Why in the world would anybody put a Honda Valkyrie besides a Rolls-Royce phantom. I’m mean the car’s the epitome of cars, it’s the ultra luxurious palace on four-wheels, the be-all and end-all of opulent automobiles. And the Valkyrie? Well it wasn’t supposed to be a Valkyrie in the first place, Honda’s other luxury cruiser, the Goldwing was the right contender for this shoot-out. Unfortunately everybody and their uncle who has ever owned a Honda Goldwing in Bombay suddenly woke up one morning and sold their machines. It was almost like a Goldwing twister came by the city and sucked all of them out. So we decided to take a motorcycle which was from the Goldwing blood line, a genuine kilometre shrink wrapper and an extension to the American dream would cut it. And besides you know BSM love to do these car-bike stories just for the heck of it right? So we made a few calls, asked around and what do you know? Our friend Neil Grant of Kawasaki ZX-10R fame (BSM July ‘05) decided to sell the 10 and buy a more family oriented machine. A Honda Valkyrie. And so here how the shoot unfolded.
Neil being the modest chap that he is said he’s already driven (read as thrashed) a friend’s Phantom extensively and wasn’t very keen to wake up at 5 am. Good for me then because I got to ride the motorcycle extensively. I landed up at Neil’s place to see the Valk standing there with bit of the chrome glinting in the dark as tiny streaks of the street light fell on it. I was expecting a fairly large motorcycle and in the dark the Valkyrie somehow didn’t seem that big. Once I switched on the lights the monstrosity unveiled itself. I was standing roughly mid bike and the tail light was already halfway across town.Anyway I heaved and heaved again and then got a little help before I got it off the stand and rode home
Five am and the sun’s not yet up. I thumbed the starter to fire up the six, a massive 1520cc opposed six. The engine fires up with such ease and quickly settle into an idle. At this point the exhaust note is so soft, it’s drowned out by the silence of the still morning air. I roll the bike out and clunk first and head down to Rolls-Royce showroom in the heart of the city. The Valkyrie is quite surreal to ride. The engine is tremendously smooth it is as if melted butter lines the bores as the pistons are at it. Never have I imagined a motorcycle of this size to be this quick. Especially the roll-on acceleration which sees 13kgm of torque blows your socks off every time you twist the grip till the stop. It’s almost like you’re riding around sitting in your grandfather’s old recliner with the TV on, and going really fast, with the wind in your hair.The Valkyrie has no stretched out leg-rest though but acres of seat cover in cow hide that beef burgers are becoming rarer to find. The massive handle bar that stretches from East London to Timbuktu lighten up as soon as you’re rolling along. Which is what I realised last night on my way home as well. Within no time of figuring out how to transfer my weight I was weaving through gaps in the traffic. Brush finished aluminium forks and stubby chromed units on the rear prop the Valk and helps it glide across the tarmac delivering such superior levels of ride quality that could easily make it one of the best on the planet. If you love motorcycles and are growing old, forget spending on a chiropractor and get aboard a Valkyrie instead. You’ll love it.
Suddenly 309 kg of motorcycle is dwarfed by a big grey on the far side. The Valkyrie comes to a halt and is now standing face to face with it’s nemesis, the most prestigious, luxurious car in the world, a mansion of the move – the Rolls Royce Phantom. Now this car is special. It’s so special that unlike Honda’s Marysville plant where Valkyries and ejected out of the assembly line every few minutes, the guys at Goodwood spend days on end mulling over the texture and the number of cup holders that go into a Phantom. The guys at Goodwood are so dedicated to making the perfect car that pinstripings are hand painted, sheep are slain (the floor mats are sheep skin) and rain forests are dwindling just so that this car can exist.
I’m quite taken a back by the car actually. The car isn’t one of the most beautiful looking machines anyway but once you enter the mother-ship by walking through the suicide doors and you’ve entered a whole new realm of comfort beyond you’re wildest imagination. The passenger space is as lavish as some households. It’s the only place in the world where minks sprawl themselves out on cows and Dom Perignon flows like water. And this is the base model of the Phantom completely unloaded and still has seven zeroes behind the first digit as a price tag. In a way it was nice because the Valkyrie is also a stripped down Goldwing in every sense and anyway and more creature . It wouldn’t be fair on the Valkyrie now, would it?
You’re probably wondering why I’m not talking about driving the Phantom right? I did drive it, to erase all doubts but I’m not exactly going to town singing about it because the Phantom is not the best driver’s car. Even Rohin who’s swears by cars, be it a Tata Indica or a Mercedes Maybach thought so. He was really excited to drive the car as was I but after getting behind the wheel you loose all interest. The car feels sublime. It’s got a cool power reserve meter that tell you er... the amount of power you’ve got till the engine reaches it’s peak. The throttle is immensely light and flooring it isn’t a dramatic event. An on-board supercomputer sends a request to another one in Goodwood which in turn looks up the driver’s resume and decides on his capabilities before giving it a go ahead to unleash all of it’s 72 kgm and 453 bhp. By some stroke of luck the computer there decided that I was proficient and let all break loose. Slowly. The power reserve needle was soon at about 3% and the speedo registered about two hundred and forty. Okay the part about the super computer was bulls**t. So you can very well imagine how unexciting the entire thing was. The car is calm, eerily calm and refused to pitch, roll or even thud through potholes. Which makes it, as I said, a back seat car. So now it’s time to decide if the 6750 V12 is more refined than the 1570 boxer six. whether 453 bhp at the rear is better than 100 bhp and where I like my lamb better or my beef. Let’s just say that I’m overwhelmed by the Phantom and overawed at the Valkyrie. For something so legendary, so lavish and so expensive as the Rolls-Royce Phantom to be driven around is simply amazing but a motorcycle that’s was built purely on a whims of little Japanese engineers to capture the hearts of big burger munching Americans on the other side of the planet is thoroughly captivating.