Pros: Power, Handling, Uniqueness
Cons: Seat, Factory carb setup, low rpm power
The Magna is a cruiser, it looks like any number of other cruisers. It has an upright, low slung seating position with foot pegs that are slightly forward. It's pretty plain looking as far as cruiser's go. Honda hasn't changed anything but the paint for nigh on 10 years! The most noticeable styling features are the directional aluminum wheels and the FOUR exhaust pipes.
(For reference, I'm 5'10", 190lbs)
The seat height is only 28 inches, and the foot pegs are positioned in a natural, somewhat forward position. It's just about like your legs would be positioned if you sit upright in a chair. If you have long legs you may need to invest in a set of forward controls, my friend, who has slightly longer legs than I do, says that his legs feel cramped on the Magna. After riding a Harley Davidson V-Rod, I think I'll keep my standard controls and add some highway bars for when I want to stretch out. The handlebars are not too high and swept back just enough that my arms are at a slight bend. I don't feel like I am stretching to reach them or cramped by them. All of the important controls are within easy reach of your thumbs and fingers, the only exceptions being the fuel valve, but it is easly reachable from the standard riding position and the ignition switch, which is forward on the left side of the bike. The speedometer and tachometer are set so that they are easily viewed by just glancing down, no need to move your head.
The seat on the Magna gets a lot of bad press, it is wide and soft and you will be thankful when its time for gas. After about an hour in the saddle you'll start to go numb, after a whole day of riding you'll be sick of the thing! The stock seat is a serious issue on the Magna, but it's probably the easiest flaw to fix. The passenger seat is way too small and the footpegs too high up, if you plan to carry a passenger often you may want to invest in a different seat and some peg extenders, my wife is 5'7" and she does not like the stock passenger riding position at all. The two front runners are Mustang and Corbin with a slight edge to the Mustang seat if you plan to ride a lot with a passenger. Of course the aftermarket seat is going to change the foot position AND the handlebars so you may be buying more than just a seat!
The standard Magna doesn't come with any sort of fairing or windshield. There was a deluxe model made for a couple of years that came with a fairing and there are a number of aftermarket windshields available. I have no problem with the lack of a fairing, but if you are going to be at highway speeds (60 or more ) then you will want to ad some sort of wind protection because the buffeting can get down right tiring!
Oh yea! This is what sets the Magna apart from the crowd! At only 750 cc's the V4 engine is at the very low end for cruiser engine displacement. I think that's why it gets overlooked, people are enamored with size and think bigger must be better. In a typical cruiser's V-Twin (2 cylinder) engine, bigger is better but the Magna has four cylinders! From the factory the Magna makes around 80 horsepower, more than most cruisers twice it's size!
The liquid cooled V4 engine in the Magna is a direct descendant of the VFR 750 engine. It's a completely balanced design so you don't get the teeth rattling vibration that most V-Twin cruisers have. The engine can rev and make power all the way to 10000 rpm and boy does it make power! One problem I see with the V-4 for cruising is that it makes very little of it's power below 4000 rpm. You'll find yourself shifting a lot on curves and hills to keep the Magna in it's "sweet spot". The only other problem that I can find with the engine is that it is a victim of emissions standards. From the factory the carburetors are tuned VERY lean, resulting in a mid-range "surge" on some Magna's. The good news is that for $8 you can get a carburetor shim kit from Dave Dodge Performance complete with detailed instructions that will cure that problem! Not all Magna's have the surging problem, but if you ride one that does, know that it's cheap and easy to fix!
I get around 50mpg and hit the reserve at about 120 miles. Some people have complained that the tank is too small, but after 120 miles I'm ready to get off and stretch my legs anyway so I have no problem with the gas tank size.
The V-4 will never sound like a Harley so if you are in the market for a bike that sounds that way you should keep looking. The stock exhaust is VERY quiet and the Magna sounds like a sportbike (Imagine that since it has a sportbike engine), the exhaust can be opened up and gives a very satisfying rumble... again different that a V-Twin, but the Magna IS unique.
It comes with a 5 speed transmission with a chain drive to the rear tire. Shifting is smooth except for a sort of "chunking" from first to second (this is "normal"). Some people think the Magna needs a 6th gear and I'll agree that it couldn't hurt, but for "cruising" 5 is plenty. Another gear would come in handy if you do a lot of highway riding. 60 miles per hour has the engine doing 4000 rpm with stock gearing, which is a lot for a V-Twin, but normal for the V4. I do find myself shifting a lot more than my V-2 riding friends, a lot of this has to do with the afore mentioned lack of low rpm power.
Many people dislike the chain drive. The only disadvantage I can see to the chain is that you have to oil it and check the adjustment every 500-600 miles which only takes a few minutes.
This is one of the first upgrades any Magna owner should make. The suspension on the Magna is mediocre, it isn't "BAD", but it isn't that good either. The only adjustment you have is for pre-load on the rear. The front springs are pretty soft and the front end will dive on hard braking. They also give the Magna a sort of "loose" feeling on roads that aren't very smooth. Replacement springs are available from progressive suspension for around $60 and they cure some of the front suspension woes. I installed the Progressive fork springs in about 45 minutes, they did cut down on the brake dive, but that's about the only thing I noticed, the ride quality and handling were no better or worse (that I could tell).
The rear suspension is dual coil over type shocks. The preload adjustment is nice, but it would be nice if you could adjust the damping too. Progressive also offers rear springs.
I didn't think I'd like the Magna before I rode one. When I got on one I had to get used to the forward controls (I was accustomed to a Suzuki Katana) but I was amazed at how easily the Magna handles! It really doesn't feel like a 505lb cruiser once you get your feet off the ground! Low speed turns are a breeze and riding in the curves is a blast! It's not a sport bike, but the Magna will leave other cruisers in the dust in the curves! The low center of gravity and ample ground clearance is what makes the Magna so nimble, it does't feel heavy at all and you don't have to work to steer it. My friends Maruader has about the same seat height but no where near the ground clearance of the Magna.
The Magna has a single disc front and drum rear brake. Stopping power seems to be adequate, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of fade. The rear brakes are kind of weak, especially if you're used to rear disc, but once you learn that you have to apply a little more foot pressure for the same stopping power life is good.
Dunlop K555 tires come from the factory and they seem to work very well. Honda chose an odd combination of wheel/tire sizes so your choices are limited but the front runners are the K555 and the Metzeler ME880, the Metezeler's seem to be the favorite among Magna owners, although it IS constantly debated. The Metzeler's cost quite a bit more than the Dunlops and don't seem to be any better. It seems the Dunlop K555 is the best bang for the buck.
Aftermarket Support and Value
The Magna doesn't have as much after market support as some other more popular models, but there are several companies offering exhaust, jets, bags, seats, and windshileds. Unfortunately these manufacturers like to charge a premium for these parts and you could easily sink thousands into upgrades... my advice is to buy a used one that someone else has already upgraded.
This is a lot of motorcycle for the money. For buyer's it is a steal because it isn't the most popular bike in the world. You can get a used, late model, low mileage Magna for under $5K easily if you can find one(depending on where you live).
The total Package
Riding the Magna is an absolute joy once you tweak it to your personal comfort leve. The combination of un cruiser like power and handling in a "cruiser" makes for a very exciting motorcycle! It's a good all around bike for someone that is past the sport bike stage but not ready to give up performance.
I'd recommend the Magna to anyone that likes to cruise at moderate speeds on winding country roads. If you are looking for a highway bike the Magna might not be right for you. I'm sure a lot of people have ridden their Magna's on long road trips, I just think it's at home on winding roads where you can enjoy the combination of balance and power.
This is a motorcycle that you won't outgrow! It's small and manuerverable enough for a beginner and powerful enough for a veteran. The Honda Magna will be in my garage for a long time!