The F6B is not your classic cruiser, true bagger, or full-on luxury tour bike. The Gold Wing derivative is more like a custom project in waiting. Or it is, simply, what it is.
All About Choice
“Not your Daddy’s Gold Wing,” says the Honda ad for the F6B.
Damn straight it wasn’t my daddy’s Gold Wing. That’s why he’s in court today. Smooth. We’ll see ya next year Pops!
But how far would YOU go to hop a ride on the six-banger bagger? Would you: Beg? Steal? Borrow? Let’s rule out beg and steal. Would you borrow to own the Honda F6B, available in black or in black, your choice? Maybe. But first you need to understand what it is.
If you’re seriously in the market for the F6B ($22,999 MSRP) you might be a former sport rider, someone playing with the idea of buying your first Harley, or an older guy who is still hip enough to want a niche bike. Because that’s precisely what the F6B is: niche.
That’s all right; choice is good. Folks like choices. The more, the merrier. Nobody likes pigeonholes. That is why the Rocket IIIs and Boss Hosses of the world continue to exist and appeal to individuals whose tastes cannot be strictly defined. The F6B is like that. There’s no strict definition for the Gold Wing variant, though you can get closer to a definition through the process of elimination. The F6B is neither true cruiser or classic bagger, and certainly no longer a full luxury tour bike, so rule those categories out.
When Honda stripped the Gold Wing of its top box, and filled in the area between the saddlebags with a sleek cowl, the legendary touring bike immediately entered a grey area where easily understood definitions were no longer to be found. The luxurious king and queen seats had been ditched in favour of a gunfighter-style saddle that moved the rider further back from the grips. Cruise control was yanked, the windscreen was cut to an eyebrow that now allows wind charge to reach the operator (surely a Gold Wing first), and reverse gear was pulled from the transmission. All these additions by subtraction resulted in a 28-kg (62-lb.) weight reduction, and a drastic new look. The Gold Wing had effectively been re-purposed—but what purpose?
Look, there aren’t many bikes on the market that are above criticism, but the standard Gold Wing is certainly there. For decades the Gold Wing has held a universally understood role as arguably the number one luxury tour bike in the world. It’s been so good for so long that debating its mechanical merits is pointless. You can’t find fault when there’s no fault to be found. Ask any of the 60,000 members in the Gold Wing Road Riders Association who every year collectively circle the planet many times over what they think is “wrong” with the Wing and they’ll just stare at you like you have a hole in your head—which you probably do if you’re looking for deal-breaker flaws.
In the F6B, you’ll still find the twin-spar aluminum frame, 45mm forks, Pro-Link rear suspension, dual combined ABS, and wheel combos (front, 130/70-R18; rear180/60 R16). Also remaining is the familiar 1832cc flat six cooled by side-mount radiators and wrapped in yards of body molding. Storage capacity is about the same, except for the top case of course, and all the important operational qualities that are so beloved by Gold Wing riders still exist in the F6B.
True, the heated seats are gone, but the F6B turns into corners beautifully, moves up so quickly to highway speeds you are barely aware of the velocity until you make a speedometer check, and the triple disc setup pulls the bike down from speed smoothly and just as fast. While the rider is exposed to the oncoming wind, there’s very little head buffeting and all-day comfort does not suffer because of the cruiser saddle.
What does take getting used to is something like a heavy flywheel effect when you’re on and off the throttle. Roll off the throttle and forward momentum immediately lurches to a stop. Short gearing in first will have you quick shifting or even slipping the clutch to enter rapidly into second. This can be annoying in city traffic.
None of which, tackles the question of the F6B’s identity. Honda says it’s “the Gold Wing’s bad-boy cousin.” But that’s just fanciful wording. The bike is too “nice” to be bad. You can put on black leather and wrap a bandanna around your head, but that doesn’t make you a bad boy, even if you do land in Sturgis sunburnt with a hangover and three new tattoos.
Well, that would make you a little bad, and in fairness the F6B is a little bad too. Not hardtail-open pipe bad, but bad in a nice kind of way that doesn’t hurt. How bad can ABS, USB interface and a fairing possibly be? It’s not a “bad” bike the way you might think of a Paul Yaffe or Roger Bourget bagger, or that radical ride with the 30-inch front hoop you saw at the Rat’s Hole Custom Show in Daytona Beach. It’s not a bad bagger like that. It’s just … different.
No, you can’t fault the Gold Wing in its standard form. But that doesn’t mean you’re not confused by the F6B. It might pass as a two-wheeled custom deuce coupe, or even a bike targeted against the Victory Vision, but it sure doesn’t look like any bagger you’ve ever seen before with all those covers, the flat-six motor, and identical appearance on both the left and right sides. Where’s the V-Twin? Where are the staggered shotguns and batwing fairing? Where’s the chrome? Where are the 100-spoke wheels, solo seat, stiletto grips, skeleton finger kickstand, and scripted floorboards?
Check the aftermarket. In the months following news of the F6B’s arrival, the aftermarket responded:
1. Tall windshields from Big Bike Parts
2. Dual touring seat from Corbin
3. Six-into-six exhaust from Cobra
4. Floorboards from Kuryakyn
5. Wheels from Performance Machine
6. Trailer from Bushtec
7. Trike conversion from Lehman
8. Trick Lights from Texas Cycle
9. Shiny accents from Show Chrome
10. Cruise control from ROSTRA
Not yet found on the aftermarket are top cases or transmission with reverse gear but there are stories out there of F6B owners successfully mounting Harley trunks and no doubt Bert Baker is now working on a box with reverse. Given time, someone is bound to offer a full F6B-into-Gold Wing conversion kit complete with yellow paint options.
If you’re having trouble putting the F6B into a clear-cut category, then consider that the aftermarket is not worried about minor details such as definitions and categories. The custom suppliers and fabricators see a big black bike they can customize, and they’re getting after it.
So, maybe that’s the definition. The F6B is a factory custom, waiting for owners to add their own touches. Or maybe in the now oft-quoted words of another enigma, NHL tough guy and power forward Todd Bertuzzi, who when asked to explain the whys and wherefores of of one particularly wild and fight-filled evening simply said, “It is what it is.” The F6B. It is what it is.
Story & photos by John Campbell
F6B : SIDEBAR
All about attitude
“Not your Daddy’s Gold Wing,” says Honda’s ad for its F6B. Probably true. Your father might not want the F6B. Even though there’s a lower price and more attitude, the bagger F6B version of the Wing sacrifices amenities. That being said, the F6B’s greatest difference from the Gold Wing might be illusory because the same Gold Wing that’s familiar around the globe undeniably resides just below the surface of the F6B. The new bagger just seems that much smaller—even smaller than the 31-kilo (70-lb.) weight difference might imply. When you’re seated in the saddle, the surrounding space feels more wide open without the full windscreen, the topcase with backrest and speakers, and the endless buttons and navigation screen. There’s less bulk north and south with more focus on riding than comfort. This leads you to ride it more aggressively than you would “daddy’s” bike. The powerband is as linear and smooth as the Gold Wing and fortunately so are the brakes. I was on a road favoured by local riders, but it wasn’t until I hit a particularly bad heave that sent me bouncing out of the saddle that I asked myself, “What were you thinking?” This isn’t a sportbike—but then again, I guess it is more of one than the Gold Wing. Its suspension can soak up a road in poor condition with greater aplomb than I can manage. But it should be able to because the F6B is not a new platform—it benefits from years of Gold Wing development, which is nothing but good news.
Though Honda stripped down the bike, a few amenities from the Gold Wing should have stayed with the F6B and a few could have been left out. With a much shorter windscreen, the radio (if you need one) is pointless unless hooked up to helmet speakers. In the case of the F6B, less is not more it’s just different. If it had a taller windscreen, it would be a slightly more sprightly option as a one-person touring machine than the decked out Gold Wing. Your father may have the heated grips, cruise control and navigation, but you would have something more unusual and with more attitude.