In the summer of 2010 I decided I needed a bigger bike, mostly for comfort. I had no intention of more than doubling the engine size and horsepower from my Ninja 500R, but that’s the way it turned out. I had been made aware that any vehicle in BC was eligible for (much cheaper) Collector Insurance if it was at least 25 years old and in “excellent stock condition”. Therefore, I set out to find a 1985 or older bike in good shape.
Originally I had wanted to stay with a sport touring bike in the form of Honda VF750 Interceptor, but they proved hard to find. Also, my wife had served her time on the postage stamp sized seat on my old Ninja and had decided that she required a sissy bar. Fair enough; that would mean if I wanted to ride a V4 Honda that I would have to turn my attentions towards finding a Magna V45 (750cc).
There were plenty for sale and quite affordable, but they were either in rough condition or snapped up quickly. During one of my daily Kijiji classifieds scans I came across a ’83 Magna V65 (1100cc) for sale for $2500: Original owner, new fuel system and seat, and with 28,00 kms. Since the ad had just come online I told him I’d give him $2000 and make the 6 hour drive to pick it up in 2 days. I wasn’t sure I could handle such a big bike, but the opportunity presented itself and I had to jump at it. It had also been recently painted and was just a shade off of the colour of my truck, how could I say no?
Once home, I quickly adjusted to the different bike, and loved it. They call them muscle bikes for a reason; they really reminds me of 60’s muscle cars. The engine makes beautiful music, especially the exhaust burble while decelerating. It had a scary amount of power (116 hp to be exact) so I went easy on the throttle for a while. I would later learn that it’s very easy to get the front wheel in the air, especially with a passenger. The above pictured Pee Wee Gleason ran a 10.92 1/4 mile on this bike, making it the fastest production bike at the time.
I also couldn’t be as aggressive in the corners, but that’s probably a good thing. The low seating position was comfortable but the seat not so much. There’s very little form to it, but it has highway pegs so it’s nice to be able to stretch out from time to time. The 6 speed transmission is smooth and gives a lot of room to play with and even returns decent gas mileage (50 mpg if you’re nice) with 0.75 overdrive top gear. The gauge cluster even has a digital readout telling you what gear you’re in and a digi-bar coolant gauge. Fancy stuff.
I took a couple of months to get my Collector Plate as I had to find some stock Honda decals and wait for the bureaucracy to approve my application. I now had insurance that cost maybe 1/4 of the regular amount, but was restricted to not driving to work. I could however travel as far as I wanted for pleasure, and would shortly do so as the bike was running great. My brother was getting married back home in Winnipeg in September so I figured I might as well take the long way there, riding down to South Dakota, than up to Winnipeg. My wife would join me in Winnipeg than ride back with me across the prairies in late September.
Here’s how the bike looked before I hopped on it for my trip. I still can’t believe I rode it that far without a windshield. I had one, but it just had an ugly Honda sticker across the bottom of it. I had a full face helmet but the wind was pretty brutal at times.
I left after work on a very overcast Friday afternoon. The goal was to make it stateside so I could get a lot of riding in the next day. I got to the first town over the border, had some dinner and with an hour of sunlight left decided to press on despite the continuing overcast conditions. Big mistake. As soon as I got into the mountains the temperature dropped and the rain started. The rain soon turned into hail and then sleet. Comfort from the cold and wet was no longer my concern, being able to see the road was a big problem. I had to alternate between opening my fogged-up visor and momentarily seeing whilst getting pelted in the face and closing it and watching the world fog up. I slowly made it to the next town, skipping a campground for a nice warm hotel room where I could dry myself and all my gear.
I rode through Montana, checking out Little Bighorn Battlefield on the way. I made it to the Black Hills of South Dakota just in time for the Labour Day weekend. I checked out Sturgis’ Motorcycle Museum as well as all the usual attractions which were somewhat hampered by the heavy traffic. The scenery was great, but it was difficult to enjoy the twistiness of the amazing roads with all the traffic.
Heading north, I stuck to the back roads as is my custom, and quickly made my way through the Dakotas and Minnesota. The bike was running great until I was about and hour from my destination of Winnipeg. The transmission got stuck in 4th gear. Probably the best gear to be stuck in as it allowed (high-revving) highway speeds and very slow and painful take-offs from a stop. Fortunately I only had to come to two full stops before making it to my parent’s place, and I did so without stalling.
This is when I learned that most motorcycle shops do their best to avoid working on old bikes. I had a week to get it fixed and called every shop in town, without success. The only shop that would work on it was 40 mins out-of-town and they only agreed to work on it after I went online and printed out a full explanation on how to fix the broken spring that was buried in my transmission.
With the bike fixed, my brave wife and I set out the morning following my brother’s wedding. I seriously overestimated my ability to recover from the preceding evening’s festivities. Before even leaving the city, I managed to miss the low fuel warning light and ran out of gas. I had to walk to the nearest gas station, buy a jerry can, fill it up, throw the gas in the bike and then leave the jerry can curbside. Despite the nice weather we didn’t make it very far that day, getting about 2 hours out of the city.
Time was tight and we had two days to cover the 1400 km distance to home. The weather took a real bad turn for the worse, not only was it raining hard, it got cold; down to about 5C. I became a human rain shield. At least my wife was relatively dry, but cold nonetheless.. We had to stop at a laundromat in small town Saskatchewan so I could strip down to my underwear and throw my clothes in the dryer, while we warmed up and tried to wait out the rain. The rain relented a bit, but the cold remained and we managed to make it halfway home without freezing to death.
Conditions improved a bit the next day and while it was cold, we made it home without incident. My hardy travel mate courageously made it through the ordeal, but vowed to never again travel long distance on a bike. Can’t say I blame her.
In the three following summers, I did many other trips, but all of them much shorter. I stayed closer to home, enjoying the beautiful scenery and roads here, while minimizing the potential for issues far from home. Since I’ve been unable to ride the last couple of summers, I intend on doing much more riding this summer but I’ll likely keep it to a bunch of smaller trips close to home.
As far as the bike goes, I’ve made a habit of doing some preventative work at least once a year, starting with a top end oil modification kit. These DOHC V4s were known for having oil starvation issues, and while my cams had little wear, I figured it was cheap insurance. I’ve also replaced the tires, rebuilt a brake caliper and replaced a wonky ignition switch. I had the local motorcycle mechanic replace the steering head bearings and do some carb work as well as these jobs are not for the faint of heart.
Almost 6 years and 9000 kms into my ownership of this bike, I have no illusions about the average lifespan of a bike this age. While this particular bike seems to enjoy decent aftermarket support, most factory parts have long since been discontinued. Since its value remains low (not that I would sell anyway), the plan is to ride out as many kms as possible. It’s so well-rounded and fun to ride, I can’t wait to get back on it.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all you CCers out there!