Several months ago, I was at a Honda event involving the unveiling of several new models, including the trio of new 500cc twins. One of the bikes rolled out that night was the bike you see here, Honda’s 2013 Gold Wing F6B. Quite frankly, my reaction was very negative when I saw the bike. I couldn’t understand what Honda was trying to do by taking a Gold Wing platform, chopping the windshield, dropping the rear trunk, and giving the chassis a blacked-out treatment. The styling seemed all wrong, and I couldn’t imagine what customer base Honda was aiming at.
Now that I have ridden the F6B for a few weeks, parked it and watched the reaction of onlookers, and reminded myself of the almost physics-deifying combination of this engine and chassis (enhanced by the lighter weight and lower center of gravity versus the standard Gold Wing) my attitude has changed significantly.
The 1832cc six-cylinder Gold Wing engine found in the F6B represents a benchmark in motorcycling. If you have never experienced the seamless, turbine-like power output of this marvel, you are missing a unique and important piece of the motorcycling experience. The engine configuration is entirely unique in motorcycling (a flat, opposed six), but it is more than that. The huge displacement and uncanny smoothness combine to deliver an effortlessness in acceleration unlike anything else on the market. No, it is not as fast through the quarter-mile as a modern sport bike (even a 600), but it has that mountain moving torque found in a big turbo diesel truck that shrugs off just about any amount of weight placed on it.
The placement of the engine low in the chassis, with the crank configured longitudinally, contributes to the remarkable handling the Gold Wing is well known for. Removing the high-placed weight of the trunk and passenger backrest structure only increases the nimble nature of the machine,
The F6B, of course, also comes with that amazing rider and passenger seat refined by Honda over decades to complement long-distance touring. I can’t think of a more comfortable rider seat, and two separate passengers fell in love with the rear seat accommodations (only asking for the optional backrest, which is standard on the Deluxe model). Again, not a surprise given the origin of this platform.
What is a surprise is styling. That cut-down windscreen and low-slung rear end completely change the character of the Gold Wing into something … well … something. You are now piloting a bike that Harley-Davidson riders will wave at, and sport bike riders will ignore. That sort of something.
But you are also piloting a machine that will leave traditional v-twin cruisers for dead, certainly in a straight line, and more often than not through the corners, as well.
Either 62 pounds or 91 pounds lighter than the full-dress Gold Wing (depending on which Gold Wing model you are comparing it to), the F6B is still a massive and heavy machine at a claimed curb weight of 842 pounds. Together with an extraordinarily long wheelbase, that surprisingly nimble handling is coupled with freight-train like stability in a straight line.
The suspension is just as refined as the seating. Only rear preload is adjustable, but the big brute soaks up bumps in a way few other motorcycles can, without feeling too soft when being pushed hard through corners.
The transmission is a five-speed, with an overdrive. If ever a motorcycle needed only five speeds, this is it. You could probably get by with three speeds. Power builds swiftly and smoothly from just above idle, and long, winding country roads are frequently a one-gear affair.
Instrumentation is thorough and legible, but the audio controls on the backside of the left fairing are dated, and not easily accessible once underway. The bike does come with MP3/iPod connectivity.
The integrated saddlebags are very large, although we could only get a large, full face helmet into the left bag. The bags are also waterproof. A glove box to the left of the instrument panel is included.
We tested the standard F6B, but it is also available in a Deluxe model that includes a passenger backrest, center stand, self-canceling turn signals and heated grips. Neither model includes a reverse gear, unlike the full-dress Gold Wing, so be careful where you park.
The styling of the bike is self-evident, and includes blacked-out chassis and fairing panels, complemented by either black or red bodywork. The cut-down windscreen is also an important styling element/statement. It is also a functional compromise.
Every rider that tested the F6B complained about wind buffeting at the helmet level on the freeway, which is simply something you give up in exchange for the Shorty Windshield look that has become so popular. Nevertheless, this was the bike in our test fleet that everybody wanted to ride on longer freeway trips. The power, stability, suspension compliance and overall comfort were something that no other bike we had available could compete with … short windscreen notwithstanding.
Styling is always subjective, but we were surprised by how many independent observers like the styling of this new Honda. Even some sport bike enthusiasts thought it looked cool, and certainly understood the performance advantages of the unique engine configuration that comes along with this style package.
Everything about this bike, from the brakes to the transmission, is overbuilt and designed to handle the huge loads Gold Wing owners throw at this chassis. Two-up riding with luggage while pulling a trailer? Those types of loads. On the F6B, the brakes are enormously powerful and offer good feel. This is a linked braking system, so front brake gives you a little rear brake, and vice-versa. Not surprisingly, it works seamlessly.
Although I have to admit I am still not sure who the target customer is, we had a blast riding the Gold Wing F6B, and if you like the styling, I don’t think you can find an alternative with the same level of comfort, performance and proven reliability. We averaged 37 mpg, so the 6.6 gallon fuel tank offers plenty of range.
You can find the Gold Wing F6B at your dealer now for $19,999 or $20,999 for the Deluxe model. Visit Honda’s web site for additional details.