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2012 Honda Gold Wing Quick Ride

Thursday, April 28, 2011
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2012 Honda Gold Wing Quick Ride Video
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Watch the revised Gold Wing in action in the 2012 Honda Gold Wing Quick Ride video.

When Honda first released the Gold Wing for the 1975 model-year they didn't really know what it was. The bike didn't have a fairing at the time and the powers-that-be at the Japanese company didn't originally set out to produce what would become the world's all-time best-selling tourer some four decades later. But it didn't take long for consumers to start installing Vetter and various other aftermarket fairings, something Honda eventually took note of in 1984 by installing factory-option fairings and hardbags. It then focused the 'Wing directly at the mega-touring sector and never looked back.

Since the introduction of the GL1800 in 2001, Honda's flagship tourer has remained almost completely unchanged. That's why the update for 2012 comes with a great deal of anticipation from more than a few die-hard long-distance bikers worldwide. But with the first update in 11 years being little more than a mid-life modification, will it be too little too late to keep pace with the likes of the all-new BMW K1600s? We shot up to Calabasas, California to find out.

2012 Honda Gold Wing
The front fascia of the 2012 Honda Gold Wing has been updated for a sportier look. Big refelctor headlams cast a wide path of light for riders who travel by day or night.
The basic architecture of the GL1800 remains the same, the 1832cc horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine unchanged and the chassis, for the most part, following suit. The front fork gets an updated internal bushing (Honda wouldn't elaborate any more than this), designed to improve mid-corner handing and overall agility. Otherwise, the frame, suspension and brakes are identical to the previous model. The new machine does get Bridgestone tires designed specifically for the updated suspension, a change from the Dunlops previously shod on the Gold Wing. A look at the spec chart shows the front suspension travel going from 5.5 inches to 4.8 inches, but this was merely a typo with the old spec chart and it has been 4.8 inches since going to an 1800 in 2001.

So what else is changed? The most noticeable difference is the overall styling of the Gold Wing. The rear taillight is an all-new bar-style setup with integrated clear-lens blinkers on either side, while the side bags are more angular in shape and also hold seven-liters more storage despite looking visually smaller. The side fairings and front fascia are restyled to give a sportier look, while silver lowers provide a two-tone color layout, matched to either bright blue, maroon or black fairings for 2012. The revised lower fairing is also said to improve wind protection, keeping air from picking up under the rider's feet and legs.

2012 Honda Gold Wing
The updated rear bags on the 2012 Gold Wing hold seven liters more cargo than the previous version.
Other improvements come in the form of a new and easier-to-use navigation system on some of the higher-end models. The Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System now features a brighter color screen and allows riders the ability to program and share their favorite rides with others Gold Wing riders via an online database and a dual-SIM-card based system -- one card stays in the navigation system all the time and provides the basic information, and the other can be removed and plugged into any computer and information shared among other riders via the Internet.

The on-board sound system has been updated on all models with a more surround sound-like set-up, by virtue of the SRS CS Auto technology, and now accepts all MP3 players and allows full controllability through its handlebar-mounted switchgear. XM radio is still available as an option on the Navigation-equipped model. As a result of the changes the claimed weight of the Gold Wing increases slightly according to Honda, the previous model ranging from 895-928 pounds and the 2012 model spanning 904-933 pounds. Retail price also increases slightly, up $300 to $600 depending on the model, with the G-wing's MSRP now ranging from $23,199 to $28,499.


2012 Honda Gold Wing
Honda brought the previous version of the Gold Wing to test against the 2012 model. They're both good but the new bike feels better in a number of key areas.
For our press introduction of the new GL1800, Honda brought out the previous Gold Wing to tackle Southern California's coastal roads side-by-side with the updated 2012 version. After reading the updates above one could easily assume that the machine's mechanical abilities would remain widely the same, but the revamped fork and new tires make a more significant difference than the limited amount of changes would suggest. The bike steers quicker and turns in substantially easier, holding its line and not standing up mid-corner, something the previous model has a tendency to do when pushed close to its limits.

The redesigned lower fairing significantly reduces the amount of wind on the rider's legs and feet as Honda claims, especially as speeds increase.Wind protection is very good and the windscreen is manually adjustable. With six different settings and a four inch range of adjustability the Wing should accommodate taller riders pretty well. We just don't quite understand why it’s not an electronically adjustable feature like so many other manufacturers offer. This is Honda's premier touring machine so it seems like they would want to put their best foot forward and have all their bases covered.

Since changing to the 1832cc engine in 2001 the Honda has been propelled by a torque-laden and very easy-to-use powerplant. But where the new BMW K1600 GTL, a bike many will consider direct competition to the GL1800, gets advancements like traction control and Bluetooth connectivity, the new Goldwing can only boast an easier-to-read Navi screen and MP3 capabilities, something several BMWs have featured for a few years now. The Navi screen is far better than the previous model and the ability to connect and control an iPod via the handlebar switches is a nice feature, as is the updated surround-sound speaker system, which does a great job keeping the rider entertained on long rides. But on a touring machine with a price tag well over 20K, we would have liked Bluetooth capabilities.

We're a fan of the updated styling, especially the sleeker-looking rear bags that hold some seven liters more than the previous model, as well as the updated taillights and more stylish lines across the side of the motorcycle. This
2012 Honda Gold Wing
The 2012 Honda Gold Wing still handles like a sportbike with all the comforts of a luxury tourer.
modernizes the Gold Wing, if only slightly, enough to justify the $300 price increase on the base model. But with some of the competition releasing all-new models and Honda only giving the Wing a host of small changes, one wonders if the GL1800 is still a good value at its rather high retail prices? The top-of-the-line model roughly ticks the 30-grand mark once tax and title fees are added.

And while the 2012 Goldwing doesn't have all that much in the way of major changes, the easy counter-argument is that not much change was needed in the first place. When the GL1800 was released a decade ago it was revolutionary, combining a comfortable, long-distance machine with handling and acceleration attributes typically more akin to a sportbike than a traditional tourer. This combination changed the touring genre virtually overnight and as such has equated to a great number of Gold Wings being sold these past 11 years.

What the 2012 Goldwing accomplishes is further refining this concept with improved handling and higher-tech electronics, all for a very small price increase. So if you have been in the market for a 'Wing, you will definitely want to wait for the 2012 to come out later this month.

But the question still remains: has the competition caught up or even surpassed the almighty Gold Wing in the past decade? Sounds like a 2012 mega-tourer shootout is just what the doctor ordered...
2012 Honda Gold Wing Photos
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Technical Specifications
2012 Honda Gold Wing
2012 Honda Gold Wing
Engine: Four-stroke Horizontally Opposed Six-Cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 74mm x 71mm
Displacement: 1832cc
Compression Ratio: 9.8:1
Transmission: 5-speed with Overdrive, Plus Electric Reverse 
Drive: Shaft
Front Suspension: 45mm Cartridge Fork with Anti-dive System
Rear Suspension: Pro Arm Single-side Swingarm with Pro-Link Single Shock
Wheelbase: 66 inches
Front Tire: 130/70R-18
Rear Tire: 180/60R-16
Front Brakes: Dual Full-floating 296mm Discs w/3-Piston Calipers; Optional ABS
Rear Brake: Single Ventilated 316mm Disc w/ 3-Piston Caliper; optional ABS
Seat Height: 29.1 Inches
Fuel Capacity: 6.6 Gallons 

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MCUSA Bart   May 23, 2011 02:18 PM
Roadsmith. Honda provided a 2010 yellow model to compare the changes.
Wingrider820   May 22, 2011 08:44 PM
I have one of those ugly boat anchors, an 06 with more than 190,000 miles on it. Don't remember being passed by any of those garage ornaments or driveway queens you are talking about. Most of my miles are back and forth to work 107 miles each way. But I have traveled on a few trips with 1800s. On my 02 Texas to Wisconsin for wingding, took all day to get there. Texas to grand canyon, with wife and lots of gear. Bike also runs great in the Rockies and seems unaffected by altitude or unimproved fire roads. As to 5000 miles that is typically one months worth of mileage for me. I'll keep buying them as well as the extended warranty 7 years unlimited mileage, seems like the guys that build them know how long they will last.
Vf6cruiser   May 9, 2011 07:51 AM
Its a $30K icon. A known quantity, its either in your DNA or it isn't. I happen to think there are cheaper faster modes of travel, but we're all on a little different mission. Wings are the luxo Rv's of cycledom. You want to haul mama and all the stuff with you, not that there's anything wrong with that.
roadsmith   May 4, 2011 07:04 AM
Anybody notice he's driving a 2010 yellow? Just sayin' Kind of looses some credibility.
Terros   May 3, 2011 11:32 AM
I'm curious as to what the folks are riding who think the GoldWing is a boat anchor. Yes it a heavy bike, but it is still fairly agile for something so big.
If you want a sport bike buy a sport bike. It still irritates me to see magazine people who are known speed freaks and canyon carvers complaining about the handling of these large bikes. They handle great for what they are, mileage burners.
Best bike I had for canyons was an old K1000 BMW, that thing could go, but I wouldn't want to ride to the east coast on it.

The best bike in the world is the one you like and ride
Scoot   April 30, 2011 07:59 AM
I made the mistake of buying a 2006 Lead Wing. I put 5000 miles on it and got rid of it. The more I rode it the more I hated it. It is a ugly over weight boat anchor but it is still light years ahead of any Harley. The new tour bike is the BMW K1600GTL. Honda better get going or they will be like Harley and just keep bring out last years bike with a new paint job.
Mitch   April 29, 2011 09:59 AM
No doubt there will be many comparisons written between the Wing and BMW in the coming year or so but what I would really like to see is them put through the paces and tested long range with gear and passenger. Cross country would make for a great article/or daily blog but even a just weekend ride would be a good way to get a better feel for the pros & cons of each bike on the long haul.
bluemoco   April 28, 2011 02:42 PM
Top of the line Goldwing costs ~$3000 more than an all-new K1600GTL with the Premium Package. These two bikes are crying out for a shootout....
Brian426v   April 28, 2011 09:29 AM
Just like any Harley, it would probably make a great boat anchor.
wildpig   April 28, 2011 06:28 AM
when u gotta bike fuglier than a bmw-- u know u got one ugly muther...............
wildpig   April 28, 2011 06:13 AM
can it get any uglier?