Honda Gold Wing Long Term Wrap-Up

"Dear Honda..."

Honda Gold Wing GL1800
Honda Gold Wing GL1800. Wikimedia Commons

Dear Honda,

First, a hearty congratulations on your Gold Wing GL1800! I wasn’t a Gold Wing virgin before I picked up my long term tester about a year and a half ago, but time spent with the bike gave me a much clearer understanding of why GLs have developed such a zealous following.

Washing it got me acquainted with its unique bodywork, comprehensive controls, and low-hanging flat-six powerplant. But the proof was in the riding, which revealed deep reserves of power, stability, and comfort. Not only is the rider treated to a cushy saddle, easy ergonomics, and virtually every creature comfort you could ask for on a bike, there’s also a low center of gravity which makes this 900+ pound leviathan surprisingly maneuverable. Power is also ample, and I enjoyed showing up young punks at stoplights on more than one occasion; heck, once I even donned my race leathers to demonstrate that the GL can actually be ridden like a sportbike. And the stump-pulling torque was so addictive that an attempt to hypermile the ‘Wing proved virtually impossible.

The iPod-enabled stereo system added ambiance, and it was easy to plot a course using the nav system (though a touch screen would have been more convenient, and along with the adjustable suspension, the bike has to be at a standstill in order to change its settings.) I’ll even admit that while recently touring Italy on a Ducati, I suffered a twinge of jealousy when I saw two GLs pull into a service station; for me, the standard setting Gold Wing would my bike of choice for virtually any long-distance two-wheeled tour, hands down.

But while I’m being honest with my praise, I’ll also tell you where I think the Gold Wing can be improved; after all, the 2010 model is essentially a carryover, and I’m guessing those rumors I read on other forums about the GL’s imminent demise are greatly exaggerated. If I were to redesign the 2012 Gold Wing myself, I’d give the dash and surrounding trim a sleeker, more upscale appearance. Take a look at the Victory Vision, and you’ll see a more contemporary treatment with actual aluminum trim that makes the GL’s plasticky parts look… well, plasticky. And though the Gold Wing has loads of amenities, there are a few items curiously missing: an electric adjustable windscreen would enable wind flow to be fine-tuned, and if that’s not in the cards, a taller profile screen would certainly be more appropriate for long rides. An estimated mileage range would also help with ride planning. And despite the GL’s low center of gravity, it takes a mighty heave-ho to lift the ‘Wing off its sidestand when parked on a canted road; stealing from the BMW K1200LT’s playbook, it sure would be nice to have a power center stand to help avoid potential hernia situations.

Another head scratcher is the Gold Wing’s footpegs. While I understand that the engine’s wide protrusion prevents floorboards from being incorporated into the body, surely there’s a way to mount more accommodating footrests for the rider. After all, the passenger gets nifty, envy-inspiring flip-out footrests. When it comes to ridability, it’s hard to fault the GL’s six-cylinder engine—and while I’m not sure there’s much to criticize regarding the powertrain, I’m thinking there are loads of potential Gold Wing customers who would dig an automatic transmission. Maybe the double clutch unit from the new VFR1200F will be incorporated into the next GL, or even the so-called Human Friendly Transmission from the DN-01? I’m thinking out loud here, but an automatic gearbox for this interstate hopping flagship strikes me as a no-brainer.

Finally, on the subject of looks: the styling of the current Gold Wing strikes me as perfectly passable, but I wonder how the next iteration of this tourer can evolve into a truly lust-worthy design. You’ve certainly shown a flash of brilliance with the curvaceous, rivet-free VFR1200F, and I’m hoping the next Gold Wing is a strong counterargument to those who think big touring bikes are for old people.

So there you have it: why the Gold Wing is a standard-setting bike, and a few of the ways I think Honda can improve upon an already outstanding design. Perhaps the biggest praise I can bestow upon the ‘Wing is the fact that it was so difficult to return; my constantly revolving array of test bikes is eclectic and satisfying, but the Gold Wing remains one of my all-time favorites. And with that, I’ll go out on a limb and place a request for a future test: how about a long term loan of your next-gen Gold Wing? I don’t know if and when you’ll conjure up a redesigned ‘Wing, but I sure would like to see firsthand how you can elaborate on this already accomplished bike.