If you want an example of iconic technology carried through the years, look no further than Honda’s multi-cylinder horizontally opposed engines, found (most notably) in the Gold Wing, Valkyrie, Valkyrie Rune and F6B. But that concept -- wild from the start, and forged to near-perfection through decades of refinement -- can be found in some of the most memorable machines of all time, starting from way back in the 1970s.
1972 = M1
A design team is established, led by Soichiro Irimajiri, who headed up design of Honda’s amazing five- and six-cylinder road racing engines of the 1960s. The team develops the M1, a top-secret prototype designed to explore the outer limits of the Grand Touring concept. The super-fast M1 features a liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with shaft drive—features that surface in the Gold Wing line in years to come.
1988 = GL1500 Gold Wing
Following a succession of tremendously popular four-cylinder Gold Wings, in 1984 planning for the next-generation Gold Wing begins. The new machine had to be superior in every aspect: extremely quiet and silky smooth, yet very powerful with superior handling. The GL1500 got there—the hard way. Thousands of hours were spent in testing 15 different machines in 60 prototype stages—the most comprehensive model development project in Honda’s history. These efforts culminated in a six-cylinder luxury motorcycle of such surpassing excellence it would establish a touring benchmark that would dominate motorcycling for more than a decade.
1993 = GL 1800 mockups
The next-generation GL begins to take shape under the guidance of Masanori Aoki, a sportbike enthusiast who has already headed up development of high-performance bikes including the CBR400RR and the CBR600F3. “We set out to keep 80 percent of the Gold Wing’s touring capability,” Aoki said. But he also added, “My job is to add more fun factor, to build a Gold Wing with the kind of acceleration and handling people normally associate with sporting machines.” After considering flat-four, flat-six and flat-eight engine configurations and displacements up to 2000cc, customer response overwhelmingly points to a flat-six of about 1800cc displacement. In 1998, a full-scale model is created.
Honda unfurls a stunning flight of fancy, the six-cylinder Valkyrie, the first genuine OEM power cruiser. Boasting a hot-rodded 1520cc engine with six carburetors, the first Valkyrie demolished existing performance standards by churning out more than 100 horsepower and 100 pounds-feet of torque—right off the showroom floor. The Valkyrie’s modern-era hot-rod custom styling, confidence-inspiring handling and startling acceleration places this breakthrough motorcycle into a class of its own.
When the GL1800 debuted, you had to let the numbers tell the (big) story: 118 bhp and 125 lb./ft. of torque. Don’t try to find other bikes that compared, because there weren’t any. Likewise, the list of long-legged mounts offering a box-section aluminum frame begins with the word “Gold” and ends with “Wing.” Before the GL1800 was completed, Honda would patent no less than 20 technological innovations that were incorporated into this high-performance luxury motorcycle.
It looks like a concept sketch, but Honda made it into a reality. The limited-edition six-cylinder Valkyrie Rune is not only the most powerful cruiser Honda has ever produced, it's also arguably the most extravagant demonstration of two-wheel styling, engineering and production prowess. Once again guided by the hand of Masanori Aoki, the incredible Valkyrie Rune carries the aura of a one-off custom special along with unsurpassed engineering elegance.
2012 = Gold Wing updates
Manufacture of Honda’s six-cylinder bikes shifts to the ultra-modern facility in Kumamoto, Japan, where production on a gigantic scale will see as many as 1800 motorcycles produced in a single day. The new 2012 Gold Wing brings upgraded styling along with an array of sophisticated electronic amenities including a next-generation GPS navigation system with user-friendly programmability for sharing ride routes, which can be accessed online via computer, plus a built-in MP3/iPod® interface for the new SRS CS Auto™ technology surround-sound system. The 2012 Gold Wing also boasts increased luggage capacity, greater protection from wind and weather, revised suspension settings for enhanced ride compliance, and better comfort for both rider and passenger. In addition to its powerful yet refined drivetrain and sporty handling, packages for ABS and airbag further the Gold Wing’s reputation as one of the most celebrated touring machine in motorcycle history.
With the introduction of the Gold Wing F6B, Honda offers an elevated level of all-around performance in a uniquely styled, big-bike package. The F6B delivers a bold look but keeps the WIng's impressive level of performance; it's a new breed of machine that figures as part power cruiser, part long-haul tourer and all Honda. The F6B offers higher levels of performance than most bikes in this class, along with sophistication, smoothness, visual impact, and reliability.
2014 = Valkyrie 2.0
The Valkyrie name is back, in a 2014 model that ratchets the swagger up a couple of levels. The new-era muscle cruiser is meant for riders who want to capitalize on modern technology, who appreciate distinctive style, and want the kind of performance most cruisers simply can't match. It’s stripped down to shed weight, and it’s accompanied by an 1832cc six-cylinder powerplant that produces ground-shaking torque. With an incredible power-to-weight ratio, aluminum twin-spar frame, and a suspension system tuned for serious riders, the 2014 Valkyrie emphasizes performance and unique style.
SRS CS Auto is a trademark of SRS Labs, Inc. CS Auto technology is incorporated under license from SRS Labs, Inc.