Once upon a time, anything with a set of saddlebags thrown over it was called a Bagger. It could’ve been an inline four with a batwing Vetter fairing, all the way down to a lowly single. It didn’t much matter. Nowadays Baggers are in a class all on their own. They combine the low, lean, bad-to-the-bone styling of a cruiser, with a fork-mounted fairing, and some hard saddlebags – without the top box. Honda’s Gold Wing F6B and it’s matte silver finish encompass all the elements of the modern day Bagger, in the heavyweight division.
The Gold Wing is the pioneer, innovator, and leader, in touring motorcycles. The Honda GL line up has been consistently raising the bar in motorcycle touring dating back to the original; the 1974 Honda Gold Wing GL1000. While Honda was running its “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign promoting bikes such as the Honda Cub, Benley, Dream, and the CB350, they were simultaneously unleashing this certified-beast on the world: 1,000 cubic centimeters, twin disk brakes up front, single disk brake in the rear, four cylinders, liquid cooling, electric starter with backup kickstart, and shaft-driven final drive. Much has changed, but the Gold Wing is still every bit as dominant in its class, and Honda’s latest installment, the F6B takes the Gold Wing in a new direction.
Honda’s entry ticket into the Bagger wars was the F6B. It’s not so much an all-new model as it is a variation of the popular Gold Wing, less a few goodies, with a couple tweaks. The F6B weighs in at 851 lbs (386 kg) wet, about 70 lbs (31 kg) lighter than its 919 lb (417 kg) Gold Wing ABS sibling. The center rear bag has been knocked off. Most chrome accents have been blacked out. Other small comforts are missing as well, from heated grips for the rider, to a passenger backrest and a passenger heated seat. The good news is that the F6B isn’t just 70 lbs lighter than the Gold Wing, it’s also $7,000 CAD more affordable in Canada, or $3,500 USD less expensive in the United States. You can add a lot of goodies to the F6B for the money you’ll save, if you feel there’s something missing.
Hondaphiles will try to sell you on this being Big Red’s très bad ass, less-is-more touring cruiser, à la Harley-Davidson Road Glide. While the Gold Wing often gets dubbed as the couch-on-wheels of the motorcycle world, at first glance the F6B struck me as a slightly lighter, slightly less practical, slightly less comfortable Gold Wing. I began to question whether all of the changes will take away from the legendary Gold Wing experience.
Honda did do a good job with what’s left of the Gold Wing platform. The F6B comes standard with ABS, AM/FM radio with Auxilary in (no Bluetooth or controls for MP3 playback), intuitive cruise control, a 25 litre capacity fuel tank, excellent H7 lighting, integrated turn signals, electronic fuel-injection, ABS, combined braking, anti-dive system to ensure stability while braking even at highway speeds, and more buttons and turn-knobs than I can count without taking my socks off.
In other words, while you might be missing some of the bells and whistles, the F6B is still getting the full benefit of Honda’s renowned research and development in the Gold Wing. Unlike heated grips, that’s something you can’t buy.
The display screen is visible, even in sunlight. It isn’t touch screen, and is surrounded by buttons, though you’ll end up using the buttons by your grips more often than not. The system is extremely intuitive in some instances (setting or changing the time), and a little more tricky to grasp in others (cycling through commands, controls, and options). Everything is neatly arranged, and while the gamut of radio controls are beneath the rider’s left hand and away from the grips, you’ll find most of what you need, including an excellent cruise control system, right at the grips.