1993-2004 Honda Magna 750

Smart Money

A 10,000-rpm tachometer says most of what you need to know. The signature wail of four 70 x 49mm cylinders arrayed in a 90-degree V takes care of the rest. The Magna 750 is more than a middleweight cruiser. Capable of high-12-second quarter-miles at just over 103 mph, Honda's third-generation V-4 cruiser roasts metric customs with twice its 748cc and half as many cylinders. Despite a seat that puts just 28 inches between yours and the blacktop, the riding position is more standard than cruiser thanks to an ersatz dirt-track handlebar and neutral footpeg placement. The subsequent lunge-lizard profile limits cornering clearance. But at 538 pounds complete with a full 3.6-gallon tank of 87-octane unleaded, it's much more manageable than anybody's big twin.

What's the catch? Fewer cubic inches mean more revolutions per minute-you have to spin it. There's also less torque in the basement than on the average middleweight V-twin. Still, the eminently flexible four will pull away smoothly with only 1500 rpm on the tach. On the flip side, there's a bit of a buzz at 7500 rpm, and extended play near the 9700-rpm rev ceiling drops mileage into the low 30s. Loafing along a tick above 4000 rpm on the freeway, the Magna is comfortable enough for a little touring. There should be plenty of room for two, though passengers may remove themselves from the cramped pillion quarters at the first gas stop. As you might surmise from the long, low profile, handling is skewed toward stability rather than agility, but the relative absence of road-hugging weight means there's still fun to be had in the twisties. Transmitting power to the rear wheel via a #530 chain adds one more item to the maintenance checklist, but there's no shaft to push the chassis around when you're hard on the gas.

Suspension is basic, but nicely sorted in stock trim. Budget for a little fork/shock rehab on a high-mileage example. Unlike early examples, Honda's last V-4 cruise missile has proven to be a reliable beast. Some '94 and '95 models suffered from cam side-thrust that caused a scary knocking noise from either or both cylinder heads. A Honda service bulletin outlined the fix: a 1mm hole drilled in the eight camshaft holders that let in enough engine oil to damp lateral movement. Problem solved. Beyond that, keep your eyes open for blown fork seals, sticky shifting and any warping of the hard-working single front disc.

Cheers
More power than a big twin in half the displacement, and nobody will ever mistake it for a Harley.

Jeers
Single front disc and a rear drum? Healthy appetite for unleaded. Cramped passenger accommodations.

Watch For
Leaky fork seals, warped front rotor, noisy top-end.

Verdict
Middleweight power cruiser isn't an oxymoron. It's a Honda Magna.

VALUE
1994 $3080
1997 $3415
2004 $4915
1996 | $3445
Ducati Monster 750
Perhaps the best Introduction to Desmodromics course for the novitiate. More agile, accessible and affordable than its bigger brothers, the 750 weighs 392 lbs. dry. It's fast enough to keep things interesting without scaring rookies away.
1997 | $2615
Kawasaki Eliminator 600
Armed with a 592cc 16-valve inline-four in place of the perfunctory cruiser V-twin, the Eliminator looks faster than it is. The pavement-skimming 28-inch seat height is more attractive anyway, especially if you're short of stature, experience and/or cash.
1993 | $1840
Suzuki Marauder 800
Introduced way back in '87, the Marauder is basically Suzuki's 800 Intruder twin with chain final drive and some drag-strip attitude. It's cheap, covers a quarter-mile in just over 14 seconds at just under 90 mph, and averages 42 mpg.