Jun 21, 2010

Honda Silverwing Review


Having owned just over 60 motorcycles it seemed an eventuality that I'd own a scooter, but I never thought I'd pony up for a "super-scooter" like the Honda Silverwing.

The original Silverwing was the 1982 GL650, a V-twin motorcycle designed mostly for touring or in-town commuting.  So when I heard Honda had brought back the brand name I figured it would be a small version of the venerable GoldWing, not a scooter.  But as soon as I was able to test drive one I was hooked, as it completely destroyed my preconceived notions of what a scooter should be.

The acceleration from the Silverwing was not only blazingly fast but I was actually able to keep-up with several "regular" sport-bikes right off the line, all without having to ever reach for the clutch lever or raise my foot to change gears - because the Silverwing is a *scooter*, the transmission is a variable-speed belt-drive, or Honda V-Matic making it an automatic - a very smooth and predictable automatic at that.

Braking was surprisingly good too; grab a handful of lever action and you get stop-on-a-dime pull downs that once again makes the Silverwing feel more like a sport-bike than something you'd normally reserve for college-student commuting.

Cornering and overall handling is quite nice too, firm enough that you feel the road and aren't taken by surprise with small bumps or road irregularities yet soft enough that long-distance rides that would normally tax a sport-rider to pull over and give the hands and butt a rest.

And therein lies the pitch of ownership:  Sport-bike performance that thrills the senses with GoldWing-style riding comfort for the long haul.

And as you'd expect from a two-wheeled machine designed for comfort the Silverwing has plenty of storage right under the seat, enough for a full-sized helmet and more.  There's also side-pocket storage in the upper fairing, a handy side/rear handrail for the passenger to grab onto which doubles as a mounting platform for accessory bags, and a stepped "king/queen" seat with a tailbone sized backstop with plenty of cush to keep both you and the passenger from sliding off the tail-end during those heart-stopping, light-speed ,jaw-dropping acceleration runs from a stop.  Yep, if you're used to a sport-bike this won't leave you jones-ing for more power but your passenger might smack you in the head for reminding them just how fast it really is.

So it's fast, fun and has plenty of room for stuff.  But there is one really big caveat and that's the price.  To purchase a new one will set you back more than $9000 after you pay for tax, title, dealer prep etc, which is exactly how much a 600cc sport-bike would cost. And in today's financially lean marketplace it's hard to justify that cost for something that by definition is supposed to be more utilitarian rather than pure toy.

Which begs the question:  Do you want an uber-fast super-scooter or do you want a real motorcycle?  At this price-point you really have to define what kind of riding you want to do and whether comfort and a far less intense maintenance schedule is important or do you want to totally rip through corners scraping knees and frame parts with no place to hold your groceries?  It's a conundrum to be sure.

But there's no denying the "cool factor" with the Silverwing; it definitely has a unique look with it's sculpted full-length body fairing, integral turn signals and even the side-mounted exhaust canister has been given a nice design onto it's own.  And did I mention it's fast?  The old school-cruising Elite this isn't, nor is it the old and very ugly Helix no, this is a CBR 600 hidden underneath a scooter facade.

There's no chain to lube and adjust, it has a center-stand for making sure it doesn't tip over during hot summer months that make sidestands sink into soft blacktop or making DIY maintenance a snap, the seat is adjustable and comfortable with plenty of room for your favorite co-pilot and the large windscreen keeps bugs and highway speed winds from pelting your helmet and upper body.  And it's fast.


What?  Neutral, after all that flattering stuff I said about it?  Right, because for all the things the Silverwing does well it's also extremely pricey for a scooter, even if it is a super-scooter.

Most people who are considering a scooter in this economy are doing so because they want to have something to commute with that won't break the bank and while sipping the fuel.  The Silverwing really doesn't get any better gas mileage than a 500-600cc sport-bike, how could it with all that mind-blowing performance it's capable of?  And at over $9000 for purchase price it's starting to compete with econo-box cars - especially in the used market - for being a utilitarian device.

No, you can't consider the Silverwing a cost-effective commuter, it's is in fact a sport-bike alternative.  That's it's intended market, not commuting, and in that respect it's an amazing machine.