Honda gave the Hawk 90% of what it needed to be one of the worlds all time great back roads bike from the factory. A wonderfully stiff twin spar extruded aluminum frame, relatively short wheelbase, and spiffy high tech single sided swingarm, all combined with a torquey, fairly light, flickable power plant. Unfortunately, when it came to suspenders, and wheel combinations, Honda chose to cut some corners. Along with the inexpensive suspenders, and skinny wheel widths, Honda also tried to ham string the Hawk with lazy steering geometry. It's light weight, and the inherent flickabillity of a V-2 help to mask the lazy steering, but when pushed, it makes itself evident.
Which leads us to one of the least expensive chassis mods you can perform to improve the handling of your hawk. Simply raise the fork tubes in the triple clamps ( dropping the front end ) It will pay big dividends in front end feedback, and help to lend a little immediacy to the steering manners of your hawk. The norm is roughly 10mm, though some di hard racers go as much as 15mm or more. Lowering the front end will both quicken the steering by reducing the rake and trail, and put a bit more weight on the front wheel which will give you more feedback and confidence in the front end, as well as reduce it's tendency to push, or understeer ( slide towards the outside of the turn ) when ridden hard...
The next thing that should be fixed if you're trying to turn your Hawk into a serious back road burner, is the gad awful stock suspension. The front forks are plenty stiff, but came from the factory sprung rather softly, and have very light damping rates. The least expensive thing you can do to improve the damping and spring rates, is simply replace the stock 5 weight oil with 10 or fifteen weight, and modify the stock springs, as well as make your own spring spacers, to modify the spring pre-load. If you decide to modify your own springs, take it easy, cut a single coil at a time, make a correspondingly longer spacer, and try it. The first time I tried cutting coils I ruined my springs, cut too much off ( four coils.. ). They might work for someone over 180 lbs plus gear, but were way too stiff for me...
Another in-expensive fork mod is to weld up half the damping holes on your damping rod.
If cutting the stock springs isn't something you care to do, there are tons of aftermarket springs available, most of them wound progressively, same as they came from the factory. Springs aren't expensive, usually on the order of 70-90 bucks.
Besides replacing the forks with F-2 or F-3 cartridge forks ( a straight bolt in swap.. ), the single best mod I know of is Race Techs Cartridge Emmulator. This device is inexpensive, and allows your forks to work aswell as some of the better cartridge front ends out there. I'll try to give you an idea how it works without getting too long winded. Basically damper rod forks are always an exercise in poor compromise. They only allow for a single damping rate that has to cover all speed ranges of damping. What works well for medium to low speed damping ( loading the suspension while bending into a corner.. ) does not work well for high speed damping ( hitting a square edged bump.. ). What the Emmulator does is give you two different stages of compression damping. Both of them variable, and the range where it changes from low speed to high speed is also variable... They work wonders, and at roughly 125 bucks are one of the singular best things you can do to a Hawk's front suspension.
Once the front suspension is dialed in on your trusty corner carver, you will want to replace that lackluster rear shock. Besides improved damping rates, one of the advantages of installing an aftermarket shock is increasing the rear ride height. This helps quicken the steering again, as well as give you more cornering clearance. There are a number of aftermarket shocks available, the only one I have experience with is the Fox. It is completely variable, provides adjustments for spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping, and has adjustable ride height. Works, Penski, White Power, and Ohlins also make aftermarket shocks available, and the CBR900RR shock can be modified to use on the Hawk.
The Hawk was cursed with a skinny front wheel only 2.5" wide. Why I don't know. It limmits the use of really good aftermarket rubber to pretty much just 110/80/17 for correct fitment. It was designed for Bias Ply tires and doesn't work too well with radial tires, though there are some who use radials on it. Replacing it with a 3.5" model affords the use of modern sportbike rubber ( 120/70/16, or 120/60/17, rather than the 110/80/17. You can swap it straight up for an F-2 front wheel, as long as you also use the F-2 wheel spacer. This allows you to keep the mechanical speedo pick up, and gives you an additional brake disk perch. The stock wheel can be widened by Kossman,though this is a pricey modd. There are Marchisini, and TechnoMagnesio rims also available ( The white rims in the Black Hawk picture were Marchi's ). If you care to have a rear wheel to match the F-2 front, the VFR rims can be modified for use with the Hawk spindle ( as I had done ) or the VFR spindle can be bolted on to the Hawk's hub, or the entire VFR rear hub assembly can be used in place uf the Hawks, inside the swingarm's hub carrier. I prefer the more organic look of the Five spoke 5" VFR from the current generation VFR, though the 5.5" square edged eight spoker can be used also. The 5" rim is 1.7 lbs lighter then the 5" rim, something more important to me than the latest greatest widest tire available. The Hawks modest output doesn't require more tire than can be fit to the 5" rim ( current 600 superbike spec ) and that rim looks VERY good with the F-2 front.. Hopefully soon I will have pics scanned of the VFR / F-2 rims so you can see for yourself..
If you are an avid fan of incredible brakes, and believe there can never be too much of a brake power, there are things you can do to improve on the fairly potent brakes offered from the factory. The first thing almost universally applied to motorcycle brake systems is replacing the stock lines with after market stainless, or kevlar braided lines. With that simple mod, the brakes become much less spongy, and offer more feedback as to what's going on at the contact patch under load. The rear brake line can be routed through the swingarm, and the rear brake on a Hawk can be rotated 180dg to give it a 916 esque look. It requires fabrication of a minor bracket, but looks fairly trick.
Several aftermarket suppliers including Galfer, Braking, Brembo, and maybe more offer cast iron replacement rotors. Some are even floating. The universally accepted best brake pad for Hawks is the stock semi metallic pad ( for stock disks ) though some believe the Galfer 1352 Kevlar pad may rival it. Ferrodo, EBC, and the rest of the typical aftermarket pads have mixed reviews, and since I have no experience with them I can't offer opinions. Spending the money on the stokers or Galfers here is probably your best bet...
I personally like the look of symmetrical brakes, and don't believe it's possible to have too much brake. F-2 forks slip right in to Hawk triples, and afford a pair of really good brakes, albeit they only clamp 276mm disks. VFR forks will slip right in too, though there is no mechanical pick up for a speedo on a VFR front wheel. They have 296mm disks. And the Hawk comes with a mondo 316mm disk from the factory. Hmm, wouldn't it really be neat to have a pair of those? They'd be the biggest brakes in the Honda inventory, and would surely look killer as well as STOP right? Absolutely!! Not only would it be BAD, but it's possible to do with Honda Parts, by simply raiding parts from other Honda's... A CB-1 right side fork leg has mounting bosses for a right side caliper. You have to do a bit of grinding on the fender mounting tabs, as the CB-1 fender was skinnier than the Hawks, and modify the brake mounting holes so the calliper clears the disk, but it's fairly easy to do. It carries the same internals as a Hawk, or F-2 fork bolts right up, and gives you a perch for the right side brake. Just swap the parts from your Hawk leg to the CB-1. Next you'll need a brake. I use a modified CB-1 calliper. A VFR or CB-1 will bolt up with after doing some grinding in the brake hanger mounting holes. I'll cover that under suspension. Next if you like solid lever feel, you'll want a larger mastercylinder. I used a 5/8's master from a VFR750, and JB welded the mirror perch from the stock Hawk's master to it. Works great!! The dual Hawk disks, F-2 front wheel, and dual calipers are heavier than the single Hawk disk, but on the street I don't really notice much, and MAN-O-MAN do these brakes STOP!!! If you're brave enough, you can loft the rear wheel under braking at about any speed you choose...
My personal super hawk has most of the mods outlined above, and I have to tell you it is an absolute blast in tight twisty roads. I can perform insane late braking
maneuvers, knowing the bike will slow to whatever speed I need, and flick back and forth through bump riddled corners with aplomb, never worrying about the
front end because I can feel everything the front wheel's doing as if it's wired to my spinal cortex. It's like a totally different bike, no longer just a utilitarian UJM but
capable of of keeping up with ( and outright running away from ) most of the bigger SuperBikes on tight twisty roads. This little Hawk shows it's Talons, and swoops
down on unsuspecting SuperBikes like the bird of prey it was named for... ;-)