2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B | First Ride

A restyle that improves handling? Now that’s cool.

They say: "For around town and shorter trips."
We say: "For around corners and faster trips."

“Lighter, faster, cheaper.” That’s what costumers said they wanted in a Gold Wing variant. And that’s what Honda delivered in the 2013 Gold Wing F6B. Big Red also delivered a better-handling motorcycle, one that is lighter to the touch, easier to drop into corners, and more sporty and spirited all around.

Pretty good for a restyling job.

There’s a bit of magic happening here. Honda accomplished a lot with relatively little actual change. The bits that are expensive to engineer and produce—the powertrain and the chassis—have been left almost completely intact from the existing GL1800 specification. And the dramatic, bad-ass-bagger look comes from a cleverly minor redo of bodywork and cosmetic treatments.

The combined changes create a happy synergy that compounds the benefits. Visually, the signature elements are the cut-down “eyebrow” windscreen, the flatter seat and absent top trunk, replaced by a cleanly styled rear deck that visually connects the bulbous hard bags. As striking as the new look is, the change in feel is even more dramatic. The cockpit seems much more airy and open; you are no longer looking through the standard Gold Wing’s tall, vented windshield, nor are you tightly wedged into a deeply bolstered seat, and behind you is only air instead of that massive combination tail trunk and passenger seatback. It feels like a totally different motorcycle.

There’s more: Swing through a series of back-road bends and the F6B’s sporty, responsive character will surprise you. A standard Gold Wing is impressively neutral, balanced and maneuverable, and anyone who has actually ridden one hard knows it can go, stop and turn much more effectively than most owners ever ask it to. But the new F6B is better, and by more than you would expect. It is clearly lighter to the touch, with less inertia to deal with as you manage lean angle.

How can this be? Honda quotes a weight reduction of 62 pounds in the F6B transformation. That’s only about seven percent, which doesn’t seem like enough to be obvious. But look where that weight has come off. Deleting the trunk complex accounts for most of the loss, and that’s weight carried way high and way back on a full-dress ‘Wing—from a dynamic standpoint, the best possible place to shed pounds. (Center of gravity, moment of inertia, mass centralization – sport bikes have been speaking this language since, well, Honda’s CBR900RR appeared in 1992).

In addition to entering and exiting corners more easily, the F6B rides just a little more firmly, telegraphing more detail about the road surface, and it even seems a little livelier in response to throttle. Weight loss is a wonderful thing.

Speaking of throttle and wonderful things, let us praise the character of Honda’s 1832cc flat-six engine. There’s just something special about sixes, and this one works ruthlessly well. Big displacement, mild tuning (redline sits at 6000 rpm), perfect balance and impeccable fueling deliver performance that is responsive and capable, and always refined. A Gold Wing (F6B or standard) can feel almost like an electric when you’re humming along casually, but wind the throttle to the stop and tap into that claimed 125 lb.-ft. of torque and the big bike rockets away, that unique engine blaring out a Porsche 911 beat. Pulling open the F6B’s throttle reminds us why we liked the Valkyrie so much: the great running texture of this flat-six engine, without so much motorcycle wrapped around it.

The F6B’s broad, stepped “gunfighter” seat is great, and makes the standard Gold Wing’s deep bucket seem like overkill. You have more room to move around on the F6B, and you don’t feel jammed up against the handgrips. (Officially the ergo triangle is unchanged, except for a seat-height spec that drops by half an inch, to 28.5, but the less-confining seat shape makes everything feel different.) The shorty windscreen obviously sacrifices function for style, but wind flow around a six-foot rider’s head stays pretty smooth and quiet up to 60 mph. After that, it gets blustery. (A taller shield, closer to that on a standard ‘Wing, is an available accessory.)

Rear-shock preload is changed on the F6B, to a manually adjusted hydraulic setup accessed under the right side cover. A little extra preload can help cornering clearance, but not enough. The footpegs will grind readily under an aggressive rider.

In the interest of hitting that $19,999 price point, push-button reverse assist and cruise control are not offered on the F6B. An extra $1000 gets you the deluxe package, which includes a passenger backrest, heated grips, self-canceling turn signals and a center stand (unfortunately, cruise control still doesn’t make the cut). You can choose sinister gloss black or friendlier red bodywork, both with flat-black accents.

The common platform between the F6B and the standard Gold Wing will allow Honda to make short-notice adjustments to the model mix. Some insiders think this sporty new variant may end up matching the full-dress version in popularity. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

EVOLUTION
Honda's iconic Gold Wing luxury tourer gets a shave and a haircut to create a surprisingly stylish and sophisticated bagger.

RIVALS
Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom, Kawasaki Vaquero, Victory Vision.

TECH  
Price $19,999
Engine type l-c opposed-six
Valve train SOHC, 12v
Displacement 1832cc
Bore x stroke 74 x 71mm
Compression 9.8:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower 116 bhp @ 5500 rpm
Claimed torque 125 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Frame Aluminum twin-spar with single-sided swingarm
Front suspension Showa 45mm fork
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Dual Nissin three-piston calipers, 296mm discs, with Combined ABS
Rear brake Single Nissin three-piston caliper, 316mm disc, with Combined ABS
Front tire 130/70R-18 Bridgestone Excedra G709
Rear tire 180/60R-16 Bridgestone Excedra G709
Rake/trail 29.15 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat height 29.1 in.
Wheelbase 66.5 in.
Fuel capacity 6.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 842 lbs.
Color Black, red
Available Now
Warranty 36 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact American Honda Motor Co., Inc., P.O. Box 2200, Torrance, CA 90509 866.784.1870 www.powersports.honda.com

VERDICT 4 out of 5 stars
An unexpected—and unexpectedly satisfying—reinvention of the venerable Gold Wing platform.

The new 2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B handles surprisingly well in the twisties, with a light feel and nimbleness that can be attributed primarily to the 62 pounds of weight that has been removed from the bike.
The F6B is clearly lighter to the touch, with less inertia to deal with as you manage lean angle.
Cockpit view from the Honda Gold Wing F6B. The bagger version retains the standard Gold Wing fairing’s instrumentation and coverage except, of course, the lower “eyebrow” windshield.
The F6B seat has a clean, modern gunfighter-style seat that feels much less cramped than the heavily-bucketed Gold Wing seat and has a half-inch lower 28.5 inch height.
Saddlebags work just like those on a standard Gold Wing, but with the new styling, actually hold a little more.
Passenger backrest is standard on the Deluxe model, which is priced at $20,999 and also includes heated grips, self-cancelling turn signals and a center stand.
Honda wisely left more than well enough alone for the F6B’s power plant and stuck with the Gold Wing’s proven and silky smooth 1832cc opposed-six which produces an impressive 125 lb.-ft of torque.
Nissin three-piston calipers grip dual 296mm discs up front and a single 316mm disc in the rear with a combined ABS system keeping everything under control.