Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda GL650 Silver Wing Interstate

Fri, April 29th, 2011

1983 Honda GL650 Silver Wing Interstate
Honda's '650' (actually 673cc) longitudinal V-twin was superior in every way to the longer-lived CX500. It was stronger, smoother, faster, and had much better mid-range and low-end power. While it couldn't be considered a hotrod by any means, especially given the dresser version's 525-lb-plus heft, it was finally up to the task of climbing up mountainous terrain and pushing that big Interstate fairing through the air.
The GL650-I was positioned as a 'mini-Gold Wing' and is graded in that vein. It was definitely more agile than any full-sized tourer of the day, but conversely stayed on-track with less surety. The rear suspension had wonky damping. Compared to other bikes its displacement, it felt top-heavy; it tended to fall into turns and took some effort to maintain the angle of lean.
The look is distinctive but elegant, befitting the bike's mission. The CX/GL 650s had much nicer details than their somewhat gawky-looking 500 predecessors, and the dressed version was the nicest of them. The Interstate used the same stylish, mid-sized hard bags as the CBX and the upper fairing from the GL1100; despite its much shorter, smaller dimensions, the add-ons don't look remarkably proportioned.
After a bunch of maintenance issues with the CX500, Honda got everything sorted the second time around. The GL650 is under-stressed, and appealed to mature riders, so there are examples out there with lots of miles left in them.
The Silver Wing Interstate was designed as a long-haul mount for Gold Wingers' wives and other people who wanted a smaller, less intimidating ride for one-up touring. The bike's solo character was underscored by the fact that the passenger seat could be swapped out for a combination back rest and tail trunk.
The GL650-I was a distinctive bike and a smart concept that didn't really capture the public's imagination. Its relative rarity just makes it more desirable.
The 650 Silver Wing dresser was a worthwhile and functionally successful attempt at creating a new class of motorcycle. The idea fizzled, even though today's maxi-scooters have found success offering similar amenities with similar displacement engines.