Review: 2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

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2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

The Ride

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.

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

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.

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

What’s Good

  • Lighter than a full-dress Gold Wing or F6B
  • Fresh looks and full LED lighting
  • Deceptively easy to ride
  • Fast for a big bike

What’s Bad

  • 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

The Price

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 Verdict

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

 

Gear:

Helmet: Arai Signet-Q

Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG Perforated Leather

Pants: Sliders All Season 2

Gloves: Roadgear CarbonMaxx

Boots: Wolverine Durashocks

  • 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.