2014 Honda Valkyrie First Ride

The Original Power Cruiser Flexes Its Muscles Again

When Honda discontinued its burly Valkyrie cruiser back in 2004, more than one editor at Cruiser was downright shocked. I fondly recalled touring the Marysville plant in Ohio where the massive machine (as well as the Gold Wing) was produced at the time, and wondered if, and when Honda would revive that muscle cruiser moniker, and how exactly it planned to do so. Ten years on, the long hoped-for resurrection of the Valkyrie has finally happened, but not that much of the new machine will remind you of the original.

The new Valkyrie's styling is definitely not standard-issue retro

Future Funky

At the press introduction, Honda reps came right out and admitted that the futuristic new styling is practically a 180-degree flip from the first Valk’s traditional layout. The new machine's underpinnings borrow liberally from the Gold Wing platform (which also includes the F6B), and include the same engine, frame and other key components. The acres of swoopy bodywork seen on other models in the Gold Wing line are there, but the fairing is not, and lines are more muscularly drawn than on either the standard Wing or the F6B. The ‘progressive styling’ exercise is clear, with virtually no external parts connecting it to the Valkyrie of yore. So even if the target customer is still a Baby Boomer (says Honda) wanting something other than a V-twin, he’ll probably still remember the original Valkyrie fondly.

Those Good Bones

The good news is that Valkyrie 2.0 is still rocking that muscular attitude, though it's certainly not via traditional retro styling, a la the old F6C. The familiar 1520cc six-banger has grown to 1832cc too, and although Honda says it's an unchanged GL 1800 engine, the Valkyrie does incorporate unique intake ducting. Under the skin, however, you'll find the same twin-spar aluminum frame as on the GL1800 and F6B (rather than the steel tube original), as well as the five-speed gearbox, clutch and shaft final drive. The new Valkyrie increases rake and trail a touch, and tweaks the front fork settings and rear suspension to match its reduced weight -- now 750 lbs., wet. In fact, the overall look is longer and lower, and the beefy 45mm fork is also stretched (though Honda chose not to make it upside-down this time). Weight distribution is also changed; it's now basically a 50/50 split, front/rear. A new rear subframe handles the different seating arrangement, though the fuel tank is in the expected location (out in front of the rider) rather than under the seat, as on the other two 'Wings. It carries a hefty 6.1 gallons, too. The Valk’s brakes get an upgrade too, with the floating front 310mm rotors beefier than the 296mm discs on the other two Wings, and now fitted with modern four-piston calipers. They also aren't linked, as they are on the Gold Wing. Lastly, the hoops are changed; a 19-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch rear wheel.

The new Valkyrie gets bigger 316mm brake rotors and four-piston calipers up front.

Walkaround

The new Valkyrie can be had in three color choices – Dark Metallic Red, Blue Metallic, and Black -- but the visual cue hitting you first will likely be the new, full LED headlight on the Valkyrie’s face. On the Red model, the light is trimmed with a chrome nacelle and covers, with chrome lower fork legs and a chrome tank-placed gas cap console (which is locking); Blue models have the headlight framed by a curved plastic housing that matches the blacked-out look of the entire fork, wheels, console, and frame (on the Black and Red models, only the fork uppers are black). The exposed flat-six engine gets the dark treatment too, with side-mounted radiators directly above sporting black ribs to great visual effect. The vibe is beefy yet refined, which is why we're a little disappointed that Honda cheaped out on the mirrors, going instead with parts-bin units. After the big headlamp, eyeballs will setttle on the large side-mounted radiator shrouds and intake cowls on the flank; unlike its GL1800 and F6B siblings, the stripped-down Valkyrie doesn’t fly a fairing, so the side-mounted radiators have unique covers that somewhat match the fenders and serve to usher wind away from the rider’s legs. Those big pieces of bodywork aren’t exactly sexy, but functionally, they also help re-direct hot engine air away from the rider (there's also an additional rear intake duct).

ABS is an available option, but it only comes on the black model. If you opt for ABS, you'll also get self-cancelling turn signals – which you’ll appreciate after messing with the stock model’s weirdly configured, upside-down turn signal/horn button arrangement.

If you want ABS, you can only get it on the Black color option. The ABS option also includes self-cancelling turn signals, which you'll appreciate after fumbling with the stocker's weirdly positioned turn signal - horn button locations

Tweaking The Triangle

The wide saddle puts you at a reasonable 29 inches off the deck, with a nicely-shaped (if soft) bucket to meet your keister. Despite the new Valkyrie’s future-forward styling, most pilots will feel pretty natural behind that handlebar. That’s because it’s a wider, more traditionally-shaped bar that’s an inch thick (versus the thinner 7/8 inch F6B unit), and rubber-mounted. It's slightly higher (by 1.5 inches) and more forward (1.3 inches), which contributes to the Valkyrie’s more spread-out rider triangle. I found my torso angled a bit more forward, and my stubby arms reaching out to the grips more than on the F6B, but not uncomfortably so. Footpegs are also 1.3 inches higher (and slightly forward) than the F6B’s, so there's a touch more legroom for riders of all sizes. As another bonus, the Valkyrie includes a set of passenger grab rails near the rear pillion; both are removable, should you want to roll solo (an available accessory cover cleans up the mounting area).

The new Valk's riding position tilts you slightly more forward than the other Gold Wings
Kevin Wing

But the Valkyrie is about performance, and a stab at the starter confirms the eerily smooth whirr from the flat-six mill. A light touch on the shift lever, an equally easy click, and a roll of the throttle nets that electric-like power surge. It may carry more mass than the original Valkyrie, but this bike also has access to plenty more power — after all, the GL1800 mill claims over 100 ft-lbs of torque, at the wheel. With the torque peak arriving at 4000 rpm and peak power hitting 1500 revs later, the Valkyrie gets up and goes impressively, though the initial hit comes later than on, say, on a V-twin. But it’s got snappier acceleration than the F6B or Big Wing, courtesy of its lighter overall mass - it’s hauling 60 lbs less than the F6B and nearly 154 less than the 'Wing. That better horsepower-to-weight ratio clearly pushes the Valkyrie into muscle bike status, not to mention helping its overall maneuverability. Honda says the Valk’s engine is unchanged from the standard GL1800 -- it runs with the same claimed 118 hp -- though we suspect that the freer-breathing intake and revamped exhaust provide some extra oomph as well. At freeway speeds, this engine absolutely shines, barely scraping 3000 rpm at 70 mph., with nary a vibe in sight.

1800ccs works even better when the host body weighs 150 lbs. less...

In the twisties, the Valkyrie feels extremely well-composed for a 750-lb. rig, with neutral steering and good cornering clearance– we only touched a peg feeler down once. The bigger wheels change its overall manners, and there’s also no giant mass of frontal bodywork to dictate your line (as on its Wing sibs), so changing direction in corners doesn’t feel as ponderous. The Valkyrie simply seems less tippy. But even with the lesser mass, the Valkyrie steers a bit heavier than its two siblings. The only explanation we can offer is that its different tire and wheel sizes, and increased rake and trail numbers combined for a noticeable impact. The 19-inch front Dunlop, though, is 130mm wide and has a more aggressive profile than the F6B or Gold Wing. Fortunately, that doesn't impact stability; this machine tracks on sweeping turns like a long, burly freight train.

Although the Valkyrie steers heavier than its siblings, you'll feel completely planted through the turns. Ground clearance is pretty generous, too

Suspension is a bit firmer than the more plush setup on the F6B and Gold Wing, but that's not unexpected on a non-touring bike, and it actually keeps the Valkyrie from compressing too deeply over the bigger pavement trenches. What's more, the rear Pro-Link single-shock can be easily adjusted for preload thanks to the click-wheel adjuster behind the left side panel.

Hauling all this machinery down requires some solid brakes, and even without the ABS option, the Valkyrie's are superior to the Wing’s excellent units, mostly because there’s less mass to stop and because of the larger rotor sizes. The rear 316mm disc works especially well, thanks to the generous contact patch of the somewhat beefy 180mm rear tire.

Valkyrie engineers utilized a little valve wizardry in the muffler to get the exhaust tone deeper.

And then there's the sound: Honda engineers stressed that they were aiming for a high rpm howl coupled with a low speed rumble, and we'd say they came pretty close, thanks to some engineering wizardry inside the mufflers, which are unique to the Valkyrie. The deeper sound is a welcome change over the F6B’s appliance-like tones or the base Wing’s sewing machine whine. The Valkyrie also receives its own unique meter setup with an LCD digital speedometer, tachometer, trip meters, clock, and fuel-level gauge.

Acceptance?

People have compared the new Valkyrie to the Diavel, probably because both are performance-biased, and both truly expand the bounds of what can be considered a cruiser. I've ridden both in the last month, and I'd say the Honda will have an easier time being accepted into that persnickety club -- but then the Diavel isn’t riffing off an existing design, either, like the Valkyrie is.

This newest Honda cruiser proves to be an excellent motorcycle, but is it an acceptable evolution of the Valkyrie series? Only the new generation of riders can say for sure.

For a timeline of Honda's six-cylinder bikes, click here

(Scroll down after the specs for a video overview of the new Valkyrie)

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie / ABS

Base Price: $17,999 ($1000 extra w/ABS)

Colors Black, Dark Red Metallic, Blue Metallic

Warranty: 3 yrs, unlimited mileage

Engine

Type: liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder

Displacement, bore x stroke: 1832cc, 74.0 x 71.00

Valve train: SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder

Compression ratio: 9.8:1

Fuel system: PGM-FI

Transmission: 5-speed, shaft final drive

Chassis

Overall length 93.4 in.

Wheelbase: 67.2 in.

Wet weight: 752 lbs.

Seat height: 28.8 in.

Rake/trail: 29.9 degrees / 4.5 in.

Wheels: 24-spoke cast aluminum

Front tire: 130/60R-19

Rear tire: 180/55R-17

Front brake: 310mm discs, 4-piston caliper

Rear brake: 316mm disc, 2-piston caliper

Front suspension: 45mm cartridge fork; 4.8 in travel

Rear suspension: Pro Link single shock; 4.1 in. travel, preload adjustable

Fuel capacity: 6.1 gallons

Instruments: Multi-function LCD w/speedometer, tachometer, tripmeters, clock and fuel-level gauge

Powersports.honda.com

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We got to ride an F6B back to back with the Valkyrie, and the small changes in bar and peg position make for a substantially different rider's triangle.
A large, full LED headlight is the first clue that this Valkyrie is nothing like the original.
Parts-bin mirrors? Yep, Honda chose to go cheap on a few minor details.
A handy preload adjuster is just under the left side cover, for easy suspension changes. We wish the cover was just as easy to remove....
The digitial instrument panel holds a pretty comprehensive array of info, but it's not always easy to read in sunlight.
The new Valk's riding position is slightly more aggressive than that of the F6B, which sits you more upright