Honda's Gold Wing has been many things to many people over its 38-year history, but cool isn't exactly one of them. Not even soon-to-be AMA Superbike champ Nicky Hayden hazing the rear tire on screaming yellow version of the then-new GL1800 at Honda's 2001 dealer meeting could dislodge the persistent image of the Gold Wing as the official motorcycle of card-carrying AARP members. It even has a reverse gear, fercrissakes!
The arrival of the stripped-down, smoothed-out Gold Wing F6B (B for Bagger?) changes everything. This isn't the first flat-six-powered factory custom from Honda, but it is the first one that really makes sense. Instead of misappropriating vintage American styling cues like the various Valkyries-or taking inspiration from outer space and then chroming it, like the far-out Rune-the F6B is unmistakably a Honda Gold Wing, and at the same time, unmistakably cool. It's an authentic reinterpretation of an iconic Honda model, and authenticity is everything when it comes to custom cool.
The F6B is essentially a cosmetic exercise, making this an easy, inexpensive, and low-risk way for Honda to appeal to new buyers who might otherwise never consider one of this industry's most cohesive and capable motorcycle platforms. The silhouette of the Gold Wing is entirely changed here: Large-capacity saddlebags remain, though the trunk has been shaved off and replaced by a sleek new decklid with incorporated passenger grab rails to clean up the back of the bike. The lower fairing cowl has been restyled with more aggressive-looking vents, and a stubby "eyebrow" replaces the regular Wing's barn door-sized windscreen. Black accents on the frame, engine, and wheels and matte-black trim insets against your choice of gloss red or a gloss black body color further enhances the F6B's long, low stance.
Beneath this new skin everything else remains essentially that same, which is not a bad thing at all. The fuel-injected, horizontally opposed, 1832cc flat-six is unchanged, and it's still mounted low and far forward in the massive twin-spar aluminum frame to keep the center of gravity low and contribute to what is surprisingly nimble handling for such a large bike. In fact, the F6B should handle even better than the Gold Wing: Claimed curb weight is 842 pounds, or 62 pounds less than the standard GL1800.
Since it's still a Gold Wing at heart, none of the inherent luxury has been compromised. A premium audio system with direct MP3/iPod connectivity remains, as does the central multi-information screen featuring a comprehensive trip computer, clock, air temperature readout, audio controls, and much more. The standard F6B will sell for $19,999; a Deluxe version featuring a passenger backrest, centerstand, self-canceling turn signals, and heated grips will cost $20,999. Both will arrive in your local Honda dealership in February of this year.