2013 Gold Wing F6B Development

2/4/2013 9:52:00 PM

A pronounced market shift is taking place within the realm of big bikes. Recently, the big-bike touring segment has recorded a significant upward trend in sales led by a fashionably new style of motorcycle—a cross between a cruiser bike and touring machine. By expanding buyer options, these machines have lifted the large-displacement touring segment back to pre-recession sales levels and have reinvigorated the riding population. With the introduction of the new Gold Wing F6B, Honda now adds an entirely new option to that mix to reshuffle industry standards once again—in keeping with long-standing company tradition.

Now Honda offers big-bike enthusiasts a newly elevated level of all-around performance with a large-displacement machine that takes advantages from the GL1800 Gold Wing and mixes in unique touches. The F6B also delivers a bold look and impressive levels of performance, qualities that make it the perfect choice for leisurely short rides, backroad forays, day trips or weekend journeys and more—it's primed and ready to take on whatever opportunities arise. This is a new breed of machine that slots into a comfortable niche as part power cruiser, part long-haul tourer and 100-percent Honda innovation. The F6B offers a whole new take on what a bike in this category can deliver—a much higher level of performance, sophistication, smoothness, visual impact, fit, finish and reliability. In short, it delivers big-time performance with a heavy dose of attitude; it's ready for anything, any time, whenever the mood strikes.

Better yet, the F6B can be had in standard trim or as a deluxe model that includes a passenger backrest, centerstand, self-canceling turn-signals and heated grips. And a wealth of Honda Genuine Accessories are available to make further customization of the F6B a cinch; just the ticket for personalizing your ride.

Subhead: Origin of the species

Taking a historical perspective, we can see that the Gold Wing F6B is really a natural extension of the original Gold Wing concept, one that benefits from equal measures of innovation and refinement in its basic DNA. Back in 1972, race bike-engineering giant Soichiro Irimajiri headed up design of the exquisitely sophisticated and ultra-high-performance prototype M1 motorcycle, specifically to explore the outer limits of the Grand Touring concept. The final result was truly a breakthrough machine, one that set new standards of design and performance thanks to its liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with shaft drive—key features that appear in today's F6B.

In production form that M1 prototype became the original GL1000 Gold Wing, introduced in 1975. This was a machine that was much, much more than just a new motorcycle—it was well and truly a revolution on two wheels. Powered by an incredibly sophisticated 999cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine—this in a time when 750s were considered big bikes and all-out Superbikes displaced 900cc—that first Gold Wing set standards for all-around performance that surpassed every other bike in that era. As a result, consumers and journalists alike were initially at a loss as what to make of this open-class machine with world-class power and cross-country capabilities. But later that year the GL1000 earned the top-rank position in a Cycle comparison of touring bikes and riders quickly embraced this amazing machine. The legend of the Gold Wing was now off to a fast start, ultimately leading to the Gold Wing F6B we see today.

Subhead: GL1800 Gold Wing roots

The path to the Gold Wing F6B winds through more than three decades and through many progressive iterations as the Gold Wing advanced in function and reputation to firmly establish itself as the leader in a class of one. (See the Gold Wing Timeline for more details.) In 2001 the apex GL1800 Gold Wing appeared, designed by Masanori Aoki, a sportbike guy who was determined to give the 1800cc Gold Wing a pronounced sport feeling and superior handling traits while also enhancing its touring capability. The goal was to add more fun factor to the machine by providing the kind of acceleration, engine feel and handling people normally associate with sporting machines. The 1832cc engine was designed to have tons of power, a lot more character in terms of an exciting power hit and a more free-revving design, for more of a high-performance feel. The chassis incorporated an aluminum frame, one that very much paralleled the design of those used in sport bikes, because aluminum is easier to manipulate in tuning the chassis for rigidity and light weight, with specific strength and rigidity qualities readily applied to the frame where they are most needed. All this and more was achieved, creating features and benefits that live on in the Gold Wing today.

The Gold Wing F6B incorporates all of these basic engine and chassis advantages found in the GL1800, plus a number of benefits all its own. Weighing in a full 62 pounds lighter than the full-dress Gold Wing, the F6B delivers a new level of nimbleness and maneuverability for superior handling and agile manners. The stout twin-spar aluminum frame remains remarkably advanced and sophisticated for bikes in this class, and it features a beefy 45mm fork with a cartridge damper plus a sophisticated anti-dive system to yield 4.8 inches of plush yet well-controlled travel. In back there's a single-sided Pro-Arm swingarm setup, and the rear Pro-Link single-shock suspension system has a new shock with valving specifically tuned to the F6B. A dial-type remote adjuster offers easy access for quick adjustments to rear shock spring preload. Dual full-floating 296mm rotors and three-piston calipers up front plus the rear 316mm disc deliver stellar braking power and terrific feel; Honda's Combined Braking System links the front and rear brakes.

The 1832cc liquid-cooled six-cylinder engine is literally in a class of its own, having firmly established a well-deserved reputation for exhilarating acceleration, super-strong roll-on power, smooth operation and utmost reliability. The unique, horizontally opposed six-cylinder layout also contributes to an exceptionally low center of gravity to foster improved handling. The Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system carries over from the Gold Wing, and this system too is a model of refined performance under just about every street-riding situation imaginable via its two 40mm throttle bodies and six high-pressure fuel injectors. Likewise, the five-speed gearbox, clutch and shaft final drive have all been thoroughly proven over more than a decade and millions of miles of real-world GL1800 use.

In terms of styling and looks, however, the Gold Wing F6B definitely goes its own way. This is a bike that demands attention thanks to lines that are clean, long and low, plus a blacked-out treatment for the wheels, engine and frame. The absence of a rear trunk, plus the shorty windscreen and gunfighter-style seat add greatly to the unique look of the F6B, as do the sleek lower cowl and stylish tail section that now incorporates passenger grabrails.

That all-new seat not only gives the F6B a unique look, it also gives the rider and passenger a different, more open feel from the saddle along with plenty of comfort. A premium-quality audio system comes standard on the F6B, and it offers direct MP3/iPod connectivity. The lockable and waterproof large-capacity saddlebags provide over 150 liters of storage providing flexibility for whatever the day's ride calls for, and a large, centrally located glovebox is both handy and easy to use for storage of smaller items.

The end result is a muscle-bound machine with aggressive looks, premium performance and premium quality, one that is different from and superior to any bagger on the market thanks to an obviously elevated level of performance, sophistication, fit, finish and reliability. Its terrific versatility allows it to fulfill a wide variety of riding pursuits from short hops to long rides. In truth, the Gold Wing F6B reaches back to the original roots and spirit of the GL1000—the "King of Motorcycles" with a high-performance engine, unmatched sophistication and premium-bike status.