It's been several months since our beloved Korfie left the MCUSA stable for greener pastures at Cal Poly - San Louis Obispo in pursuit of an MBA. Cramming two years of work into one left him with precious little time (or so he says.) for finishing up the final bike test of his tenure. Now, finally, he lets loose with what is as much an inspirational road trip tale as a test of the venerable Goldwing. We miss you, buddy.
Moments of inspiration and personal growth are few and far between for most people. Trying to remain whole in the daily grind is difficult at best, and it's rare that we experience moments of mental clarity.
I've learned what activities seem to inspire me, and most of the time I've managed to make them habits. Riding is just one of a few things that I can do to clear my head and live in the moment. Yet, as a motojournalist I have found that riding, one of the few things that sets me free, occasionally feels like a job. Some people may scoff at that idea, but trust me, every glorious job has its share of ditch-digging moments (no offense to ditch diggers).
Usually testing involves paying close attention to every aspect of the bike and looking for input from the machine, finding what bothers me as a rider, and exactly how well it stacks up against other bikes in a similar category. In short, I'm not concentrating on the ride but the bike, and therein lay the difference between how you and I probably ride.
Duke (seen above hard at work) delivered Korf a 2005 30th-anniversary-edition Honda Goldwing for Il Korfagio's 1406-mile expedition out to Salt Lake City and back.
Every once in a while, though, I'm able to get out on the road and forget about cranking out bike tests, logging race reports, and attending to the daily duties of a motojournalist. It's only happened a couple of times this year, but recently I managed extended ride time that was pure unadulterated bliss.
A trip out to Salt Lake City was in the future and I needed to start planning a trip. Truth be told, flying would be the easiest way to go; it's just a three-hour flight. But the thought of getting on a plane excites me about as much as a high colonic in Tijuana. Driving was a possibility, but 12 hours in a car is too easy. I haven't done any touring in quite some so I started bugging our editor, Kevin Duke, to get me the luxo-liner of touring machines to help me traverse 1,406 miles of asphalt through the high desert in the middle of summer. It sounded like a good idea at the time.
Duke came through like a champ (he always does), and the day before my trip I picked up the big daddy, a 2005 30th-anniversary-edition Honda Goldwing from the Red Wing headquarters down in Torrance, CA. A trip of this distance requires the very best, and few bikes offer the kind of amenities and comfort as the flagship for Honda's touring line of bikes.
Honda celebrated 30 years of extended open-road travels in 2005. A quick look back at the machine that started it all reveals little similarities save for the traditional nameplate. Glancing at a vintage photo of the Honda's first tourer (which happens to be the same year I was born. Coincidence? Yes.), the flat-Four 999cc machine boasted a few cutting-edge technologies like a liquid-cooled engine, fuel pump,12-volt electrical system, and shaft drive.
The bling comes standard on the Honda luxury-liner, but what do you expect from a bike with 'gold' in its name? The stalwart '05 Honda still sports much of the same components from its last major redesign in 2001.
Today, the Goldwing continues to employ the shaft drive, but Honda has upped the ante with luxury, convenience, and enough storage space to house a growing LDS family. The Wing still boasts many of the specs that first appeared back in 2001, the last time the Goldwing
was truly redesigned (which was actually the first redesign in 13 years). The 30th-anniversary version of the Goldwing has a flashy badge which proudly exhibits the anniversary of its birth.
Truth be told, I had never ridden a Wing prior to my scheduled pick-up at Honda. When the shop team rolled the bike out I took a quick walk around the bike to familiarize myself with the components, but also to try and decipher the Starship Enterprise-inspired cockpit. At first glance there are more buttons, levers, and pulleys on the Wing than all the bikes I have ever ridden combined (a little hyperbole never hurt anyone). However, once I kicked a leg over the saddle and sat in riding position, Honda's attention to rider needs came to light.
In the sitting position, the necessary riding controls (signal, horn, and ignition) are easily accessible. The rest of the goodies are virtually out of sight, and the LCD info screen and the stereo speakers are the only relevant information available to the eye. For those that have plenty of time on the Wing and are accustomed to the layout, the extras are accessible with the flick of a finger. The radio/CD player, CB, and intercom can all be controlled without removing one's hands from the bars.
The amount of buttons and gadgets on the Goldwing can be overwhelming at first, but with a little patience Korf was able to activate the left turn signal without cranking up the volume to 11 on his treasured Best of Broadway Showtunes CD.
Finding the turnsignal buttons and horn takes a little practice to achieve the proper muscle memory, so one isn't accidentally turning the volume on the radio up and down. After a few minutes of going over the instrument cluster I felt ready to gear up and take the Wing for my maiden voyage.
Thumbing the starter brings the six-cylinder 1832cc engine to life. At idle the engine sounds more suited to four-wheels than two, which was a nice surprise. The last thing I want to hear for 1,432 miles is engine noise. Besides, a trip of this magnitude requires a little J.B. Hutto, and I wasn't about to miss that because of straight pipes.
Finding the friction zone, easing out the clutch and twisting the throttle was a snap. The one place I felt most nervous about maneuvering the Wing was parking lots. I mean, how could a Wing newbie not be a little nervous about moving a motorcycle with a reverse gear? I was hoping to avoid the front wheel swivel and instead look like a motojournalist as much as possible. To my surprise, the Wing was surprisingly nimble at low speeds, and rolling through the Honda parking lot was quite easy, despite its porky claimed dry weight of 799 pounds.
As I made my way to the freeway, I had a chance to do some city stop-and-go riding and I found the Goldwing
to be very comfortable. Hands rested comfortably on the bars and feet rest in a comfortable position with plenty of wind protection. The reach to the ground was easy for my 6'0" frame, and it could also accommodate riders much shorter than me. The seat is firm but forgiving, just about perfect for a long ride across the desert. The upright posture made for excellent visibility and, moreover, made leaning through turns a breeze. I easily navigated the freeway and dashed in and out of traffic and between cars with ease. The handling was very predictable and offered few surprises.
The Goldwing's upright riding position was both comfortable and effective for low- and high-speed maneuvering. The 1832cc engine contributed to the comfort factor by the absence of obnoxious noise.
The little bit of riding from Torrance to the MCUSA Orange Country office gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet with the Wing, but the most important touring test of them all awaited; the cargo-capacity test. I have a girlfriend with a propensity to over-pack and I knew that the Wing wouldn't be able to hold it all. Hell, a C-5 Galaxy couldn't hold all of Kari's things, so I knew the Honda hard bags would be put to the test.
Sure enough, Kari arrived with more than I ever thought would fit into Goldwing cargo space. We packed one laptop, enough clothes for two for a week on the road, and all told we figured we loaded about 40 pounds worth of luggage into the Wing. Thankfully, the bags came with locks, so the possibilities of luggage popping open and spewing clothes across I-15 were remote but still a possibility.
Once the luggage was loaded and the girl was on back, the Goldwing
carried us through the concrete veins of SoCal and onto Interstate 15 where we set out for our first stop, Las Vegas. The addition of one girlfriend and her bags definitely altered the handling of the Goldwing. It became a little more sluggish to lean over and get back upright but not unpredictably. Cornering took a little more muscle, but nothing that would be considered out of the ordinary when you pack on extra weight. Honda did an admirable job of keeping the weight low in the chassis. When ridden without luggage and a passenger, the Wing is rather nimble for a big tourer. Even with the addition of luggage and a person on the back, its weight feels even from top to bottom, and even extreme lean angles feel predictable.
Up front a stout 45mm cartridge fork delivers 4.1 inches of travel, smoothing out bumps and dips in the road. Out back a beefy cast aluminum Pro Arm single-sided swingarm keeps the rear wheel planted (as if the luggage and Kari weren't sufficiently doing the job). Shock preload is adjustable depending on weight and riding conditions. A computer controlled preload adjustment button allows the rider to dial in the perfect settings with the flick of a finger.
If you are unable to stuff all the gear you need for a week-long trip into the Goldwing's ginormous luggage, chances are pretty good you need someone to sign you up for one of those cable TV shows were they take all the junk out of your house and make you sell it.
While the Wing is surprisingly spry through twisties, the real highlight is the power of the 1832cc horizontally-opposed Six. I was lucky enough to experience Honda's six-cylinder powerplant a few months earlier in the Honda Rune. In the past I may have been guilty of making a few jokes at the expense of Valkyrie owners and their zealotry. However, after experiencing the source of their adamant love, I must admit they are likely justified in their affection of Honda's unique power configuration.
On the Wing, I noted that despite two people in the saddle and 40 pounds of luggage, it had little trouble turning the landscape a blur. Honda claims 118 base horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, and it does so with ultra-smooth delivery. As a testament to Honda's ability to dole out the ponies with a spoonful of sugar, Kari who is definitely not a fan of triple-digit speeds, failed to clutch, grab, punch, or whack me during some impromptu roll-on drags with my shadow. Were it not for the increased wind blast, I doubt she would've have stopped singing along with the radio to see how fast we were going (it was over the speed limit, that's all I'll say).
During our performance testing, the Wing blazed to 60 mph in a quick 4.13 seconds. It hit 100 mph in 11.32 seconds and tripped through the quarter-mile in 12.40 at 109.4 mph.)
The 'Wing's throttle response is phenomenal, and nearly every time I needed to pass lumbering cagers, I simply whacked the throttle open without downshifting and the Wing responded with aplomb.
Taking advantage of the meaty powerplant is eased with a buttery smooth five-speed transmission. Clutchless shifts were as effective and easy as without, and there was nary a hiccup through the entire trip. In fact, it was typical Honda smoothness that performed beautifully throughout the duration of the trip.