There’s a lot to love about Honda’s reinvented Gold Wing Valkyrie. To begin with, the 1832cc flat-6 is one of the most dynamic, powerful, imposing, and just damn cool engines ever offered in a production motorcycle. Just try to hate it. Then there’s the slick Gold Wing drivetrain, with its snicky shifts and no fuss shaft-drive, the sporty twin-spar aluminum frame that lets the massive cruiser move like a track bike, and, oh yeah, the stability inherent with such a long wheelbase and a low center of gravity.
True, much of the “new” Valkyrie has been previously admired in the don’t-fix-what-ain’t-broke Gold Wing and its spin-off F6B bagger, but there are a few, key differences. The Valkyrie sports a taller, 19-inch front wheel, mildly rearranged rake and trail, and a slightly longer fork. Its sporty twin-spar aluminum frame has been modified so the Valkyrie can wear a more open, traditional rear fender.
And the looks, yes. The look is something new, and quite a curiosity. The Valkyrie’s new futuristic muscle-bike look, with those heavy fenders and burly, plastic-wrapped radiator pods shooting from each side, makes you wonder who’s styling things at Honda these days.
Honda reps say this new design is about attracting fresh, young riders and not necessarily trying to please existing Valkyrie fans, which is a bit of a shame because that is one hearty bunch—full of passion for the moniker, now as much as ever. Affluent built-in customers they are, just itching to buy a new version of their beloved.
And the new-gen rider we perceive as typically anti-excess, right? The minimalist enticed by the lightweight, elemental urban cruisers de jour. Probably not someone having an extra $17,999 ($18,999 w/ABS) to throw at a thrill ride.
I was so curious about whom the buyer of this bike might be I had to take the question to the 8,000-plus member-strong Valkyrie Rider Cruiser Club’s forum (VRCC). “So what do you think?” I got about 10,000 responses.
“Mechanically superior I'm sure, with a lot of what we've been asking for for years: 1800cc, fuel injection, ABS, better final drive for less maintenance, etc. But the styling blows….” This single response pretty much encapsulates the majority of emotion, except, surprisingly, the younger guys in the forum, guys 25, 28, even 40, who said things like, “I purchased my ’98 Valkyrie for performance and reliability—the eye-popping factor is just a plus. The new Valkyrie still has those two standards. I feel that Honda created a bike to grab a younger crowd into the Gold Wing world. They succeeded. I'm 26, and can't wait to get on one.”
Huh. I was surprised that many of VRCC’s younger members really seem intrigued by the bike, so kudos to the Japanese styling team for having the foresight. Another consistent thread was “Let’s wait and see.” Universally, these dyed-in-the-wool Valkyrie riders, young and older, want to know what kind of bags, windshields and accessories are going to be available for the new model.
Whether you’re drawn to the new Valkyrie’s aesthetic or not, it’s no surprise that the motorcycle works like a charm. It’s so Honda that way: build a 752-pound motorcycle that feels like a featherweight the minute you’re underway. The power train is incredibly smooth with flawless throttle response and spot-on gearing (you don’t miss overdrive).
Braking feels solid, and the bike, though heavy, is quick to slow. ABS is only available on the black version, although you can order a black unit without ABS. Most of the journalists preferred the blacked-out styling on the blue version and its more sinister vibe. The anti-dive that helps tranquilize the heavyweight Gold Wing and F6B models isn’t included in the Valkyrie package, but quick stops are still very controllable.
As with the Gold Wing and F6B, this new family member feels surprisingly sporty. The larger front hoop, extended fork and plow-style bar do combine to distance you from the road surface, yet handling is still quick and efficient, and thanks to the low-slung engine and long wheelbase it would take an earthquake to upset a line.
Suspension is tidy at the stock setting, with additional rear preload available if you’re carrying luggage or a passenger. But then the bike will look so cool and clean when you lose the detachable pillion seat you’ll probably want to ride alone. The rider’s seat, however, does not appeal for long days. It’s ample, but very firm and hard on the bum. Otherwise, the ergonomics are roomy and comfortable, although very tall riders might feel hemmed in by the side-mounted radiators. These same protrusions do a nice job deflecting wind and cold air from the rider’s legs, while not allowing engine heat to warm up the cockpit.
Honda has trouble making motorcycles that don’t work well, and such is the case with its latest ambition. If you love the styling of the new Valkyrie (or can learn to), there is quite simply nothing to hate.
||2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie|
|ENGINE TYPE|1832cc liquid-cooled flat-6, SOHC|
|BORE & STROKE|74.0 x 71.0mm|
|IGNITION|Computer-controlled digital with 3-D mapping|
|FRONT SUSPENSION|Telescopic fork, 45mm tubes, 4.8 inches of travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION|Pro-Link single shock, remote preload adjustment, 4.1 inches of travel|
|FRONT BRAKE|Dual 310mm discs|
|REAR BRAKE|Single 316mm disc|
|SEAT HEIGHT|28.9 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY|6.1 gal.|
|CLAIMED WET WEIGHT|752 lb.|