Review: 2013 Honda F6BA ride that’s badass to the bone
For decades, Honda’s Gold Wing has been the gold standard for touring motorcycles. It’s all-day comfortable for both monsieur and madame, the bags and topbox will accommodate the contents of a three-bedroom townhouse and more than one competent Wing rider has embarrassed a sportbike or two through the twisties.
Despite its performance and competence, however, the Wing is generally perceived as an Old Guy’s Motorcycle, the Buick LeSabre of two wheels.
Enter the 2013 F6B, Honda’s entry into the burgeoning class of cruisers with bags and windscreen known as Baggers.
Honda took the Gold Wing, cut down the windscreen, threw away the top box, centrestand, Barcalounger pillion seat and a bunch of electronics, and ended up with the $22,999 F6B. Creature comfort items were sacrificed, including the Wing’s reverse gear, cruise control, heated grips, navigation system, rear speakers and electronic rear suspension adjustment, but these items all add 32 kilograms, most of it carried up high.
To complete the “Badass Bagger” look, virtually everything on the F6B is black, with the only brightwork being the mufflers and cam covers. The U.S. gets a red model, but the Great White North will make do with noir only.
The F6B has the Gold Wing’s tried and true 1,832cc flat-six overhead cam motor that produces torque by the metric tonne and propels the 385 kg F6B from zero to 100 km/h in 3.3 seconds. Which is about the same as a ZR1 Corvette or a Porsche GT3.
Hard numbers show 103 horsepower and 105 lbs.-ft. of torque. The fuel-injection is flawless, and enables the “B” to idle down to 40 km/h in top gear and accelerate away with nary a hitch or stumble.
The frame is the Wing’s twin-spar aluminum unit and the single-sided aluminum swingarm is identical, too.
The F6B handles exceptionally well, considering it is large enough to have its own gravitational field. On a day trip through the Haliburton Highlands, I kept wondering if flinging a 385-kg (847-lb.) motorcycle around like a middleweight was really such a good idea. Hey, why not? The worst that could happen would be an impact of 6.5 on the Richter scale with the epicentre just off the 507.
But the F6B never put a wheel wrong. The 45 millimetre front forks absorbed all the bumps and heaves while tracking straight and true. When it came time to “whoa,” the dual, full-floating
296-mm discs squeezed by three piston calipers slowed the Bagger with no fuss or drama. The rear disc is a giant 316-mm unit; all brakes are linked by Honda’s Dual-Combined Braking System with ABS standard.
Even though the F6B is basically a stripped-down Wing, there’s more than ample luggage capacity as the colour-matched, lockable and waterproof hard bags have roughly 150 litres of storage. In addition, there’s a glove box on the left side of the dash large enough for a cellphone, notepad, sunglasses and other assorted detritus and a smaller, lockable compartment on the other side.
Fuel consumption averaged between 5.8 and 6.4L/100 km, so the 25-litre tank will give exceptional cruising range.
The wind protection from the fairing is excellent and the engine is so wide, even the rider’s legs are protected. The short screen directs the air around the rider’s head and shoulders, so there’s no helmet buffeting, but there’s more wind than there is during question period in the House of Commons.
At any speed over 50 kph or so, it’s impossible to hear the four-speaker sound system, even at full volume, which makes the 14 sound-system-related buttons on the lower dash somewhat redundant. Honda offers a taller accessory screen for $330, so they’ve obviously recognized the problem.
The sound system has iPod and USB interface (no Bluetooth at this time), but it’s irrelevant as you can’t hear it. It would’ve been better to keep the heated grips and cruise control and ditch the radio as this motorcycle just screams to be taken on long rides.
Seat height is a manageable 725 mm (15 less than the Wing) and the wide, “gunfighter”-style seat is very comfortable, although the width spreads the legs at a stop. While we’re nitpicking, you need a key to open the bags every time, and, as with the Wing, they sometimes require an extra thump to close properly. A handy icon on the dash tells you if the bags aren’t fully latched.
It’s difficult to figure out the F6B’s place in the world. I kinda like the styling and there’s no question about the performance, reliability or fit and finish, but a Bagger is supposed to be a street cruiser with the potential for day trips and the F6B is just too huge to be tooling around town and on the highway, the wind noise totally ruins the experience, even while wearing earplugs.
Every time I was out on the F6B it drew a crowd and I responded to their questions the only way possible: “COULD YOU SPEAK UP A LITTLE?”
2013 Honda F6B
Engine: 1,832cc flat six, SOHC, EFI, 5-speed transmission
Fuel consumption: Measured 5.8 to 6.4L/100 km
Power: 103 horsepower, 105 lbs-ft. of torque
Competitors: Harley Road Glide & Street Glide, Yamaha Touring Deluxe
What’s best: Power, comfort, handling
What’s worst: Wind noise, wind noise, wind noise
What’s interesting: Gold Wing Lite