Honda's RV of a motorcycle is breeding. Last year, the Japanese manufacturer spun off a stripped-down version of its legendary Gold Wing touring bike – the F6B. Now, it's birthed an even more basic muscle cruiser without the bags or top case.
After an 11-year hiatus, the Valkyrie is not only back in action and ready to rip across the pavement but re-branded and re-born as a lightweight Wing.
It's ironic that the baby of Honda's six-cylinder cruiser brood could, in other parts of the world, carry entire families. The Valkyrie weighs 152 pounds less than its mama, but that's still the equivalent of twin sumo wrestlers: 752 pounds.
With its front end cowled in twin radiators and everything else, from fork to fender, looking outrageously overbuilt, I expected my flight on board the Valkyrie to be unwieldy. But appearances are deceiving. Despite its hulking profile, the Valkyrie is one of the easiest-handling cruisers I've ever ridden.
During a daylong ride in Temecula last month, Honda had arranged a sort of family reunion where all three Gold Wings were on hand, including the newest addition, which went on sale in April.
All three motorcycles are powered with the same 1,832 cc engine – a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled flat-six instead of a cruiser-traditional, air-cooled V-twin. The anti-Hog, the engine is so quiet at idle it's almost as if it isn't running. It's the sort of bike that lets its actions do the talking instead of a loud pipe.
The power delivery is so instant the clutch needs to be let out slowly because the Valkyrie really does want to fly. Its phenomenal power is easily accessed with a smooth-shifting transmission that finds neutral easily, without any crunching or groping with a toe.
While it's odd that Honda has opted to keep a dated five-speed transmission instead of upgrading it to a more modern six, I never felt like I'd run out of gears even when moving at freeway speeds. In the canyons, I swept through turns even at extremely low rpm without the engine lugging in rebellion.
The Valkyrie's riding position is comfortably upright, like a cruiser's, while its foot pegs are centered, like a touring bike. It would enhance the Valkyrie's aggressive bodywork if the pegs were placed slightly further back, similar to a drag bike. But that might send the wrong message: that the Valkyrie is a straight line rocket when in reality it's a sport bike in cruiser drag.
If its 17-inch rear wheel hints at the Valkyrie's sporting intentions, riding it seals the deal. An exceptionally well-balanced machine with an extremely low saddle of just 28.8 inches, it wants you to assertively carve the canyons instead of contentedly cruising.
Whatever wind protection is built into the Valkyrie is coincidental – a side effect of a seating position that's so low it turns the handlebar dashboard display into a quasi wind break, while the radiators shield the knees.
Equipping the Valkyrie with an accessory saddlebag and windscreen to make it more touring capable will cost less than stepping up to the F6B with its built-in side cases and shorty windshield. The Valkyrie costs $2,000 less than the F6B and $6,000 less than the fully loaded tourer, but it's still quite expensive. It starts at $18,389, including destination.
Anti-lock brakes can be added as an option – for a Gold Wing-size premium, of course: $1,000.
2014 HONDA GOLD WING VALKYRIE
Base price: $18,389(ASTERISK)
Powertrain: Fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder, SOHC, two valves per cylinder, five-speed manual transmission, shaft drive
Displacement: 1,832 cc
Wheelbase: 67.1 inches
Seat height: 28.9 inches
Fuel capacity: 6 gallons
Curb weight: 752 lbs.
Includes $390 destination charge
ABOUT THE WRITER
Susan Carpenter writes for the Orange County Register. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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