, better-built and more potent loose copy of Moto Guzzi’s engine of similar layout.

The only real complaint leveled at the GL500 Interstate – the touring version of the GL Silverwing, with suitcase-style hard bags and a full fairing just like the Goldwing’s – was that the 500 cc twin could maybe use some more power.

The GL650 provided exactly that – plus some more besides.

For starters, the updated twin had more CCs – 673 of them, despite the “650” badges on the engine cases – and 64 hp vs. 50 for the 500 cc twin. But this wasn’t just a quickie bore and stroke job. The “650” CC engine was completely re-engineered to handle the higher power output. The connecting rods, rod bolts and main bearings were all upgraded. Cylinder studs are beefier. A finned, bolt-on oil pan was added to increase total oil capacity to 4.1 quarts. The intake valves in the “650’s” heads are larger – though exhaust valve diameter remains the same.

The cooling system got a thermostatically triggered electric fan while improvements to the case design made servicing the water pump much easier. There was also a new maintenance-free automatic cam chain tensioner system.'83GL650

A new cam profile with increased lift and duration brought the power peak down to a more accessible 8,000 RPM vs. 9,000 RPM in the 500. Compression was actually lowered a bit – to 9.8:1 from 10:1 – but the four-valve head and all-alloy construction let this engine run happily on 87 octane regular unleaded. It was easy on gas, too. Hard to get less than 50 MPG, no matter how hard you rode it.

Though subtle, the differences between the 500 CC engine and the new “650” could be discerned before you even started it up.

First, the engine was painted semi-gloss black while all 500 CC engines left the factory in natural aluminum. A closer look turned up other points of departure. For example, the shape of the cam covers; the “650’s” are unique to this engine. Also, the intake tubes are different; they’re shorter – and straighter – designed to improve flow. The airbox is larger, too. And the carbs. The “650” received a pair of 35 mm Keihin CVs vs. the 500’s 34 mm units.

The “650” also has a new-design transmission with different ratios that help it get slightly better gas mileage than the 500 – despite the extra displacement and additional 14 hp.

Other updates/differences that distinguish the one-year-only 1983 GL650 include larger diameter 37 mm front forks (500s had 35 mm forks) and higher-rate springs, along with steel frame tubes that were bigger and stronger than the ones used for the 500s.

That’s the history. What about The Experience?

After about 10,000 miles of seat time on my personal GL650 – and having ridden a friend’s GL500 for comparison – I can report as follows:

The first thing you notice is how light the bike is. It has a curb weight just over 500 pounds, or not much more than a current-year standard without any fairings at all – and hundreds of pounds less than a new Goldwing. It’s an easy bike to “walk” in close confines, such as trying to fit it into a spot in your garage. And it is an easy bike to ride at a fairly aggressive pace, too – if you want to do that. Though you sit high in the saddle, you can still squeeze the tank between your legs, shift your weight down onto the pegs and heel the thing over to fairly aggressive lean angles. The limiting factor here is clearance – which you’ll run out of long before you exceed the bike’s safe limits.

But sparking the pegs can be fun, too!

The suspension features air-assist on both ends – with Honda’s Pro Link monotube shock in the back. After some experimenting, I settled on about 15 psi in the front forks and 60 psi in the rear as the optimum combo for my weight and comfort level. The thing is, you can easily tailor this bike’s settings to your size and preferences – all without any tools (other than an air supply). Some road tests from “back in the day” say the 500s rode softer/nicer than the supposedly stiffer “650’s.” I didn’t notice this. My guess is it comes down to “tuning” more than anything else.

The big difference – the noticeable difference – is power. And how that power is delivered. The “650” is much stronger feeling, both off the line and in the middle ranges – though the 500 has a higher redline and seems to enjoy being spooled up a bit more than the “650” does. For a larger rider like me, however, the extra power makes the “650” a much more enjoyable ride. For two-up riding, the “650’s” additional 14 hp is arguably essential. It not only accelerates better, you have the extra margin to safely pull out and pass at say 60 MPH – and reserves enough to comfortably maintain 75 mph (essential for any serious highway work nowadays) with the tach reading about 5,000 RPM – a bit more than halfway to redline at 9,500.

The 500 is a great bike but 500 CCs and 50 hp is marginal for two – or even one, if the rider is someone like me who weighs 200 pounds or more.

Which is why it’s so surprising – so sad – that this much-improved Silverwing turned out to be a one-year-only deal. It has the power – and the legs – to operate as a long-distance tourer. Yet it it also nimble enough (and economical enough) to serve as a commuter, too.

So, what happened?

Uncle Sam clipped the Honda’s ‘Wings. And everyone else’s too – if you happened to not be Harley Davidson, that is. In ’82, Harley was on the way out. It had filed for bankruptcy protection – which it needed because Honda and other Japanese imports were eating HD’s overpriced (and much less reliable) lunch. Imports had captured 60 percent of the domestic “heavyweight” motorcycle market; by 1982, this had jumped to a staggering – for Harley – 69 percent.

In stepped The Gipper to save HD – by punishing the Japanese.

And consumers.

Import duties on Japanese bikes were jacked up to a confiscatory 45 percent in – you guessed it – 1983, the year the GL650 was introduced. New Japanese bikes got more and more expensive; inventories began to stack up. It saved Harley – but it killed the ‘Wing. Honda cancelled the bike – no doubt in part because of the “Harley Law” that made it increasingly uneconomic to manufacture it. The high tariff erased the bike’s former price advantage, which in turn made all the improvements Honda made essentially moot.

The main beneficiary of the kick-in-the-balls tariffs – other than Harley Davidson – turned out to be people like me who acquired a used ’83 ‘Wing many years later. The RR-era tariff penalty was long gone – paid by the unfortunate original purchaser. But the bulletproof ‘Wings outlived the Gipper – and most of the Harleys built during those years, too.

Many are still out there today – 30 years later and still going strong.

One of them is sitting in my garage, right now… .

. . .

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  1. I had a 1978 CX500 which was one of the best bikes I ever owned. I installed a Windjammer fairing onto it, which was great. I also installed a rear rack with a top case In 1982, I took it on a 5,200 mile trip over five weeks. I had this bike loaded, with tools, camping gear, the works. It was pretty top-heavy but never missed a beat. Over the years I owned it, the only problems I had were the cooling fan (which was connected to the camshaft) broke, a cam chain tensioner needed to be replaced and the bushings in the rocker arms and the rocker arm shafts wore out. This last problem might have been my fault for using the same cheap oil in the bike as I used in my car. I sold it with over 45,000 miles on it when I bought a 1983 BMW R80RT, and I immediately had some regrets. I love the BMW, but the CX500 was quieter and smoother. With hindsight, at times I wish I’d bought a SilverWing, but the legendary reliability and durability of the BMW is what moved me over to a BMW. I think a SilverWing with a sixth gear would be the perfect bike for me.

  2. So how did the tariff kill the bike when it is 674cc and the tariff ONLY applied to bikes over 700cc? So there was no tariff on a 650.

    • Several of us have already discussed this at length. The CX&GL650 were killed off by the worldwide recession in the early ’80s that almost killed off the motorcycle industry, which was also what led to the Harley tariff being imposed.

        • True. My comments about the errors in the article go back at least 7 years and there may be some earlier ones as well. One would think that Eric has enough information by now to re-write the article with the needed corrections.

          Unless he is hoping that what he said will become true if it is on the internet long enough…..

  3. I first read this article maybe three years ago. Just this year, I was lucky enough to find a GL650 Interstate with 41k miles in very good condition locally on CL. What sealed the deal was that after I had test-ridden the bike, I found a cam chain tensioner on Ebay for $45 to keep on hand (I don’t mean to rub this in for you guys searching for one – just keep searching Ebay). I thought that the asking price of $1,900 was fair and I paid it. I like the bike a lot. There are two things I hope I can improve. First, when I take a sweeping turn at over 70mph the bike becomes unstable. I don’t know if this is due to the fairing reacting badly in the wind, or some fork problem. Secondly, with the Hondaline crash bars, there does not seem to be a good option for mounting highway pegs. Any suggestions would be appreciated. But I am very pleased with my purchase.

    • Hi Will,

      First, congratulations!

      Second, the instability in cornering should not happen. My bike does not do that. Several things to check:

      Fork air pressure (use a bicycle pump to add, if need be).

      Fork alignment (note height of individual fork tube in relation to triple tree). Sometimes, inadequate tightening of the tree bolts that secure the fork tubes allows one tube to ride higher or lower than the other.

      Tire balance/tire cupping.

      You may also have a worn steering head bearing or springs in the forks.

      If it were my bike, I’d do a front end rebuild – which will encompass all those things – just because I’m OCD and like to know everything’s right before riding an older bike!

      • I agree but first check the date codes on the tires. Old tires (even ones that look & feel good) can cause handling problems.

        And join cx500forum so you can learn how to keep it safe & reliable.

        • Well-said, Bob – hat tip!

          Another thing to check: The rubber cushions/biscuits used to mount the fairing to the bike. If these are worn out or missing, it can cause the fairing to vibrate/wobble at high speed and that oscillation could trigger the front end issue the poster mentioned.

  4. I have a 83 gl 650 wing with 6458 miles
    Sr# o874 gray it has lived most of it’s life in garage. Caught in rain only twice. How can I sell it for the most money owned it 30 year’s.
    Survive 2 marages.

    • Hi Bill,

      Neat bike! The low mileage and condition do make it more valuable, but keep in mind these aren’t considered particularly historic/collectible bikes (at least not yet) so you probably shouldn’t expect to get a huge sum for it. These bikes generally go for in the neighborhood of $2,000-$3,000 in very good condition, with mileage around 25-50k or so.

      I bought mine, with about 12,000 miles, for $2,000 about six years ago.

      If yours is in near-perfect museum condition (looks brand-new, not just “nice” – as if it just left the factory, with perfect paint, all absolutely no rust or pitting, perfect chrome and rubber, virtually no signs of wear or use, etc.) I’d say you might be able to get $5k or so for it because of the extremely low miles. But it’s probably more realistically worth around $3,500.

      Of course, it can’t hurt to ask for more and see what happens.

      The key thing to getting the best price is not being in a hurry. If you have time to sell, list it for what you think is fair and see whether anyone bites. If not, you can always lower the price.

      I’d try the following:

      Hemmings Motor News (they have a “cycles” section)
      Craigs List
      Cycle Trader

  5. I disagree with two of your assertions.
    First, “The basically identical GL500 had been successful for several years prior…”. Several years? No, unless the definition of “several” means “two”. The GL500 was introduced for the 1981 model year.

    Second, “Import duties…killed the ‘Wing. Honda cancelled the bike – no doubt in part because of the “Harley Law” that made it increasingly uneconomic to manufacture it. The high tariff erased the bike’s former price advantage, which in turn made all the improvements Honda made essentially moot.”
    False! The tariff increase in 1983 affected large highway motorcycles with an engine displacement of more than 700 cubic centimeters. The GL650 was NOT subject to the increased tariff. In fact, one could make the argument that the tariff should have actually helped Honda sell more GL650s than they did. The true cause was the US economy, which saw recessions in 1981 and 1982. Sales of Japanese motorcycles of all displacements fell from about 325,000 units in 1983 to about 192,000 units in 1987, a decline of 133,000 units, or 41%. During the same time period, Harley sales rose by about 7,000 units, from about 27,000 to about 34,000 machines. The small gain in Harley sales didn’t come close to offsetting the large decline in overall motorcycle sales.

    • I have already addressed everything you said (see my comments below from a couple of years ago). You are absolutely correct except for one detail: It wasn’t just the US economy that tanked. There was a worldwide recession that affected nearly every country that had an economy of any sort and the effects were still being felt long after ’82. And since motorcycles are largely luxury items sales fell to record lows everywhere. Here in Canada brand new ’83 and ’84 models were still being sold as late as ’87 and often at prices lower than the intended wholesale cost because the importers and dealers needed to divest themselves of non-current inventory.

      Because of that it is hard to say how much effect the “Harley Law” actually had on sales and how much of the decrease was because of lingering effects of the recession but one thing is known for sure: The Japanese manufacturers didn’t just roll over and cease selling all models over 700cc in the US. Several built new manufacturing facilities in the US or expanded existing ones so that the large touring bikes that were in direct competition with Harley could be produced in the US, bypassing the tariff. They also continued to manufacture 750cc models for the rest of the world while exporting strangled 700cc versions to the US, again bypassing the tariff.

  6. Hi All
    I own a 1983 Honda GL650 Silverwing Interstate Limited edition and I love it. I have owned the bike for about two years now and before that it belonged to my brother who had it for about 8 years and before that it belonged to a friend of ours who unfortunately is no longer with us and he left the bike to my brother. Our friend had the bike from new, so we know the whole history of the bike which is great and it has a lot of sentimental value to me. Its been riding like a dream however now I have a bit of a problem with it. I was riding it to work the other day and all of a sudden it started to make this horrible rattle noise from the engine, but it did not lack in power at all. I pulled over and the right side of the engine cover had a light spray of oil over it. I stopped riding immediately and had the bike recovered to a friend place who knows the bike in side out. They opened the engine and discovered that the Cam Chain Tensioner had exploded and is irreparable. For the past two weeks I have been hunting for one but to no avail. Honda informed me that the part is discontinued. I have been in touch with David Silver who also told me that they have not come across that part for many a year.
    I was hoping to get in touch with as many people as I possibly can in the bike world to see if anybody knows of anybody who may have one available.
    I really don’t want this lovely bike to be off the road just because of this one part.
    Any help or advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Eagerly awaiting all replies.

    • Advice? Maybe only as good as the price in this case, but I can suggest some places to look. Facebook has a forum page for 650’s, both CX and GL. Bob’s Used Motorcycle parts in Phoenix (there are two, one Harley only, and the other has everything else — everything) Two days ago there was one on eBay, with a timing chain included.
      Bob’s will charge you wrench time if they are willing to pull it, and that puts the price into the hundreds of dollars.
      You might try the UK “spare” parts folks, they had the GL 650 a lot longer than we did in the US. Cosmetics are different, slightly, but the mechanics have not changed.

      Hope I helped.

      • Thanks for the info, Karl!

        If the original poster writes me back, I may be able to help… I have a bunch of GL650 parts in the garage… used to have a spare engine, too.

      • I think the camchains are still available through Honda. The camchain guide & tensioner blade are NLA but one of the fellows on the forum has been working with David Silver Spares to have them made (he already helped them start producing the ones for the CX/GL500). The tensioner that pushes against the blade is another story. There was something on the forum about them recently but I can’t remember if they were being sold now or someone was working on it. At any rate, a forum with hundreds of members is probably your best bet for information and used parts that you can’t get locally, not to mention some new items Honda didn’t think of like adapters for spin on oil filters…

  7. I keep finding this page while Googling stuff and I keep finding more errors. You say
    “and some bigger things like the 650 having a more car-type water pump while the 500s have a friction seal thing (that’s much harder to change out).” but the 650 has exactly the same water pump under exactly the same cover on the back of the engine.

    Also, it has been bugging me for a while that you refer to the GL6 50 as a “one year wonder” when they were, in fact, produced for 2 years (’83 & ’84)

    BTW: I put something like 45,000 Km on my GL500, mostly pulling a sidecar in the winter, before I started to wonder about rust inside the frame where I couldn’t see it. I have used an oil treatment in the frame of my current CX650E based machine (it looks more like a GL650 now) for the 70,000 Km I have had it and I expect it to last for the foreseeable future.

    For the guy looking for a camshaft (& for anyone else with a CX/GL500/650), I highly recommend joining and asking there.

    BTW: I don’t want to start something but I have to wonder whether Dr.Jett disliked the CX so much because it made so much more HP than the much larger V twins in his beloved HDs? (not to mention how much quicker they were with that much less weight and all….)

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m pretty certain the GL650 Interstate was only sold for one year in the U.S. – but may have been available into 1984.

      On the cooling system: You’re right. There are differences, though – most notably that the CX and 500s had a mechanically driven cooling fan while the 650 had a thermostatically controlled electric fan. There are also – according to my shop manual, at least – some differences as far servicing the rear seal, etc.

      These are great bikes – both the 500 and the 650.

      I’ve got only a few minor complaints/things I’d like to change:

      Backrest – it’s too small.
      Transmission – could use an overdrive/sixth gear.
      Power – could use a bit more.

      It’s not the bike’s slow. I’d just like it to be a little quicker than it is – and have a bit more reserve power on top. As you probably know, at 70-ish MPH, the engine is taching around 5,000 RPM… which feels busy even though redline is 9,500 with the 650.

      If it’s economically/technically possible, I’d love to punch the engine out to an 800 and get the power up to about 80 hp; then find a six-speed transmission that will fit and work!

      • I am pretty sure that we have forum members in the US with ’84 models, but at any rate, the US isn’t the whole world and the internet transcends borders so even if Honda America didn’t import them in ’84 it doesn’t mean they were only made in one year.

        6 speeds & 800cc? Well, anything is possible if you have the resources & skills, but I’m sure you could find something closer to what you want if you looked around a bit. On the other hand, these bikes will run at well above 7000 RPM all day so you have only begun to find out what it will do.

        You really need to join to find out about these bikes…

        • Hi Bob,

          What I particularly like about the GL650 (and GL500) is that it’s light and agile; it’s a much less ponderous bike than the typical touring bike.

          I know it’ll run all day at 7,000 – but it feels (and sounds) busy. At 70-75 MPH, it’d be nice to be able to cut the revs down to around 4,000 or so (vs. about 5,000 or so).

          Some additional power would be nice, too.

          IIRC, Honda got about 120 hp out of the CX turbo.

          I’d be very happy with 80 or so… without a turbo. Ought to be feasible (mechanically/financially). I haven’t looked into it, but I bet a big bore kit (perhaps with higher CR pistons) is available. Mine’s not in need of a top end re-do just yet, but when it is…!

          The six-speed transmission will probably be a lot tougher. This twin was pretty much orphaned by Honda and I don’t think there’s much overlap/interchange between it and other Honda engines. Have to look into it some more…

    • I’m no expert on the CX/GL line of Hondas, and am in fact a Guzzi owner. I admire these bikes for their functionality and reliability (definitely not the style). I do appreciate just about any article on vintage bikes…regardless of the writers bias or preferences.

      I will say, in the U.S. of old, dealers would sometimes not register a cert of origin until the bike was sold. This practice made it to where unsold bikes held over from previous years inventory could/would be titled the year sold. Hence seeing so many NT650 Hawk GT’s that languished on dealer floors for years prior to purchase (I know of one in particular that wasn’t bought until 1996). This could explain the question as to whether it was a one year U.S. model or not…

      While not popular here…The CX500/650 was the opposite in GB and Europe. They are rock solid and ugly as sin. I’d ride one…or make a Morgan GL

      • OK, I’ll say this one more time: Honda made the CX650 and the GL650 in 1983 and 1984.

        Honda America imported them in 1983 only and didn’t import much of anything in 1984 because the bike market had almost died out. For some reason Honda Canada did import some, even though there was no market for bikes that here either.

        As far as I know, all motorcycles imported to the US at the time whern these were made had the model year and date of manufacture on the plate in the steering head where the VIN is. While it might be possible to title a vehicle in a later year the registration should match the info on the plate.

        Its so much easier here. We only have the registration slip (“ownership”) and titles are non-existent.

        • Hi Bob,

          It is possible Honda sold some leftover ’83 bikes as ’84 bikes in the U.S. I’ve yet to see one, though.

          Canada and Europe are different markets.

          • The way the market tanked it is likely that they were still selling new ’83 models in ’85 and maybe later. But the plate with the VIN is attached at the factory so it will still say “1983 model”.

            I would say that at least half of the folks at are American. This topic comes up from time to time and I have never heard of anyone in the US with a 1984 model except for a handful of CX650Es that have been privately imported much later.

              • I have a 1983 GL 650 that I bought new in 1984. The only model year sold in the U.S. was 1983. They sold for another year or two in Europe and elsewhere (Canada?) as 1984 models, but only 1983 in the U.S. Since the model year is in big numbers right in front of the tank it would be hard to sell as a different model year. But who cares? The bottom line is it is a great bike, rock solid and all day comfortable for all purposes. Mine still runs like new. And I most definitely did not pay the stupid tariff as that was only for bikes above 700 cc, which is why Honda got up to but was careful not to cross that line.

      • It is strange to see this discussion. First off, the imports have frequently built a model year after the US made changes in emissions requirements, sometimes sending a two year old model designation to the states for sale to duck those changes while they tooled up. It was not uncommon in the early 70’s to see new old models for sale at dealers for a couple of years after they were first introduced.
        Specific to the 1983 650’s, across the whole line, the model was sold in Europe till at least 86.. A quick check of GL 650’s for sale in England turns up several 1986 models. There are a few cosmetic differences but the are the same machine.
        I learned this while trying to renovate my own 83. I live in Arizona, and the sun does a number on the plastic Honda insists on sticking all over the outside of the basic machine.

        • Transport Canada & the USDOT have a policy of harmonizing regulations wherever possible (they actually take turns writing the regs), which means that the rules are the same on both sides of the border, including those about model years. I read a good explanation of what is involved a few years ago but I can’t remember the details and I can’t find it now but basically a vehicle of a certain model year can be produced for a specified number of months before that calendar year and a specified number of months after. The original intent was to allow the production of next year’s models so that they could be delivered to the dealers and ready to sell by the beginning of the year and so that they could continue to produce the old model for a while longer if the following year’s revisions were not yet ready.

          Other parts of the world have different regulations. I believe that the UK designates the model year as the year first sold so a vehicle that was produced to be an ’84 model but sat in the dealership for a few years could be registered as an 86 or even later.

  8. II have a 1983 650 interstate silver wing.Looking for a camshaft.mine is pitted on the water pump end.Will a 500GL camshaft interchange with the 650. Or is there anyway this can be repaired.

  9. I seriously doubt that the “Harley law” had much effect on GL650 sales or pricing. The tariff only applied to bikes with engines 700cc or larger, which is why the U.S. got strangled 699cc versions of models like the CB750SC Nighthawk that the rest of the world had. The CX/GL650 engine is only 673cc so it would have been exempt. It is far more likely that the worldwide recession (said to be the worst since the “dirty thirties”) and the resulting melt down of the motorcycle industry (nobody had money for non-necessities) caused the demise of Honda’s transverse V twin along with a number of models from other manufacturers.

  10. You have made a couple of errors.
    1) The 500 has pressed steel front engine hangers and the 650 has cast ones but they both have the same frame and the engines can be interchanged if you use the correct hangers for the engine.
    2) The GL500I & GL650I did not come with Vetter fairings. They came with the same Honda fairing as the GL1100I which are mounted more solidly than the ones Vetter sold for the GL500. The Honda fairing is also quieter to sit behind.

    • I believe I read that the frames for the GL650 and GL500 were the same except that the walls of some of the tubing that makes up the frame of the GL650 are thicker by a couple of millimeters or so.

      • Hi Rich,

        That could be; I know the front suspension is a little different (650s have larger diameter forks) and there are bunch of other little things, such as the shape/angle of the carb intakes and that the fairings are rubber-insulated… and some bigger things like the 650 having a more car-type water pump while the 500s have a friction seal thing (that’s much harder to change out).

        Both are great bikes, though. I have a friend who owns several 500s and have ridden them often, so I’ve had the opportunity to compared it with my 650. Mine has a bit more power and seems to ride a little smoother, but that may be just my bike (set up for me; air pressure adjusted for me, etc.)

        PS: An earlier poster correctly noted that I made an error in the article about the fairings, which were the same as the same year Goldwing’s.

  11. Greetings. Great thread. I just visited with my girlfriend and she’s got a garage full of stuff that her ex-husband owns. He’s had a stroke and she’s in charge of his affairs. Anywho, he has one of these Silver Wing bikes in the garage there and I can get it for a song. It has 11K miles on it and needs tires and a battery. Other than that it looks very good. Has the Vetter fairing and full complement of hard luggage. It may be enough to get me back on the road again. I gave up the biking when I was in my twenties (back in the early eighties) but who knows? Might be bikin’ it again soon! Thanks for the great thread.

    • Hi Bryan,

      Sounds like a find!

      When did the bike last run? If it’s been sitting for a long time, you may need to clean the tank/carbs. How’s the inside of the tank look? Was gas left in the tank?

      I personally would pull both spark plugs and shoot some WD-40 or light oil in the cylinders, then rotate the engine by hand a few times using a socket and 1/2 drive or breaker bar (there is a bolt on the front of the engine case, just below the radiator, that’s there for just this purpose – to manually align the timing marks during tune-up/valve clearance check). It should turn freely (with the plugs out there will very little compression resistance). If it doesn’t, do not force it! Stop – and go buy some PB-40 or equivalent rust penetrant and shoot that in each cylinder, let it sit overnight, then try to rotate it again by hand.

      Probably, you won’t have any problems since the bike was stored inside, but the above procedure is a good precautionary one with an old bike that’s been idle for awhile.

      I would also drain the oil that’s in the engine before attempting to rotate it manually – much less trying to start it. New filter, too. Have another 4 quarts and a new filter on hand – so you can change the oil/filer again after running the bike for 15 minutes or so. A little OCD? Yeah, maybe. But if the bike was sitting for 20 years, there may be a lot of crud inside. The GL650 (unlike the 500) also has a removeable oil pan, as well as a screen to catch particles. I’d advise removing the oil pan (this is easy, just basic hand tools – not like a car!) so you clean out the sump as well as the screen.

      You’ll also want to check the shaft drive boot for cracking/tears. If you find any, that will need to be replaced. Also check – and drain/replace – the gear lube in the shaft drive before riding the bike. If it’s dry – or low – you could ruin the shaft drive by riding the bike.

      I would also drain/replace the coolant – replace with Honda pre-mix (blue bottle) NOT car antifreeze. Visually inspect the inside of the radiator for scale build up/crud. You might also want to replace the thermostat, as a just-in-case. It might be stuck after years of sitting.

      What else?

      Check the front forks for signs of leaky seals. I’d change the fluid (Dexron automatic transmission fluid) too.

      The rear suspension is a Pro Link with air assist; check the pressure – but don’t use a compressor to fill it! Use a small hand pump, like a bicycle pump.

      Drain/bleed the brake system. Check all the lines for signs of deterioration.

      That ought to cover the Big Stuff – which, by the way, involves neither a lot of know-how nor a lot of money. A shop manual will walk you through any procedures you’re not familiar with – and I’ll be happy to help, too!

  12. just purchased gl650 interstate 61k miles. previous owner dropped a shake on the pipes. any ideas about where to look for pipes on internet?

    • Hi John,

      Your best bet is probably eBay. As this is a one-year-only bike, it’s going to be something of a challenge to find factory pipes. You might want to look into aftermarket pipes. I’d call Dennnis Kirk’s tech line (or direct-call the tech lines of aftermarket exhaust companies such as Vance & Hines, etc.) and ask whether anything they’ve got fits.

  13. Just found fhis and wanted to say as of today and 3 years of searching i have a 1983 gl650 it has 15,000 miles im 3rd owner im 24 and after i wrecked my cx500c i refuse to let this one go its a one year bike and i love it best 400 bucks ever spent just needs mufflers and paint but i’ll prob bob it to make it more unique

    • Hi Randall,


      I love mine; had it a couple years now and ride it all the time. In fact, I ride it more than I ride my other four bikes, because it has cargo capacity (so I can bring things with/bring things back) as well as excellent wind protection – which makes riding on colder days pleasant when it would would not be on an unfaired/windshield-less sport bike.

      You’ve had a CX, so you know how simple maintenance is. I’ve never owned another bike that’s set up so that you can adjust the valves in 15 minutes with only minor disassembly.

  14. Hi guys.

    Mark from london uk here.

    It is great to know there is still a healthy following for the original silverwings.

    I have never owned one but in my youth it was something that i wanted. I always lusted after one. But in 1984 when i bought my first bike (honda cm125) i ended up going a different route.
    Honda CM125
    HONDA CX 650 Turbo
    Yamaha FJ 1200

    It has been many, many years since i have seen a GL650 wing. Or a CX 650 TCB. Where did they all go?

    • Hi Mark,

      The Silverwing has a small but dedicated cult following over here. The bikes are (like most Hondas) still viable as regular riders because most parts are still fairly easy to get and at affordable prices.

      As to why they (this type of bike) disappeared: This is just my opinion, but I submit the bike market (like the car market) went off the rails sometime in the early ’90s, when realistic machines were shunted aside in favor of over-the-top (and priced accordingly) machines based more on image and marketing agit-prop.

      There are virtually no “commuter” or general purpose bikes available new anymore. You have your choice of a small-frame beginner bike that might be ok for a new rider for six months or so… or a full-on machine that’s arguably too much (too big/too heavy/too powerful/too expensive). A new Goldwing costs as much as a car and weighs close to 1,000 pounds. Sport bikes are so aggressive they’re fun for 30 minutes or so at a time – and that’s about it.

      There are still a few good all-arounders (one example being the Suzuki SV series) but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

      When I got into bikes in the ’80s, they were inexpensive and practical as well as fun. Today, they’re still fun – but increasingly impractical and often absurdly expensive.

      • I agree completely with your comment. The GL650 was the motorcycle I loved above all others when I first considered owning a motorcycle. It was years before I bought my first bike, but I’ve always thought the GL650 was the most practical, economical, and easy to ride touring bike ever made – to this day. And I say that as a Harley rider with two Harleys sitting in my garage, including my daily commuter. I also don’t think they’re ugly at all. If Honda made them today, I’d be riding one instead of my ultra for long trips. But somehow, we got into massively overpowered bikes on all ends. Perhaps it’s because we as a people got so overweight. I don’t know. But I do miss the days when 650 cc were enough for touring, 65 mph was more than adequate for long distance cruising, regular gas was fine for motorcycles, and you could take three weeks off in the summer to cruise to a couple of bike gatherings (I’m not even sure they were called rallies back then) smoke something different, make a few friends, and come on back home. I think we’ve progressed technologically but regressed socially since that time.

  15. I appreciate all the reviews and comments on the GL650. I’m a long-time motorcrosser and newly found scooterist. I have a 150cc Indian built “vespa wanna-be” AND love the thing (around town, that is). Only prob is that it’s not suitable for interstate use and will only hit a top speed of 60mph (down hill and a good tail wind). It does however get up to 120mpg (if driven right) and keep up with the pace of traffic round town no problem. A friend has a pair of these old gl’s and would trade one for my scooter if liking. My dispute is: most (80%) of my riding is around town but would like to be able to do occasional 1hr rides to the ma-n-law’s house to visit and be capable of givin the spousal unit a tow. Would the loss of gas milage be worth the trade off? The GL is bulky compared to the scooter but not awful at all (not like a gold wing). Is this bike seriously ok to run hours on end @5,000rpm? My only reservation. and does the fairing do an adequate job of deflecting wind and rain???

    • Hi Randy,

      Yes – absolutely!

      I own a GL650 and have two friends who own GL500s. These are great bikes that will absolutely handle highway speeds (70-75) comfortably. Remember: The GL500 has a 10,000 RPM redline!

    • I rode a GL500I around Toronto for some eight years. Perfectly good in the city as well as in the countryside, though you need to keep it upright at stops, it’s quite top-heavy. Gas mileage is about 45-50 mpg. The fairing is superb; for me, ideal weather was about 7 degrees Celsius, I never felt the need for hand grip heating. The height of the windscreen will of course affect how much wind hits your helmet. The seating is upright and super comfortable, though very long-legged riders may find it a lttle tight at the hips.

  16. This whole Honda 500/650 vs Harley argument is pointless, when we all know the Hondas are “better”….

    Horses for courses.

    I like my Honda. If you prefer to ride an overpriced American motorcycle that’s your business.

    • Hi Michael,

      I won’t step into the whole “better” (or worse) thing when it comes to bikes – or cars – because to a great extent “better” (and worse) are subjective – in the eye of the beholder.

      I personally prefer Kaws over Hondas, for instance – even though I have owned (and still own) both. Objectively, the Hondas (and here I am speaking of old stuff, 1980s and before) are arguably more refined and tended to have better paint quality and were more “finished” when new… but I just dig the looks and the attitude of the Kaws.

      Some people just like Harleys for similar reasons – and that’s fine with me, too.

      The only thing I don’t like about some Harley riders is the attitude that a Harley Davidson is the best motorcycle on the road – and other motorcycles are junk. That gets my back up.

      It’s as feeble-minded as “Ford rules!”

      We’re all enthusiasts. Why not respect (if not appreciate) what others are into – and leave it at that?

  17. I have a GL650I I purchesed new in 1983. My wife and I bought it shortly after we were married and made a few trips on it. After children came the bike didn’t get ridden much, soon not at all. About five years ago I decided it was time to revive the ole girl. It had not been registered for twenty years. The gas tank had to be replaced because it had rusted. I pulled the carbs and disassembled them without breaking them apart trying not to mess up the syncronization and cleaned them real good, put in a new battery and it runs like new. Because of sun damage I had it repainted and have just located some decals and have some more cosmetics to do. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of riding this summer. The bike only has 15k on it.
    Earlier there was a dicussion on what gas to use. In ’83 leaded gas was still available. The manual stated to use regular leaded or premium unleaded.
    The thing that bothers me most is having a vintage motocycle I bought new.

  18. Looking for a taller or 6th gear for your old Silver Wing GL650, or your cx650? Try the 18″ rear wheel that came on the ’78 or ’79 500 Standards. That bigger wheel and a tall Dunlop tire will drop your RPM’s quite a bit. The CX/GL500 didn’t have the power to pull the taller gear to American’s satisfaction, but the GL650 should be quite happy with it.

    • Hey Bob,

      It sounds good, but will it work with the shaft drive hub? And: my ’83 has the factory mags; what do the ’78-’79 wheels look like?

  19. Hey fellow Silverwing owners. I just found a steel on craigslist a few weeks ago for an 83 Silverwing with 20k miles thats been garaged for 500 bucks and I’ve already put 300 miles on it. I was wondering if you guys might know which Vetter fairing would fit the 83 Silverwing. I dont have the interstate version but i want to convert it to one by adding bags and a fairing….any info would be greatly appreciated. I also heard that the goldwing fairing from 83 is the same as the Silverwing.

    • Hi Sean,

      Congratulations – and welcome to the fraternity! The fairing used on the Interstate is identical to the same-year Goldwing fairing and ought to be fairly easy to find. I am pretty sure it was a “generic” fairing also used on some other bikes from that era. The hard bags and center storage stack may be harder (and more expensive) to find. But the good news is they’re the same as used on the more common GL500 (other than color and trim) as opposed to the one-year-only GL650.

      If you can find a parts bike GL650i that would be the ideal scenario. Then you can also swap in the GL650i’s dual disc front brakes.

      If you have any questions, just let me know. If I can’t answer them, I have a friend who is a Silverwing expert. He owns three currently.

      • Thanks for the helpful info eric. I’m currently searching salvage yards for a parts bike. I’m pretty sure I have dual front dics already though, being that there is a disc on both sides of the front tire. Also I was curious if u are familiar with craig vetter fairings? I think the windjammer was used during that era but there are a few versions and I’m not exactly sure which one fits the best or most like the stock fairing.

  20. I have 3 GL650I’s,a GL1800,a DL 650,a V-Star 1100,a Warrior,a VLX & a 1977 Triumph Silver Jubilee
    I like them all,but have a soft spot for the Silverwings,that’s why there are three of them.The six speed transmission sounds fascinating!

    • Three GL650 Interstates? You’re my new best friend!

      I have a buddy who currently owns two GL500s – he got me into Silverwings. He also has a couple of older Goldwings in various states of disrepair

      I love the SilverWings; they’re fun to ride, bulletproof and get fantastic mileage. I routinely get 55 or better out of mine knocking around locally.

  21. This was a good website for me to become more acquinted with my 1983 GL650I. I purchased this bike with a knock in the engine, only to find out the automatic cam chain tensioner grenaded. No damaged was done to the interior of the motor, or crankcase. So now after 3 months of working on the bike, and polishing, it’s turning out to be very promising investment. I also have the A.M./F.M. Stereo/C.B./Intercom, with the Cassette Player as well. The beauty of this is the bike has 16,500 miles, and everything on it is operational. I have the 2 up seat, backrest for the driver, crash bars, rear bumper, and cruise on it as well. I can’t wait til spring to cruise around on this thing.

    • Hi Kevin,

      This past summer, I rode my ‘Wing almost exclusively. I don’t think I put 200 miles on the sport bike in the past year. I put 4,000 on the ‘Wing. I ride it constantly – most recently, I rode all around my county on Christmas Eve. It was high 40s out, but with the wind protection the bike gives me, plus a good jacket and gloves, it was very comfortable. It would have been brutal on my ZRX1200!

      So far, I’ve had to do nothing major to my bike. Just plugs and routine oil/filter changes, a valve check/adjustment and driveshaft/gear lube replacement.

      For the money, it’s the best bike I’ve ever owned. And maybe the best bike, period!

  22. I bought a CX500 when I got back into biking several years ago. I enjoyed the bike but moved up to a larger bike (Yamaha xs11). Then went to a goldwing. Then to a suzuki 800 and now to a GL650. I thought I wanted a BMW until I rode one. This is the second best bike I’ve ever ridden. I don’t think anyone will ever beat an XS11 as an all around great bike. I’ve been riding for over 40 years now. I hope to keep this bike for years to come. It’s a great compromise of power, speed, handling, and hauling capacity; but, I can see why the bike didn’t have a market. A little too big and a bit too small.

    • If we could turn back time… !

      Today – some 25 years after it was made – I routinely get interested/favorable comments about my ’83 GL650 Interstate.

      A new Goldwing or Venture is certainly nice, but it’s also a major investment, like buying another car. It’s also huge, heavy – and forget about doing any work yourself unless you are very skilled and very determined and very well-equipped. My bike, meanwhile, cost me less than $2k, costs virtually nothing to insure and I can fix just about anything (not that it ever needs fixing) will take me anywhere a Goldwing could and gets 60 MPG, too.

      One of the things I like about motorcycling is that it’s still cheap fun – if you buy bikes like the GL/CX anyhow!

      Good to have you with us….

  23. Posted some photos. Working my way through the bike changing fluids and checking adjustments. Fall hit fast, hard and wet in the Northwest, so I haven’t had much riding time.

  24. Will a GL650 run on regular? Premiun (92 octane) is rare in my area. I tesed a GL650 today and liked it alot, but the seller’s mechanic says it must have premium gas. Thanks.

    • Mine seems to have no issues with regular. Keep in mind that back in ’83, gas was worse than it is now. Today’s premium unleaded is several octane points higher than what was available back in the early ’80s. Our current regular probably has a a higher octane rating than the regular of 1983. The manual says regular is fine, too.

      Even my ’76 Kz900 (which, bear in mind, was a performance bike when new – unlike the GL, which was marketed as a touring/commuter bike) only had about 9.2:1 compression. Back in ’76, it may have needed premium, but I suspect it’d be fine today with regular or mid-grade. (I say “suspect,” by the way, because my Kz is now a Kz1000 with domed high-compression 10:75:1 pistons and hence must have premium nowadays!)

      • Thanks Eric – The seller didn’t have an owner’s maunual. I tried to find an one on line, but all I could find was the repair manual, which didn’t have fuel requirements. Hope the bike is still available!

          • Yes, it has the interchangeable backseat/trunk. It’s not the Interstate model, so no radio or cases (although the tank is from an Interstate, so no Honda emblem). It is Candy Wineberry Red, and has an aftermarket plexiglas fairing. It’s very clean – only 9,000 miles on it and has been completely gone through. Won’t be picking it up until next week – I’ll post a pic when I can.

            I’m making a lateral move from a 1997 BMW F650ST due to the scarcity of premium gas in the area, and I’m getting tired of chain maintenance. Also, the GL should be lower maintenance overall and looks like it will be easy to work on.

            Do you know if there is a pdf of the owner’s manual posted somewhere? Thanks.

            • Cool!

              The shaft drive is virtually maintenance-free; the only thing I’d recommend doing (given how old the bike is) would to change out the gear lube twice. Drain what’s in there, then refill with a high-quality synthetic. Run the bike for about 100 miles, then change it again. You’ll only need one container of lube to do this as the capacity is just a few ounces. Why twice? The first time get out most of the original stuff/what was in there when you bought it. The second changeout will get whatever gunk you didn’t get the first time. This is an easy, inexpensive “just in case” that will help assure that shaft drive outlasts the bike. See here for more details:


              Also, shoot some grease into the Zerk fitting on the top of the swingarm.

              You may also notice some squeaking from the Pro Link. Don’t sweat this. It’s normal for a 30-plus year old bike. It will also probably work itself out as you ride the bike.

              On the manual: Surf eBay Motors; reproductions and originals seem to be fairly easy to find.

          • eric, I’m wondering if engine flush wouldn’t do a good job cleaning a tranny. I’ve used Amsoil’s engine flush several times. The procedure is 1500-2000 rpm for 15-20 minutes with one bottle of flush per 5 quarts oil. That will be some nasty stuff coming out even on an engine that gets frequent changes of petroleum based engine oil. I have cleaned many gear cases of various sorts, big tractors, big OTR tractors, cars, etc. and never had a problem cleaning them with kerosene but I never used power to them, just spun them by hand. Oh wait, there was one old poppin’ Johnny that got filled with kerosene and idled a few minutes. It poured 20 years of crud into the drain pan and ran fine afterwards. If you change to synth engine oil a flush is a really good idea since the engine oil will get dirty really fast and need to be changed.

      • Hi Marv,

        Anything modern – that is, anything with an ECU – can adjust ignition timing and so on to accommodate lower octane fuel. If it was built to run on premium, you won’t hurt anything (mechanically) by running regular – but you will notice a reduction in fuel efficiency and performance. Not huge – but measurable.

        In older stuff without an ECU – that cannot adjust (lower) ignition timing to compensate for lower-than-designed-for octane – the engine will experience pre-ignition (the air/fuel charge ignites prematurely, before the piston has reached firing position, with the resultant explosive force trying to push the piston back down while it is traveling up toward TDC, putting great stress on the entire reciprocating assembly). This is bad news – and not worth saving the 20 cents per gallon.

        In older vehicles that were designed to run high octane fuel, run high octane fuel only…

        • Some computer controlled cars can compensate others cannot.

          It depends if there is a knock sensor primarily.

          As usual… check the owners manual.

  25. I have a Grey 1983 GL650I with 22,+++ miles on it that I bought just to drive back and forth to work 60 miles a day. When I first bought it I thought about removing the front fairing,,saddle bags,,and trunk to make it lighter to get better MPG,,but after going threw the first tank of gas and I got 55mpg there was no reason to remove anything from it.
    40 miles of my daily commute to work is on a major interstate and if I drive it at 5000rpm it gets 55mpg ,,but if I drive it at 5500rpm it gets 50mpg.
    I drive it every single day aslong as there is no snow or ice on the road and it has never let me down.
    I am 32 years old and have owned several vintage motorcycles my first one was a 1976 Kawasaki KZ1000 second one was a 1978 Yamaha XS500 the third one was a 1981 Yamaha XS750 and now I have the GL650I.
    The GL650I has been the best vintage and commuter bike I have owned by far ,,but the XS500 had no problem getting 70mpg ,but it demanded alot of up keep.
    The GL650I just demands to be rode with normal oil changes it doesn’t have to have any other up keep to be happy.
    The GL650I is hands down the best money I have ever spent on a daily driven commuter bike.

    Just thought I would share.

    • Hey Cliff!

      I also have a ’76 Kz (900) in addition to the GL650 (and three other bikes). I’m getting 60 MPG consistently out of mine, which may be due to the synthetics I use or the fact that most of my riding is in the rural country with few stops/traffic. But in any case, I agree: This is (by far) one of the best bikes I have ever owned and of its type, the best, period.


    • Hi Bill,

      Welcome to the club!

      I’ve put more than 3,000 miles on mine so far this summer. It’s just as you’ve said – a great everyday bike that gets a lot of attention/comments. I’ve ridden a good number of touring bikes and never really got into them because of the weight/poor handling/expense. No offense meant to Goldwing (and Harley) riders out there. They just didn’t do it for me. I don’t want a 900 pounder. Or a $15,000 machine, either. But then my friend Graves kept insisting I try out his Silverwing and eventually I did. Now that, I liked. Doesn’t weigh much more than my sport bike; reasonably nimble. Great gas mileage – and best of all, dirt cheap. I got my ’83 (with just over 12,000 miles on it) for $1,500. The chrome work on some dresser Harleys costs more than that. I know of no other long-haul, shaft-drive touring bike you can buy in equivalent condition for the same amount of money.

      The only thing I’d change about this bike is the gearing. I wish I had six instead of five. The bike – as you know – has plenty of legs and can maintain 75-80 no problem. But having an OD sixth that would drop the revs by 800 RPM or so in top would really be nice. I continue to look into this possibility and will keep you posted…

      • 800 RPM drop would be one hell of an OD! I think if you rode ole Black Betty you would/might change your mind about hogs!

        • Years ago, I had a CB550 (also an ’83). It had an “overdrive” (green light in the cluster would come on) that dropped the revs a lot. My GL runs around 5,000 RPM at 70 or so. But it has a 9,000 RPM redline. At first it seems like it’s running too hard, but everything I’ve read (and heard) about these twins says they are built to rev – and seem to like it. But I’d still like to be closer to 4,000 on the highway than 5,000!

          On BB: I know they’re sweet, but they ain’t cheap! I think my whole bike cost less than you have in your six speed!

  27. I have a Silver Wing in my garage too but it’s a scooter.

    600cc’s and fuel injection and 54 mpg and a stock Harley cannot catch it.

    At least the Silver Wing name survived.

  28. The Japanese still made plenty of bikes, they also kept selling plenty of bikes. The tariff did play a pivotal role in the decision of both Honda and Kawasaki to move a big chunk of their manufacturing to the US for the bigger cc bikes.
    There was still a recession going on, bike sales had been going down across the board for while. They had to trim it down, there were 117 new bike models introduced by the Japanese in 1983 and they were spreading themselves thin and their sales were in a notable downturn worldwide already.
    Aside from a need to blame Reagan for something, I don’t see the logic in your statement or rational at all. If the GL650 was exempt from the tariff, exactly HOW could a tariff which didn’t apply to it be a major cause for it’s demise???
    Again, check your facts, in the first paragraph you state: “been the CX – the first of the series to use the transverse “twisted” SOHC 80 degree V-twin, which was a better-engineered, better-built and more potent loose copy of Moto Guzzi’s engine of similar layout.” SOHC-really? Someone already corrected your erroneous presumption about it’s Guzzi precedence.
    The tariff can be argued, but not in this context, as the subject of the article had nothing to do with the tariff.

    • Good catch on the “SOHC” thing; fixed now. On the tariff: The object of making some Japanese bikes artificially more expensive was to decrease sales of Japanese bikes – or put another way, encourage people to buy other bikes (like Harleys)… right?

      • You’d have a stronger case about the tariff if you were talking about the VF1100S, especially since it was sold during the tariff years. Your big problem would be determining how much the bad press about the early V4 engines impacted sales, vs. the tariff.

        I think the reality of the CX/GL line of bikes is that in the US market, Honda never quite knew who their customer was. The CX was introduced as a standard, sold a few years later as a cruiser in Custom trim, and then positioned as a strange sort of touring machine with the Silverwing.

        Recall that in 1983 Honda had a HUGE number of bike in roughly the same displacment class:

        FT500 Ascot
        VT500FT Ascot
        CB550SC Nighthawk
        CB650SC Nighthawk
        CX/GL 650
        VF750S Sabre
        VF750C Magna
        VF750F Interceptor
        VT750C Shadow
        CB750SC Nighthawk

        And that’s just competition within the Honda brand!

        I wonder how the market would have received the EuroSport models, had Honda imported them.

      • Make a list of all the Honda models in the same displacement class for 1983 and then tell me the CX/GL 650 was in any way impacted by the tariff.

        • Humm… I guess my post with the model list didn’t get lost after all.

      • It’s not SOHC! The camshaft is down low, it’s push-rod valve actuation. Quite unusual for a high-revving modern engine.

          • Don’t you think it’s about time you re-wrote the article and fixed all of the errors that have been discussed in the comments? The title alone is incorrect and if you removed the incorrect Harley tariff part (only affected bikes over 700cc) they’d stop accusing you of Harley bashing to name but two, not to mention, since Honda had hired some of Marusho’s engineers after that company closed these bikes can surely trace lineage to the Lilac that Guzzi coppied.

            And if you still have the GL650 you really should join for the latest & best information about keeping these bikes running.

  29. The CX/GL wasn’t a copy of the Guzzi but of the much older Marusho Lilac. One might even say that Moto Guzzi copied Marusho!

  30. Nice article, EXCEPT you are completely wrong.
    The GL650 was not included in the tariff, ONLY bikes 700cc’s and up.

    You owe the gipper an apology, and get your facts straight next time.

    • Well, yes and no. You’re right the tariff applied to larger cc bikes. But it had a depressing effect on Japanese bike sales in general (the GL 650 included). The question is: Should we thank the Gipper for making excellent Japanese bikes more expensive in order to give a competitive leg up to Harley?

      • After owning a Harley and a Honda – NO.
        Harley’s something you buy because you want a HARLEY.
        The NAME. Nothing more. (And they’re better on the clutch, I’ll grant, but the rest – even on my VROD – wasn’t a major improvement, just a difference.)
        And the VROD was the only Harley I could work with – still the type to squeeze with the legs and push with the feet, which I couldn’t do with the VROD, but – I couldn’t even squeeze with the legs on other Harleys. The horn bell cover and the air filter hit me in the knees.
        I came to realize, Harley’s just a PIG. you ride ON it, it’s a seperate machine – not dissimilar from riding in a car, effectively. There’s no fusion of driver and vehicle.

        • Hi Jean,

          I’m not anti-Harley any more than I’m anti-Ford (when it comes to cars).

          When it comes to bikes, I just prefer Kawasakis (and Hondas) over Harleys. I’m more into light/agile sport bikes – and of course, most Harleys are big/heavy cruisers/touring bikes.

          But I don’t slam another guy for preferring Harleys (or whatever) if that’s his thing.

          I always thought it epically stupid to say things like, “Chevy rules!” and “If you don’t drive a Ford, you ain’t shit.”

          Ditto the Harley haters – and the people who love Harleys but sneer at anyone who rides a Japanese bike.

          • People have their reaons for liking or disliking anything.
            I got turned off Ducati, for instance, last time I was at a dealer. Dealer didn’t say or do anything – a Ducati pulled in, rattling like a tank, with a dry clutch. That’s the design. So, skip Ducati.

            Harley is meant to be a rhino, and you’re on for the ride. It’s also a major load of work, EVEY YEAR, which I didn’t know until after I bought the bike. You need to be a mechanic and like tinkering. Unless we move to Mad Max / Armageddon, and I’m doing armoring, I couldn’t care less. Give me a chance to build a VR-052 Battler Cyclone, or better, a VR-041 Saber Cyclone, I’m there; otherwise – I’m BUYING a bike, it should be ready to haul ass when I turn it on, stock.

            I like the new Victory bikes, personally. Hyosung looked good, too – patterned on Harleys, but like, 2-300 pounds lighter for an equivalent ride. Smaller engine, too. NICE. And I loved / hated my Honda nighthawk. That bike could take punishment! Just got a little … Unhappy when I tried to go over about 80. It was a cold-blooded SOB, too – had to warm up on full choke for like 15 minutes. but it survived me and the woman as a learning bike. Design defect, though – if it fell, it went DOWN, HARD – and sheared off the brake or clutch. The woman’s Kawasaki Vulcan does the same – we have replacements in her saddlebags. (She’s still a novice – wants to ride a Can Am. Looks cool, but not a motorcycle.)

            Harley is mostly a “mystique” type of thing, buying an “aura.” Not worth the cost, for just riding. Nice easy cutch, but you can aftermarket and adjust to make the other brands better.

            So far, Honda and Yamaha have proven reliable; Kawasaki, too; and the Hyosung and Victory are highly recommended to me. Since I want to be moving with the bike, the Harleys aren’t really a good bike for me. I feel sort of loose on them – great for cruising, but it’s like riding on a rocket – the bike goes, you follow, including off the road. 😛 (Gravel in an S-curve, had to go straight off the road. 🙁 )
            I’ve found a rental place here, so I’m lining up for a purchase next year, and a few road trips renting out candidates for a road trip or short vacation. So far, all Victorys and the Can Am. The question ultimately is, do I want to have the woman on the back, or do I want to be free? [based on that phrasing, I think everyone can see where THIS is going… 😉 ]

  31. “The Honda didn’t outlive the Harley’s because the cams were put in the heads on a hardened surface without bearings” What a dumb idea. I run a Honda ATC trikes website and they also suffered from the same design. I think now there is a cam bearing kit to combat the design flaw.

    • Dunno ’bout that. I do know these are easy 100,000 mile bikes with decent care. They’re still plentiful, too – used as daily riders without having been rebuilt by people all over the country, even though the newest of them is now nearly 30 years old. How does that imply cheap design? How many 1978-83 Harleys last 100,000-plus miles? How many are in use as reliable, everyday bikes without having been completely gone through?

      I’m not slamming Harleys; I like them too. Just saying…

    • The more I ponder that post, the more I think the poster is confusing the old Honda Dream with the CX/GL. I checked and my memory was right – 1978 (not 1967) was the first year, so there’s no way he could have been selling CXs back in ’67. If he was selling Hondas in 1967, he was selling Dreams. And that was a primitive bike. Eve so, it was the bike that helped make Honda a mass-market manufacturer by making a bike that people besides big, hairy men wanted to ride!

  32. I sold the Honda CX500 in 1967 when it first came out as one of the ugliest, ill handling, gutless pieces of junk in motorcycle history. I test rode one for a day and was constantly in the redline and would never ride another one until I took one in trade. I rode it in 100 degree heat and it was the most miserable heat transfer to the rider because it had a Windjammer. Water cooled bikes with fairings burn the rider up in Arizona heat. Even with the improvements to the 650, it still wouldn’t compare to the pleasure of riding a bike like a full dress BMW R80RT. (air cooled) Many other Jap bikes had better suspension and frames like my KZ650 which would smoke that turd of a 650 and looked much cooler and wouldn’t burn the rider up in the heat.
    The Honda didn’t outlive the Harley’s because the cams were put in the heads on a hardened surface without bearings, so you couldn’t rebuild them like the Harley’s which didn’t die. All Harley’s keep getting rebuilt as they are always in demand. Most of the CX500’s and GL650’s are in a junk yard because people only rode them because they were cheap transportation for awhile. Then they bought something that was more fun. Good riddance!

    • 1967? Didn’t the CX come out in 1978? (See ). I don’t think Honda was selling anything but Dreams back in 1967. And that’s a totally different bike!

      I guess ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I think the CX series’ transverse twin engine looks great; better than the Guzzi – which looks (to me) clunky. It also produces more power than the equivalent Guzzi – and was without question more reliable and required less maintenance.

      As far as heat transfer, my GL650 doesn’t seem to have that issue. I’ve ridden my friend Graves’ GL500 and it doesn’t, either – at least, it doesn’t bother me (or him). I definitely don’t agree with you on the suspension being inferior to other Japanese bikes of the era. I happen to own a ’76 Kz900 (same basic bike as the Kz650) and much as I love the bike’s agro-macho looks, the suspension bites: Cheap twin tube shocks out back vs. the Honda’s much, much more advanced Pro Link mono shock. Pretty – but impossible to balance perfectly – wire wheels vs. the cast Comstar mags (a major technological Great Leap Forward) on the Honda. No adjust front forks vs air adjustable forks on the Honda. Single disc brake up front vs. dual discs. Chain vs. shaft drive. I love both bikes, but I’m wondering how you can say the Honda’s suspension/handling are inferior to a bike like the Kz? Or for that matter to any late ’70s-era Japanese equivalent? I can say for sure that the GL650 handles better than a Harley dresser in part because it is so much lighter.

      I can’t comment on the BMW because I haven’t owned one of those or ridden one extensively. But I am certain it costs two or three (or four) times what the Honda cost!

      • Eric,
        You are correct, I was selling them in 1978 when I first moved out to Arizona. Excuse my typo.
        When I first saw the bizarre design of the 1978 CX500 gas tank and head light nacelle, I referred to them as the Darth Vador Replica. I admit that the 1960’s XLCH with the wrap around oil tank was my ideal bike as far as outstanding looks. Now I have to laugh at myself because I have 6 1985-88 BMW K bikes that have a gas tank that looks like it was copied from the CX500 and the stripped 1985 version had the same ugly headlight nacelle like the CX500. I couldn’t believe that BMW would expect us to buy a bike that was that ugly. I have 2 1975 R90S’s that I considered to be one of the best looking BMW designs and I only paid $2000 for each one in the early 80’s. My most expensive K-bike cost $2500 and had 36K miles. BMW’s are really inexpensive unless you buy a new one.
        The KZ900 was an evil handling bike that constantly had to be wrestled with unless you were going in a straight line. I traded my extremely good handling 1977 Suzuki GS750 to my friend and rode his 1974 KZ 900 for 20 minutes and traded back because I got tired of fighting with it in every corner. The KZ900 kept straightening back up when trying to corner it. It was as dangerous as the old Kawasaki 2-stroke triples in the corners. The 1977 KZ650 and the 1977 Suzuki GS750 were the first two larger displacement Japanese motorcycles produced with good frames that handled well. The only comparison between the 650 and 900 was they looked the same. I was selling Kawasaki’s later in 1978 when the KZ1000 arrived and it had a vastly improved frame. It was fun to ride since it handled like a heavier KZ650. I rode a 1972 Norton 750 Commando before the Suzuki and it handled so well thatI compared every bike after it to the Norton. Unfortunately, the Norton required constant maintainance and the Suzuki and Kawasaki were very low maintainance. I got my 1977 KZ650 as a trade-in. It had good looking cast mag wheels unlike the cheap looking, stamped out, riveted together Comstars. Ugh! The KZ650C came with a large tear drop gas tank, lower custom seat and triple disc brakes. Mine also had Koni rear shocks and a 4-1 Kerker header. I raced it on the San Rafael early Sunday morning road race. I had it so low in the corners that I was scraping the header while chasing some of the faster bikes. I also owned a 1983 Harley FXRT(full dress, Sportster front fork, rubber glide, air suspension front and rear) that I could slam into corners like my BMW’s. I surprised numerous Jap bike riders because they didn’t know what a road racer could do with a Harley that had lots of ground clearance and knew how to push it to it’s limits. It was the most fun Harley to ride at that time if you wanted to do more than go in a straight line other than a Sportster.
        Am I prejudiced about motorcycle design? Absolutely, as these are my opinions about good and bad design. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
        Eric, you would have to ride a 78 era KZ650 even with stock suspension after riding your 75KZ900 and you would see what I mean about the handling. I am familiar with so many bikes because I sold all of the Japanese bikes in the 70’s & 80’s plus Harley’s.
        I do have to thank the CX500 Honda for one thing. A man came in to look at one in the showroom in January 1978. I asked him if he had a bike now and he said that he had several BMW’s. I asked him why he was looking at the CX500 if he had BMW’s. He was just curious, but said that he was selling one of his BMW’s. I went to his house the next night to check it out and bought my first 1974 BMW R90/6 with 15K miles for $1500. I have had a BMW ever since as one of my bikes and now have 10 of them. Thank you CX500!

      • Hi Terry. If your Silverwing is similar to a Goldwing (I looked up images of Silverwing and new models are like a scooter), there shouldn’t be a problem with that.

        For the headlight you’ll need to find an older mount from a wrecker that fits, which shouldn’t be hard, ditto with the indicators. Providing all lights are visible, working and properly mounted, there shouldn’t be a law against that modification.

      • Hi Terry,


        You’ll need some brackets/mountings stuff from a standard model GL (or CX). These should be be very easy to find since the standard GL (and CX) are much more common than the Interstate version.

        PS: Your bars should already have provisions for the standard rearview mirrors. Look for the plastic plugs – and just remove ’em. Now you’ve got threaded mounts for any aftermarket (or stock) rearview you’d like to use.

  33. I don’t understand. Yes, yes, 40% tariffs to help preserve HD, Corporatism, okay, THAT I understand.

    But the usual response was to come out with (w a i t for it!): a 700cc motorcycle to avoid the tariff. Since it was already a 700cc or less motorcycle, just labeled a bit smaller, why did the tariff apply to it in the first place, and why didn’t they upgrade it to the 700cc label in the second place? Maybe bore it out a bit more?

    But WHY did the HD Welfare Tax apply to this model in the first place?

    The argument was usually over whether to take a 650cc and overbore it, or a 750 and sleeve it, yes? Not decide to kill it after a major renovation/upgrade that only lacked the New! Improved! 700cc! Tariff Beater! label.

    If I missed something, please, tell me.

    • In 1983 a GL650 was $4,011. I bought my first bike that year, a 1982 SWGL500i for $2,799. put 29Kmi before the kids popped out and sold it in 1992. Now have 7 CX’s, almost my own museum. The tariff first applied to 750cc and larger I thought, hence all the odd 700cc’s, then it changed to anything above 699cc. The GL650 had the odd 674cc I believe to combat a possible change to a 675cc limit that never happened. These engines whine, and warble and rattle and shake, simply music. The WHY has not been explained very well here. I don’t know if any that follows is true but just my h-opinion > A little top heavy, pushrod engine, more parts less power, vibration (who says thats bad harley?), not asthetic for a cruiser, short frame, just many things that go against the ‘popular’ wants of the masses. But it found thousands of niche buyers mostly in the rust belt and east coast areas and the UK. It has become an iconic cult bike with amazing stamina and appeal except for the Doctor J here. The Plastic Maggot is truly beautiful in sight and sound. The modern CX is now a V-4 in ST1100-ST1300 skin with modular plastics. See the CX dirt track racer in Columbus OH at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Another TWIST on a twisted VEE punched out to 750cc. Sorry Doc, sounds like you have a complex and alzheimers. (closet CX lover perhaps) Oh I’m glad the Harley was saved from extinction as Norton and BSA and many more were not saved. I’m just glad they make a water filled Harley now. Stirring not shaken. Lots of cool machines made throughout the years. I’m going to shut up and ride.

      • Hi Vat,


        I got into CXs and Gls thanks to my friend Graves (who owns several) and kept pestering me to try one. When I decided to buy my first touring-type bike, I was seriously considering a cop Kz1000. I liked that they were fast, reasonably light/agile and also fairly simple, with “the guts” mostly very accessible. I already have a restored ’76 Kz900, so I figured the cop Kz1000 would be similar.

        But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted something different. The GL650 Silverwing fit the bill. It’s an oddball, but it’s light, extremely fuel efficient (I’m getting almost 60 MPG out of mine) and certainly adequately powerful for touring. It took a little while to get used to the high-revving twin (I felt I was abusing it at first) but have come to appreciate that this engine was born to run – for years – at 5,500 RPM on the highway (appx. 70 MPH), with a 9,000 RPM redline and enough grunt to run up to 100-plus, if you need to.

        I’m planning on getting a more comfortable seat/backrest, but otherwise, this bike really does the job for me.

        Less than $2,000 for an unusual/rare but absolutely bulletproof, long-legged and economical tourer is righteous in my book!

        • I bought my 83’silver silvering earlier this year for $650 I was riding it till the starter clutch went bad. So many want it but she is still mine.

          • You beat me!

            Mine was $1,400 – so far, not a single issue with it.

            I haven’t checked yet, but I’m betting you’ll have no trouble finding the parts you need to get yours back on the road. Many of the more common CX/GL500 parts can be used – and Honda is pretty good about carrying service items.


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