In April, 1997 I purchased a black Honda Valkyrie Tourer. I have
owned a large number of motorcycles, both big and small, and this is without doubt the
best motorcycle I have ever owned. It is smooth, comfortable and awesomely powerful.
I have logged some more than 13,000 miles on this bike and frankly do not
understand how anyone could ride one and not buy one. Is it the perfect motorcycle?
Well, not quite, but it is MUCH closer than any other bike that I have ever owned
Addendum on 7/19/98:
Please note below some additions to this original posting. As I approach 20,000 miles some things have changed. I have much information from others, and I have added a couple of accessories. One thing remains the same, my conviction that the Honda Valkyrie is the best cruiser on the planet.
Final Addendum on 3/8/99:
This page will remain posted as long as there is continued interest in it but it will not be further revised or amended. I will now actively maintain the Interstate site. Currently, this page is being "hit" about 1500 times per month.
Another "Final" Addendum on 1/25/00:
The content of this page had not been modified for a very long time. Please see the information of the Valkyrie Interstate.
Some observations about the Valkyrie:
Size. The Valkyrie has taken a lot of "hits" because of its size. In truth, it is a huge motorcycle. When you first sit astride the bike, it looks like the tank extends into the next zip code. And it is a heavy bike that you had better treat with a lot of respect or you are going to drop it. However, once you get your feet up, the bike seems to change completely and feel like a bike of half its size and weight. I am not a very big person, 5' 10'' and about 145 pounds, and I find this bike a lot easier to "muscle around" than a Suzuki GS 1000G I once owned.
Handling. The Valkyrie handles beautifully. Taking this bike through the "twisties" is a real pleasure. Yes, you are always aware that you are riding a very large motorcycle, but the handling is light and completely predictable. My previous bike was an 1100 cc Yamaha Virago, a very nice bike with great handling. The Valkyrie handles every bit as well as the Virago. No, you can not flick the Valkyrie from side to side quite as quickly as the less massive Virago but the Valkyrie's suspension is better. Under very tight cornering on rough roads the Virago would tend to wobble a bit; not so with the Valkyrie. The low speed handling is surprisingly good for a bike this big. The stability of its straight-line tracking is simply amazing. I am surprised that Honda does not emphasize the tracking stability of this bike more strongly in their literature. It goes where it is pointed with never a twitch. High speed freeway driving is effortless and stability in cross winds is VERY good. One caveat concerning the handling: When the rear tire wears down to a wide "flat spot" (this happened to me at about 9000 miles) the handling starts to deteriorate rapidly.
Comfort. The fact that a bike based on the Gold Wing would offer a near perfect riding geometry should come as no surprise to anyone. The wind protection of the Hondaline windshield is outstanding. Those massive cylinder banks also serve to protect your feet both from water and cold. Of course those big cylinder banks do have a serious down-side in hot weather. This is a fine bike to ride in the rain. As long as you keep up to speed and keep your feet tucked in behind those cylinder banks, you will stay reasonably dry. If there is a better stock seat available in the industry I have never been on it. Furthermore, the seat seems to get better as time goes on. At first, I thought the seat was a bit too firm but at about 5000 miles I began to notice that the seat had conformed to my riding habits and to my posterior. My thoughts of purchasing a Corbin seat were forgotten. My passengers have generally raved about the generous accommodations. The suspension is "right on". The front forks are compliant without being mushy and the rear suspension is firm but not harsh. Nothing is more annoying and debilitating on a touring bike than vibration. The Valkyrie simply does not vibrate, even at scary speeds! It is so smooth that after spending a few days riding you notice, when you get in most any car, that the car does tend to have a bit of vibration. Days of 600 or more miles are not a problem. This bike simply glides effortlessly over the miles, carrying the rider in amazing comfort.
Note Added on 7/19/98:
Since this page was posted I have received more than a few messages, some quite strongly worded, expressing surprise that I could endorse the stock seat. I think the explanation can be traced to the rather unique geometry at the rear of the seat. Where and how that impacts each rider depends on the size of the rider. Some riders complain that the rear portion of seat hurts their lower back while others just deem the seat to be uncomfortable. I find the seat very comfortable, and have logged many 600+ mile days without discomfort. However, be advised that this seat may not fit you quite so well.
Performance. The big six is awesomely powerful and superbly flexible. Touring on the open road, it is not uncommon to ride through an entire tank of gas without down-shifting. The motor will pull without complaint from well less than 1000 rpm to the redline. Passing is simply a matter of twisting the throttle no matter what the speed. The carburetion is clean and predictable and the torque is legendary. There are very few bikes that will stay with the Valkyrie in a 50 mph top gear roll on. A stock Harley will fall back even after a down-shift above about 65 mph. All of this performance does not come without price at the gas pump as noted below.
Brakes. The Valkyrie has superb brakes. The front brake requires a fair amount of effort but the rider is rewarded with a lot of "feel". With the amount of front brake surface available on this bike, if the brakes were "touchy" you would end up on your nose. Believe me, when you have to stop in a hurry you can, and you will do so in a straight line. There have been consistent complaints about the front brake being noisy. Some say it "clunks" and others have reported a "rattle". Mine rattles around 50-55 MPH but it is not that offensive. The rear brake simply can not be improved. I suppose anti-lock brakes could be an improvement, but I really don't think most experienced riders would find them necessary.
Transmission. A typical Honda transmission: reliable and uninspiring. Honda needs to hire a few people from the Yamaha transmission group. And, being a Wing transmission, it has the typical annoying whine in the 50-55 MPH range. I guess Honda needs to make a few more of these transmissions to figure out what is causing that :-).
Note Added 7/19/98:
Many have written to point out that the performance of the transmission is strongly dependent on the oil that you use. While opinions on this matter vary, there seems to be a consensus that the transmission performs more smoothly when you use synthetic oils or synthetic blends. Honda HP4 and Mobil 1 seem to be popular choices.
Appearance. As the old saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Personally, I think that the bike is strikingly good looking. The chrome, and there are acres of it, is show-quality throughout. However, like many "large" people, the Valkyrie does not photograph very well. It actually looks a lot better than its pictures would suggest. One thing is for sure, it will attract a lot of attention. It is not unusual to come out of a diner or a motel and find a small crowd of people gathered about the bike looking at it and talking among themselves about it. Even Harley riders have been known to say good things about the appearance. Perhaps that is because this bike does not try to be a Harley or try to be anything that it is not. It makes a bold statement and it is its own statement. Finally, like most Japanese bikes, some of the color combinations available are, to be charitable, unusual. My preference for a bike this size is basic black but there are some other options that are attractive (and some, in my opinion, that are NOT!).
Note Added 7/19/98:
After having made the rather snide parenthetical comment above, I now feel compelled to say that the color combinations available for the 1998 models are very nice indeed. My kudos to big red!
Accessories. A cruiser is built to be modified. In the case of the Valkyrie, being a completely new model, the number of accessories available both from Honda and from the after-market have been limited. This is changing rapidly. The Touring model comes with a Hondaline windshield and bags. Both are very attractive and functional. The windshield affords fine wind and rain protection with a minimum of buffeting and it is virtually free from optical distortion. The bags really are water tight and they hold a lot of stuff. The most significant accessory that I have added are the saddle bag rails. I think they make a profound and positive contribution to the overall appearance of the motorcycle. The little "tail rack" is mostly vestigial, not to mention hard to find. The most incredible accessory that I have seen and heard is the "six into six" exhaust system from Two Brothers Racing. Not only is the visual effect of this exhaust system striking, the sound is simply out of this world; like a Porsche howling at the moon. It will be fascinating to see how the accessory manufacturers try to "define" this awesome machine in the next few years.
Note Added 7/19/98:
Since the original posting of this page I have added two additional accessories to my Valkyrie.
(1) Baker Airwings: The intent here is to give the rider some control of the airflow around the bike. And, for the the most part, the Baker Airwings successfully carry out their appointed task. They are most successful in their "closed" position which diverts air around the riders legs and allows the heat from the engine to warm the rider in cold weather. In their open position the wings act as air scoops and direct additional air onto the rider and across the engine. In my opinion, this position is not really very successful. While there is a very noticeable increase in airflow across the engine and around your legs, the increased turbulence at highway speeds is pretty annoying. So annoying, in fact, that I tend to place the air wings in a neutral position for high speed travelling on hot days. The installation is simple and the quality of the materials is high. Unfortunately, the engineering of this product leaves much to be desired. The wings are adjustable, and their position is maintained by an ill-conceived arrangement that depends on the friction generated by tightening a smooth chrome plated ball. It simply does not work very well. To get the wings tight enough to maintain their positions at high speeds, you have to put a piece of leather around the ball, to keep from marking it up, and use a pair of channel lock pliers to tighten it. Another unfortunate and inexcusable design error results in the air wing's support structure pressing down on the front spark plug lead on right cylinder bank. Finally, if you have a Hondaline windshield, the windshield will hit the wings at the steering extremes when they are in a closed position. All of these problems could have been easily avoided with just a bit of care by the manufacturer. Esthetically, the Baker Airwings are, at best, tolerable.
(2) KuryAkyn Highway Pegs: These pegs mount on the lower brace (1 inch diameter) that runs back from the front crash bar (which is 1 1/8 inches in diameter, by the way) . These are typical KuryAkyn accessories: overbuilt, overpriced ($129.95), and impeccable in quality. To further comment on the price let me borrow a remark from Lee Iococa, "It ain't cheap but neither is caviar." When not in use, these pegs fold neatly out of the way, they are attractive and very comfortable.
Overall Finish. A typical Honda. The fit and finish are right up with the best in the industry. My Valkyrie had no really serious flaws in the finish. However, the design of some of the components does detract from this general high level of quality (see below).
Maintenance. I have done nothing but routine maintenance so far. I change the oil and filter every 2-3000 miles (the every 8000 miles recommended by the manual is pretty long in my opinion). I used Honda petroleum based oil for the first 5000 or so miles and then switched to Honda synthetic (the price of which is preposterous!). Oil consumption has been ZERO. I lost my front tire to a screw at about 2000 miles and my rear tire was essentially worn out at about 9000 miles. Apparently, at this point the original equipment Dunlop is the only tire available for the rear of the Valkyrie. It is a good tire but it is VERY expensive. I negotiated an "on the bike" price of $250 with my local dealer in Minnesota. However, when that was over the dealer said he would not do it again for that price. It was the first Valkyrie rear tire he had ever replaced and I guess the job was less than fun. Finally, cleaning and polishing a Valkyrie so you can go out "styling" with the Harley crowd is a daunting task. You really can't appreciate the total area and variety of bright polished surfaces on this bike until you try to polish them.
Warts. As noted above, the Honda Valkyrie is as close to the perfect motorcycle as any that I have ever owned. But, perfection is an elusive thing and Honda still has a bit of work to do (I hope they are paying attention to their owners!).
Gas Mileage. To be blunt, the gas mileage of the Honda Valkyrie is NOT very good. In fact, even with its very large tank (more than 5 gallons), there are places in the west and southwest where making it between gas stations can cause some anxious moments. Like any vehicle, your gas mileage will depend on how you drive. By using restraint (which is not an easy thing to do when all of that power is there for the asking) you can get 35-40 mpg. On the other hand, if you push the bike to near its limits you can drive the mileage down to about 20-25 mpg. Hey "Big Red", if there was some reasonable way to get another gallon or two of gas on board it would be appreciated. In general, you can go about 140-150 miles before hitting reserve if you drive legal speeds and know how to fill the gas tank (see below).
The Gas Tank. Splashing gasoline on your freshly polished tank is a heart rending experience. With the Valkyrie, the gas tank is cleverly designed to encourage if not guarantee that you will do that. Topping off the fuel tank on a Valkyrie is an art learned only by long experience and a task you can not rush. The last several tenths of a gallon must be added VERY slowly and with great care. If you add fuel quickly and stop when the fuel erupts all over your beautiful tank, you will be about a half gallon short of capacity. Honda needs to do some serious work on the design of the fuel tank!
The Side Stand. I guess "cruiser cool" requires that the bike lean over very far on the side stand (check out the Harley, for example). And, that is in some ways good. I once had a Suzuki (the old water cooled three cylinder two stroke - great bike!) that stood almost straight up on the side stand and it was very unstable. It once blew over in a level parking lot in a wind storm that was not all that violent. Well, the Valkyrie is not going to blow over, that is for sure. Even on level ground, raising the Valkyrie off the side stand is a load. If you put your bike on the side stand and the ground slopes off to the left you may be in trouble. It seems to me that the side stand should be modified to raise the bike a few degrees more upright. Of course the bike has no center stand. If it did, it would take King Kong to use it.
The Turn Signals (added 719/98). I can't believe I didn't grouse about this when I first posted this page. First of all, the Valkyrie does not have a turn signal beeper nor self-canceling turn signals. I presume that the more visceral aura that Honda sought to project with this bike would not allow any sissy stuff like that. The only clue that the rider has that a turn signal is flashing is a single flashing indicator light mounted in the center-back of the headlight shell. This indicator light is nearly invisible in bright sunlight. And, if you are "vertically challenged" (short) like this writer, and hunkered down in the seat for comfortable riding, that dim flasher is hidden behind the handle bar clamp. At this point I think Honda should put the "visceral aura" considerations aside and recognize that this is a serious safety problem. A cheap and adequate fix would be a beeper! By the way, the Valkyrie does NOT have emergency flashers. I guess a real man could always light his beard on fire to ward off the 18 wheelers after dark. Come on, Big Red, we are not asking you to make a two-wheeled minivan out of the Valkyrie (you have been there and done that) but this turn signal, emergency flasher thing is a serious safety issue.
Instrument Lighting. The lighting of the instruments is not adequate for night riding.
Fuel Reserve. There is no gas gauge, no warning light, just a rotary valve that appears to be cheaply constructed and very poorly integrated into the bikes design. On the positive side of this, the Valkyrie "asks for" reserve more gracefully than any bike I have ever owned. When you are running out of gas, the throttle response simply becomes increasingly lethargic. This, as opposed to a Yamaha I once owned, that just quit with no warning at all.
Temperature Gauge? A temperature gauge could have been tucked unobtrusively into the tachometer and should have been. The temperature is always the best way to keep track of what is going on with a liquid cooled engine. As it is, when you start your Valkyrie that last indication you have of what is going on in the "engine room" is when the oil light goes out (or, perish the thought, when it comes back on).
Trim. The unfinished brackets on the back of the Hondaline windshield and the cheap and cheesy fake chrome accents on the sides of the radiator are not consistent with the overall quality of the bike. The windshield brackets are unsightly and the plastic radiator trim was "sand blasted" rough by road dirt in the first several thousand miles of riding.
Helmet Lock. Clearly, the Honda engineers forgot the helmet lock until it was too late. What they give you is close to useless and I hope they are ashamed of it. For those of you who do not have a Valkyrie, the so-called helmet lock is a strange rubber strap that you get to by removing the seat.
That Damn Reflection. The gas cap and surrounding trim on the Valkyrie is a huge "mound" of chrome. It is very attractive in the show room. Unfortunately, out on the road on a bright sunny day that collection of chrome can create a very annoying reflection on the back of the windshield. This reflection is EXACTLY in the center of your line of vision.
Some Recommended Valkyrie Web Sites:
(1.) For those who ride the dragon!
(2.) the F6RIDER - Check it out!
(3.) This page is a MUST - The bike a work of art!
(4.) Honda Motorcycles Home page
(5.) Some Valkyrie Links
(6.) The Valkyrie Owners Association
Minnesota to Utah (a Valkyrie trip)
Pipestone and Polygamy (a Valkyrie trip)
A Trip to the Valley of the Sun (a Valkyrie Trip)
John Marshall's Home Page Go Back!
Send EMail to John Marshall !
3/8/99 [FINAL FOR VALKYRIE CONTENT]
4/29/99, 1/25/00, 3/13/00, 2/9/01 [NOTES]