Eight years after Honda shocked the touring crowd by unveiling the first six-cylinder Gold Wing luxury tourer, cruiser riders got their chance to experience the smooth and formidable power of the GL1500 engine in the 1997 Valkyrie F6. With the opposed flat-six engine mounted in an open cruiser frame and a regular gas tank feeding six carburetors, the Valky brought new meaning to the term performance cruiser, and would hopefully stand-in for the large V-twin that Honda had yet to create. And indeed the bike created a cult following that included the Valkyrie Tourer and Interstate editions that quickly followed, but alas, none were popular enough to stay in the lineup beyond the 2003 model year, not counting the wild 2004/2005 limited-edition Valkyrie Rune with the GL1800 engine. In the early days of the new millennium, cruiser riders wanted V-twins, and by 2002 Honda had bit the bullet and created the VTX1800, at the time the largest production V-twin the world.
Times have changed. The VTX1800 has been gone for a while now, and just a year after Honda introduced the Gold Wing F6B (Flat Six Bagger) it has announced an all-new Gold Wing Valkyrie. But rather than the traditional cruiser look of its predecessor, the new Valkyrie has thoroughly modern styling. Unlike the GL1800 and F6B, the Valkyrie doesn’t have a fairing so the side-mounted radiators have unique shrouds that match the sculpted shape of the front and rear fenders and also protect the rider’s legs from wind. The headlight is encased in a curved plastic housing that matches the blacked-out look of the fork, wheels, frame and engine that’s borrowed from the F6B. Chrome is limited to the twin exhaust pipes with slash-cut tips, which are shorter and lighter than those on the GL1800 and F6B, and two small, rectangular covers on the engine.
Of course, when it comes to any Gold Wing, the torque-rich, ultra-smooth horizontally opposed flat six-cylinder engine is where the magic happens. The last GL1800 we strapped to the dyno churned out 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm and 101 horsepower at 5,700 rpm. The Valkyrie should offer the same arm-straightening level of performance on a motorcycle that’s claimed to weigh 154 pounds less—750 pounds fully fueled. Unique intake ducting feeds air to the two 40mm throttle bodies, which feature six high-pressure fuel injectors and Honda’s tried-and-true Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI). The Valkyrie has the same 5-speed gearbox, clutch and shaft final drive as on the GL1800.
Attached to the twin-spar aluminum frame is a new rear subframe to accommodate the Valkyrie’s unique seating arrangement. Unlike the GL1800 and F6B, the Valkyrie’s fuel tank is in the traditional location rather than under the seat (capacity is 6.1 gallons). To give it a more typical cruiser seating position, the footpegs are 1.3 inches higher and 0.6 inch forward, and the handlebar is 1.3 inches forward, 1.5 inches taller and 0.7 inch wider, than on the F6B. A new two-piece seat puts the rider’s backside at just 28.8 inches (a little higher than the F6B, a little lower than the GL1800). The rear seat and aluminum grab rail can be removed for a sleek, solo look.
The 45mm cartridge fork has been lengthened to accommodate the larger 19-inch front wheel, and it has unique damping settings. The larger front and rear (17-inch) wheels are said to increase cornering clearance relative to other Gold Wing models. The single-sided Pro-Arm swingarm has a Pro-Link rear shock with sporty damping and a remote preload adjuster. Dual full-floating 310mm rotors (larger than the 296mm discs found on the F6B and Gold Wing) and new 4-piston calipers up front, plus a single rear disc brake, should provide impressive stopping power on this lighter machine. ABS is optional and adds just 6 pounds to the curb weight.
The Valkyrie’s 1-inch handlebar is rubber-mounted and features all-new switchgear. An all-digital LCD instrument panel includes a speedometer, tachometer, tripmeters, clock and fuel-level gauge, as well as a customizable opening message when the key is turned on. LED turn signals, headlight and taillight round out the Valkyrie’s not-like-other-cruisers appearance. Tailor-made Honda Genuine Accessories will include a backrest, wind deflector, passenger floorboards, luggage rack, saddlebags, two different windscreens, LED fog lights, a 12V power outlet and various bits to add a custom look.
The 2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie will be available in Black, Dark Red Metallic and Blue Metallic. Although final pricing hasn’t been set, it should be in dealerships next spring starting around $17,000.
(This article was published in Kickstarts in the February 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)