I’ve always enjoyed riding the Gold Wing, but I have to admit that it’s just too much bike for me to want to own. It’s great when you’re touring, because the amenities are remarkable, and the performance is surprisingly good. The current Gold Wing handles really well on challenging roads, and is like a magic carpet on the Interstate. But jumping on the Gold Wing for a short hop feels like overkill and a bit of a chore, especially in traffic, where its bulk becomes apparent. The F6B addresses this to a certain degree, but still wears a fairing and hard bags – even if it wears them well.
The Gold Wing Valkyrie (that’s the official full name) feels like a different bike, despite all of the shared architecture. Losing 150 lbs has done wonders for the engine. Honda doesn’t report horsepower or torque figures, but the Gold Wing mill has been measured at close to 110 hp and lb-ft respectively, which is easy to believe. Power gets to the rear wheel via a five-speed transmission and shaft final drive. The throttle is mechanically operated – not electronic, as on many new bikes. Operation is seamlessly easy, with nicely weighted clutch pull and predictable power delivery. Honda bragged about the Valkyrie’s “raging bull” acceleration, and the image fits. When it’s this easy to get the power to the ground, rushing away from a stop is addictive and intoxicating. The bike’s wheelbase is so long (67.2”) that there’s little worry of lifting the front wheel unintentionally – it’s not that kind of hooligan bike. Valkyrie is more more muscle car than exotic.
I rode the Valkyrie back-to-back-to-back with a Gold Wing dresser and an F6B, over varied roads from Interstate to city streets to back roads and canyons. The lack of wind protection is a drawback on the highway, but the bike is dead stable on a long straight road. It is still heavy in traffic, and a little ponderous to park, but it is just narrow enough for a bit of lane sharing out here in California, where it’s legal. I wouldn’t try that on a Gold Wing (most of the time). On back roads and through the twisty stuff, the Valkyrie is fun and maneuverable, willing to change direction and lean into curves. I wouldn’t describe it as “flickable,” but it doesn’t fight back in a switchback. The ample power makes light work of hills and the wide gear spread and flat torque curve helps to minimize the need to change gears. You can ride the Valkyrie sedately and have a nice cruise; then you can open up the throttle and give it a good flogging and have a fun romp. The exhaust note is just throaty enough to encourage you to make it roar, but not so loud as to be obnoxious.
- Lighter than a full-dress Gold Wing or F6B
- Fresh looks and full LED lighting
- Deceptively easy to ride
- Fast for a big bike
- No weather protection to speak of
- Even though it’s the lightest Gold Wing, it’s still heavy at 750 lbs
- Limited color selection
- Five speed transmission could use another gear
Valkyrie starts at $17,999 in Blue Metallic, Dark Red Metallic or Black. Valkyrie ABS starts at $18,999, and comes only in Black. The ABS version also gets self-cancelling turn signals. The full dresser Gold Wing starts at $23,990 and the F6B starts at $19,999, so there’s a considerable savings there. Honda is preparing a full line of accessories for the Valkyrie, including touring accouterment like bags and wind protection, which opens up the possibility of putting together a basic touring rig that could be stripped back down for daily duty. Interesting.
At this price point, there are a lot of bikes to compare to the Valkyrie. Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod, Yamaha/Star’s VMAX, Suzuki’s M109R and Ducati’s Diavel come to mind immediately, each of which put their own spin on the muscle cruiser in a similar price range.
The 2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie is a bike that’s defined almost as much by what it doesn’t have as what it does have. It isn’t burdened with a lot of excess bodywork or gadgetry. It isn’t burdened with extra weight (well, not compared to the big Gold Wing, anyway). It isn’t visually burdened with excess chrome or ornamentation. It is burdened by expectations, though – Honda fans have been asking for a new Valkyrie ever since the last one went away over a decade ago.
Will the new Valkyrie pick up new fans, though? Will sport bike riders really see it as a way to escape the crouch without giving up the thrill? Time will tell. Anecdotal evidence has maturing sport bike riders moving toward adventure bikes like the BMW GS and Yamaha Super Tenere, not settling down into cruiserdom. Still, the new Valkyrie is a very appealing, fun-to-ride muscle cruiser that should build a fan base all its own.
RideApart Rating: 8 out of 10
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Pants: Sliders All Season 2
Gloves: Roadgear CarbonMaxx
Boots: Wolverine Durashocks