Gold­wing an easy drive de­spite size

Albany Advertiser - - MOTORING - Peter Thoem­ing

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.

Pic­ture: Mar­que Mo­tor­ing

Honda Gold­wing, ready to take you wher­ever you want to go.

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