Two Wheeled Hotrodding: Overcoming The Curse of the Comstars

Various iterations of the Honda Comstar wheel.
Honda regularly updated them in a continuing attempt to make them palatable to consumers.

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]

0 Comments

  1. I will have to check my 1984 Honda V30 Magna soon. It's in storage, just waiting for me to dig it out soon and ride

  2. Interesting. My Ascot's mags are pretty tired looking. I was planning on stripping the original black accent paint and substituting gold. Haven't even thought of wire spokes. I don't think it would look that great but now I'm curious. To google.

      1. I knew they were early because I couldn't find many on older bikes, but no I did not. Thanks, I'm happy to know that.
        I actually prefer the wheels on the VT500 but it is shaft driven.

  3. As I was reading the article and pondering the pictures, I wondered if metal fatigue was ever a problem with either the stamped or cast wheels. Looking at the disassembled driveshaft wheel, the center looks like it was cracked and fell apart after the rivets were removed. I haven't been a motorcycle guy for a very long time (I got married – wife is scared of them) so I'm not familiar with non-spoke type wheels. I suppose if you made them beefy enough fatigue wouldn't be a problem, but then weight would be, at least in my mind. How well do these types of wheels work?

    1. They aren't cracked.. The spoke assembly was made from five separate but identical parts.

  4. Will wonders never cease? Those CX 500 customs are actually pretty neat looking. I liked the idea of a CX 500 as a motorcycle magazine reading kid, then ended up with a 1970 Yamaha XS1 650 as my first bike, and never looked at the CX500 as being a cool bike after that. Now, they're such weird little mutants that I kinda like the idea. Get old, think different. Strange.

    1. My first bike was a GL500. Other than being a bit of a pig around town, it was a great 2-up tourer with the hard bags, trunk and windshield. That little 88° pushrod twin will spin up to 9,000 rpm and say "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

  5. I've got four Comstars sitting under my workbench right now. When I was using them, I was considering trying to find a pleasing mix of polishing and powdercoating, but alas an inattentive driver struck first.

  6. Would like to use a rear 16 in Comstar rim on my front (19 in CB750F) wheel. With a 16 in, I would be able to fit a hefty fat tire, get close to similar diametre ( to the 19) with a much fatter rubber. Would the hub of a 19 in Comstar be ableto hold onto the rear 16 in rim of a 16 in Comstar?

  7. Personally, I will take a Comstar over a wire spoke wheel any day. I have been driving sidecar outfits for 25 years and I have retired a number of wire spoke wheels over the years either because the spokes became too rusty (safety issue) or because spokes broke, usually several at a time. I have put a lot of Km on Comstars, much of it on bumpy, potholed dirt/gravel roads and have never had a failure.

  8. is it possible to change a drum rear brake to a rear disc?
    the rim size on the rear is 18 x 1.85, the wheel is a comstar boomerang type.

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