1984 Honda Sabre V65

Mar 11, 2001

Service time again. The K75 went in to Cascade BMW for a service smorgasbord, and I borrowed a Honda Sabre V65 for the duration. I thought to myself, "Oh, a V65, must be a 650. Sounds like fun." I was, to put it mildly, dead wrong.

It turned out, upon questioning, that this was in fact an 1100 cc four cylinder fire breather. The salesman who was loaning it to me said, "you can borrow this, as long as you promise not to kill yourself on it." He was smiling as he said that, but I realize now what exactly he was talking about. This is the bike that the bully, who sat sullenly in the back of class, would ride. This bike is designed for people who have every need to go as fast as possible, regardless of what's happening around them.

Riding Impressions

First things first. I got the bike started with no fuss (full choke for a few seconds, then half choke for perhaps 20 seconds, then she's good to go). I noticed it had a fairly satisfying deep bass note to the exhaust. I clambered aboard, twitched the throttle a few times, and headed off. The first thing I noticed: this bike does not want to go slowly. That may have you grinning like a babboon, but this was rush hour, and 20 MPH or slower is the order of the day. Having the bike champing at the bit to go 90+ MPH was a real pain in the ass. I spent a lot of time rocking back and forth over the "accelerate/decelerate" line, which this bike doesn't really do gracefully.

Motor aside, the bike was fairly mundane. The suspension wasn't bad, but wasn't good either. The steering was pretty heavy. Slow-speed maneuvering was kind of difficult, although the balance was better than on the top-heavy K75. It had a disturbing habit of falling into turns once past a certain lean angle, which may be attributable to the tires, but was disconcerting nonetheless. The brakes were nice and strong, but I wouldn't expect any less from a bike with this size motor. They didn't have a particularly good feel, and you had to grab a fair handful before really slowing down.

So, for all that griping, when there was a clear lane ahead of me, this bike was fun. Roll on any amount of throttle, from any RPM above 2k, and the bike leapt forward like a mule had kicked it. At one point while trying this out, I noticed as I shifted from 2nd to 3rd that the speedo was wavering around 60 MPH, and the engine was still accelerating hard. I had to lean way forward to keep the front wheel on the ground when really accelerating, in any gear. It was exceedingly satisfying to barely move the throttle and jump 20 MPH faster without knowing quite what happened.

The "ergos"

The ergonomics of this motorcycle are pretty basic. You sit almost straight upright (I found myself leaning forward just a tiny bit), but the bike is wide. The handlebars are wide (probably to help combat that heavy steering), the pegs are wide and high (to keep them from dragging around corners, I'm sure), and the gastank is fairly wide. Once I got used to them, the pegs were fine, but the first few times taking off, I just jabbed my ankles with them.

The dramatic rear 3/4 shot.

For how long I had the bike, I really should have re-adjusted the rear brake. The pedal was way too high for me, suggesting that the previous owner either didn't know any better, or was about 5' tall. It would have been a simple matter of undoing a hex head bolt and moving the lever on the splined shaft, but I never got to it.

The instrument panel was alright, although I would have preferred bigger gauges, and a smaller LCD section. The speedo went to 160, which isn't actually a farfetched number for this bike. It seems unlikely that most riders would take it much past 90 or 100, but I guess I can almost understand the reasoning here. The tach, as you can see, redlines at 10,000 RPM (which I never got near). The LCD section had gauges for gear position (with 6th gear represented as "OD"), fuel level, water temperature, and clock. On this particular bike, the clock and fuel level gauge were broken, but the water temp. and gear position were clear and easy to read. Again due to the used nature of this motorcycle, the plastic lenses on the instruments were cloudy and hard to see through.

The seat was unremarkable, although my tailbone did start aching after only 20 minutes on the bike. That's the kind of thing that will differ from person to person, though.

Instrument panel

The engine and transmission

The engine has largely already been described. It's big and powerful, and don't you dare get in its way. It makes a good noise when it's idling, and a powerful-sounding blatt, reminiscent of an airplane taking off, when it's accelerating. I understand from some specs I found on the web, that this bike gets about 37 MPG, which is really depressing, since my K75 only get 37 if I've been riding gently, or on the freeway a lot.

The transmission was nicely done, with good gear spacing, and easy shifting action. Gears shifted with a little click, although the action was heavy. None of the BMW thunking and sticking that I'm used to. I didn't have any hints of false neutrals.

This bike has a shaft final drive, rather than the more traditional chain. The shaft made some pretty interesting gear-lash noises. Nothing untoward happened, but anytime I transitioned from decelerating to accelerating it made a distinct "click-clk" noise.

The silly-big engine.

Suspension and brakes

The suspension on this bike is fairly basic. Sprung fork legs in front, and double trailing arms in back. I never actually saw the shock in back, and I assume it or they were hiding behind some of the plastic paneling forward of the rear wheel.

The suspension is not entirely without noteworthy features, though. I noticed that the front end didn't seem to dive as much when braking, and sure enough, on closer inspection, there is some clever system intended to reduce it. It seemed to work, although there was definitely still some brake dive.

The actual ride was, well, "normal." It didn't seem to handle big bumps very well, and was only mediocre over small stuff. The frame was nice and stiff, so it felt steady going around corners. The suspension on this bike is the number one reason I'd call it a "go straight and fast" bike rather than a twisties bike or a commuter. (Sort of like a jacked up Nova is a go straight and fast car.)

The brakes were fairly nice. Powerful when you squeeze hard, with no signs of fading (although I didn't ever encounter a situation where brakes would have started fading), but a little bit slow to grab. Until I had occasion to stop quickly, I feared the brakes might be a bit weak. Not a problem.

Dual front disks.

Created by Ian Johnston. Questions? Please mail me at reaper at obairlann dot net.