Following the success of the ground-breaking CB750 superbike, Honda tasked an R&D design team to explore concepts for a new flagship motorcycle in 1972.
The project was ready to hit the streets in 1974 as the Gold Wing, an affordable alternative to the American and European tourers of the time.
The Gold Wing soon become known as an extremely comfortable and affordable long-distance bike, but over time it grew in both physical and engine size.
The growth culminated in the six-cylinder 1800 cm³ behemoth of the early 2000s, but the buying public’s taste had begun to sway towards more nimble and dynamic bikes.
Honda listened, and the current model is a wheels-up redesign. While it is more practical to ride in town than its predecessor, the Gold Wing is still meant for the open road, offering all the luxury and luggage space you can ask for.
The top box, which is visibly lower than on the previous generation, has a 50L capacity, while each of the integrated panniers can swallow 30L. A full-colour TFT screen, flanked by an analogue speedo and rev counter, dominates the instrument panel.
Between the handle bars and the central portion of the fuel tank, there are enough buttons to put a modern airliner to shame. In addition to the sound system and the usual riding controls, the buttons operate the bike’s various luxuries – from heated seats, which are separately controlled for rider and passenger, to grip heaters, to the electrically-adjustable windscreen.
Both front and rear seats are generous and comfortable, and the riding position is as relaxed as you would expect from a long-distance bike. The top box also functions as a wrap-around seat back for the passenger.
It takes no more than a few minutes into your first ride to realise that this bike will take you from one corner of the country to another in comfort that will leave the Orient Express green with envy.
It takes about as long to realise that you needn’t stick to highways exclusively – the bike feels much more dynamic than its size would have you suspect, and you soon learn that you can lean it into sweeping corners with confidence.
Thanks to the low center of gravity, the Gold Wing’s 363 kg wet weight seems to evaporate once you get moving. That said, it is not an inconsiderable weight, and it is noticeable, especially when you’re riding slowly.
With 167Nm of torque on tap, the Wing all but laughs at uphills. With the cruise control on you hardly feel any effort going up steep inclines – it just keeps the needle pinned to your chosen speed mile after mile.
This, in combination with really good ergonomics, makes the Gold Wing an extremely relaxing machine to ride on the open road – while it may invite you to stray from the highways, you won’t particularly regret it if you don’t.
It is not the kind of bike you would buy to commute with, but the Gold Wing copes surprisingly well in that role. I found that it only takes marginally more time than a smaller bike to lane-split in heavy traffic, while the immense low-down torque is a huge advantage during rush-hour.
Although the Gold Wing is available both with manual and dual-clutch automatic transmission, the review bike was a manual model, which I prefer in traffic. On the open road, however, the DCT will doubtlessly add to the relaxed nature of the big Honda.
The tourer category is not a huge one in South Africa, and I don’t think Honda expects Gold Wings to sell like hot cakes here. This is partly due to a fairly hefty price tag, which will not exactly motivate customers to line up outside dealerships.
But the Gold Wing is not intended as a cheap alternative for a car. It is meant to be a luxurious touring vehicle, and that is exactly what it is. If ever there was a two-wheel version of the great GT cars of the Sixties, surely this must be it.
Manufacturer: HondaModel: GLX 1800 Gold Wing Tour
Engine Type: Four stroke, opposed boxer six cylinders, SOHC, 4-valve per cylinderDisplacement: 1 833 cm³Maximum Power: 86.1 kW @ 5500 rpmMaximum Torque: 167 Nm @ 4000 rpmFuel supply system: Electronic fuel injectionFuel type: Premium unleadedFuel consumption: 5.5L/100km
Transmission Type: 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic DCTFinal drive: Chain DIMENSIONSOverall length x width x height (mm): 2 575 X 905 X 1 430Kerb weight: 357 (namual), 378 kg (DCT)
Passengers: 1+1Fuel tank: 20.8 L
Brakes: Front: 2x 320mm discs 6-piston Nissin callipers Rear: Single 316mm disc 3-piston Nissin calliper
Suspension Front: Double wishbone Rear: Pro-Link system w/ Showa shock absorber
Wheels and tyres: Tyre, front: 130/70-18Tyre, rear: 200/55-R16
Price: R367 000 (manual), R411 600