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REVIEW: 2014 HONDA VALKYRIE -Motorcycle unique in the marketplace

Bike does not weave, nor does not wallow;it doesn't tend to wobble

  • 2014 Honda Valkyrie

THE PROS & CONS

    • WHAT’S BEST: Ultra-smooth, torque-heavy engine; unwavering stability
    • WHAT’S WORST: Despite its size, there’s no storage space, no provisions for adding luggage.
    • WHAT’S INTERESTING: A promotional video depicts the Valkyrie doing a straight-line burnout, tame compared to the high-speed slides depicted in the video released with the original Valkyrie.

TEMECULA, CALIF. : Honda took a gamble in 1996 when it unleashed the original Valkyrie, a stripped-down version of the Gold Wing touring bike. Its run lasted six years, and it has since earned cult status with a devout following of enthusiasts.

The outlandishly styled and short-lived Rune followed, though it was never meant to replace the Valkyrie, but was rather a limited edition styling exercise. Now, a decade later, the company has reintroduced the Valkyrie.

There’s no doubt that the 2014 Valkyrie was designed to turn heads, and my blue test bike looked particularly mean with its blackout trim. The only other colour available is black with aluminum-coloured highlights.

List price is $19,999 and ABS is standard.

The Valkyrie uses the Gold Wing?s twin-spar aluminum frame and five-speed, 1,832 cc flat-six engine. Maximum claimed output is 114 hp and torque peaks at 123 lb.-ft., the latter arriving at just 4,000 rpm. Its exhaust note is unmistakable, as it should be, considering the Valkyrie is the only flat-six cruiser on the market.

Although the Valkyrie is not as ostentatiously styled as the Rune was, it?s still much more avant-garde than the more conservative original Valkyrie.

Two bulky side pods shroud the side-mounted radiators, and the pods extend forward to either side of the fork, which itself is covered in a blacked-out nacelle. This gives the bike a bulky front end that is supposed to mimic the stance of a charging bull ? or so the sketches we were shown in the technical briefing depicted.

Despite its forward-biased girth, from the rear the Valkyrie looks more like a scooter than a big-bore power cruiser.

2014 Honda Valkyrie

Honda engineers took a minimalist approach to the cockpit. The LCD display has a bar tachometer, digital speedometer, dual trip meters and time and fuel level. On the left handlebar, there?s a high/low beam switch, a turn-signal switch and the horn button, and on the right there?s a kill switch, a starter button and a hazard switch ? and that?s all.

There?s no ride mode selection buttons, no suspension adjustment doo-dads, nothing that?s not needed to ride the bike. Honda?s entry-level Grom is not much simpler from the rider?s seat.

Swing a leg over the bike and you instantly realize this is one massive hunk of metal. Lifting it off the side stand only reaffirms your perception of mass, and it?s one of the few motorcycles I can recall that feels long even before you turn a wheel.

The riding position is cruiser-upright, and at 734 mm the seat is low, yet it?s still a modest reach to get both feet flat on the ground because of its rather portly midsection. Claimed wet weight is 343 kg, though the Valkyrie undercuts the Gold Wing by 75 kilos.

This relative light weight allows you to really take advantage of the flat-six?s seamless delivery of power, and it?s a blast just to roll back the throttle to its stop. This naked ?Wing?s power is best served up at around 3,500 rpm, where, regardless of what gear it?s in, it surges forward with astonishing potency and with train-like, vibe-free smoothness.

Accelerate away from a stop and the Valkyrie feels like it?s on rails. It has an over-engineered frame, after all, having been originally designed to carry a Gold-Wing-sized load. The slight flex you feel on a Gold Wing is completely absent on the Valkyrie.

If you?re a habitual sport-bike rider, you might experience a bit of a culture shock on this beast. Winding along twisty roads is more of a subtle negotiation with physics, the Valkyrie demanding a steady, reserved approach to cornering rather than a forceful assault.

The Valkyrie doesn?t turn, so much as it deviates from a straight line, and although steering isn?t light, it is neutral. It prefers a wide, constant arc through corners rather than the frenetic cut-and-thrust line of a racer-boy bike.

The Valkyrie does not weave, it does not wallow, it has no tendency to wobble, and it can be cranked over surprisingly far before the footpeg feelers touch ground.

The Valkyrie is unique in the marketplace, and is more likely to become a second, maybe even third bike in an affluent motorcyclist?s garage. It is a plus-sized version of a naked bike; a bona-fide hot rod meant for the occasional weekend romp rather than a long-term relationship.

Honda doesn?t seem to mind taking chances to fill a very narrow niche, which the company has attempted in the past to varying levels of success and failure (who can forget the ill-fated DN-01?).

The Valkyrie seems like a gamble, and only time will tell whether it gains the cult status of the original.

Transportation for freelance writer Costa Mouzouris was provided by the manufacturer. Email: wheels@thestar.ca

2014 Honda Valkyrie

PRICE: $19,999
ENGINE: 1,832 cc flat six
POWER/TORQUE (hp/lb.-ft.): 114/123
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed
FUEL ECONOMY (L/100 km): NA
COMPETITION: Triumph Rocket III

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