Earlier this Summer I was priviledged to be a VIP guest of Honda UK at Chomondley Pageant of Power, which got me not only a free ticket to get in but also looked after all day with a nice place to sit down every so often, some excellent food and opportunities to see or try out a range of Honda products in action. I could take a companion along and since Management, as I call her, has more interest in flower shows that power pageants, I took one of my Federation Team colleagues, Bob Summers with me.
It was a big promotional effort by Honda UK with the full range of their products represented in a "Honda Village” – a much bigger presence that at Goodwood last time I was there. Although the VIP invitations for the main two days of the Event were presumably allocated to proper VIPs, Honda had kindly invited a range of owners club people along to enjoy the warm up day on the Friday. We had a really great day despite awful wet weather, and we were both extremely appreciative of Honda’s kindness.
We were scheduled to meet Honda UK’s new Head of Motorcycling, Nick Campolucci, who replaced the (retiring) Steve Martindale in March this year, but unfortunately he got whipped away somewhere else that day at the last minute, but we were happy to settle for Tom Hobbs, our regular contact in Honda UK and Charlotte Dragge of KCS, among lots of others, to look after us. The rain somehow discouraged us from riding on the lake in a Honda-powered RIB but I made Management jealous when I got home by telling her about taking a new CRV for a spin. There was a chance to drive a small fleet of racy-looking new Civics on Cholmondley’s sprint track too which was a bit like a re-run of The Italian Job.
A couple from the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Clubwere there as Honda’s guests so we fell in with them for some of the time – and managed to keep a straight face (for a while) as we reminised together ( in GWOCGB’s absence) about their efforts to hold a vote last year about whether to let UK Valkyrie owners join their club after rejecting them in 1996 because Valkyries weren’t "proper” GoldWings. They are have been well established with their own Club for many years; the UK VRCC is a Chapter of the US Club and so they enjoy excellent techincal and logistic support from America, rather like the UK Chapters of GWRRA do for touring GoldWings.
In retrospect it was no coincidence that both we and the Valkyrie Club had been invited this time and at some point someone (I’d better not say who, it was probably an indiscretion) mentioned that there would be something of interest to GoldWing owners happening in September. He or she wouldn’t be more specific despite sustained interogation and the best I could dream up at the time was that Honda would be launching a GL1800 trike. But if you’ve read Motorcycle News this week you will have seen a little story about Honda registering some new trademark names – one of which is "GoldWing F6C”. Now why on earth would they do that?
Suddenly the penny dropped when I read this story. It looks very much like Honda are
widdening their exploitation of the GL1800 engine and chassis platform to sell another variant. The GoldWing F6B was the "Bagger” version, so with this newly registered trade name Honda have contrived to chop a few more bits off a GL1800 and are about to release a GoldWing F6C (short for "Cruiser”) version too. I imagine the Valkyrie guys we met at Cholmondley will be delighted about this prospect; their favourite bike was sold only from 1996 to 2003 so they’ve had a ten year wait for something new, unless you count the Rune.
The Honda Rune appeared in 2004 and was a radical departure from the F6C Valkyrie’s design and more of a sculptural showpiece than an everyday bike. I suppose it could have become the F6C’s successor but it didn’t sell well and it didn’t last long. It was never sold in UK although of course a few ended up here.
The EV06 concept bike was shown in Tokyo in 2007 with a GoldWing engine, then we saw the launch of the commercually unsuccessful DN01 with its new transmission, hence the speculation about a next GoldWing having automatic transmission.
I suspect however that Honda will be going for what the market has already shown a buying taste for with another Valkyrie-style F6C cruiser. The Rune and the EV06, and the DN01, were too new worldy for us mature motorcyclists, who have retro leanings, reaching back to our youth and what we would have liked to afford then, rather than a teendy-looking pseudo space rocket.
No pictures of the new GoldWing F6C have been released yet, not even spy pictures in the MCN – and of course there is no official confirmation from Honda UK that the new F6C is waiting in the Wings. The launch should happen in September, so not long to wait.
What will it look like? My guess is a strong family resemblance to the F6C of 1996-2003, i.e. a bare, cruiser-style bike with lots of chrome rather than anything resembling either the Rune or the EV06. Same frame as the GL1800 but no fairing, no saddlebags and of course no trunk either, like the F6B. And a crusier-style riding position, with leather saddlebags as an optional extra. Maybe the windscreen will be an optional extra too.
Only a small selection of colours for Europe at best but maybe only one colour, because the visual impact will of course be mostly down to the chrome. The GoldWing F6C will be a cruiser, so Harley-style dress code will apply, involving studded leather and dangling bits on the rider and the bike, the motorcycling equivalent of horse brasses.
Releasing another GoldWing variant makes sense when you think about it. Honda is doing platform sharing elsewhere in its range and competing with other manufacturers doing similar, multi-model things. Widen the appeal while saving costs by re-using the same basic engineering. Like Victory, which has just released a new trio of roughly equivalent variant models based on a single engine/chassis combination, although of course in their case the engine is a big V Twin. Indian is back in the motorcycle market in the States too of course, looking very good – and very retro.
Another thing I learned at Cholmondley is that the GoldWing F6B, hitherto available across Europe except for UK and Norway, will now be sold via the Honda UK’s network of dealers, but to special order from catalogue rather than by placing stock around the dealership network to display them. You might see the odd of these bikes if an individual dealer is confident he can sell some of them but there certainly won’t be one in every showroom across the country. At least you will be able to buy them in UK without having to resort to to a personal import.
Too early to say precisely when the GoldWing F6C will make it’s appearance in UK but there’ll be a good chance of these cruisers being on show in some parts of the Country and at least you will at least be able to order one from catalogue from any UK Honda Dealer, as with the F6B. September 2013 for the launch, you can see one in the chrome at Motorcycle Live in November, availability to buy early next year perhaps.
This isn’t a completely new GoldWing, as we touring Wingers would like to see now that the GL1800 model has been around for 13 years, but at least there is activity from Honda in the big bike sector of the market. This innovation reduces the risk of Honda pulling out of big bikes altogether in the wake of BMW leaping ahead, technologically speaking, with their innovative K1600 series. Triumph are selling pretty big touring bikes too these days. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some new technology on the GL1800 in the not too distant future after all and the pessimistic prospects I picked up from Steve Martindale when I interviewed him will turn out to to be just an unfortunate bad patch.