Flagship Comparison: 1998 Honda Valkyrie

Anything but a me-too motorcycle

1998 Honda Valkyrie
1998 Honda ValkyrieFran Kuhn

Distinguished visually and functionally by its 1520cc flat-six engine, the Valkyrie is anything but a me-too motorcycle, as the briefest glance will confirm. The engine sprang from the indestructible Gold Wing liquid-cooled motor, with six carbs (instead of the Gold Wing’s four), hotter cams, and screw-type valve adjustment (in place of the Wing’s hydraulic adjusters) to give an edge in power and character. Redline jumped to 6500.

With chrome and polish for visual highlights and its own six-outlet exhaust system to please the beholder aurally, the mill convincingly makes the jump from mild-mannered highway hummer to boulevardier with an attitude. However, the single-overhead-cam motor retains plenty of that cutting-edge technology, such as the counter-rotating alternator to offset the tendency of the longitudinal crankshaft engine to pull the bike to one side the way the BMW and Moto Guzzi do when the throttle is blipped. Because it projects into the space that would be used by floorboards, the engine effectively dictates the use of footpegs.

A series of components completed the transition to cruiser. The Valkyrie got its own chassis stretched out on a 66.5-inch wheelbase, fat inverted fork with chrome shields for the sliders, chrome-covered dual shocks in back, wide directional cast wheels, full fenders, a big 5.3-gallon fuel tank atop the frame, and countless styling touches—like the molded-in visor for the reflector-type halogen headlight, and bullet turn signals.

The hot-rod character originating with the big, potent, in-your-face engine is more than an affectation, too. You can see the emphasis on performance in the inclusion of a tachometer, the wide radial tires, and dual disc brakes up front with dual-piston calipers all around.

Though its unconventional appearance may not turn everyone’s head, the Valkyrie’s beauty is more than skin deep. Its size, distinctive style, performance and unmistakably Honda character clearly make it Honda’s flagship cruiser.

High Points: Low Points: Fist Changes:
Terrific power over a broad range Poor fuel mileage Aftermarket radiator hose
Excellent suspension Engine design limits footpeg location
Superb comfort
Great handling
Ultra smooth
liquid cool engine
No V? No fins? Whether you like the Valkyrie’s look or not depends largely on whether you like the idea of the huge, wide, liquid-cooled engine jutting out unapologetically from under the tank.Fran Kuhn
Model/designation: Valkyrie/GL1500C
Suggested base price: $12,799
Standard colors: Black
Extra cost colors: Yellow/ivory, blue/ivory, red/ivory (add $300)
Standard warranty: 36 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 8000 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve, operated by rockers, threaded adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1520cc, 71mm x 64mm
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Carburetion: 6, 28mm Keihin CV
Lubrication: Wet sump, 4.5 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch; 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.833:1
Wet weight: 739 lb
GVWR: 1133 lb
Seat height: 29.1 in.
Wheelbase: 66.5 in.
Overall length: 100.2 in.
Rake: 32.3 degrees
Trail: 5.98 in.
Wheels: Cast, 17 x 3.50 front, 16 x 5.50 rear
Front tire: 150/80R-17 Dunlop D206F, tubeless radial
Rear tire: 180/70R-16 Dunlop D206F, tubeless radial
Front brake: 2, single-action dual-piston calipers, 11.65-in. disc
Rear brake: Single-action caliper, 12.44-in. disc
Front suspension: 45mm inverted, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 4.7 in. travel, adjustments for spring preload
Handlebar width: 34.0 in. wide, 1 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 33.8 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 546 watts
Battery: 12v, 12AH maintenance-free
Forward lighting: 7-in. headlight, running lights
Taillight: One bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, tachometer; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, sidestand
Fuel mileage: 32–43 mpg, 36.2 mpg avg.
Average range: 192 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2990
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 74.3 mph
1⁄4-mile acceleration: 12.93 sec., 104.0 mph

This article was originally published in the August 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.