Honda F6B: A meaner, leaner ‘Wing

Bondo rides the F6B, Honda's new flat-six bagger. Photo: Steve Bond
Words: Steve Bond   Photos: Steve Bond, unless otherwise credited

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.

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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.

What’s New

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.

The side bags hold 22 litres of storage apiece.
The side bags hold 22 litres of storage apiece.

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.

Remember this bike? It's Honda's F6C Valkyrie, a cruiser based on the Gold Wing. It's no longer in production.
Remember this bike? It’s Honda’s F6C Valkyrie, a cruiser based on the Gold Wing. It’s no longer in production.

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?

Although that windscreen has been cut down for the bagger look, Honda actually offers a taller one. Photo: Bill Petro
Although that windscreen has been cut down for the bagger look, Honda actually offers a taller one. Photo: Bill Petro

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.

To cut down weight and expense, the electronics package was pared down considerably for the F6B. Photo: Steve Bond
To cut down weight and expense, the electronics package was pared down considerably for the F6B. Photo: Steve Bond

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).

Recognize that motor? Photo: Bill Petro
Recognize that motor? Photo: Bill Petro

The Ride

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.

See all those volume control bits? Alas, Bondo says they're essentially useless once the bike passes 50 kph. Photo: Steve Bond
See all those volume control bits? Alas, Bondo says they’re essentially useless once the bike passes 50 kph. Photo: Steve Bond

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 better than the standard Gold Wing, thanks to the F6B's lighter weight. The suspension was re-worked to match the lighter bike. Photo: Steve Bond
Handling is better than the standard Gold Wing, thanks to the F6B’s lighter weight. The suspension was re-worked to match the lighter bike. Photo: Steve Bond

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.

There's 150 litres of storage in the lockable luggage. Photo: Steve Bond
There’s 150 litres of storage in the lockable luggage. Photo: Steve Bond

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.

Conclusions

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.

Touring on the F6B will be a little less cushy: There's no navigation system, no heated grips, and of course, less wind protection than the Gold Wing. Photo: Bill Petro
Touring on the F6B will be a little less cushy: There’s no navigation system, no heated grips, and of course, less wind protection than the Gold Wing. Photo: Bill Petro

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.

With no top case to visually balance the machine, the F6B looks a bit hefty in the backside. Photo: Bill Petro
With no top case to visually balance the machine, the F6B looks a bit hefty in the backside. Photo: Bill Petro

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.


GALLERY

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SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  2013 Honda F6B
MSRP  $22,999
Displacement  1832 cc
Engine type  Flat six, SOHC
Power (crank)*  101 hp
Torque*  105 ft-lbs
Tank Capacity  25 litres
Carburetion  EFI twin 40 mm throttle bodies
Final drive  Shaft
Tires, front  130/70R-18
Tires, rear  180/60R-16
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)
Colours  Black
Warranty  One year
* claimed

 

4 thoughts on “Honda F6B: A meaner, leaner ‘Wing”

  1. It took me about 3 minutes to find out that the TOTAL storage capacity of the 2012 Gold Wing is about. 150 litres. That includes glove boxes etc. Another 30 seconds gave me a Honda spec sheet showing 22 litres per side for the F6B. Most scooters have more room than that…. It’s right on par with the Victory Vision side cases.

  2. I’ve seen those bags and there’s no way they have 150 liters of storage, I’d guess about half of that. Which actually makes such a massive bike kinda stoopid…
    Another thing, there’s nothing outstanding about a 12 second quater mile at a 111mph trap, maybe 12 years ago, but not now.
    A regular GW makes sense to me, this one simply doesn’t.

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