Lowering the Bar on a Motorcycle

Lowering the bar on a motorcycle by using a DIY top box.

For the past few years, I’ve been in a beautifully committed relationship, probably the best relationship I’ve been in to date as a middle age dude.1Not to undermine any of my prior relationships, especially from my youth; they were fun viscerally, too, but just in a different way.

Meet Maggie

For those who don’t know my ol’ lady, Maggie is a vintage 1984 Honda Magna v65, 1,098cc motorcycle; a power cruiser with a high performance engine “under the hood.” A real “sleeper” bike, as they say.2A bike that’s unsuspectedly faster and more powerful than it appears.

During the nice weather, I spend a lot more time with her – doting on her, tinkering with her, traveling with her, and whatnot. When it’s colder outside, say, below 45°F, she gets a bit stubborn and won’t go for a ride.3As a carbureted motorcycle, the V65 tends to get more difficult to start as temperatures approach the freezing mark. I trust her better judgement; safety and such.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the platform bracket used to mount the rear top box cracked. It held up well over the years, despite being cheap injection molded plastic. So, I decided to put the milk crate that I have used on my commuter bicycle for many years on the motorcycle to test whether it would be a suitable, temporary replacement.

STLun Top Box

The top box I had on the bike is STLun model B009.

Below is a picture of Maggie from late spring. We were driving through Farmdale (Johnston Township), at the bustling intersection of Ridge Road and Irishtown Southworth Road, on our way home.

Honda Magna v65 on Irishtown Southworth Rd. at Ridge Rd. near Farmdale Johnston Township), Ohio

STLun Top Box on Maggie

One may still purchase this top box either as STLun or one of the other brand names that is used for the same box, such as the Emgo model 72-32440 and JCW.

I found the same model STLun top box for sale at WebBike for about $74, but shipping from Japan costs nearly as much as the box. Also, a guy in my area was selling his used one for $50. However, I don’t need the box, just the platform bracket.

The replacement bracket and mounting accessories cost about $25, plus shipping. But, the thing is, I don’t want low quality injection molding for the bracket. The way it mounts to the Magna makes it susceptible to cracking again due to the stress from hitting bumps.

My realistic longer term options, if I want to continue to use a top box instead of a soft strap-on bag, are twofold:

  • Fabricate a piece of scrap sheet metal or aluminum (perhaps 1/8″ thickness) to make a sturdy, durable bracket. It would be a relatively easy project.
  • Buy a different top box that includes a metal bracket. These can be acquired locally in the used market from time-to-time.

Milk Crate

My temporary solution, which has been working well for the past few weeks, at least for my commuter needs, is the trusted milk crate. It’s also lighter and better aerodynamically due to the holes in it. The install was simple. I used a few pieces of wood for lateral support, and then secured it with several zip ties.

Magna V65 with Milk Crate

But, from an appearance perspective, I’ve definitely lowered the bar. I mean, all these Harley and Goldwing riders with their fancy saddle bags and top boxes snicker or chuckle when they see it. I’ve taken the sleeper bike to a whole other level, though. Albeit a lower level.

Honda Magna V65 with saddle bags and crate at Mosquito Lake.

People say I should get a Kawasaki KLR 650, since some of the owners/riders are notorious for using milk crates and other DIY luggage gear.

However, even KLR-ers can have an attitude about others’ using milk crates. But, why?

It’s comical reading some of the comments to the “Milk Crate Nirvana” post over on the KLR Forum. A couple of these guys seem to have gotten triggered (one just in jest, to be fair) by the original poster’s question.

You can do better than a friggin milk crate.

Or this…

Milk Crates are for poors.

And this…

Unless you’re on a farm or it’s post-apocalypse, it’s kind of ghetto to use a milk crate, a desecration of the KLR

What do I say? “Embrace the crate,” I say.

Yammie or Maggie?

The interesting thing is, shortly after I installed the milk crate and put my old canvas saddle bags on Maggie, I’ve received multiple compliments and outright offers to buy the motorcycle. I’m continually being approached with people saying, “nice crate” or “I like your bike.”

Last week, for example, I was up in Andover, which is about 30 miles northeast of my homestead.4Apparently, I live along the Appalachian Plateau. I drove through town square, looped through a residential street, and then parked at the square. I walked over to the library to check it out. I was there less than two minutes and a guy walks in the door, looks at me, and says, “did you just drive a Magna down Elm Street?” I said, “yeah, I did.” And he said, “nice bike; we don’t get a lot of the old classics around here.”

It’s counterintutive – because “she ain’t a beauty, but hey, she’s alright,” to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen in the song “Thunder Road.”

Nevertheless, the bike is almost 40 years old. So, I might actually consider selling or trading it to get something newer. I’ve had my eyes on a similar bike; the ultimate sleeper bike and arguably the best all-around street motorcycle ever produced: The 1st Gen Yamaha FZ1 (2001-2005).

2005 Yamaha FZ1 vs 1984 Honda Magna V65.

I won’t go into detail about the FZ1; maybe if I get one, then I’ll do so in a future post. For now, here’s a basic comparison of some stats I got from Motostatz, which I linked to above, and from the Cycle World article at the top of this post.

Comp Table: FZ1 vs Magna V65

FZ1 1st GenMagna v65
Engine (cc)9981,098
CylindersIn-line 4V4
Carburetion37mm Mikuni36mm Keihin
Torque (ft-lb)7870
Final drivechainshaft
Zero-60 mph3.04.3
Zero-100 mph5.98.3
Quarter-mile (sec. | mph)10.8 | 13111.1 | 124
Top speed (mph)163145
Redline (rpm)11,50010,000
Fuel tank (gal.)5.54.5
Fuel efficiency-avg. (mpg)4137
Tank range (miles)226167
Weight (dry)459542
Weight (wet)509591
Horsepower per wet lb.0.290.20

Note, though, the numbers vary depending on the source used because conditions and drivers for the tests are not the same.

The quarter mile times for the FZ1, for instance, range from 10.58 to 10.78 (I used the slower figure), whereas the quarter mile times for the Magna V65 range from 10.75 to 11.25, I used the more realistic, but slower one from the Cycle World article. The 0-60 and 0-100 times for the Magna don’t make sense to me; they seem way too slow. Lastly, Maggie is modified slightly, so she has more horsepower (~122 vs 116 stock) due to increased size of jets in the carbs, better air filter/box, and different exhaust pipes, among a few other minor modifications.

The Best Sleeper Bike

Sean over at SRKcycles5I think he closed the dealer part of the business since this video was published. conducts a big picture review of the Yamaha FZ1 and demonstrates why it’s such a good all around motorcycle.

One aspect of his videos that are unique is that he incorporates Bible verses, which is a nice touch. For instance, at about 5:58 of the video I linked to, he provides the following words of wisdom:

10 “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much.

Luke 16:10 | New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Closing Words

What are your thoughts on upright/standard motorcycles that would compare well side-by-side with the 1st Gen Yamaha FZ1? What luggage system do you use?


  • 1
    Not to undermine any of my prior relationships, especially from my youth; they were fun viscerally, too, but just in a different way.
  • 2
    A bike that’s unsuspectedly faster and more powerful than it appears.
  • 3
    As a carbureted motorcycle, the V65 tends to get more difficult to start as temperatures approach the freezing mark.
  • 4
    Apparently, I live along the Appalachian Plateau.
  • 5
    I think he closed the dealer part of the business since this video was published.

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