I posted this on another forum but maybe it will be helpful to someone here.
Note: Since this review I have topped out the Valkyrie at 127 miles per hour. At that point the rev-limiter kicked in gently. I tried it multiple times on a day with little wind so I think that is the max (indicated) speed. (Professional rider on a closed circuit course! Do not attempt this in your living room!)I am writing this as ideas hit me so there is no cohesive order or logic to this review. (Welcome to my brain!) That is probably one of the many reasons I am not a journalist.
I have owned a couple of Honda motorcycles so I am pretty familiar with the way Honda "thinks" in general. For the most part I agree with how Honda does things so that probably explains why I continue to buy them. There are probably other brands of motorcycles out there that are cool as well but once I find something comfortable (mentally) I tend to stick with it.
I currently own a 2012 Gold Wing which I will use as a comparison point for a lot of this review.
The obvious question is why did I buy a Valkyrie? I had no plans to buy it and I had done no research on it before I visited the dealer. I have a habit of impulse purchases and I guess this bike ticked off enough boxes in my mind to take the plunge. I trust Honda enough to know that no matter what Honda I buy it will be a decent bike. Maybe a little weird looking, but otherwise decent.
So I saw the Valkyrie sitting there and it caught my attention immediately because I recognized the engine. It is the same engine that is in my Gold Wing. In fact, the full name for the Valkyrie is the "Gold Wing Valkyrie". The Gold Wing engine is very interesting. If I had to describe it as simply as possible, I would have to say that it feels like a turbine engine, or maybe a real powerful electric motor. It has six cylinders and they are arranged in a "flat" layout. It is, in fact, a "boxer" layout, like a BMW, except with four more cylinders. It is not very technologically advanced. It has just two valves for each cylinder and it makes only 104 rear wheel horsepower out of 1832 cubic centimeters of displacement. But, it is probably one of the most reliable engines ever put into a motorcycle and it is tuned to have a very flat torque curve, to the point that it has around 100 foot-pounds of torque at almost any RPM. This engine will haul around a 900 pound Gold Wing with two passengers and a trailer without much fuss. It runs so smooth sometimes you cannot even tell it is running. It feels unlike any other motorcycle engine available.
So the main reason I bought it is because I love the engine. But I already have a Gold Wing, so why would I buy this?
There are a lot of reasons which I will cover in a while, but the main reason is the fact that the Gold Wing is really big. It is awesome for putting long miles in on the superslab, but for casual riding, for me, it is too much. The Valkyrie is a "stripped down" Gold Wing, but not in a bad way. They just took off most of the convenient touring parts and the result is very interesting.
Remember, these are not in any particular order.
The Valkyrie weighs at least 150 pounds less than a Gold Wing. Yeah, it still weighs 750 pounds, but that weight is located very low in the chassis making it very easy to manage. Is it as easy as a 500 pound motorcycle to push around the garage? Of course not! But it is easy enough to move around, and once you get above 2-3 miles per hour, the weight ceases to be an issue. In fact, it feels very stable against crosswinds or trucks passing in the other lane. One reason the center of gravity is so low is because of that wonderful flat six engine.
The Valkyrie is made in Japan. A lot of Hondas are not. In my opinion, Honda has two lines of motorcycles. The ones that have the special circular Honda badge on the tank are the flagship models and the others are economy models. I am not bagging on the economy models. I have owned a few and they are great, but the premium models are even greater.
All of the lights on the bike are LEDs, even the headlight! It uses the same alternator that the Gold Wing uses so it has a bunch of electrical power on tap, and LED lights use less electricity than regular lights. The headlight is the brightest headlight I have ever seen. I run it on high beam for safety and I have had several cars, during the day, flash me. (It is aimed properly!) This indicates to me that they saw me, which is sort of the point! The two turn signals up front are running lights during the day, too.
Unlike any other bike I have ever ridden, the throttle pull on the Valkyrie is phenomenal. Why? Because it takes a lot of rotating to use the full throttle. This means that the throttle "granularity" is higher which means it is easier to control. To give it full throttle I have to completely re-grip! So when I am tooling down a country road and hit a bump, the throttle input my wrist sends to the engine is trivial. This is the first motorcycle I have ridden with a super-friendly throttle like this, and I like it a lot!
So what happens when you give the Valkyrie a handful of throttle? Crazy wheelies? Insane wheelspin? I have not had any of that happen but I can say that the thrust generated is very impressive and unrelenting. I shift to fifth gear around 30 miles per hour and leave it in fifth unless I drop below 25 miles per hour. That means for the riding I do, I spend the vast majority of time not having to shift at all. And when I do bury the throttle, it pulls cleanly from 25 miles per hour to at least 120 miles per hour. (Professional rider on a closed circuit course! Do not attempt this in your living room!) I suppose I could downshift to get it to accelerate faster, but 5th gear is good enough for me. The acceleration is a bit deceptive because it is so smooth. Things are happening real fast but the bike acts like it is nothing. It has the feel of a big powerful locomotive. The regular Goldwing accelerates pretty good too, but the power-to-weight ratio on the Valkyrie is a lot higher because it weighs less. The gear ratios are the same between both bikes so the Valkyrie revs out much faster. I am not sure why they did not alter the transmission ratios because the Valkyrie could pull much higher gearing. Probably Honda just wanted to use the same power unit from the Gold Wing with minimal additional cost. Since it is geared for 135 miles per hour there really is no need to run higher gearing but I suppose it might get better fuel economy. First gear is already low on the Gold Wing so it is ridiculously low on the Valkyrie. My solution is to take off in second gear. It works perfectly and it avoids any issues going through neutral from first to second. It has a third and fourth gear but they seem to be spaced pretty close. I could easily work with just three gears total. Second to take off, something between third and fourth for getting up to speed and fifth for everything else. At 45 miles per hour in fifth the engine turns 2,000 revolutions per minute. It almost hits 3,000 revolutions per minute at 70 miles per hour. The redline is at 6,000 revolutions per minute. When the engine is wound out it makes a delightful (and scary) howl that is very difficult to describe. The Valkyrie exhaust is tuned a bit louder than the Gold Wing and it is a very nice enhancement in my opinion.
The seat height is very low and, because the edges of the seat are rounded, it feels even lower. It is amazingly narrow in the midsection and this makes it very comfortable. (See picture at the end of this review.) The Gold Wing seat is shaped very different and has very padded edges, so the seat height feels very tall. For me, the Gold Wing seat is uncomfortable because it rotates my pelvis towards the rear and puts a lot of pressure on my tailbone. The Valkyrie seat has multiple positions that are comfortable and I lean forward just a little bit, which is enough to take all pressure off of my tailbone. I hurt my back in an accident about 20 years ago so finding a comfortable seat position is difficult.
I have never been real fond of fairings. Some people love them but I do not mind riding directly in the wind, especially now that I have committed to wearing ear plugs. One real hot days the Gold Wing fairing blocks a lot of cooling wind. (That said, on really cold days it blocks a lot of cooling wind!) The frontal cross section of the Valkyrie is pretty huge but nowhere close to the Gold Wing. Air resistance uses up a lot of horsepower to overcome so less air resistance provides better acceleration and fuel economy. At speeds from 40 to 65 miles per hour the amount that I lean forward offsets the wind hitting me. At higher speeds I do have to hang on a bit.
Another reason the Valkyrie is so comfortable is the riding position is normal. While the Valkyrie may look like a cruiser, my feet are not splayed out in front of me. The seating position is nearly the same as that on the Gold Wing. This means I can stand up a bit to rest my ass if needed. My knees have ample blood flow going through them so my legs and feet so not go to sleep. (This has been a problem for me on sportier bikes.)
The Gold Wing is very agile. Most people have a hard time believing this, because it is so big, but Honda did a lot of work to it to make it handle really well. The Valkyrie is even better because it weighs a lot less and it has a lot more ground clearance. If I turn the handlebars on my Gold Wing I can feel a substantial amount of flex in the fork tubes. The Valkyrie has no perceptible flex. It does not flick over real fast like a sports bike would, but it is not slow. It is also very stable, perhaps due to the long wheelbase. The Gold Wing and the Valkyrie share the same relatively exotic twin spar aluminum frame. The rear sub-frames are different, though.
Honda has a "thing" for combined brakes, where the rear brakes also actuate a partial amount of front brakes. I like combined brakes but I do not really need them, because I use my front brakes alone for most of my stopping needs. Unlike the Gold Wing, the Valkyrie does not have combined brakes. This is a radical departure for Honda because combined brakes is one of their trademark features. Personally, I like the simplified hose scheme of a traditional braking system, plus now I can ride the rear brake easier when I do "precision" parking lot maneuvers. I might even learn to use trailing brakes on corners!
One reason the Valkyrie has more ground clearance is because the wheels are taller. It has a 17 inch rear wheel and a 19 inch front wheel. The Gold Wing has a 16 inch rear wheel and an 18 inch front wheel. The good part about this is increased ground clearance and the ability to find lots of choices for rear tires. The downside to this is there is only one manufacturer for the 19 inch front tire. Hopefully my preferred tire manufacturer, Michelin, will make a front tire for it. Because the Valkyrie is derived from a heavy touring platform, the stock tires have a lot of tread and should last a long time.
The suspension for the Valkyrie is an area that Honda decided to tune specifically for the new platform. It is much stiffer than Gold Wing suspension and it really works well. Will a regular sports bike beat it in the turns? Sure. But the Valkyrie, for what it weighs, does very well in the turns. It also tracks very straight and holds a line in a turn like it is on rails. Initiating the turn is very easy due to the low center of gravity and the huge handlebars fitted to the bike. I have had several cruisers before and none of them could handle even half as good as the Valkyrie. Again, it is not a race bike, but it sure is fun!
There is a $1,000 option to get ABS brakes. I am a bit bummed out that Honda makes ABS an option on most of their bikes. In my opinion, they should all have it. My Valkyrie does not have ABS. I know that an ABS bike is "smarter" than I am in a panic situation, but I am pretty good with the brakes and a non-ABS bike has a lot less clutter and hoses and stuff. If the ABS had been a cheaper option I might have considered it but I feel pretty comfortable without it. YMMV.
The brakes on the Valkyrie are very effective. They are not fancy radial brakes but they do do the job very well. Modulation is good and they do not fade quickly.
I mentioned before that I had a back injury a few years ago. There are a lot of motorcycles that I simply cannot ride. Most bikes I can ride for about an hour at a time and I need about an hour between to recover. So far I have been able to ride the Valkyrie a lot farther than any bike I have had before. I have had it five days and I have put nearly 600 miles on it, without much pain. This is a mini miracle for me because I like to ride a lot.
The rearview mirrors look small but they are surprisingly effective. I think this is because the bars are pretty wide.
The horn is very fun because it is a car horn, not a feeble bicycle horn. It gets attention right now when you use it. I think all motorcycles should have similar horns, for safety.
The Valkyrie has a three-year transferable unlimited mileage warranty. I got a promotional offer for an additional fourth year. The chance of needing a warranty on a flagship Honda is pretty slim, but if something does go awry, it can get real expensive real quick, so having a nice warranty is a cool benefit.
It is a little hard to tell from the pictures but the Valkyrie does have a pretty exotic single-sided swingarm. This not only looks cool, it also makes rear tire changes much easier. The fact that it is shaft drive just makes maintenance a whole bunch easier.
Honda has had some issues with the fifth gear in the Goldwing transmissions. For 2014 they updated the gear to make it much stronger. Since the Valkyrie shares the same transmission it also got the update.
Unlike the Gold Wing, the Valkyrie levers are not adjustable. The clutch pull is very light and easy to modulate. (It is hydraulic, of course!)
Another promotion that I took advantage of is the one where you get $1,000 of free accessories. I do not know if I want leather side bags but I had a hard time thinking of any other accessory that I needed so I went with the bags. They are really expensive! In fact, the bags and brackets were around $950 or so. I will put more thought into the bags when they arrive. Part of what I like about the Valkyrie is the fact that it is minimalistic, so I do not want to add 200 pounds of farkles to it.
The instrumentation is fairly simplistic. It is displayed in a very cool darkened (backlit) LCD display. Surprisingly it has a tachometer. You also get two trip meters, an odometer, a speedometer and a fuel gauge. The buttons to program and operate the instruments are easy to use and simple. The cluster is very legible under all lighting conditions. I would have liked to have a gear position indicator. A lot of people say they do not need one but I sure like the convenience. I would have also liked to have an option to display instant (or even average) fuel economy and miles to empty. I cannot see why such simple functions are not included but there must be a reason. I can add an aftermarket gear position indicator so that issue is workable.
The Gold Wing gets pretty bad mileage. My average has been between 39 and 42 miles per gallon. With the Valkyrie I am getting 45 to 47 miles per gallon. Couple that with a six gallon fuel tank and that gives some serious cruising range. I hit the last fuel bar today when I got home and the trip meter said 225 miles so I figure, to be safe, I can start to look for fuel around 200 miles. Since the engine is so understressed and has such a low compression ratio, it will run on just about any gas. A lot of the bikes I have owned required premium fuel so this is a nice change.
I have had bikes that seem to be "happy" at high speeds. For me that means that is the speed I tend to run if I do not look at the speedometer for a minute or two. A lot of times that happy speed will be 60 or 70 miles per hour. For me, the Valkyrie's happy speed is between 50 and 55 miles per hour. This is cool not only because that is usually the speed limit but also because that is the speed at which I get to look around and enjoy the trip. I try to ride 1 to 2 hours every day. I find it to be very relaxing and interesting. I love to explore new places and to check out new things. On a fast sport bike I do not get the same relaxing feeling.
Probably the most controversial part of the Valkyrie is the styling. I think it looks pretty cool, but a lot of people do not like it. When I am riding it all I can see are the instruments, bar and mirrors, so even if it was ugly I would be fine riding it. I love black and chrome bikes. The wheels look especially cool in my opinion. I think most people think the side-mounted radiators look weird, but they actually have a special reason for being out there. No matter how hot it gets outside the bike will throw the heat away from the rider. I got stuck in pretty severe bumper-to-bumper traffic yesterday and the bike handled it with no problem. In fact, the radiator fans did not even switch on. I know for a fact the adjusted (for humidity) temperature was over 105 degrees.
If I had one word to describe the Valkyrie it would have to be "smooth". There is very little lash in the drivetrain and accelerating or braking does not upset the chassis much. The engine, as stated before, is like a turbine. This may or may not be what you want from a bike but for me it is a nice fit. (Okay, I have to add the word "fun" as well. I have fun riding all sorts of different bikes, but this one has a fun level that defies logic.)