Watch Jay Leno’s Ride of the (Honda) Valkyrie Rune

If you’re asking for a good touring motorcycle, a common answer is ‘Honda Gold Wing.’ New or used, it’s a reliable, comfortable bike that can hang with the best cruisers Harley-Davidson has to offer. And as with models like the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the Gold Wing has served as the base for many customization projects. For example, the subject of Jay Leno’s latest video: the 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune.

The 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune has Gold Wing roots but custom motorcycle inspiration

The 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune’s name and design require a bit of explanation.

A cream-colored 1998 Honda Valkyrie
1998 Honda Valkyrie side | Mecum

In the late 90s, Honda wanted to create a cruiser. So, it tweaked the contemporary Gold Wing’s 1520cc flat-6 engine and put in a custom chassis, Motorcycle Cruiser explains. The result was the original 1996-2003 Honda GL1500C/F6C Valkyrie, Cycle World reports, which became something of a cult classic. That’s why Honda brought the Valkyrie name back in 2014 as a stripped-down variant of the Gold Wing, Motorcyclist reports.

However, during the first-gen Valkyrie’s production run, several Honda America employees wanted to push the bike’s styling a bit further, J&P Cycles reports. Something that reflected the custom motorcycle scene of the day, RideApart explains.

The front 3/4 view of a maroon 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune
2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune front 3/4 | Honda

To see how the public would react, it created four Valkyrie-based concept bikes: T1, T2, T3, and T4. The T2 bike was very popularly-received—so much so, that Honda Japan approved a production model, Motorcycle Cruiser explains. Which, in 2004, launched as the Honda Valkyrie Rune, aka the NRX1800, New Atlas reports.

Besides its styling, the biggest difference between the 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune and the standard GL1500C is the former’s engine. By 2004, the Gold Wing had moved into its 5th-gen GL1800 form and swapped the carbureted 1532cc flat-6 for a fuel-injected 1832cc flat-6, Rider reports. The Rune also has this engine, only with modified cams, exhaust, and more throttle bodies. The result was a bit more horsepower and torque; Rider reports 96 hp and 109 lb-ft at the rear wheel.

Like the standard Honda Valkyrie, the Rune has a 5-speed transmission and linked disc brakes, Motorcyclist reports. But instead of a standard front fork, it has a trailing-link design taken directly from the concept. And the rear single-sided swingarm is derived from Honda’s contemporary GP racing bikes, Motorcycle Cruiser reports.

For Jay Leno, his 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune is “a piece of rolling, kinetic artwork”

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Jay Leno has owned his 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune since it was brand-new. And even today, he’s impressed by the factory-custom cruiser’s fit and finish. Especially given that, as RideApart explains, most of its parts are unique to it. Even the radiator had to be custom-designed so it would blend in with the Rune’s styling. But even after 17 years, it doesn’t leak oil or have any mechanical faults.

The rear overhead view of a maroon 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune
2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune overhead rear | Honda

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Jay Leno is reminded of his dad’s old Buick when he rides his Honda Valkyrie Rune because it’s both long and rather heavy. It has the longest wheelbase of any Honda motorcycle produced up to that point, New Atlas reports. And with fluids, the Rune weighs 888 pounds. That’s almost 130 pounds heavier than the 2021 BMW R18, which has an 1802cc boxer-twin engine. Though that weight likely stems from the Rune’s lack of plastic.

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Besides the Honda Valkyrie Rune’s styling and build quality, Jay Leno is also impressed by the motorcycle’s comfort. He describes it as being like “a big La-Z-Boy recliner.” The ride and seat are all-day comfortable and smooth. ‘Smooth’ also describes the under-stressed and torquey engine.

As with most cruisers, it doesn’t carve corners like a sportbike. But it carries its weight low, and the 27.2”-high seat means it’s easy to put your feet down. And at speed, the Rune feels lighter than it really is, RideApart reports.

It’s a rare bike that hasn’t lost much value

When it was new, the Honda Valkyrie Rune wasn’t cheap. In 2004 it started at $25,499; that’s the equivalent of about $35,150 today. And according to Jay Leno, Honda lost money on every single Rune.

The side 3/4 view of a red 2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune
2004 Honda Valkyrie Rune side 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

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But then, Honda always intended it to be a limited-production bike, which it is. Over 18 months, Honda produced only produced “a few thousand” Valkyrie Runes, the National Motorcycle Museum reports.

As a result of their rarity and design, Runes haven’t depreciated significantly. A 2004 example sold at an October 2020 RM Sotheby’s auction for $24,000. Two examples have sold on Bring a Trailer in 2020, one for $20,000 and the other for $25,000. And as of this writing, the cheapest Valkyrie Rune on Cycle Trader is listed at $17,999.

Still, what a ride.

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