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Honda Goldwing prototype M1

Launch: Honda Goldwing F6B

The blacked-out bagger is Honda’s answer to current trends while also providing a platform for those who are heading in the direction of the full biscuit Goldwing

The Honda Goldwing has been transformed, with a number of its famed long-haul amenities discarded to create the new-for-2013 Japanese-made F6B. The blacked-out bagger – available with red or black bodywork — not only has a much more menacing profile than its big brother, but is 28kg lighter and definitely brings a more sporting flavour to the table – if that’s the best way to describe a bike that has a kerb weight of 385kg.

At $24,990, Honda’s blueprint for the F6B is simple: it’s targeting males over 40 who may purchase the machine and then ultimately take the next step to the Gold Wing with its full suite of touring luxuries. In 2012, Goldwing sales slipped in Australia, and the F6B solution could go a long way to making it a family ‘comeback’, with Harley-Davidson’s domination of the touring market in Australia clearly in Honda’s sights. It’s a fairly astute approach, as Honda hasn’t tinkered with the main element which has made the Goldwing such a roaring success – the hulking 1832cc 12-valve flat six engine.

For the price, Honda’s still delivering a classic piece of over-engineering; a bike that not only invites two-up touring with absolute ease, but can still tow a trailer if the situation arises. But that’s unlikely to be the lot of the F6B, as this is a back to basics bike which invites more urban interface than the Gold Wing could ever imagine.

The main items made surplus to requirements on the F6B include the electric reverse gear, cruise control, sat-nav, the automatic cancelling blinkers, airbag, seat heaters and the massive rear trunk. Also, there are no longer running boards for the pillion, and the screen is a lot smaller to befit the F6B’s more low-slung demeanour – although there is an optional screen available, alongside other items including a back rest, fog lights, centrestand and fog lights. In some markets a ‘Deluxe’ version of the F6B is available, which includes a number of those accessories as standard.

There is plenty of room in the F6B’s cabin to get comfortable, and the smaller and narrower seat instantly invites the rider to become more involved in the interaction between tarmac and bike. The rear of the seat is also big enough for long-haul trips, and I doubt the absence of running boards makes a discernible difference to comfort levels.

The downside of a sedate road ride is that it gives riders more time to dwell on potential negatives, and the Aussie press launch was a case-in-point. My main gripe was the wind buffeting at helmet level on the F6B, which is obviously a sacrifice that has to be made for the smaller, chopped-down screen. The optional taller windshield – with vent — doesn’t look too bad, although it isn’t the ideal fit for the long and low foundations the machine is built on.

But without a doubt, the bike does enclose the rider into a real comfort bubble; one that only needs to be popped for toilet, fuel and sustenance breaks.

The F6B is definitely more agile than the Gold Wing, with the decrease in weight the fundamental reason. There’s also a lower centre of gravity compared to the taller and more appointment-rich Gold Wing and it’s just so easy to settle into a metronomic beat. It really is that easy to churn through the kilometres, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the F6B is still a big and heavy machine which demands respect.

But with a 1690mm wheelbase at least stability isn’t an issue.

The F6B has the same suspension as the Goldwing – Pro-link rear and 45mm fork — with adjustment confined to rear preload only. Without the massive trunk and pillion backrest of the Goldwing, Honda could have got away with a softer rear end — but at the expense of the weekend warrior who likes a firmer setup. Smart move.

The unique flat six engine doesn’t really require a formal introduction, as the seamless, turbine-like power delivery has been spoken about in revered tones for years now. Ad I’ve always loved its deep, racy sports car-like rasp. It’s an effortless experience to wind up the five-speed F6B, without even a hint of intimidation.

The power characteristics still point towards laid-back touring – gear selection isn’t really that critical for a start — but there’s still a little bit of underlying aggression and punch for those are in the ‘market’ for that sort of thing. Vibration is also a non-issue across the rev range, and the throttle response is predictably soft, but faultless. The engine is fed by dual 40mm throttle bodies and six high-pressure injectors.

Honda claims peak power of 87kW (118hp) at 5500rpm and 167Nm of torque at 4000rpm, but the real narrative about this engine is that you get the feeling it could pull anything, irrespective of mass. You can’t say the same thing for many of the F6B’s competitors.

The 296mm twin discs on the F6B are joined by a whopping 316mm number at the rear, and it’s all metered – very well indeed — by Honda’s Combined Braking System.

Honda hasn’t abandoned all traces of luxury on the F6B, and it still comes with a glove box, four-speaker audio system controlled, complete with wide-ranging connectivity options. And the waterproof panniers are 22 litres apiece, which may be more than what’s required for the type of use the bike is going to be subjected to. The panniers do look quite bulky on the rear, too, and diminish what is otherwise a beautifully integrated and flowing bike.

The bike has a 25-litre tank, and on the launch my bike recorded fuel consumption of 6.4lt/100km. That’s an effective range of about 300km; entirely adequate for a machine of this ilk.

The F6B gets the nod of approval. It has a few little shortcomings, some of the instrumentation and controls may be a little dated, but on the whole it does a great service to the Gold Wing badge. It’s now available in Australia from authorised Honda Goldwing dealerships.

1972: the beginning

A new design team was assembled under Soichiro Irimajiri, who headed up the design of Honda’s five-cylinder and six-cylinder road racing engines in the 1960s. The team created the top-secret M1 prototype, powered by a liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with shaft final drive – features that subsequently found their way onto the production Goldwing.

1975: GL1000 Goldwing

The first production Goldwing with a 999cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. In 1976 Honda celebrated the Goldwing’s success with the Goldwing Limited Edition model, and in 1979 the first Honda of America manufacturing plant opened, reflecting the fact that 80 per cent of Goldwing production in Japan was being exported to the United States.

1980: GL1100 Goldwing and GL1100 Goldwing Interstate

The GL1100 with air-assisted suspension firmly established the Goldwing as a Grand Tourer par excellence. The larger 1085cc engine was developed for torque rather than power, while a longer wheelbase offered increased stability and more room for the rider and passenger. At the same time the GL1100 Interstate introduced its factory-fitted fairing, panniers and top box.

1982: GL1100 Goldwing Aspencade

The most luxurious Goldwing to date offered an unparalleled range of standard features, from LCD instrumentation and a CB radio to an onboard air compressor.

1985: GL1200 Limited Edition

The introduction of the GL1200 Limited Edition saw a bike with computerised fuel injection, a four-speaker sound system, cruise control, auto-levelling rear suspension, a travel computer and metallic gold paint.

1988: GL1500 Goldwing

The new Goldwing had to be quieter, smoother, faster, more comfortable and even better in the corners. The development team evaluated 15 different machines in 60 prototype stages.

2001: GL1800 Goldwing

A full eight years in development, the project was steered by Masanori Aoki, whose CV included the CBR250RR and CBR600F3. In Aoki-san’s words: My job was to add more fun factor, to build a Goldwing with the kind of acceleration and handling people normally associate with sporting machines. The bike’s horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is mounted in a box-section aluminium frame.

2006: Industry-first airbag

The 2006 model introduced initially in the USA featured the world’s first airbag on a production motorcycle, as well as revised taillights and instrument panel.

2012: Mild update

The connect between rider and machine is strengthened thanks to continued improvements in electronics, the audio system and a few other creature comforts. And it even received a mild cosmetic update.

2013: Goldwing F6B released.

Published. Tuesday, 11 June 2013

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