2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B Review
Honda’s Gold Wing has long been the luxo-barge of touring motorcycles. It has pretty much everything you can have on a motorcycle, like stereo, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, massive storage capacity, room for two people, and even an 1832cc flat 6 power plant that seems like something you’d expect to see in a car, rather than a motorcycle. Of course, weighing in at 933 lbs., the standard gold wing is near enough to being half a car anyway.
But Honda has espied a marketing opportunity. For the last couple of years, one of the more popular trends in motorcycling has been to turn touring bikes into lowered, street-cruising bikes. Harley-Davidson started the trend with its attractive Street Glide, and now it seems like every manufacturer wants to get into the segment of stripped down, slammed, lowered touring bikes for street cruising.
So, Honda, has taken the opportunity to put the Gold Wing through a weight-loss program. The top luggage case is gone, the rider gets a sleek new gunfighter seat, and the windscreen has been radically shortened. Also gone are some of the other extras, like cruise control and ABS brakes. The end result isn’t a hugely lighter bike, as it still comes in at 847 lbs., but the weight that is gone is taken from exactly the right places, i.e., from higher up on the bike, which lowers the center of gravity.
Starting the F6B up rewards you with the quiet burble of Honda’s excellent flat-6 engine. At almost any speed, the motor is extremely smooth. It hums along beneath you without ever transmitting any unpleasant vibration to the handlebars, or to the seat of your pants. It’s just about the smoothest thing there’s ever been since smooth things were invented. It’s quiet, too. When you’re at freeway speeds, you can barely hear it.
The transmission is a nice little unit that goes snickety-boo from gear to gear, while clutch engagement is smooth, with an easy-to-find friction point for low-speed maneuvering.
It’s not a speed demon, but the mountain of torque that pours out of the engine does pull it along with a sort of remorseless inevitability. For a bike of it’s size and weight, it’s relatively quick, even if not arm-snappingly fast. But there’s this sense of freight train strength behind it nonetheless. It just pulls and pulls right to the redline, at which point you shift, and it pulls some more. It really does seem unstoppable until you pull the brake lever, at which point the linked Nissin brakes haul the F6B to a stop with little drama.
The riding position is sit-up-and-beg upright, with comfortable ergonomics as well as a huge, supportive and comfy seat. The whole point of the Gold Wing is to provide you with a comfy perch to while away the hours while eating up thousands of freeway miles, and the F6B’s cockpit does this in spades. And, of course, the F6B itself is rock-steady on the highway.
So far, so good, right?
Unfortunately, here is where it all begins to go horribly wrong. The point of the F6B is to be a street cruiser, not a big touring bike. The full-on Gold wing already does that. But for a street bike, the F6B is…ponderous. Going around town from stoplight to stoplight in a bike that weighs near enough to half a ton is a bit of a pain. One of the things that motorcycle writers always say about the Gold Wing is that once you get moving, the weight seems to fall away. Well, that’s just a bunch of crap. True, the Gold Wing handles well for such a big bike, but you never forget that it’s huge. Sure, it leans into corners well, but slowly, and it has to be pushed. Honda’s engineers aren’t magicians. Inertia is still a thing.
The comfy, wide seat also makes standing the F6B up at stoplights a pain, too, as it spreads your legs uncomfortably wide apart to reach the ground. At highway speeds, the short windscreen doesn’t stop much wind, so your head and shoulders are out in the air stream. It doesn’t buffet much, but it is noisy.
On top of this, the F6B has a low redline of about 6,000 RPM, so it seems like you’re shifting constantly in street traffic.
Maybe it’s just me. I don’t get the idea of trying to turn a huge, heavy touring bike into a street cruiser, whether its Harley-Davidson with the Street Glide, or Honda With a Gold Wing. Touring bikes are big and heavy to give you lots of room to carry stuff, and glide down the interstate. Street bikes are supposed to be light and nimble to weave through traffic. To me it seems the F6B has too little storage space to tour comfortably, and too much size and heft to negotiate street traffic comfortably.
Still, there’s no doubt it’s a beautiful bike, and for Gold Wing fans who love the bike, but don’t need all the extra travelling gear, it’ll probably be quite a lovable machine.
For me, I’ll stay with smaller, lighter, more commutable bikes.