An adjustable windshield provides ample protection from the wind and elements. In fact, the Wing’s massive shield worked so well that Korf had to pry open vents near the rider’s shins to generate air flow and combat the oppressive Nevada desert heat.
As our first day of riding continued on in the barren summer desert, the temperature cruised by triple digits and kept on soaring The six-position adjustable windshield offered plenty of hot-air protection, but we needed to get some air flowing so we opened up the vents located near a rider’s shins. At one point, the handy exterior temperature gauge read 120 degrees as we hurled toward the city of sin. Surprisingly, the Goldwing remained cool under the hot sun. I kept a wary eye on the engine temperature, but the Goldwing, it barely broke a sweat. I can’t say the same for Kari and I, as several breaks were required to cool off in the blistering Nevada sunshine. But just when we thought we were in for a long and hot ride, we caught a break. Sort of.
We got to within 20 miles of Vegas when all of the sudden a thunderstorm moved in and doused our two-wheeled convertible with a quick shower. It seemed as if God was working in concert with Duke Danger on this test, throwing just about every possible test and array of weather conditions our way, just to see if bike and rider could handle the situation. Under most circumstances I would’ve cursed the heavens and Duke Danger (been there, done that), but on this date it was sweet relief. That is, until ruptured semi-tire remains popped up in the middle of the road, which caused cars to stomp on the brakes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down to test bikes, but hurling through the desert with my girlfriend on the back and 40 pounds of luggage stuffed into a Goldwing is not the place I want to see if Honda‘s ABS Linked Braking System is all its cracked up to be. Lucky for me they are.
For hardened motojournalist such as myself, braking hard under most circumstances is not that big of a deal, but doing so on a freeway with a fresh rain is not as easy. Out of instinct I grabbed a fistful of front brake and tried to judiciously slow the rear. Lucky for me, the braking system did most of the work and quickly but sanely directed the three piston calipers up front to grab a hold of 296mm discs. Out back the three piston caliper brought the hulking 316mm single disc to a crawl. Surprisingly, the only hiccup during the rapid stop was when Kari gave me the head butt of a lifetime from the passenger seat. Good thing Shoei makes killer helmets, otherwise I would have been down for the count.
Whenever you need to make the brake lights flash really red, you can rest assured that the Goldwing’s ABS binders will slow you down in a well-ordered manner, as our tester found out on a wet Nevada freeway.
Just 275 miles into my trip and I had already experienced extreme weather and a hair-raising moment, so I was starting to question whether riding across the desert to a wedding was a good idea. However, my concern quickly turned to joy as we found the exit for Las Vegas Boulevard. And then my joy quickly turned to humiliation as I blew all my money just a few hours later. I’d love to write a little blurb about how wild our night in Vegas was and what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I’ll be real honest: I got really drunk and blew a couple hundo with my lady.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share a rare Vegas moment of triumph which occurred during the waning moments of our night. Late in the evening (real late) we found ourselves in an arcade in front of a crane machine (you know, plush toys and other assorted prizes you never know what to do with, even if you win?). Except this time, the crane machine was full of huge plush toys. I wasn’t about to throw my remaining $5 away for a chance at a plush wizard hat, but Kari noticed in the corner a 4-foot Homer Simpson plush toy.
Being huge Simpsons fans, my inebriated state enabled me to completely forget the fact that we were riding a motorcycle with zero cargo capacity and quickly I fished a five-dollar bill out of my pocket. Somehow in the time it took for the bill to travel from my pocket to the bill acceptor, a small crowd of six people had gathered around us. Turns out we weren’t the only drunk people in Vegas who lost all their money and resorted to this pathetic moment for entertainment. With a group watching me I somehow managed to finagle those weak talons around Homer’s neck, the crane rose and started to carry him toward the escape hatch. Midway he slipped ever so slightly, but the talon caught on his eye and he continued to travel until the claw released. Low and behold, we had ourselves a 4-foot Homer doll. It wasn’t as cool the next morning, but Kari was in love with Homer and we rode three miles (yes, the three of us: me, then Homer, then Kari) to a FedEx – Kinkos where Homer was shipped in a box back up to our home in Oregon. Yes, we are insane.
Day 2 turned out to be mellower than the first and we settled in for a long ride, peppered with infrequent stops to the gas station. For the most part, I kept the Wing at about 80-85 for the duration of the trip and managed to achieve 30 mpg out of the 6.6 gallon tank. Distance between fill ups were so infrequent, we found ourselves stopping for a rest and just topping off the tank.
It was on this day that I finally understood the psychology of touring. Eating up the miles isn’t just about the journey; it’s about what the travels offer in a spiritual sense. As if offering me a respite from my testing duties the day before, Duke and God delivered one of the most memorable and transcendent days of riding of my life. The early portion of the day was warm as only Nevada can be. However, it seemed like the moment we crossed the border from Nevada to Utah and climbed in elevation towards St. George, the landscape turned green and the outside temperature dropped to a pleasant 80 degrees.
Our remote location made for few radio stations. The sound of the Wing and wind became the soundtrack to life for a few hours. My mind cleared and for the first time in a very long time, I consciously realized that I wasn’t testing a bike, but rather experiencing a tour across the Western United States on a Honda Goldwing. The amenities of the Wing, its abilities on the road, the radio, the cargo space – none of that really mattered to me. Ultimately, I think that is a testament to Honda and its ability to build a touring motorcycle which offers enough peace of mind that rider and passenger need to do little more than enjoy those all too rare moments in time where the ride is only about the ride.
The ’05 Wing was capable of a number of feats, with Duke here demonstrating its ability to drag sparks. Perhaps most amazing was Korf’s Vegas feat of two passengers: his girlfriend and Homer Simpson.
While the early portion of our journey across the desert and into Utah was eventful, the rest of the trip was quite the opposite. I lost myself in thoughts of the future juxtaposed against memories of the past. At times, it almost felt as though I was caught up in a Jack Kerouac novel hurling down the road with a couple of bucks in my pocket and nothing to do but chase the fading sun. The memories from my trip to SLC and back are not of the machine carrying my lady and me, but rather they are of small-town diners, lonely gas stations, and tourist-trap ghost towns that charge nine bucks to view gray, weathered wood and rusty iron. We still talk about that trip and bitch about the heat, laugh about Homer, and count the days till we can go back to Vegas and flirt with lady luck.
It was a great trip, one that I swore I would never do again. However, there is a part of me that wants to do it again, but this time go bigger and longer. Will it be the same, and can I achieve the same blissful state? Will I experience the same things the next time around? I’d like to find out, and as much as Kari and swore we’d never do it a second time, we both admit there is a romantic allure to ticking off the yellow lines by the thousands. For those in the market for something to tour long distances on, it would difficult for me to recommend anything other than the machine that set the standard. Saddle up, buttery sunsets await.
Since Il Korfagio was getting on all Kerouac on us and ignoring my test notes, here’s my short take on the touring icon. Info about the 2006 edition follows. -Ed
Duke had a couple gripes with the Goldwing, the most notable of which were the wide seat and lack of ventilation, but found the Wing to be a nimble performer given its size and weight.
Duke’s Honda Goldwing Notes
Seat is too wide for my legs/hips at a stop.
Wide seats makes it difficult to throw a leg over.
Vent in windshield is a godsend on hot days, but more ventilation would be an improvement.
Buffeting from windshield in low position.
Wind back-blast pushes a rider forward at speed.
Throttle can be abrupt if not careful.
Wonderful Porsche-like exhaust note.
Low first gear, with a large gap to second.
Max acceleration occurs when shifting at 6500 rpm.
Steers quicker than you might imagine, and does so with surprising precision and no wallowing.
Astonishing how composed a bike this big is over bumps and undulations on secondary roads.
Suspension is not super plush, but it does an admirable job of controlling 900 lbs of vehicle/rider.
Lots of steering lock for tight maneuvers.
Minimal fork dive with linked brakes.
Bag latches are not very beefy.
Wide, flat rubber-covered pegs are comfy.
Stereo without optional rear speakers sounds a bit tinny.
Brakes work quite well – strong.
The Goldwing received a few updates for 2006. The most attention-grabbing was, of course, the optional airbag, but further changes to the Wing included clear turnsignal and running-light lenses and new taillight for added visibility. Its ACG (generator) output has been increased to a whopping 1300 watts for added electrical power, and it gets new fluid-damping for quieter operation. The White, Titanium and Black color options are joined by a new Dark Red and a Gold version, retailing for $18,999. Adding in all its options (new navigation system, ABS, heated seats and grips, an uprated stereo) brings the MSRP up to $22,499.
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