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Text: Sandeep Goswami/ Old Fox
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar/ Sunny
Imagine James Bond, not as a human but as a machine…or rather a motorcycle. Dressed to kill, superlative in performance, efficient to the point of perfection and with that intriguing aura of mystery and mystique added to this already extraordinary amalgam of lineaments. That’s the Honda Rune for you. The brand new avatar of the famed Honda Valkyrie. A motorcycle built by a company known for its very efficient and very functional no-nonsense machinery on two wheels and four, across the globe and since decades. But with the Rune, Honda has taken a commendable step towards near-perfect aesthetics, demonstrating a flair and flourish only seen in one-off custom designs. From ‘clinical’ motorcycles optimized in design for mass production to a cruiser that could almost be passed of as ‘hand-crafted’. Commendable.
The flowing lines that envelop the 1823cc horizontally-opposed six cylinder engine (taken from the Goldwing) are an impossible admixture of the retro and the futuristic. The trailing link front fork, the ‘melting’ headlamp, the blue digital ‘fuel tank embedded’ console, the outstanding exhaust and the huge rear fender with its embedded LED strips all combine to make for a very impressive style-function combo. The bike is huge…and heavy, with an imposing street presence. A motorcycle that you never get tired of looking at, whether standing still or swooshing past you, so great is the amount of detailing and visual oomph that’s gone into its design.
Walk up to the bike, preferably dressed in Jodhpurs, long riding boots with spurs and a long flowing coat, and swing a leg over its low saddle to straddle it. The heaviness is apparent as you lift it off the side-stand. The ubiquitous chrome around you glimmers, shimmers and sparkles in your eyes as you switch on the ignition and thumb the starter. The ‘soft-tuned’ flat six rumbles to life, with a deep bass filled and throaty rumble that is. Blip the throttle and the crisp response and smoothness of the engine has ‘Honda’ stamped all over it. Stretch the left leg, pull in the clutch and shift it into first. A muted ‘thunk’ with a ‘click’ in sync tells you that you’re ready to sail.
The torque the engine produces in this state of tune is nothing short of amazing. Enough to uproot a tree, the torque curve goes vertical from near idling, hitting its peak at a mere 2000 rpm. The bike pulls relentlessly and does not go breathless as you work your way through the tranny, the speed building up unnervingly fast for a cruiser….or in fact for any motorcycle. The unsuspecting rider could have the handlebars snatched out of his hands, so strong and quick is the torque build-up. The slowest of forward motion does magic to the ‘heaviness’ of the Rune. The weight and mass almost vanish when the behemoth moves and the light feel only improves as speed builds up. Though limited in lean by the characteristic low ground clearance as in all cruisers, the Rune nevertheless remains surprisingly well planted even when the peg-feelers are being ground to dust on tarmac.
The trick trailing link front suspension is not only a very strong visual element of the bike but it also is a major contributor to its impeccable handling credentials. Feedback and response is phenomenal and so is the damping. Though not the same can be said for the rear. The one-sided swing arm with its single damper is a tad disappointing, being harsh and not providing a response that matches up to the superb front. The rear feels skittish on turns on anything less than a smooth surface and hits back pretty hard when it rides over rough roads. All this while, the front seems to be existing on a different planet altogether.
Braking is again great, the front and rear being linked. The cruiser stops from high speeds without fuss or drama, the ample rear tyre and the long wheelbase coupled with a low C of G aiding this stability, allowing the rider to exploit the large 330mm discs to the hilt. The brakes are coupled, the rear brake pedal also operating one of the front disc pistons while the remaining two are operated by the front brake lever.
Ergonomically, the bike seems spot on for the cruiser lovers. And this adds to the overall comfort quotient of the bike. The seat has ample width and sufficient cushioning and its contours are quite unobtrusive. In the sense the rider gets ample choice in sitting either close to the tank or a little farther behind. But long rides should not end up with a sore bum on the Rune. It lacks a rear seat in the true ‘lone-rider’ fashion and though that in no way reduces the appeal of the bike, but it sure does not give the owner the option of carrying any luggage whatsoever.
The heart of any bike is its engine. And the Rune has a gem in that Gold-wing derived flat six. The low 9.8:1 compression ratio makes the engine feel unstressed and also tolerant to low octane fuels. It also revs freely and seems extremely well-built. The only issue with the engine is its rather abrupt mid-range response, which when coupled with a shaft drive makes for an uncomfortably snappy on-off throttle response. No amount of grading the throttle hand seems to make the abruptness go. It is the only tiny smudge on the otherwise flawless power-plant.
The Rune, in a nutshell, can be hailed as a giant step forward for production cruisers, as it beats even the best of customs hands down. It is expensive but not as much as a custom bike of such proportions, aesthetics, quality and performance would cost. It is heavy…no massive…but only at stand-still. On the move it is nimbler than deer on the run. And it is probably the only bike around that can captivate without even moving an inch, so arresting is its design and execution. Right from the unique front, the ‘shaped’ radiator, the ‘cool blue’ instrument display, the invisible rear suspension and drive and those futuristic LED’s on the huge n smooth rear fender seem the last word in cruiser design. Buy it if you have the moolah….or just encourage your motorcyclist friend to buy one. Just being able to look at it at leisure seems a blessing. Long live change. Long live the Rune.