By: Paul Carruthers
Cool is one of the most overused words in the English language. It's not just winter weather in upstate New York that's cool these days. Everything seems to be cool. "Sorry, dude, I just ran over your cat." "No worries, it's cool." "Damn, that guy is cool." "Check this out. It's cool." And we all have a list of things that we believe to be cool. That list might include a vacation spot in the tropics, an exotic sports car, your favorite watering hole...
But that list of all things cool would have to be a long one before it would ever include Honda's Gold Wing. Even if the list was alphabetical.
Well, not anymore.
The new Honda Gold Wing F6B is... well, for the want of a better word - cool.
And perhaps the best part is that while it looks cool on the outside, it's all Gold Wing on the inside. And that's a good thing. After all, there's plenty of reasons why Honda has sold 550,000 Gold Wings since first introducing the ultimate touring motorcycle back in 1975 - as Honda's flagship motorcycle, they are the real deal.
But the F6B was designed with a new rider in mind. It's the Gold Wing for Gen X and it looks the part. Lower, sleeker and lighter - and without the big trunk that Gold Wings are known for - this Wing is like none of the 550,000 sold before it. This one is blacked out - wheels, frame, engine - with a gunfighter seat and a short windshield. It's much more bagger that Gold Wing. In fact, it may just be the ultimate touring cruiser.
Honda invited journalists to La Jolla in Southern California to sample the bike for the first time yesterday. In Chamber of Commerce like conditions, our ride took us south from the starting point at La Jolla's Mt. Soledad on a 150-mile tour of East San Diego, from El Cajon to Jamul to Pine Valley and back. We tested the new Wing on freeways as well as city streets and twisty backroads... and we found that there's really not a whole lot not to like about the F6B.
For starters, while it looks different on the outside, the new F6B is all Gold Wing on the inside. It's still powered by Honda's iconic horizontally opposed six-cylinder 1832cc engine, it still features the twin-spar aluminum frame and suspension system that makes the bike perform unlike any 842 pound motorcycle should perform. It's got all the Gold Wing goodies. Now it just looks a hell of a lot better.
Oh... and it's 62 pounds lighter. And stop snickering. We know what your thinking: Taking 62 pounds off a Gold Wing is like taking eight ounces off a fat man. But it makes a difference. A big difference. Especially if you rearrange the weight a little bit and put it in the right places - like down low. It's not that the fat man couldn't dance before, but now he's got a lot more moves. In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that the F6B even feels nimble. One of the things that blows you away is when you're hammering away through the twisties on the F6B and you find yourself turning in too much - and almost running across the double yellow line or the inside of the corner. And this from a motorcycle that has a wheelbase of 66.5 inches.
Since the Gold Wing was re-invented in 2001 with more sportbike-like handling and power, it's been a motorcycle that made you scratch your head after riding it. That hasn't change with this one. It's still hard to believe how sporty a motorcycle of this size can actually be; and it's not unheard of for Gold Wingers to run down and pass sportbikes on the twisties. The F6B will continue that tradition of dishing out sportbike ass whuppins.'
The basis of the F6B's handling characteristics is the twin-spar aluminum frame, a 45mm front fork with its anti-dive system and 4.8 inches of travel, the single-sided aluminum swingarm and a Pro-Link rear suspension with a new shock dialed in specifically for the F6B. The rear shock also has a dial-type remote adjuster that makes adjustments quick and easy.
Stopping a motorcycle of this size takes good brakes and the Honda has those - and they're linked. The F6B, like the GL1800, gets dual front 260mm rotors and three-piston calipers and a rear 316mm disc.
As for power, the Gold Wing has plenty. The ultra-smooth six-cylinder engine is without peer. Rolling along at 65 mph, it's almost like the F6B doesn't even have a pulse as it reads 3000 rpm on its dash. Give it some stick and it comes to life, taking your breath away with acceleration that again shouldn't be the norm on a motorcycle nearing 850 pounds. Like the GL, the newest Gold Wing is fuel-injected (two 40mm throttle bodies and six high-pressure injectors) and you won't find a hiccup in the system. You can idle along at 10 mph in first gear and never even think about having to touch the clutch.
Of course, the F6B gets all the creature comforts that makes long rides enjoyable and not just bearable: a top-notch audio system with direct MP3/iPod connectivity (that's controllable via knobs on the fairing and with flick levers on the left handlebar); lockable and waterproof hard cases that provide some 22 liters of storage; a decent sized glove box for smaller items; and a dash that gives you all the information you need. It's still a touring bike. It just looks better now.
And it's those looks that really set it apart from any Gold Wing you've ever seen. It starts with a long, low look - from the shorty windscreen (the wind hits you in the helmet now, instead of the full coverage the GL windshield provides) to the new and more stylish rear section that doesn't have the up-high rear truck of previous models. In between there's plenty of black - even on the red model - with only the long chrome pipes that exit the F6B on both sides interrupting the blacked-out look.
In between the front and the back, it's all about the seat. Gunfighter in design, the seat is lower at 28.5 inches than the standard Wing and configured differently than what Gold Wing owners are used to. For one, the low back support is less pronounced on the new model and farther back. And on the F6B it feels like you're a lot lower than you actually are - like you're in the bike rather than on it.
The F6B comes in two versions - standard and deluxe. The deluxe version gets heated grips, a centerstand, self-canceling turn signals and a passenger backrest with pad. Both are available in black or red.
The standard model will sell for $19,999 with the deluxe version carrying an MSRP of $20,999.
If you nit-pick the F6B enough to find something you don't like about it, then you're probably not a Gold Wing fan. If you're a Gold Wing fan and you don't like the look of the new one, don't fret: Honda's classic Gold Wing GL1800 is still in the company's lineup for 2013.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Cycle News.