Since its introduction in 1975, Honda’s Gold Wing has set the bar for touring motorcycles with over a million units hitting the highways since then. The Wing devours miles like Rosie O’Donnell decimates a buffet table; it’s all-day comfortable for both monsieur and madame, and more than one competent Wing rider has embarrassed a sportbike through the twisties.
Despite all of its competence however, the Wing is generally perceived as an Old Guy’s Motorcycle – the Buick of two wheels.
It’s not exactly a Benjamin Button transformation, but with a little nip n’ tuck, Honda has turned the Wing into a bagger and hopes the 2013 F6B will appeal to a younger(ish) crowd.
The recipe for the F6B consists of taking one Gold Wing, chopping most of the screen, discarding the top box, centerstand, the armchair pillion seat and setting aside most of the electronics. Reduce the contents until they’re 70 pounds lighter; then simply add a dash of open roads and enough fossil fuels to taste.
Honda’s tried this formula before with the Valkyrie – a wonderful motorcycle that only lasted a couple of years in the lineup. Where the Valkyrie was designated the F6C (Flat Six Cruiser), the $22,999 F6B likely stands for Flat Six Bagger. But, like the fabled Rob Ford crack-smoking video, this has not yet been confirmed.
The most obvious changes from the Wing are the hacked-down windscreen and lack of top box, which gives the F6B the “biggest ass in motorcycling,” according to Mark Richardson (former Toronto Star Wheels Editor and Mad Bastard Scooterist) after following me to a local Tim’s one glorious morning.
To complete the “Badass Bagger” look, virtually everything on the F6B has been blacked out; the only brightwork being the mufflers and cam covers. The US gets a red model (which looks much better as black has been done to death) but the Frozen North will make do with noir only.
Compared to the Wing’s Cordon Bleu creature comforts, the F6B is the equivalent of wieners and beans over an open campfire. No reverse gear, no cruise control, no navigation system, no electric rear suspension adjustment and the biggest PB & J moment of all? No heated grips. What are we – Amish?
The nuts and bolts are all Gold Wing and that’s not a bad place to be. The 1,832cc flat six still pumps out 100 horsepower and 105 ft-lbs of torque, more than enough to move the F6B along quite smartly.
The “B” has the Wing’s 45 mm front forks with anti-dive system and a generous 122 mm (4.8 inches) of travel. The frame is the same twin-spar aluminum unit with the familiar single-sided aluminum swingarm hooked up to the single shock with 104mm (4.1 inches) of travel. Valving has been firmed up slightly to better accommodate the F6B’s sporting nature and to compensate for less weight being dragged around.
No surprises in the braking department either, as you’ll see the Wing’s full-floating 296 mm front discs with three-piston calipers; they’re linked to the single ventilated 316 mm rear disc. ABS is standard.
A four-speaker sound system with iPod and USB interface is standard, but there’s no Bluetooth capability at this time.
The Wing’s Barcalounger rider’s seat is gone, replaced by a “gunfighter” style perch that’s 725 mm (28.5 inches) off the ground, compared to the Wing’s 740mm (29.1 inch) high unit. The net result is that the F6B tips the scales at 385kg (849 lb) ready to ride, while the Wing is 417kg (919 lbs).
Just like the Gold Wing, the F6B’s powertrain is outstanding. The tried-and-true overhead cam flat six provides torque by the metric ton and propels the 849-lb F6B to 12-second quarter mile times at 111 mph, according to a couple of US magazines. And it’s tractable too; you can idle it down to 40 kph in top gear and it just pulls away with no lurches or stuttering. Safe passing on two lane roads doesn’t even require a downshift.
The wind protection from the fairing is pretty good, as not much gets to the rider, and the wide engine protects the rider’s legs. The short screen directs air around the rider’s head and shoulders with little helmet buffeting but there’s more wind noise than question period in the House of Commons.
Once you hit 50 kph or so, it’s absolutely impossible to hear the radio over the wind roaring over the cut down shield, even with the volume set to “eleven.” This makes the 14 sound system-related buttons on the left lower fairing completely useless, unless you’re tuning in at a coffee stop or in the garage.
Riders over six feet will find the F6B a bit short on legroom, but even the minimal “gunfighter” seat was all-day comfortable. It’s a little wider at the front, which splays your legs a bit at a stop.
Handling is on par with the Gold Wing and maybe even a little better, because there’s less largesse to throw around. Through the Haliburton Highlands twisties, the F6B handles better than anything large enough to have a captain and crew should, and I was flinging the bike around like a middleweight.
The lockable and waterproof hard cases provide around 150 liters of storage; and a decent-sized glove box for smaller items. Unlike the Wing, the bags must be locked before the key can be removed – a minor inconvenience. And, just like the Wing, sometimes the bags need a strategic extra “thump” to make sure they closed all the way.
Fuel consumption over a variety of conditions averaged between 5.6 – 6.1L per 100 km so the 25-liter tank will give an excellent cruising range.
I kind of “get” the whole bagger movement – add hard bags and a fairing to a cruiser and have a semi-touring motorcycle that’s good for the highway but still be a functional street cruiser.
For a street bike, the F6B is still much bigger and heavier when measured against the competition. Yes, it’s got effortless power, it’s smooth and handles extremely well at speed, but it always feels big and bulky as there’s no way to disguise the mass beneath you.
The wind noise is intolerable and (putting aside my personal feeling that a radio on a motorcycle is about as useful as a moustache on a pineapple), if the manufacturer is going to the trouble of providing a killer radio, speakers and assorted support buttons and bushwah, it sort of behooves them to make sure it’s functional. And I’m guessing Honda knows all about this but opted for form over function, as they offer a taller accessory screen for $330.
F6B riders would’ve been better served if Honda ditched the radio and kept the cruise control, nav system and electronic suspension adjustment – items that real riders can actually use. And heated grips are offered as a $411 option – seriously?
Yes, the F6B comes in at ten grand under the Wing, but it’s still over eight large more than Yamaha’s V-Star Touring Deluxe (see review last month) and $500 more than the nicest bagger I’ve ridden yet – the $22,489 Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
The Yamaha is the bargain of the century in the class but the Street Glide is fast, comfortable, looks great and handles well. Plus (and I have a hard time believing I’m actually going to say this) when riding, the Harley is quieter than the Honda, and will undoubtedly hold its resale value much better.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
|Bike||2013 Honda F6B|
|Engine type||Flat six, SOHC|
|Power (crank)*||101 hp|
|Tank Capacity||25 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI twin 40 mm throttle bodies|
|Brakes, front||Twin 296 mm discs with triple-piston calipers, combined braking|
|Brakes, rear||Single 316 mm disc, single-piston caliper|
|Seat height||725 mm (28.5 in)|
|Wheelbase||1690 mm (66.5 in)|
|Wet weight*||385 kg (849 lb)|