Pros: Smooth, fast, handles well for a big bike, real head turner.
Cons: Bad example of attention to detail. Poor gas mileage and tire wear.
Looks like I am going to be the first one NOT to give it a 5 star rating, but 4 to 4 1/2 will do just fine.
First off let me say this: I have ridden motorcycles all my life since I was 18, that is 35+ years of riding. You name the bike and I have probably ridden or owned it at one time or another. From Harley to Honda, Triumph to Norton, BSA to Motto Guzzi. About the only bikes I have not had a lot of experience with are crotch rockets. I have ridden them but not owned one.
Now that being said, I will say this about the Valkyrie and the interstate version ... by far the best damn bike I have ever had the pleasure of owning. It is not the fastest, that honor goes to crotch rockets, but for a large cruiser, there is no other large cruiser that can match it. IT is not the best in the corners, again outside of crotch rockets, no other large cruiser can match it.
It simply does everything well, not the best but well.
How Honda took 900 lbs of steel and chrome and made it feel like it weighed 300 lbs when riding is a tribute to their engineering. It IS a "pig in a parking lot", but once above 5 miles per hour, it becomes nimble dancer.
Handling: Very nice, much better than most bikes in it's class. Harley road glide will handle much better at low speed, but can't match the Valkyrie when youre kickin into a corner at 70mph when the posted corner speed is 45. :)
The lean angle of my Interstate is limited in that I had highway pegs out front and have them mounted very low. But I am not a hard cornering type of rider. I tend to like the slow sweepers more than the switchbacks. Mine will scrape the pegs easy, but there are other Valkyries I have ridden with that will keep up with a lot of canyon carvers.
The shocks are, well adequate, to be nice. They are not bad if you are running one up, but load the bike down or get aggressive in the corners and you will find you wish you had a set of Progressives or other aftermarket shocks and/or springs to help things out. I would have bought progressive shocks, but the ones worth buying are around $500.00 smackers and that, to me, is a bit steep.
Power: in a word - WOW. This bike is full of horsepower and torque. Realistically it puts out around 90 horse and torque at the rear wheel. Again there are other bikes that can blow its doors off, the V-Max comes to mind, but the v-max weighs about 580 lbs, almost 1/2 what the interstate does.
It really does have a major grin factor when you twist the throttle. I have had some Harley's as well as other so-called fast bikes do a light to light with me and so far none have won. I have even raced a few sport-bikes and won, mostly in the 600cc class. Granted the larger displacement sport-bikes will blow a Valk away, but again for the class that is in, it really has no equal.
Braking: Good to excellent. The rear break has a tendency to lock up easily as I found out one time coming over a high curve overpass. I was cranking on it and as I crested I found there was a red light on the other side. Not expected for sure, but to its credit the Valkyrie stopped me quickly. The back break locked up without much effort and there was a little sideways slide in the rear, but it kept its track very well, to my surprise.
The front brakes are excellent.
Creature comfort: Well the interstate is not designed to be a boulevard cruiser, that title is for the standard and even somewhat for the tourer model. Not to say that the Valkyrie Interstate does not do well on the boulevard, it turns heads for sure, but it is more in the class of the Harley Road glide/King than a standard Cruiser.
It was designed to Cruise long distances and in that class it gets a solid "A- or an A".
The seat on my 2001 Valkyrie interstate is a good seat for most butts out there, but not for all. And as with most motorcycles there are other options. Corbin makes a great seat, THE best looking in my opinion. There is also The Ultimate seat, the Russell all day long seat, the Mustang etc. etc. all fine seats and of personal preference.
I have taken mine and cut some of the plastic out from the center of the pan and it eliminated the "HOT" spot on my tail-bone. I find it quite comfortable now. I took a 700 mile trip that took 13 hours straight and I was comfortable the whole time, with just minor adjustments in the saddle.
I will be getting a Corbin as soon as I can afford one as it completes the look of the bike. The other thing I added that I think is invaluable is the Utopia backrest. this along with a set of Aeromach risers made the bike fit me to a "T". If I had to choose the one thing I wish Honda had included with the Interstate it is the backrest.
The stock windshield is very good, unless you are 6 foot and over, or you carry a passenger. The stock windshield should have been made about 2 inches higher at least. There is a lot of buffering that happens above 60MPH especially on the passenger. I replaced mine with a Tulsa that was 6" higher and 2 inches wider. Made a huge difference, but I eventually cut it down to 4" over stock and that is just about right for my 6'2" frame. Plus my co-pilot loves it as well.
There is a set of pods on either side of the radiator that some Love and some hate the looks of. I like them, I think they look unique and they do perform their appointed task. They route the heat coming from the radiator around the driver and passenger and do it very well.
The exhaust: For me and many others, the Valkyrie, whether it is the standard or Interstate is a hot rod, not a Gold Wing and most feel Honda failed in the sound department. The exhaust tends to be very muted and does not really give off any growl that informs perspective challengers that it has a 305 small block Chevy with hooker headers in its soul. It is a hot rod and Honda should make it sound like one. If you want a quiet bike, buy a Gold wing. This is not to say the Valkyrie should be a Harley with roadhouse pipes with the baffles pulled out, but it should have much more to it than Honda gave it. Fortunately there are aftermarket pipes that give it a custom sound. It's just that Honda should have, "Kicked it up a notch"
Cosmetics - This is where Honda went wrong somewhat:
The cosmetic amenities that come stock are pretty good. You have a full Fairing with AM/FM Radio and driver to passenger communication built in. The Saddlebags are outstanding, although the lids could have been better thought out. The trunk is spacious and well built. All in all the stuff looks real good, but behind the scenes is where it needs some work. The speaker panels need to be taken off from time to time to do maintenance, but the brass sleeves that are set into the plastic leave MUCH to be desired. They can easily be turned in there mounts. I have turned almost all of them now and finally had to take the time and J-B Weld them into place. Now they are solid. The Stock windshield is set into place a bit on the loose side and the whole fairing tends to rattle over time. I finally had to go in and tighten up everything and add some foam tape to places to keep the rattling down. I have, over the course of a few months found loose screws missing screws and nuts and various other things not quite right. Honda should really be ashamed. I have owned many Hondas over the years and this is the first bike that has such shoddy quality workmanship. They are not big items that anyone would see without knowing, but I know and hear them and I am not happy with that.
Aftermarket: The aftermarket accessories are great and there are loads of them. From chrome spark plug valences to chrome oil filter covers to fully custom chrome wheels front and back. Outside of Harley Davidson, there are very few bikes with this much aftermarket accessories available. I have spent up-wards of $5000.00 on chrome and accessories for my Valkyrie and could spend another $5000.00 with breaking a sweat. Of course my credit card would be bleeding, but the stuff is out there.
Final analysis: the Valkyrie Interstate is one fine bike. The largeness of it can be intimidating, but once you try one, you will find it rides and drives like a much smaller one, unless you are driving below 5 MPH. The craftsmanship on the plastic parts is something Honda should be ashamed of, but all in all it only detracts from the bike a very little.
I would buy another one in a heartbeat. In fact I wish I had the bucks for two of them. The interstate for touring and a standard for tricking out and cruising the local streets.
It really is too bad that Honda quit making the Interstate in 2001, I was lucky enough to buy the last model.
If you are wanting a cool rig that can go all day, and the Gold Wing, although a fine bike, is too much plastic, then the Interstate is for you. You will not be disappointed.
Lets hope Honda does something special with an 1800 interstate. Now that would be the only bike I would give mine up for :)