Review: 2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

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2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

The Honda Gold Wing has seen plenty of changes over the decades. The new 2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie has gone on a diet in favor of better performance and its roller coaster ride throughout the years has culminated into an honest cruising machine.

Back when the earth’s crust was still cooling, before touring motorcycles weighed 900 lbs, there was the original Honda Gold Wing. The year was 1975, and the Gold Wing GL1000 burst forth on the United States with a flat four engine and minimal bodywork — no fairing, no luggage, no extras — and weighing in at a svelte 584 lbs. The Gold Wing excelled at traveling in a straight line, and riders began strapping on Vetter fairings, accessory luggage and riding the highways. Honda noticed the trend, and in 1980, brought out the GL1100 Interstate, Japan’s first factor dresser. The fairing, luggage and top box brought the weight up to 672 lbs. The unfaired GL1100 was still available, but was quickly fading in popularity. 1984 saw the arrival of the GL1200. The loaded Aspencade SE-1 trim level weighed over 770 lbs. 1985 was the last year for the GL1200 Standard – all Gold Wings were dressers.

The GL1500 arrived as a 1988 model, the first six-cylinder Gold Wing. It was a smash hit, even though it now weighed nearly 800 lbs. The new Gold Wing chassis was superior to the GL1200′s, delivering handling that was surprisingly nimble in corners and in situations other than long straight hauls. Some riders began to fantasize about an unfaired version of the six-cylinder Gold Wing, and once again, Honda listened.

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

The first Valkyrie hit the streets in 1996. Sharing the GL1500′s powertrain, but wearing cruiser styling and a hot rod touch with six individual carburetors and a modded cam. The Valkyrie cranked out over 100 hp, and weighed in at about 660 lbs — well over 100 lbs lighter than the Gold Wing dresser. The Valkyrie lasted though 2003, with a few attempts to dress it up in Tourer and Interstate trim along the way. A limited edition model, the Valkyrie Rune, was produced in 2003 with the new GL1800 engine, impressing more as a styling exercise than as a viable motorcycle. The Valkyrie was laid to rest, but not forgotten.

In 2013, Honda expanded the Gold Wing lineup with the addition of the F6B, a streamlined, cut down version of the Gold Wing. The F6B still has hard bags, a fairing and full body work, but it is lighter, chopped down and more aggressive-looking than the traditional Gold Wing, appealing to younger buyers and competing with Harley-Davidson’s popular Street Glide model.

Now, for 2014, Honda has come full circle. The new Gold Wing Valkyrie shares a frame, engine and transmission with the Gold Wing and F6B, but arrives without bags or fairing, and – most significantly – at 750 lbs wet (754 lbs with ABS), it weighs 90 lbs less than the F6B and over 150 lbs less than the full dresser Gold Wing.

What’s New

Honda didn’t just strip the Gold Wing of touring dress and call it a Valkyrie. The new Valkyrie does share the Gold Wing twin-spar aluminum frame, 1,832 cc liquid-cooled fuel-injected flat-six engine and five-speed transmission, but just about every piece of bodywork is new and specially designed for the Valkyrie. Continuing the theme that was laid out with the CTX bikes (CTX700 and CTX1300), the Valkyrie looks long and low, with horizontal design elements dominating to give the impression of a low center of gravity. You can almost draw a straight line from the top of the headlight housing all the way to the back of the passenger seat, before the bike falls away dramatically to the rear fender. Seat height is a low 28.8”, and the bike is wasp-waisted, so inseam-challenged riders will have little trouble touching down at a stop. A 19” front tire and wide (180mm) 17” rear tire lend presence with 10-spoke alloy wheels and a single-sided rear swingarm. Dual front and single rear discs perform stopping duty. Full LED lighting provides visibility. Fuel capacity is 6.1 gallons, which should be good for over 200 miles of range, depending on how heavy your wrist is (EPA fuel economy figures haven’t been released yet). ABS is available only on the top trim level, Valkyrie ABS. There are just three colors of Valkyrie available at launch – Blue Metallic, Dark Red Metallic and Black, and the ABS trim level is only available in Black. I liked the Blue Metallic version best, because it comes with blacked-out engine covers and headlight surrounds (as opposed to the chrome ones on the Red and Black bikes), and so it looks a little meaner than the rest. Chrome slash cut silencers carry the exhaust to the back of the bike.

Honda describes the Valkyrie as a modern muscle cruiser, and the description fits. It’s closer in spirit and style to the outrageous Rune than to the original classic cruiser-ish Valkyrie. The hope is that riders who are ready to move on from their sport bikes, but not yet ready to commit to a full dress touring bike will see the Valkyrie as a sporty alternative to a traditional cruiser. It’s an interesting, carefully considered strategy on the part of Honda – one that will be tested in the marketplace.

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2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

  • Fava d’Aronne

    “Anecdotal evidence has maturing sport bike riders moving toward adventure bikes like the BMW GS and Yamaha Super Tenere, not settling down into cruiserdom. ”

    I think this last paragraph of yours summarizes well the challenges that this bike faces. As much as I recognize the effort Honda put into it from a style point of view (but the front reminds me a little too much of a Suzuki B King), there is NO way I would spend that money to own a bike that has no wind protection nor any type of luggage. I would totally go for a GS style bike (I am partial to the Stelvio NTX, but this is just my personal preference). And I suspect that most people who are ready to spend that money, would still gravitate towards HD for that type of bike.

    I guess we’ll see…

    Having said that, I have a friend with a stripped naked version of a once faired Gold Wing: and wow, is that a beautiful bike…early ’90s, I believe.

    PS: I enjoyed your review.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Glad you enjoyed the review, Fava. When I think about buying a new bike, I too find myself thinking about a GS-style bike. Part of that is the influence of trends; part of it is a desire to have one bike that does everything. I don’t know if Honda will find the Valkyrie audience where it expects to, but I do think the bike will find an audience.

  • darngooddesign

    Is the bike small or are you just very tall? The side view photos have it looking cramped.

    • Jason Fogelson

      I’m 6’2″ tall with a 32″ inseam, and I felt pretty comfortable on the bike.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Actually, I felt noticeably less cramped on the Valkyrie than I did on the F6B or the dresser. Other journalists on the trip reported the same impression to me.

  • BobasBounty

    I have to agree on the adventure bike being the logical step after one gets older or stiffer. This bike sort of exemplifies my biggest issue with cruisers… I think many are gorgeous, but the idea of getting an engine this large that makes nearly half the power of engines half its size just doesn’t jive with me.

    I appreciate efficiently engineered machines, and a 750 pound bike making 110 hp/lbs just seems ludicrous compared to sport/adventure bikes.

    • BigHank53

      Oh, this is engineered efficiently. It’s just aimed at a different target. Think “police car” or “taxicab”, where comfort and durability are a lot further up the scale than the power/weight ratio. These bikes aren’t my cup of tea either, but the thing they do–make it easy to cover lots and lots of miles, even if you’re not travelling all that fast–they do very well. An anecdote: I have only seen one set of worn-out brake rotors on a bike in my entire life. It was a Goldwing with a six-digit odometer reading. One owner and a five-year-old bike.

  • Dan Sciannameo

    Moto Guzzi California 1400

    • Jason Fogelson

      Good one to add to the list, Dan. I liked that bike a lot when I tested it, and appreciated the traction control, too.

  • William Connor

    Very nice looking bike, better than some of the other Honda offerings as of late. I always found the Gold Wing to be cramped for me. Glad to hear you didn’t feel like this was as cramped. I have a little longer in seam while being roughly the same height so it may still have the cramped issue I experienced previously.

  • Jose Manuel

    if they put a cruise control on that thing … maybe, just maybe, I could think about to buy it.

  • Ayabe

    Nice review Jason.

    I actually think it looks pretty sweet, not for me, but I would give anyone riding one a thumbs up.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Thanks, Ayabe. I’m picking one up tomorrow for a review for another publication — I’ll watch for thumbs along the way.

  • Stuki

    I like how they managed to make the bike look low, almost slammed, without eating into rear travel. Not sold on the “sit on the rear fender, steer with a tiller” arrangement forced by the opposed cylinders. Never ridden it, but from simply sitting on it back to back with a Street Glide, I preferred the HD’s closer to the front seating position. The Big Honda is still a beautiful bike. Given how popular Harley’s stripped baggers are, and the second only to HD amount of goodwill and reputation attached to the Goldwing name; if Honda gets the detachable bags and windscreen right, it really ought to sell quite well.

  • Alex

    Maybe I’m not getting Honda’s cruiser design style, to me they just look so awkward. I’m sure it’s a different story from behind the handlebars.

    The Diavel and Moto Guzzi California are two of its stylish competitors – no flat6 goodness though.

    BTW, I’m thrilled to see new motorcycle reviews on rideapart.

  • Charles Quinn

    I think they’ve done a very good job here. It’ll be a harder sell than the F6B but I’m sure they know that already. Power and weightwise it’s in the same ballpark as the Thunderbird Storm, and while that’s a lovely bike I’d take the Honda any day. The Diavel is a different kettle of fish altogether, the V-MAX is a very niche bike, the M109 beats the Valk for power but is built to a budget — I’d expect the Honda’s build quality to be better, and its handling. What I like most is that it throws the traditional idea of a cruiser as being a “blank slate” for customisation right out of the window — there will certainly be plenty of accessories, but in terms of looks, power and handling I’d say this is close enough to the finished article to not need much more spending on it, if anything. That’s what will sway some prospective Harley buyers who know they’re probably going to have to spend another heap on engine and suspension mods to get where they want to be.