What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate Motorcycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.There is a certain glint of light that occasionally catches the top of the chromed triple clamp of a 2006 Honda VTX1800F. For a moment, a rider may wonder whether a traffic camera has incriminated the motorcycle by a stealthy snapshot, or whether a paparazzo’s flash has frozen the blur of its path. This bike is all about that glint—the fleeting light, part reality, part simulacrum—a ray of the past, shot to the promise of a bright, shiny future.
In the race to be fastest and flashiest, Honda endowed the VTX1800F with the biggest pistons ever to grace one of its automobiles or motorcycles. The super-sized, 1795cc V-twin produces 106 horsepower and 120 ft/lbs of torque. The power comes on so early that the temptation to chug-a-lug from near-triple-digit rpm is almost impossible to resist.[Visit our Motorcycle Retro Reviews Page]Pulling from such ludicrously low engine speeds may result in a bit of drivetrain lash, despite a cam-type damper on the primary drive gear.But, once the initial thump-a-lump of gigantic, pumping pistons dissolves into the quickening rhythm of accumulating speed, the VTX1800F’s velocity builds exponentially in a surprisingly smooth, torque-induced rush.When accelerating aggressively, it is best to remember that the gobs of power from the 1800cc engine run out rather suddenly when the rev limiter kicks in. Horsepower peaks at 5000 rpm, and torque at a paltry 3500 rpm. Short-shifts will return the motor to its powerband’s sweet spot.In typical Japanese fashion, that sort of magic comes about from a perfect storm of obsessively modulated variables falling into just the right pattern. In contrast to the usually defiant or—depending on your perspective—sloppy conceit of unrestricted exhaust, the muffler note of the 2006 Honda VTX1800F displays an eerie lack of volume. The quiet and rather unremarkable muffle is an exercise in discretion; this bike doesn’t make a sound because it doesn’t need to.The subtle styling cues echo the VTX1800F’s forward-thinking engineering. Its chrome, hooded headlight housing may resemble that of its big brother, the outlandish Rune, but the VTX’s focal point is its massive V-twin. In fact, all of the bike’s components—as well designed as they may be—appear to exist as support systems for the engine.The stacked and staggered two-into-two, chromed exhaust pipes form a horizontal plane that gives the illusion of an even longer bike. Unlike the casual understatement of their diminutive exhaust note, their appearance makes a might makes right boast that may be the VTX1800F’s strongest allusion to cruisers of the past. A comfortable saddle and passenger seat concede modern levels of comfort, and—in spite of broad proportions—its ergonomics promote an upright posture that is conventional, not cartoonish.While the V-twin’s cylinder faux fins—it is liquid-cooled, after all—recall the early cruiser days, certain other details go against that historical grain.Recessed tail and brake lights are LED, not incandescent, and the speedometer is digital LCD, as is the bar graph tachometer.In sharp contrast to pre-V-Rod Harleys, a large radiator rests just behind the front wheel. Rather than take on the V-Rod’s retro-futuristic attitude, however, the 2006 Honda VTX1600—with so many styling nods to traditional cruisers—is more variation on a theme than reinterpretation.The length, emphasized by the sweep of the chromed exhaust pipes, may appear an exaggeration. However, in motion, the bike feels every bit as long as it looks.Turning the VTX1800F is a task that requires forethought and discipline. With a dry weight of 743 pounds, this is not a motorcycle that displays a strong inclination to change directions. Although the 1800F is considered the sport variant of the VTX nameplate, it seems to have been made for straight—not twisty—roads.On severe turns, speed must be scrubbed off before banking, and peg scraping becomes a distinct possibility.Because cruiser riders tend to use rear brakes more often than fronts, the VTX uses a linked system to automatically engage front calipers when the rear brake pedal is activated.The Honda badges are hard to spot, giving the bike an elusive identity that contradicts the Honda stereotype.This discreet branding is appropriate, as the Japanese manufacturer has created a true original—a motorcycle that is neither a repudiation of the past, nor outrageous futurism.The 2006 Honda VTX1800F is simply a power cruiser that, committing to neither extreme, is unique—a quick and stylish bike that makes no apologies for its quirky yet irresistible personality.Photography by Kevin Wing
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.