Honda: 1998 Valkyrie Tourer
Built around a pumped up Gold Wing engine, the Valkyrie certainly carries it's own special character. The large displacement engine is fed by six separate 28mm CV carbs, the cam timing is more radical, redline is higher, and the cruiser uses a more free flowing six-into-six exhaust system which produces an exhaust note all its own. Valve adjustment is by screw and lock-nut adjusters, camshafts are belt driven and the alternator pumps out a whopping 546 watts. The Touring model adds a full-size windshield and saddlebags over the standard model.
The most memorable aspect of this bike, aside from its stump pulling power, is how this unique package blends so well to produce an extremely competent motorcycle. Though it takes more steering input than say a standard motorcycle, handling is sharp and rather quick for a bike of this size. The bike is nimble in most parking lot situations as well as extremely competent, stable, and balanced on the highway.
The windshield is one of the best we've ridden behind - bar none. There's no visible distortion, and it doesn't cause any noticeable swirling of the air like with some full screens. After numerous careful washings, the windscreen held up well with no noticeable scratches appearing. This windscreen provides very good protection from the elemants. In fact, you could travel just about anywhere with a pair of riding pants, winter gloves and an electric vest.
The attractive plastic saddlebags are lightweight, lockable and waterproof. They're also convenient to use, especially for trips to the store and such. Packing them for a trip will prove a little more difficult as their opening is more narrow than the bags themselves and no internal storage bag is provided. The two-piece bags are created from bonding two halves, so we don't know their longevity over time.
Riding the Valkyrie, especially behind the full windscreen, is an experience in itself. It takes about 30 seconds to get used to riding the bike and the engine puts out a myriad of pleasurable sounds. Passenger seating is comfortable and somewhat removed from the rider.
At night the gauges are very attractive as are the lights reflecting off the windscreen, tank, machined triple clamps and massive inverted fork tubes. The comfortable seating position allows you to move around a bit and you can easily slouch or sit up straight. Twist the throttle and the nicely stepped seat becomes your best friend.
The big Valkyrie likes to corner and transitions from side to side quite well. If pushed too hard, however, the peg feelers touch down in a way that gets your immediate attention as the large peg lifts your foot. The bike actually feels capable of greater lean angles than Honda allowed for.
As great of a package as this bike is, there are a few areas to note. First and foremost is the excessive road noise generated by the tires, which like the exhaust note is amplified behind the full windscreen. Hopefully this can be cured with a set of aftermarket tires.
The other area of concern is the ever present exhaust note. Around town and on most rides the wonderful sound of the six-cylinder engine is exciting and enjoyable. On long rides, however, the exhaust note can get to be a bit too much - even when wearing ear plugs. This probably doesn't pose any concern on the standard model but can be quite annoying behind the excellent windshield.
The Valkyrie drew more attention than we ever expected. We received thumbs-up from teenagers to Grandfathers. People who didn't even ride were drawn to take a look at the bike with it's abundance of chrome and huge engine sticking out. It's apparent that Honda worked very hard to give this bike a clean look - and they succeeded. As a result of this clean styling, there's nowhere to strap a bag other than the sissy bar. You also won't be able to lock your helmet without removing the front portion of the seat. Fortunately this is simple as Honda provided an out-of-the-way keyed lock to do so.
The Valkyrie Tourer is a great motorcycle, indeed one of the best cruisers we've ever ridden. It's a bike we could live with if given the choice of only one motorcycle in our stable - heaven forbid. It's as much fun to ride around town as it is on the open highway, and oh that engine. Having experienced the bike with windshield and bags, we wouldn't want it any other way. Take a ride on a Valkyrie, and you won't want the ride to ever end.