2008 Honda Gold Wing Long Term Test - Report #10

Excuse me, does this motorcycle make me look old?

Photo © Basem Wasef

There are so many types of bikes out there, it’s almost impossible not to find a motorcycle that’s right for you. That said, it’s easy—almost inevitable, in fact—to get pigeonholed into a stereotype when you commit to a specific make and model.

I put my riding fate into your hands when I published a MotoPoll to determine which Honda I’d acquire as a long term test subject, and nearly a year after taking delivery of a 2008 Honda Gold Wing ABS, I’ve been on the receiving end of a (not exactly surprising) series of reactions. When considering joining a group of sportbikers for a Sunday ride, a buddy remarked via email that the pace "...might be faster than your two-wheeled lorry.” (Yep, he’s a cheeky Brit.) “That bike doesn’t look like your speed,” exclaimed another acquaintance. On top of all that, countless colleagues have suggested that riding the Gold Wing might automatically qualify me for AARP membership.

Is this what the general population thinks about Honda’s grand tourer? Perhaps the GL’s perception problem was best summed up by a female friend’s feedback when she recently saw my garage, which happened to be housing the ‘Wing, a Ducati Monster 1100S, and a Harley-Davidson Iron 883. “That looks too sporty,” she said, pointing to the red Monster. “That looks sexy,” she swooned over the Hog. “And that,” she proclaimed about the Gold Wing, “looks comfortable and all, but it just doesn’t get me excited.”

So maybe that’s the common thread: most people think of the Gold Wing as sofa-like touring machine, but not much else-- which is interesting, because I had a hoot (pun intended) riding the ‘Wing like a sportbike, rocking out while racking up the miles, and canyon carving my way through Angeles Crest Highway. The bike’s copious storage even encouraged me to pick up groceries and run to the gym on the thing, functions far removed from the bike’s reputation as a transcontinental tourer.

When all is said and done, I’ll readily admit that the Gold Wing’s image problem isn’t entirely unjustified; after all, this baby is a big, honking machine that looks about as maneuverable as an anvil. But therein lies the rub, and the inevitable reality that the ‘Wing’s personality is far more user friendly than it looks.

Have I ever been self-conscious riding the GL? I’d love to give an emphatic “No,” but fact is that being a 37 year-old guy aboard this Jumbo Jet of a bike does sometimes feel a little weird. But once in motion with a view of the instrumentation array ahead of you and the flat-six humming beneath like a hot-rodded sewing machine, it’s almost impossible not to have a good time while riding the ‘Wing—and after a while, it even becomes easy to forget what kind of bike you’re on and simply enjoy it for what it is.

For any true motorcyclist, that feeling you get from riding will trump outside opinions about your steed of choice. If you’re not into touring bikes, the Gold Wing isn’t for you… and if you’re on the fence, it still may not be an ideal choice. But if you know what you want and you don’t mind being labeled a geezer every now and then for riding this Barcalounger on two wheels, all I can say is ride on, man. Ride on.