The Honda Gold Wing Tour: Unparalleled luxury, and more fun than you might think
Chris is a freelance journalist who has been riding bikes and writing about them for over 30 years.
On many bikes, a 400-mile motorway run to Assen in Holland could feel lengthy and tedious. On Honda’s Gold Wing Tour, it’s unparalleled luxury and fun all the way.
Very few bikes can offer anything like the Wing’s lavish level of comfort and involvement. Think of just how relaxed you feel in your own front room – that’s just how calm and contented life is aboard the sumptuous Honda.
Setting off for the famous Assen circuit – from an equally iconic Brands Hatch – didn’t happen as early as desired. I had fancied getting to the Dutch track, where I’d take in some British Superbike racing, at a civilised hour. Sadly, work commitments meant the riding didn’t finish until very late.
Even so, as a mark of how easy the journeying had been, when I did arrive at the hotel I felt I could’ve happily continued for a few more hours. I might have done around 400 miles, but my physical condition suggested I’d covered just half that. Getting tired on a Wing takes a long, long time. But there’s a lot more than just staving off fatigue that makes big-mile trips to seem so fulfilling.
As relaxed and unstrained as your body is, your mind constantly feels entertained and stimulated by the Honda.
Quite apart from the surreal, grin-inducing and completely alternative way the Gold Wing makes progress, there’s so much to be occupied with, boredom rarely gets the chance to surface.
You only have to look at the multitude of buttons and switches to see how engaging this bike can be. It’s a technical tour de force, and if you quickly need to alter stuff like power modes, traction control, suspension action and level of ABS intrusion, it’s only a thumb movement away. Raising and lowering the electric screen can be done just as simply, as can moving from The Archers to a bit of Zeppelin on the excellent sound system.
Whatever your decisions, they’ll be clearly displayed on the 7” colour TFT dash, as will your chosen route on the sat nav if you’ve selected the digital assistance.
The Wing I rode is the top spec Tour version with DCT, (Dual Clutch Transmission) air bag, heated seats and grips, cruise control, and central locking. If you fancy one, it’ll set you back a whopping £30,699, which is a very big number for a bike. Yet when you’re whizzing along as serenely as you do, you tend to think it’s a fair price to pay for the truly grand style of travel it provides.
Is it worth it?
There’s a hell of a lot to comment on, as the Honda is such a unique, massively equipped bike. Though strangely, it’s the Wing’s manageability that deserves an early mention. For something so utterly huge and weighty, the 1800 has no right to feel as sorted as it actually does.
On paper it should feel like a behemoth, ponderous pig of a bike. The fact is, the flagship tourer is unbelievably controllable. Once up to walking pace and beyond, the bike rides in a remarkably balanced manner and is surprisingly easy to cope with. It’s really tricky to appreciate until you sample it.
The wonder of it all continues as bigger figures are registered on the speedo. Always super stable, the chassis copes remarkably well with whatever you ask of it. The route to Holland may well be primarily straight, but any corners along the way can be taken very confidently. And that applies even when you’re riding quite spiritedly.
OK, you need to ride with plenty of anticipation; bikes like this cannot react like sportsbikes. But with its accurate agile steering, impressively powerful linked brakes, and beautifully composed compliant suspension, the Honda can be happily hurried along far quicker than you’d expect.
The semi-automatic 7-speed DCT gearbox gives seamless changes to maintain the poise, and even on the slippery rain-sodden roads we faced on the way home, the Wing wasn’t the handful it perhaps ought to be. Brilliant weather protection, massive luggage capacity, and a very useful 225-275mile tank range all help to despatch trips in rapid, almost uneventful fashion. Covering ground is what the Gold Wing’s all about and what it’s so brilliantly adept at.
Big praise must also go to the Honda’s superb flat-six engine. It’s turbine smooth and were it not for the gorgeous exhaust note, could easily be mistaken for an electric unit. It packs plenty of power and torque, and though the Wing’s weight gives it more to do, still accelerates the bike commendably strongly. I was never short of praise for the effortless, linear way it goes about delivering its speed. It’s an epic, highly refined powerplant which makes many others feel crude by comparison.
Of course the Wing gets enormous attention wherever you take it. Everyone seems to want to give it a once over. If you park up anywhere near people, be prepared to be interviewed at length. It’s easy to understand the attraction and curiosity. The Honda has a massive eye-catching presence making it almost impossible to ignore.
Parked in the Assen paddock it was continually gawped at and prodded. You simply don’t get to see bikes like the limo-sized Gold Wing every day. If I’m honest I would have loved to have done some laps on it. That might sound like a daft idea, but once you ride a Wing you soon realise that isn’t such a wild plan. It really is a thoroughly sorted and thoughtfully designed machine, asking it to do things well outside its perceived design parameters isn’t so outrageous.
Attention to detail
Just as impressive is the attention to detail the engineers have paid to make the Wing more realistic and practical at very slow speeds. It might not be first choice for something like a city commute. But details like the reverse gear and crawler mode, to move it backward and forward electrically and clutchlessly, and hill start assist system, are very much appreciated on occasions when tighter situations could become very tricky.
Without those features, at times I reckon you could struggle to manoeuvre the bike or even risk landing on your ear. And you’re definitely not picking this bike up in a hurry!
With some very good superbike racing enjoyed at Assen, the return trip home turned out to be just as easy-going as the outbound one.
An evening’s ride to Bruges might have been more pleasant with more sunlight and less rain, but just as it does most of the time, the Honda coped admirably and just got on with the job.
A quick exploration of the very appealing historic city’s streets the following morning didn’t faze the Wing much either.
OK, it’s a bit on the large side to feel comfortable filtering through traffic, but it can still make more progress than a car. Just as anticipated though, the run to the Channel Tunnel and beyond was despatched with such total ease, by the time I got home 300 miles later, I was in no position to boast of any level of achievement.
Going far on a Wing couldn't be any more luxurious and indulgent. It might not be a bike to suit every occasion and the price of travel certainly doesn’t come cheap at over £30k. But if you ever get the chance to give one a try, then seize the moment. There is simply nothing quite like a Gold Wing or the experience that comes with it.
BOX OUT, STANDARD GOLD WING
During the Dutch trip I also got the chance to try my riding mate’s standard Gold Wing. Without the top box and back rest, equipped with a shorter screen, and weighing in at a notable 18 kilos less, this lower-spec option feels quite a bit sportier.
The Tour model’s agility is already impressive for a bike of this type, but you really do notice how much easier the standard bike is to chuck about. You’d no doubt appreciate how much lighter on the wallet the £8400 cheaper version is too. That saving would pay for quite a few trips on the £22,299 Wing.
The difference would be smaller if it was a DCT version, and I have to say I missed the clever labour-saving gear changing system, just as I did the extra wind protection of the taller screened Tour model I rode.
Specs 2019 GL1800 Gold Wing Tour
Engine 1833cc sohc, flat six, 24v per cyl, l/c
Power 125bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 125lb.ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission 7-speed DCT, shaft
Chassis cast aluminium twin spar
Front suspension double wishbone, electronically adjustable
Rear suspension monoshock, electronically adjustable
Front brakes 320mm discs, 6-piston radial ABS calipers
Rear brake 316mm disc, 3-piston ABS caliper
Front tyre 130/70-18
Rear tyre 200/55-16
Seat height 745mm
Kerb weight 383kg
Fuel capacity 21.1litres
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