Back in the 1970s, new motorcycle models were migrating from traditional wire-spoke wheels, which predate the internal combustion engine, to cast wheels that offered much more modern styling along with lower maintenance and (in some cases) the ability to run tubeless tires. But there were some drawbacks to early production cast wheels, namely excessive porosity and increased weight.
Honda, being the bright minds they are, eschewed cast wheels for stamped, riveted composite wheels dubbed “Comstars,” which they debuted with much fanfare in 1977. They were light, strong, cheap to manufacture and virtually maintenance free — and also dorky-looking enough that the bike-buying public never quite cottoned to their appearance, despite a series of styling updates. Honda eventually gave in and by 1983 largely abandoned composite construction for genuine cast wheels. But there remains a whole generation of Hondas now reaching the age where they are still plentiful, but cheap and and worn enough to be perfect source material for customizing and restomod projects — if not for those tawdry-looking Comstars.
For chain drive bikes, jettisoning both those Comstars is not a terribly difficult process: there are innumerable donor wheels available from earlier or later Hondas (and any of a dozen other marques) that can be easily fitted with just a clever lathe-turning here or spacer inserted there. For shaft-drive Hondas of the era, however, fitting a different rear wheel is much more problematic.
If you look around the ‘net, you’ll see a great number of custom CX500s and GL1100s that have replacement front ends, but are still burdened with the original Comstar out back. A couple of really clever individuals, however, have learned that Comstars have one largely unexploited benefit: they come apart.
Honda’s official stance on Comstars has always been that they should never be disassembled: they can only be riveted properly at the factory, and are not field-repairable. The truth is that many of the rivets that hold Comstars together have become, decades on, corroded, loose, and borderline unsafe. A number of riders have racked up many miles after drilling out the rivets and replacing them with slightly oversized, high-grade aircraft bolts and locknuts.
Even better, you can get rid of those stamped steel plates once and for all. Once you disassemble a Comstar wheel, you have a nice, structurally sound, self-contained hub with holes around the perimeter, just waiting to have custom spoke flanges bolted to them.
The taproot of hot rodding (on two wheels or four) is overcoming the original limitations of a factory machine by adding a good dose of ingenuity to whatever resources you have available, ending up with something better than it was. And I’d think we’d all agree that getting rid of those cheesy Comstars certainly makes these Hondas better looking than they were.
[Image Source: CX500forum.com]