® Thoughts on
Julian Ryder's book on the Honda V4


A few years ago upon someone's suggestion I read Julian Ryder's 1999 Honda's V-Force, subtitled Their four-stroke V4s on road and track. An enjoyable read, nicely illustrated and well-written, and containing many interesting observations and insights. It's rewardingly engaging. I actually found a lot to like in the content covering the first-generation production bikes. I particularly like his description of Honda V4 engine power as "seamless'" and a resto on a V65 Magna I did a few years ago reminded me of how "electric motor" -like the power is. Very uniquely so.

I did however stumble over one or two things Ryder said about the technical aspects of the early production bikes, especially that in Chapter 4.

VF500F Crankshaft Recall
Ryder doesn't mention that the VF500F crankshaft issue was in fact a recall, meaning that it had serious safety implications. It should be noted that the recall, which involved replacement of the whole engine, was preemptive. The crankshaft flywheels cracked under sustained top speed use, which was almost academic in the U.S. The engines came inside wood crates with foam rubber balls in their intake and exhaust ports.

Oil Banjo Bolt
The oil banjo bolt thing is apochraphal. I was there, first at the corporate office and later at the dealerships, when these bikes were introduced and were current models. The shaft drive (Sabre, Magna) and chain drive (Interceptor) bikes have different oil banjo bolts. They were different because on one bike the oil goes to the right angle drive, requiring a change in pressure. The chain drive bike didn't have this oiling need. However, some wise guy noticed the difference between the two bolts and began spreading the idea that replacing the jetted bolt for the non-jetted was a good field fix for supposedly oil-starved cams. However, oiling had nothing to do with the cam issues anyway.

V4 Design Runs Hot, Contributes to Cam Failures
Honda V4 engines didn't run excessively hot, surely not as hot as the CBX1000 model Honda. Heat had nothing to do with it. Lubrication had nothing to do with it. The phases of the moon had nothing to do with it...

Bad Cam Chain Tensioners as a Cause of Cam Failures
This is actually funny. How could the two be related? The tensioners on most first-gen models were revised at least once.

Final Solution The Special Valve Adjustment Tool
Let's cut to the chase. Honda themselves changed their mind about this tool, as Ryder dutifully mentions. The whole cam tool thing was corporate coverup, a way to blame their dealers. I've written elsewhere on my website about this.

Honda's Replacement of the Early Production Run 1982 Cams and Bearings
There never was a program for this. There was a replacement kit made available, and I used it. Specially heat-treated cams, but more importantly, 1983 cam bearings. But it was never publicized.

Additional reading:
Early Honda V4 history
Fallacies about first-generation V4s found on the web
Early Honda V4 cams -- what really happened

For more powersports maintenance fallacies, see this article.

More book critiques: Sean MacGregor, Mark Paris, Randakk

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