By Trevor Hedge
Honda’s stripped out Gold Wing based bagger has arrived. Dubbed the F6B (Flat 6 Bagger), it marries the excellent chassis and powerplant of Honda’s premium luxury flagship, with less trinkets and a slimmer profile.
The result is lighter handling along with better acceleration and braking but the kindest cut of all is to the price: at $24,990 the cruiser-styled F6B undercuts the Gold Wing by more than $10,000!
Gone is the Gold Wing’s air-bag, cruise control, reverse gear, rear speakers, satellite navigation, illuminated switchgear and self-cancelling indicators. On the road not much of that is missed, however, the crude blanking plug on the huge right hand switch-block where the cruise control buttons have been removed was an eye sore that grated.
The good stuff carried over from the Wing includes goodies like integrated panniers, four-speaker iPod and USB compatible stereo system, handy centre storage compartment in place of the Gold Wing’s air-bag, powerful brakes, proper suspension, a well proven shaft-drive system and a colossal 1832cc flat-six engine that, despite being largely unchanged since its introduction in 2001, still provides epic turbine-like momentum.
And that donk is indeed epic, but in a very different way than its twin-cylinder contemporaries in this bagger segment of the market.
The differences can be felt at start up without even needing to hit the road. Where the big twins will stir lazily into life the Gold Wing starts with clinical precision and smoothness. That relative feel continues from the engagement of first gear, to pulling away from a standstill. The Gold Wing leaps forward off the throttle with a startling level of acceleration while the big twins lope forward with each stroke of their huge pistons clearly felt by the rider. First gear is a little shorter than I would prefer, especially considering the massive grunt available from idle.
Each approach certainly has its relative merits and for a lot of riders the big twins, despite offering much less power and torque everywhere, will still win favour thanks to their comparatively relaxed thudding characteristics. That is not to say the F6B’s big six ever feels hurried – it only revs to 6000rpm, it just doesn’t thud away underneath you like a big twin.
However, don’t let the relative lack of theatre from the Honda fool you, it carries a very big stick and smashes the big twins out of the ballpark for torque right from idle. Leaving any big twin pilot sucking its exhaust fumes from standstill at the traffic lights, or on the exit of any bend. The F6B just rockets towards the horizon.
It doesn’t have that big twin exhaust note, yet still sounds pretty good when you get up it; think Porsche 911 if you are a Europhile or 265 Hemi Six-Pack Charger if you’re a bogan, like me.
Despite the same claimed chassis geometry and 125mm ground clearance I did get the (possibly mistaken) impression that the F6B touched its undercarriage down earlier than I remember the Gold Wing reaching scrape angles. I believe the quicker steering of the F6B, thanks to the weight that has been shed from up high in comparison to the Wing, brought me to that fallacious conclusion. The F6B really does lean into a turn quite eagerly and lures you into riding fast, and thus carrying more lean angle as a result. While on many of the opposition you would be throwing sparks ten-degrees earlier and wobbling towards the bushes…
Clearly, the handling abilities of the F6B and the Gold Wing do not even deserve the insult of being compared to the cruiser derived baggers on the market. The Honda’s steering, handling and dynamic capabilities are far beyond the cruiser based competition, which feel like compromised sleds by comparison.
Ride quality is another huge positive standout for the Honda thanks to its Gold Wing derived chassis. Pillion accommodations are also vastly better than most of the F6B’s competition which – married with the incomparable ability of the F6B’s rear suspension to cope with sharp bumps – make the F6B by far the better choice for two-up touring. Shorter folk will also appreciate the marginally lower 725mm seat height of the F6B compared to the Gold Wing.
The Honda’s short screen (a larger screen is an optional extra) really helps distinguish the F6B from its Gold Wing roots but the price is paid by the rider through the increased amount of wind buffeting. It is not adjustable either, which is a shame. Especially considering the fantastic seat and long distance touring potential provided by the generous 25-litre fuel tank.
Still, those few bugbears aside, dynamically in every way, the F6B really does set a new standard in the bagger segment. And at a price point that shames the competition.
- Honda F6B Specifications
- Engine – Liquid cooled, 12-valve, SOHC, flat-six
- Capacity – 1832cc
- Bore s Stroke – 74 x 71mm
- Compression Ratio – 9.8:1
- Claimed Power – 116hp @ 5500rpm
- Claimed Torque – 167Nm @ 4000rpm
- Induction – PGM fuel-injection
- Transmission – 5-speed
- Final Drive – Shaft
- L x W x H – 2605 x 945 x 1455mm
- Wheelbase – 1690mm
- Seat Height – 725mm
- Ground Clearance – 125mm
- Fuel Capacity – 25 litres
- Front Suspension – 45mm forks
- Rear Suspension – Preload adjustable Pro-Link Pro-Arm
- Tyres – 130/70-18 (F), 180/60-16 (R)
- Front Brakes – 296mm twin discs with three-piston calipers, DCBS, ABS
- Rear Brake – 316mm, three-piston caliper, DCBS, ABS
- Frame – Diamond box section aluminium twin-spar
- Rake – 29 degrees 15 minutes
- Trail – 109mm
- Kerb Weight – 385kg
- RRP – $24,990 +ORC
- Warranty – Two years, unlimited km
— Trev’s Addendum: If I was spending someone else’s money, my personal preference would still point me towards a Harley Street Glide. Despite the Street Glide being slower, more uncomfortable and to be frank, fairly crap at everything in comparison to the F6B, it just floats my boat both aesthetically and from the saddle. That’s because as far as Harley’s go, their touring line-up (Street Glide, Road Glide, Road King, Ultra Classic Electra Glide) are actually much better rides than their car-park-fashion-hero brethren (Dyna/Softail/Sporty etc.), while still providing that distinct Harley feel. And while you are cruising on towards the horizon with the tunes blaring, it’s that ‘feeling’ that you’re after. Even if your arse aches like hell after feeling every sharp edged bump in the road. Not to mention the extra hip pocket hurt to the tune of nearly ten grand more to get on a Street Glide.