2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie Review - First Ride

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

A New-Generation Power Cruiser

The Honda Valkyrie has always held a special place in my heart. First, the Valkyrie was initially released in 1996, the year I started scribbling about motorcycles for a living. Second, the cruiser magazine I worked for had a long-term Valkyrie for the better part of a year. I commuted on it, took canyon rides, toured, did pretty much everything on that bike. I even took it from stock to a custom bike over that time. (After it was returned to Honda, I heard stories of it spending time on the Bonneville Salt Flats pursuing land speed records – purple anodized fork and all.)

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

Editor Score: 86.25%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.75/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score86.25/100

I’ve ridden every model Valkyrie produced – even taking a Valkyrie Interstate from Los Angeles to Alaska. Finally, I had the twisted pleasure of spending a few days on a twin supercharged custom Valkyrie (one for each bank of cylinders) that was the single loudest motorcycle I’ve ever thrown a leg over (thanks to six straight pipes and the Magnacharger roots-type superchargers that attempted to suck anything in their vicinity into their hungry mouths). You could say that I’m a fan of the Valkyrie.

The Blue Metallic Valkyrie receives an additional blackout treatment to the engine’s valve covers, the fork sliders, headlight nacelle and grab rails. Honda probably should have gone the extra step and included the mirrors in that list.

So, when the Valkyrie was dropped from Honda’s lineup in 2004, I held a personal moment of silence for the bike that was arguably responsible for the coining of the term “power cruiser.” Ironically, in 2001, when the Gold Wing was updated with the twin-spar aluminum frame and increased displacement, the Valkyrie faithful felt it was only a matter of time before a new, improved Valkyrie would be terrorizing the roads of America again. And it was – 13 model years – before the Valkyrie returned. After spending a day with the new Valkyrie on some of Southern California’s finest roads, I can honestly say that, in my opinion, the Valkyrie is back and, in many ways, better than ever.

However, your opinion may differ. Here’s why.

FLASHBACK: 1997 Honda Valkyrie

The Challenge of Change

The Valkyrie has always been about its engine. With the original Valkyrie in 1996, the 1520cc Flat-Six was reworked to maximize its power output. Hotter cams were used to allow the engine to breathe better, and in a move that was as much about making a visual statement as it was about performance, the Gold Wing’s two 36mm carburetors were replaced with six 24mm carbs – two racks of three – hanging out in the air for all the world to see. The result was a claimed 100 hp and 100 ft.-lb. in a visually arresting, chrome-dipped package.

The LCD instrumentation is remarkably easy to read in all lighting conditions. Sometimes, the sun’s reflection off the bezel can be painfully bright.

The 2014 Valkyrie takes the GL1800’s 1832cc liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder with its 118 hp and 125 ft.-lb. of torque and serves it up unchanged. Before you begin to sputter in outrage at this heresy, remember that the engine already makes 18% more torque and 25% more horsepower than the Valkyrie of old, and bumping power output isn’t the only way to make a motorcycle feel more powerful than its predecessor.

Lean forward and hang on if you plan on pulling the Valkyrie’s tail.
The extra blacked-out components on the blue Valkyrie radically change its look.

Time moves on, and technology marches forward. The in-your-face six individual carburetors have been replaced with two 40mm throttle bodies tucked away under the tank. Rather than jets delivering the fuel, Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) incorporates six high-pressure injectors to precisely meter the fuel mixture dictated by the ECU’s two digital 3-D fuel-injection maps which control the fuel delivery and spark advance to get the most go out of each explosion in the 74.0mm x 71.0mm cylinders. The closed-loop system monitors the engine’s exhaust gasses via two oxygen sensors to assure the cleanest, most power-producing burn while the exhaust’s two catalyzers help to reduce the engine’s emissions.

Honda’s engineers took a two-step approach to giving the engine an “exhaust sound to proclaim Valkyrie’s presence” and differentiate it from its Gold Wing and F6B stablemates. First, the airbox gained additional rear intake ducting because intake honk can be pleasing to the ear, too. The exhaust, not surprisingly, was tuned for sound with the goal of giving the mill a growl at lower rpm – which the ride revealed you can actually feel resonating in your body. At high rpm, the Valkyrie’s song changes to a higher pitched, throaty howl that makes the Gold Wing sound like a sewing machine, comparatively. Additionally, rapping on the Valkyrie’s throttle reveals an engine that seems to rev just a tad quicker because of the freer breathing intake and exhaust.

The radiator cowls have been the recipient of much grousing from fans of more traditional cruiser styling. Others, like myself, find the beefy look appealing.

Although the engine and transmission are unchanged mechanically from both the Gold Wing and the F6B, the Valkyrie is just plain faster than either. Weight loss that would sound appropriate on The Biggest Loser receives the credit. The Valkyrie tips the scales at 154 lb. less than the Gold Wing and 90 lb. less than the F6B. Although the Honda reps wouldn’t admit it, some extra ponies probably come from the freer breathing intake and exhaust.

Remember the way the rider leaned forward on the Valkyrie in the video released with the bike’s announcement? Seemed overplayed, didn’t it? Well, it turns out that, when the big GL engine is at full song, you’ll find yourself leaning against the acceleration noticeably – just maybe not as much as in the video. The bike develops some thrust!

Twist the throttle to the stop, and you better be ready to shift immediately in lower gears. Thankfully, the transmission shifts slickly, with each lift of the lever resulting in positive connections between the cogs. Clutchless upshifts shorten the gap between gears and keeps the Fun-O-Meter pegged. In more mundane applications of the throttle, the fuel metering is spot on with nary a hiccup as you roll the throttle on and off through a winding section of road.

With fifth gear being an overdrive, the engine feels like its loafing at highway speeds, and the Flat-Six’s reputation for supernatural smoothness is carried on for another generation of riders to enjoy. Both the pegs and the grips stay vibration-free until above 5,000 rpm where some high-frequency buzz begins to move into the pegs. As the tach moves towards 6,000 rpm the vibes move into the grips, too. However, you’re never going to spend much time with the engine spinning this close to redline, so this won’t be an issue.

The Eye of the Beholder

In a move that is stylistically controversial, the Valkyrie’s cooling is accomplished via two side-mounted radiators in beefy side cowls. While the functional aspects of this arrangement are sound: the low pressure zones created as the cowls travel through the air actually draw the atmosphere through the radiators and carry the heat away from the rider at speed. The visual effect of these massive structures on the Valkyrie’s sides can’t be ignored. As is often the case, the people who dislike the cowlings are making the most noise, often saying that they think that the stylistic changes in the Valkyrie are an antithesis of what the original bike stood for.

A reflection of changing cruiser tastes or a misfire: the original 1997 Valkyrie versus the modernized 2014 Valkyrie. Which looks better? Only you can decide.

The original Valkyrie had decidedly retro styling – which fit with the overall trend in cruisers and Honda’s approach to the market at the time. Well, things are a bit different, now. Honda terms its design goals for the Valkyrie as “progressive styling.” Like it or not, Big Red is moving towards a more modern esthetic – even in its cruisers. The CTX700N offers another example of this. While some may question whether the Valkyrie is a cruiser, Honda places it in the cruiser line on its website. In this context, the styling begins to make a little more sense – provided you aren’t a cruiser traditionalist who believes that the class should only look backwards in time.

MORE: 2014 Honda Valkyrie Revealed

The handy preload adjuster tucks away out of sight under the left side panel.

Honda has stated that it is trying to appeal to a younger, more performance oriented group of riders with the Valkyrie’s updated design. Listening to riders debate the Valkyrie has revealed a love/hate dichotomy forming. Yes, the 2014 issue Valkyrie is less nakedly mechanical in its initial impression, with the eye taking in an overall brutishness in profile rather than a conglomeration of details. Honda’s reps said the designers had a raging bull in mind when they created the Valkyrie’s silhouette: massive and muscular in the front with its head down and charging while the rear tapers down to smaller but still beefy stance.

Whether that more modern aggression will sell as well as the classically styled original will be played out over the next couple years.

Carry that Weight

Thanks to the design of the Flat-Six engine, the Valkyrie carries its weight low in the chassis, making the bike feel lighter than its 750 lb. curb weight – that is unless you’re pushing it across the parking lot. Get the balanced chassis slightly above a walking pace, and it is remarkably easy to maneuver. The parking lot hustle really isn’t a problem, though the reach to the outside grip in full-lock turns is a tad long. Around town, the Valkyrie can be as docile or aggressive as you like. The choice is in your right hand.

The relocated pegs combine with the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels to give the 2014 Valkyrie some pretty impressive ground clearance. The Dark Red Metallic gives a more stately appearance.

Big, heavy bikes that hide their weight well need to have a well-sorted chassis or things can get ugly in a hurry. Whereas the Gold Wing’s and F6B’s rides are quite plush, the Valkyrie’s is taut, bordering on harsh in some situations. The good news is: the firmness kept the suspension from compressing and eating up too much ground clearance under the cornering forces. The bike’s mass helps it gobble up irregular pavement without the chassis getting upset, but occasionally, sharp-edged bumps are transmitted directly to the rider.

2012 Honda Gold Wing Review

The Valkyrie’s steering is quite a puzzler. The performance-oriented bike in the Gold Wing line actually steers slower than its touring-oriented kin. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the Valkyrie’s front wheel is a 19-incher while its progenitors wear 17-inch wheels. The 0.35 degree rake increase and the 0.2-inch trail increase created by the fork modifications to accommodate the big hoop likely contributed to this. Simply put, while the Valkyrie can still get it done, when it comes to charging a serpentine road, it requires more effort to do it. On the positive side, the Valkyrie is dead stable in corners, settling into its line without any fidgeting required to keep it on course.

2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B Review

The optional ABS also includes self-canceling turn signals since both technologies rely on the the wheel sensors. ABS is only available in black.

Slowing the raging bull comes from the liberal application of its triple discs. The two 310mm front platters are gripped by a pair of four-piston calipers. The 316mm rear disc and two-piston caliper take care of the rear. The brakes are plenty strong for their challenging job of signing the checks that the engine likes to write. The Valkyrie can be hauled down from speed surprisingly quickly. While the non-adjustable levers may be a reach for some riders, the wide blades fit with what’s expected in the cruiser market. ABS is a $1,000 option, and in a surprise move for Honda, the ABS system does not utilize linked brakes.

The Human Factor

The Valkyrie’s acceleration no doubt influenced the rider triangle. Compared to the F6B, the bar is 1.3 in. further forward and 1.5 in. higher. The slight additional leverage offered by the 0.7 in. wider placement of the grips is nice, considering the steering effort. The result is a slight forward lean that helps to combat the wind blast and acceleration. Honda chose to use a one-inch diameter bar to give owners a wide variety of aftermarket bar options.

The pillion and grab rails can be removed, and accessory plates are available to fill the remaining openings in the fender.

The rider’s legs are kept in a neutral position with the pegs 0.6 in. forward and 1.3 in. higher than the F6B. My 32-in. inseam had my thighs comfortably parallel to the ground, and the additional ground clearance was appreciated as the peg feelers started to grind on the pavement.

Wind protection, as you would expect from a shield-free motorcycle, is minimal. However, the protection the radiator cowlings offer the lower extremities will be nice on chilly days. The shape of the headlight nacelle does a decent job of directing the wind blast away from the rider. While on some bikes, you can feel a distinct line where clear air hits your body, the Valkyrie has more of a zone of increasing air pressure that starts just below mid-chest on my 5’11” frame. My shoulders and helmet were in clear air for turbulence-free riding. I’ve felt much more physically stressed at 80 mph on other (mostly) naked bikes.

Honda has quite a task ahead of itself with the Valkyrie. The Ghosts of Valkyries Past, in the form of cultists who want to keep it like it was, may garner attention with their howling and rending of garments, but the real challenge will be getting younger, hipper riders to take a look at this formidable machine. Does the bike offer the performance to attract riders away from a more sporting background? These questions can only be answered with time and sales figures.

All of the chrome you see here, save the headlight internals and the mirrors, is replaced with glossy black on the Metallic Blue model.

Still, from where I sit, the new Valkyrie is quite a different motorcycle but one that offers much of the thrill of the classic version in a thoroughly modern wrapper. The 2014 Valkyrie is available in showrooms this week for a base price of $17,999 in Black, Blue Metallic, and Dark Red Metallic. The ABS option costs $1,000 more and comes in Black only.

+ Highs

  • Blistering acceleration
  • Updated styling
  • Modern instrumentation

– Sighs

  • Heavy steering
  • Updated styling
  • Suspension harsh at times

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie Specs

Engine Type1832cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Bore and Stroke74.0mm x 71.0mm
Compression ratio9.8:1
Valve TrainSOHC; two valves per cylinder
IgnitionComputer-controlled digital with 3-D mapping
Final DriveShaft
Front Suspension45mm cartridge fork; 4.8 inches travel
Rear SuspensionPro-Arm single-side swingarm with Pro-Link rear single shock with hydraulic spring preload; 4.1 inches travel
Front BrakesDual 310mm front discs
Rear BrakesSingle 316mm rear disc
Front Tire130/60R-19
Rear Tire180/55R-17
Wheelbase67.2 inches
Rake29° 50’
Trail114mm (4.5 inches)
Seat Height28.8 inches
Fuel Capacity6.1 gallons
Estimated Fuel EconomyTBD
Base Model ColorsBlack, Dark Red Metallic, Blue Metallic
ABS Model ColorsBlack
Curb Weight*750 pounds (Valkyrie) / 754 pounds (Valkyrie ABS)
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • Gabriel Owens Gabriel Owens on Nov 17, 2016

    Now is the time if you like these bikes. I've seen them new for 10-11k. I'd love to have one, but my stable is currently full.

  • Timothy Smith Timothy Smith on Feb 01, 2017

    750 lbs is fat and heavy? I absolutely love my 2014 valk .. I get looks and inquires every where I go .. and ANY bike not on his guard will eat my dust.. and I mean ANY bike .. I left an R1 at the light, he caught up with me just before the next light and was WTF??? ... I was born in 1964. this is one of dozens of bikes I have owned over the years from 125cc RD125 to Yamaha Raider 1900 and everything in between including Suzuki 1100 that I drag raced.. its just personal preference at first until you ride it and then NOTHING compares ..