Goldwing an easy drive despite size
Unless you ride one, it is fashionable to dismiss the big travelling galleons of the motorcycle world as, well, big galleons — fat in the beam and slow to turn, slow in fact to do everything except for slurping up fuel.
This has not been true since 1984 when Honda released a GoldWing that not only went but handled — the GL1200. Four years later, the GL1500 with two more cylinders and further handling improvements confirmed that one of those big ships could both hunt and handle with the best of them out on the real roads
The latest Wing is slimmer, trimmer and punchier than its predecessor. To rub that in, it has a Sport mode — and it works, trust me. It might even be a bit too snappy around town.
When I confronted by the first of the six-cylinder Goldwings, I was frankly intimidated. It wasn’t just big, it was so big and it didn’t feel any smaller when I climbed aboard. Thirty years later, the Goldwing is still a big bike but the latest redesign has slimmed it down and reduced its weight enough to make it far less intimidating. In an odd kind of way, the current look is truer to the spirit of the original 1000cc bike than any of its other silhouettes has ever been. It looks fast, it looks fun and once you’re aboard, it is both of those things in spades.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a Goldwing in every way. The emphasis on pillion comfort remains, with a rear seat that promises day-long comfort. The shape of the luggage space is somewhat complex, and the panniers are comparatively small. That makes it a little difficult to pack effectively. The build quality is simply exceptional.
Once you’re in the cockpit, current 1800cc Goldwing riders will feel pretty much at home except for the multi-control knob in the middle of the dash. This is easy to use, and you can follow any changes you make with it on the big screen centred below the electrically adjustable screen. Its fitment has meant that the other controls could be simplified a little, which is welcome.
Once I was rolling, I was fascinated by the movement of the top of the Hossack-style transmission. You can see it through cutouts in the fairing, and it bounces merrily up and down while absorbing damn near all of the unevenness of the road surface. It’s a Honda, so I need say nothing about the perfect six-speed gearbox — for an additional thousand bucks you can get the automatic DCT version, along with an extra gear, but I was very happy with the manual one.
The bike is almost ridiculously easy to handle at low speed.
Not that I reached it, but the top speed of the 2018 bike has been governed down to 180km/h (or so I’m told). That’s a shame.
The 2018 bike has lost 4 litres of fuel tank capacity over the previous 1800, down to 21, but Honda claims that reduced fuel consump- tion makes up for that.
Honda says that this model represents a completely new design for the Goldwing, the first for 17 years. This one has a redesigned aluminium twin tube frame with die-cast aluminium parts. Weight has been moved forward by shifting rider and pillion towards the front. The double wishbone suspension at the front looks, and is, brand new. Steering and suspension are decoupled. Honda claims that “the shock transmitted from the road surface to the handlebars has been reduced by about 30 per cent compared to the previous model, resulting in a much smoother ride”.
The electric adjustable suspension system is linked with the riding mode to optimise damping for the front and rear suspension. Four preload settings are available for the rear accommodating a passenger or luggage. Ergonomics in general have been updated, and that pillion seat looks more comfortable than Business Class on a 787.
Weight savings are everywhere, from the minimal reduction in the attachment of swingarm to frame, to the major savings in the new engine. They add up to some 50kg. That engine has four-valve heads and a cam-damper between the clutch and the transmission, which has made changing gear even easier and quieter.
There is a lot more that’s new about the bike, but I’m going to leave it there. You can find more details on Honda’s website.
Honda Goldwing, ready to take you wherever you want to go.