Where credit's due:

Words: Andrew Boss
Photos: Colin Fraser/Honda stock
Editing: Rob Harris




I am a statement, therefore I am.
According to Honda Canada’s Warren Milner, sales of cruisers/ customs account for one third of the Canadian market. Of that, 50% have displacements of 1300cc or greater. There’s no doubting that it’s big business and Honda wants more of it. Hmm, what to do, what to do?

Well, in Honda’s case it decided to build a cruiser that makes a statement. Remember the movie Conan the Barbarian? You know the scene where Arnold's horse-riding buddy clubs his foes over the head with a giant mallet? The Rune is that kind of statement.

At last week’s Canadian press launch* of the Rune, Warren detailed the origins of the beast.

*Humph, scooped by Mr. Richardson/Toronto Star—who got the bike for a whole day a few days prior. Kudos to Mark for carrying it off though. Bastard.

Grumble, grumble – Editor ‘arris


The Zodia concept bike of 1995.
The first step in the evolution of the Rune was a reversal of accepted Honda philosophy of function first, style second. This traditional model generally serves manufacturers and consumers well but to create a statement Honda took style—via the concept bike format—and then added function.

The concept bike in question is the luscious Zodia v-twin, which made it’s premier at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995. Utilizing trailing-link front suspension, rim mounted front disc, single-sided swing-arm and fluid drive, the Zodia got an overwhelmingly good public response …and got Honda’s gears turning. In 1996, when Honda introduced the Valkyrie—utilizing the stout flat-six GL1500 motor—the Honda brain thrust into second gear.

The Rune concept bikes. Left to right are the T1 to T4. Recognize the T2?

Calling on some design elements of the Zodia and using a motor that is recognizably Honda—the horizontally opposed six of t
he Gold Wing/ Valkyrie—Honda’s US based designers developed four new concept bikes. Labeled the T1 through to T4, the Rune wannabe's hit the Long Beach, California bike show in December of 2000.

Of all the variations, the T2 received enough positive feedback that the green light was given for a limited production run, the challenge being that it had to be a near as possible reproduction to the concept T2. However, most concept bikes are just styling exercises to help gauge consumer reactions. Honda’s next task was to bring function to the style.


GL1800 motor gets tuned-up.
The recent incarnation of the Gold Wing 1832cc six was chosen for the power plant and hot-rodded by increasing the throttle bodies from two to six, fitting more aggressive cams, increasing air box volume and slapping in a close ratio box. The motor is rigidly mounted in the frame and Honda claims it is their most powerful cruiser engine to date … but unfortunately decline to provide performance values to show just how powerful.

The motor was the easy part. Integrating the design with function required several innovative firsts for Honda:

Shocks are located behind the headlight.
The frame is diamond shaped as opposed to the tube style found on other cruisers that utilize aluminium. The suspension is also very interesting. Up front is a trailing link set-up providing a total of 3.9 inches of travel. Movement is transmitted from the trailing link arms to a lever at the steering head, via two large push-rods. This in turn compresses two upper shocks, one the main spring and the other a sub-spring and damping system. I couldn’t tell which was which, but that’s not important right now.

In the rear, Honda is happy to point out that the Unit Pro-Link suspension is modeled after the RC211V GP racer, with the upper shock mount contained in the swingarm and not the frame. This setup negates the need for a beefy frame cross-member to hold the upper shock mount. Beyond claims of superior function, it also allows the space for a very low seat height of 27.2” (690mm) while still providing 3.9” of wheel travel. It’s also mated to a single sided swing arm, which is also a Honda cruiser first.

With a dry weight of 794 lbs, it is no wonder Honda installed the largest discs of any of their production bikes. Up front are a pair of 330mm discs—with three piston calipers—and a single 336mm disc—with a two-piston caliper—in the rear. The brakes are also linked, the front lever actuating two outer pistons on both front calipers, while the rear actuates the rear two pistons as well as the middle pistons up front.

Aesthetics created their own demands. The 6.1-gallon tank was built with seamless construction—another first for Honda—while the wraparound rear fender utilizes flush mount LED brake lights. While being functional, they also don’t interfere with the fender’s round shape.

The twin shorty exhausts of the T2 presented dilemmas in getting proper volume of airflow for the required performance, while still meeting environmental and groovy sound requirements. Initially however, when functional and pollution requirements were satisfied, the sound wasn’t desirable.

Several methods of firing order changes were tried, but the final solution came by crossing over two pipes under the engine between the two banks. It came at the expense of some horsepower but since they felt they had plenty anyhow it was worth it to get ‘the sound’.

It took me a while to work this shot out - clutch master cylinder over gas tank.

Alloy wheels are shod with radial tires. The rear is specially designed for the Rune and not yet stocked in Canada—doubling up as the reason why the press goons would not be allowed to do a smoky burn out for the entertainment our dedicated readers. Hey, if you don’t ask…

Other nice bits include very tasty hydraulic clutch and front brake reservoirs that are integrated with the rear-set bars. Overall build quality and componentry is top notch and very tasty for this made-in-Ohio special. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to get one, you won't have the hassle of passengers as there are no passenger pegs!


Mr. Boss tries to look professional while humming the Simpson's theme song and thinking of lunch. Note blank note pad.
The bike is massive in every detail: fenders, tank, length, motor and jeez look at that headlight! It stretches out past the front axle! I find it interesting that a bike that is as unsubtle as a pile driver from Prairie wrestling icon Baron Von Raschke only says ‘Honda’ on the valve covers. The tank simply says ‘Rune’ and it’s hidden under a coat of Illusion Blue paint. This colour is the only option for Canadian purchasers, btw.

Seating position is comfortable thanks to the footpeg placement being in a standard position. This is due to the valve covers of the mighty six preventing the traditional cruiser placement up front. Although the reach to the bars seemed a bit too short for me (5’11” and shrinking) the overall ergos are comfortable. The seat is wide and not too deeply dished. The headlight is omnipresent in a good way.

Once underway, the sheer enormity of the bike disappears.

At idle, Honda has achieved a quiet version of a late 60’s small block Chevy. Once out of earshot of our hosts however, a nailing of the throttle replaces that rumble with the intake honk of something much sportier. Compared with the standard Valkyrie and VTX1800, the Rune is substantially quicker. The incredible linearity of the Valkyrie motor is still there, but a greater sense of urgency is present.

Despite a wheelbase that, to my knowledge, is the longest of any major bike manufacturers at 1750mm, the bike is eminently rideable. In fact in the tighter, slower and typically Ontario bumpy sections surrounding the launch site, the Rune felt more stable then the standard Valkyrie that I rode for comparison. Make no mistake, it’s still a heavyweight, but it felt lighter than the VTX1800 present, and numerous tight U-turns for photo opportunities were not a hardship. 

Front suspension is a work of art.
Applying the rear linked-to-front brakes causes the bike to squat nicely and slows you effectively, although I did lock it on my first attempt. The front brakes are not linked to the rears and are effective in their own right. I was semi-hypnotized watching the visible activity in the front suspension with every brake application. It is a thing of beauty and quite entertaining for my atrophied brain. 

Besides being interesting, the suspension is very functional. It was the most comfortable by far in the group of test bikes available on launch day, including the VTX1300, VTX1800, Spirit 750 and a Valkyrie. Road imperfections are gobbled up and little is imparted on the rider.

The ride quality, seat comfort, decent ergos and a giant tank could see the Rune rack up some ample miles before a break is required.


Limited production ensures that you'll be unlikely to bump into another Rune rider. $35,000 ensures that it won't see rain either.
To go from concept to production with no visible compromise is impressive ... and expensive. Despite a ballpark price of C$35,000, it’s a money-losing venture for the big H.

While Honda wouldn’t provide actual figures on the quantity of units for sale in Canada, an educated guess would be in the 30-50 range. They will sell everyone of them, as it’s a stunning bike, perfectly functional and easy to ride.

As a showcase and flagship it achieves its goal. I’ll take two.



Valkyrie Rune


$35,000 (est)


1832 cc

Engine type

Flat sohc six, liquid-cooled



Final drive

Five speed, shaft drive

Tires, front

150/60R 18

Tires, rear

180/55R 17

Brakes, front

Dual 330 mm discs with three piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 336 mm disc with two piston caliper

Seat height

690 mm (27.2")


1750 mm (68.9")

Dry weight

361 Kg (794 lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

Illusion Blue



cmg online