So visually impressive is the Valkyrie that our intrepid tester wishes he could have dressed for the occasion.
According to Norse mythology, the Valkyries were the hand-maidens of Odin who swooped down on battlefields to usher the spirits of worthy slain warriors into the great hall of Valhalla for an afterlife of mead-fuelled merry-making.
Honda's version, a power cruiser based on the Gold Wing tourer, might not be quite as attractive as the mythical Valkyries, but it does impart such a sense of visual drama that you half-expect to hear Richard Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' every time you clap your eyes upon it.
If cruiser motorcycles are defined and judged by their visual impact, then the F6C Valkyrie is the leader of the pack. For no other two-wheeler so attracts small congregations of the wider public whenever it is parked up.
It therefore seemed a pity not to approach the bike dressed as Judge Dredd or some other dark Marvel comic hero on these occasions. The appearance of some little old guy wearing a light brown leather jacket and prescription glasses instead was probably a disappointment to the gathered hordes surrounding the Valkyrie, who were probably expecting Batman. However it did provide proof of just how ridiculously easy this humungous Honda is to ride. With most of its 341kg fully-fuelled mass carried low, the Valkyrie is as easy as many much lighter but more top-heavy bikes to lever upright from its side stand.
Flat-six power unit sounds like a Porsche unit and is unique in the motorcycle business. Photo: Paul Owen/Fairfax NZ
You then swing your leg over a plush seat mounted so low that the height would test the ability of any Limbo exponent.
The 1.8 litre boxer-six engine then starts with enough Porsche-evoking fanfare to encourage murmurs of approval from the gathered masses, and off you go, to be possibly remembered by those you leave behind as the skilful master of a mega-bike.
Except the performance and handling of the Valkyrie isn't exactly mega. You're always left with the impression that you're riding a stripped-down Gold Wing when aboard the F6C. This is great when heading for far horizons with the pillion seat either carting human cargo or strapped-on luggage, but not so good when that Ducati Diavel comes blasting past on a winding road and you want to join in the fun.
The Valkyrie has a more enlarged performance envelope than many cruisers due to its wealth of Wing-inherited grunt and decent cornering clearance, but it remains a big, heavy, long machine that will always be subject to the laws of physics that apply to its generous dimensions. It's therefore best to keep things rock-steady, and resist the temptations to explore the outer reaches of that envelope.
The F6C rewards a more laid-back riding strategy by exhibiting a level of refinement that's never been experienced in the cruiser segment before. Fellow spectacle-wearers will find that the idling F6C joins other six-cylinder bikes in its ability to let you rest the eyewear safely on the seat while you put your helmet on.
The extreme smoothness of the engine remains intact throughout the entire 6000rpm rev range, keeping the mirrors clear and immunising hands, feet, and bottom from vibration-induced fatigue. I'd even resist the temptation to fit a louder exhaust to this bike to amp up the volume of the six-cylinder engine chorus.
The soothing soundtrack of the stock exhaust exaggerates the effortlessness that marks the progress of the F6C, and suits its mission to be a slightly more inspiring-to-ride version of the remarkable Wing.
It's a mission mostly accomplished by the jettisoning of more than 70 kilograms of the Wing's comfort- and convenience-enhancing features from the Valkyrie, and the fitting of more sports-minded tyres and brakes. Countering this move towards increased sportiness are the selection of a 19" front wheel for the F6C and the increased rake of the front forks, both chosen to ensure that conforms to cruiser styling expectations. These slow the steering down to the point where the Valkyrie feels similar to the heavier Wing to chuck around, and the lower mass of the former is realised mostly during acceleration and braking.
Plush seat is mounted sensibly low and makes the Valkyrie the comfiest of cruisers. Photo: Paul Owen/Fairfax NZ
The ABS-equipped stoppers give the Valkyrie its biggest dynamic advantage over the Wing, due to the cruiser having four-piston callipers up front instead of two-piston fare, and the fact that these bite onto larger diameter discs (310mm versus 296mm). You can haul the 340kg+ Honda down impressively briskly as a result.
Suspension quality hasn't suffered during the shifting of the Gold Wing platform into the cruiser segment, as the Valkyrie has the same bump-ready wheel travel as the other two Honda GL1800 models (Gold Wing and F6B Bagger) despite its lowered seat and rear subframe. You experience the same ultra-plush ride, and the Valkyrie is one of the best bikes on the market for its ability to absorb small sharp-edged bumps like the expansion joints in motorway flyovers and bridges.
It all adds up to a riding dynamic that will validate the purchase of the $28,995 Valkyrie to anyone attracted by its futuristic comic book looks. Not every cruiser buyer wants a V-twin, and for those that don't, Honda has just come up with a brilliant alternative.
Honda GL1800 F6C Valkyrie
Engine: 1832cc liquid-cooled longitudinal fuel-injected sohc boxer-six, 85kW (118bhp) at 5500rpm, 167Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed sequential gearbox, shaft drive.
Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar frame with single-sided swingarm, 45mm telescopic front forks with 122mm of travel and preload-adjustable rear monoshock with 105mm of travel.
Hot: Muscular mega-bike looks in an easy-to-manage package; butter-smooth engine ladles on the torque; this is the comfiest, most distance-friendly cruiser available.
Not: Five-speed shifts a little jerkily and clumsy, stiff throttle will have you wishing for the Gold Wing's cruise control; sun strike dazzling from fuel tank chrome.