As I write this, there are three hours left on American Honda Motor’s embargo on posting photos or writing about its new Valkyrie—and I’m amazed there’s nothing yet on the Internet. There’s been no speculation about a new Valk that I could find, so you’re probably as surprised as I was when I got these photos of the new model.
The first Valkyrie used a simple formula well-known to American hot-rod builders: take the frame and motor of a big, heavy car and chop away everything you don’t need. That first iteration was built right here in the USA from 1996-2003 and still has legions of fans. It used the flat-six, liquid-cooled 1520cc motor and five-speed gearbox from the old GL1500 Gold Wing (1988-2000), but with a different tube-steel chassis. It weighed in at 682 pounds dry—much lighter than its touring brother. Owner forums for the Valk are still active (hot topic: using a car tire on the rear wheel), and one thing is clear: these folks love their bikes. They handle well (for something so heavy), are comfortable, reliable, smooth, fast and have a heck of a presence—for a while, it was the biggest, baddest cruiser you could buy. “Surely, with this motorcycle,” speculated Motorcycle.com’s Andy Saunders in 1997, “Honda has reached the limit of cruiser size.” How quaint.
Honda killed the old girl in 2004, but that year a limited-edition custom called the Rune arrived—you may remember it. At $27,000, it was kind of a legacy bike, a made-to-order custom designed more to showcase the brand than to dominate the heavyweight cruiser market. Still, it was good-handling and luxurious-feeling, something Editor Edge and I took great pleasure in riding.
Another possible direction was the EVO6. Honda displayed this concept bike at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, and it made a big splash—how can an 1800cc, six-cylinder sporting standard not? It was missing the clutch lever and gearshifter—would the next Goldwing use an automatic transmission?
If anything, the new Valk is a Rune for the masses, as it uses much the same formula, albeit for a broader audience. The frame, swingarm and powerplant are all from the GL1800, but with lighter, more minimal bodywork. A low 28.8-inch seat and blacked-out one-inch cruiser bars scream “cruiser,” but an 45mm cartridge fork, twin-spar aluminum frame, radial tires (130/60-19 in front, 180/55-17 in back), single-sided Pro-Arm with linkage rear suspension and 310mm discs with four-piston Nissin calipers (that look like what Honda used on its sportbikes from the late ’90s to the mid 2000s) all scream out “sportbike.” After all, the GL1800’s Large Project Leader, Masanori Aoki, came from the sportbike side of Honda, developing bikes like the NSR250R and CBR600F3.
All that development nets a bike that weighs in at 750 pounds—154 pounds lighter than the GL1800. Heavier than the original Valk, perhaps, but it does have a lot more power—the GL1800 makes over 100 ft-lbs of torque at the wheel, and the number stays above 90 from 1500 to 5000 rpm—and a six-gallon tank, bigger than the ‘Wing’s.
Other features include removable passenger seat with grab rail, included solo cover, black-out treatment on the frame and engine, LED lighting (everywhere, including the headlight), a multi-function LCD instrument cluster and those big shrouds covering the side-mounted radiators (which duct heat away from the rider). The styling could be controversial, but it is growing on me, and I actually really like that big front wheel.
Pricing is not yet set, but Honda says it will be in the range of $17,000, undercutting the F6B. It should be available in US dealers next spring. I’m also really looking forward to riding one, but maybe not as much as the many Valkyrie fans—Christmas may have come early for them.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com.