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Scooter Review

Honda Silverwing 600 Review

Honda’s sophisticated new maxi has made a splash.

Words by JEREMY BOWDLER, photography by LOU MARTIN

Hmm. Silverwing. Sounds familiar...

Ah, that’d be the GL500/650 motorcycle you’re thinking of. Honda capitalised on the mega-tourer GoldWing’s popularity in the US with a faired version of the CX500/650 V-twin between 1981 and 1983. Whacking a heavy fairing on a relatively modest power output didn’t work. This one’s completely different and much better.

But it’s a scooter, right? Not a mini GL1800.

Forget the comparison. The new Silverwing is a top-flight maxi scooter and deserves its own place in the sun. Despite the automatic drive train though, there’s a lot of Honda’s motorcycle technology built in, so it’s more like the first of Honda’s hybrid bike/scooter machines.

Isn’t 600cc overkill for a scooter?

Not at all. Here in Australia maxis make perfect sense. The convenience of a scooter with the ability to cover huge distances in comfort. Just ask Julio Languillier, who rode one 15,000km around Australia in 15 days. The 582cc parallel twin four-stroke makes 37kW at 7500rpm and 50Nm at 6000 and that means effortless acceleration and more than enough power for highway overtaking. It’s also dead smooth thanks to a 360-degree crank (where both pistons rise and fall together) coupled with two primary balancer shafts that kill all primary imbalance. And that makes a difference over the long haul.

But parallel twins have been around since Triumph’s Edward Turner was in short pants. What makes this one so high-tech?

Sure, the lay-out is ancient, but the treatment is new, with the balance shafts; vertically split crankcases eliminating the centre crankshaft journal allowing a very narrow engine; lightweight slipper pistons for improved acceleration from a standstill; direct shim-under-bucket valve actuation for 25,000km service intervals; an automatic camchain tensioner; and, of course, Honda’s PGM-FI fuel-injection for
clean, effi cient combustion with more power and fewer emissions. It’s a good donk.
What’s more, the swingarm pivot is concentric with the crankshaft, so the engine is also balanced in the chassis, improving suspension control and handling.

Okay, so you’ve read the spec sheet. What’s it like?

In a word, punchy. The power is tamed by a three-stage Honda V-Matic transmission that is designed to offer smooth power for around-town use before changing the gearing, at around 4000rpm by the seat of the pants meter, slightly for mid-range acceleration, before liberating full power at the top end. It’s hard to pick when the changes occur, so the unit is very smooth in operation. You can pick up where the changes are on deceleration, but only if you concentrate.
What you can feel, however, is when the automatic clutch disengages – just below 2000rpm – when you are slowing to a stop. At that point engine braking disappears. It can feel a bit funny heading into tight corners in traffi c, but you get used to it pretty quickly and it is a quirk rather than a fault. All automatic scooters do it, but the weight of the Silverwing makes it more pronounced.

Are the brakes up to the task? CBS? That’s like ABS isn’t it?

Glad you asked. The Silverwing runs Honda’s CBS system which stands for Combined Braking System. It’s not ABS, but it does provide fuss-free stopping. The front end carries a three-piston caliper, backed up by a twin-piston unit at the rear. Operating the front brake lever brings the two outer pistons in the front caliper into play, hauling the big beast down quite comfortably. The combined nature of the brakes lies in the rear brake lever. Pulling this on operates both pistons in the rear caliper and the centre piston at the front. Result? Rapid, stable deceleration, with less weight transfer, and shorter stopping distances. Use both and you can stop on a dime.

But I use the rear brake to help with cornering stability. I don’t want the front to come on mid-corner.

Don’t worry. Honda has built in a delay valve so that the front piston is only activated after a certain amount of pressure is built up in the lines. You can rear brake through corners to your heart’s content. I know because that’s how I ride, too.

Big wheels... Do they help?

The 14-inch front carries a 120/80 section tyre while the 13-inch rear has a 150/70. There’s plenty of rubber on the road and plenty of stability from the large rim sizes. They ride speedhumps, potholes and crap roads with style, and still provide a heap of fun in the twisties. No complaints. The suspension is well sorted, too. The non-adjustable front forks work well and the rear twin spring-damper units have
five-way preload adjustment which, is a masterful stroke, is easily adjusted by hand.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about the ride position?

Pretty neutral. The seat height feels quite low and the running boards quite high in comparison with many maxis and, at 195cm, I couldn’t quite get my feet fl at on the “highway peg” footboard position, but overall it’s generous, comfortable and roomy. The rider’s backrest offers brilliant lumbar support. Best in the business. And it’s adjustable fore and aft by 50mm. Pillions are well catered for with a comfortable seat, lumbar support and good grab handles The instruments, too, are top of the class, with all the information you’d want. There are two storage pockets, the right operated by a press-latch and the left is lockable. According to the presskit there’s a parking brake lever underneath the right-hand storage pocket, but I’d never have found it without reading the PR guff. Handy nonetheless. The rear luggage rack is actually a moulded shelf, which will require some though if you want to fi t a top-box and luggage tie down points seem few and far between.

And the boot?

There is a 55-litre space under the seat, which is supported by a hydraulic strut and which has a courtesy light. Two full face helmets will fit, but the shape of the storage compromises carrying bulky items a little more than say, the Burgman or TMax.

Now you’re talking. Burgman, TMax or Silverwing?

Tough call without a back-to-back comparison. It’d probably be quicker than the Burgman, but that’s down to weight more than anything else, and it’s not as polished as the big Suzuki. Then again, the Suzuki bristles with stuff that may not be strictly necessary. The Burgman is aimed at the luxury set. The TMax has long held the mantle of best handling maxi, but I’d say that’s under threat from the Silverwing. Again, the TMax has been around for a while. It’s still a great thing, and its storage is better laid out. It is, though, a bit less refi ned in operation. The TMax makes a claimed 4kW less than the Honda, but also weighs 10kg less. It’s a tough call as far as performance goes, but the Honda is more civilised, not least from a rider comfort point of view. While the three offer different qualities, the TMax and the Silverwing are the closer in terms of competition.

Gut feeling?

Ride both, but I’d take the Honda. The TMax has long held the mantle of best handling maxi, but I’dsay that’s under threat from the Silverwing.

As published in TW SCOOTER MAGAZINE - 27/04/2007
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