Imagine being able to ride just one motorcycle for the rest of your life! If it isn’t already, the Honda Gold Wing should be atop your list. The Gold Wing offers the performance of a sportbike, the cross-country capabilities of a touring bike, and the everyday convenience of a car, for a price starting at $22,899 (‘10 model).
The Gold Wing has been a welcome addition to our long-term fleet. In the span of three months we’ve logged nearly 3000 miles on it throughout the American Southwest. As expected it devours mile upon mile of the interstate with a level of comfort and refinement that no motorcycle can match…yet. (We have a feeling that the new BMW K1600GT/GTL as seen in the BMW K1600GT Reveal at Jay Leno Garage could give it a run for its money. Look for Editorial Director Ken Hutchison’s First Ride report in the upcoming weeks.)
With features like a satellite navigation system it’s literally impossible to get lost. The $2500 option allows you to navigate with the push of a button to virtually any destination in the US. A bright and easy-to-read color screen provides visual route cues and appears almost identical to the displays employed in its steering wheel-equipped counterparts. Furthermore the rider can choose to have verbal directions voiced through optional headphones or its six-speaker audio system.
(Above) If there is only one motorcycle you can ride for the rest of your life the Honda Gold Wing should be atop your list. (Center) A sophisticated yet easy-to-use satellite navigation system ensures you’re never lost. However we wish you could modify the route or enter a new destination while in motion (must be at a standstill).
The interface is simple to use although we wish you could modify a route or enter a new destination while in motion (you have to be stopped). We also appreciate how quickly the GPS acquires a signal and calculates vehicle routing. Another big plus for audiophiles is XM radio functionality that allows you to listen to virtually any genre of music or talk radio. Real-time traffic updates and weather are included as well. The Gold Wing comes with a complimentary 90-day trial, but after that you’ll have to pay the XM subscription fee.
The sound quality emitted from the speakers even at max volume is outstanding as is the volume range that allows you to hear music clearly even when the engine’s singing at triple digit speeds. Additionally a genuine Honda six-disc CD changer can be mounted in the trunk as a $1000 accessory. A more affordable (and practical) option is to plug-in an iPod into the standard auxiliary jack located inside the left inner fairing pocket. Most of the audio controls can be manipulated via handlebar-mounted buttons with added functionality provided by a button pad to the left of the cockpit.
While the gigantic front fairing and side skirts do a fantastic job of shielding the pilot from the elements, the G-Wing also has a clever dashboard-mounted lever that when open diverts heated air through the sideways mounted radiators and into the cockpit. It is a tremendous convenience and when used in conjunction with the heated seat and hand grips makes riding in chilly weather far less traumatic.
Based on personal preference the height of the windscreen can be adjusted for more or less “wind in the hair” feeling. The height can be adjusted simply via a plastic lever. For extended freeway droning or in cooler weather we prefer to have the windscreen in the highest position. However on warm days we lower it. An adjustable vent in the center of the windscreen allows for additional airflow.
In terms of safety, the Gold Wing is the first motorcycle to offer the protection and peace of mind of an airbag. Designed to deploy in a severe front impact the $5100 option (also includes navigation and anti-lock brakes) uses twin sensors mounted on each fork leg to measure the rate of change of acceleration force. If a collision is detected the airbag deploys in less than a tenth of a second and reduces the speed at which the rider is thrown forward from the crash, thereby mitigating the chance of injury. Another nice safety feature is the ability to electronically raise and lower the pitch of the headlight beam based on road conditions. We prefer the headlight to be angled full-up as it maximizes the amount of light thrown on the road and with the high-beams engaged its astounding how far ahead you’re able to see even on pitch black nights.
The Honda Gold Wing is the first motorcycle to offer the safety and protection of an airbag in the event of a severe collision.
With navigation, a powerful stereo, electronic reverse and keyless trunk and saddlebag access it’s no surprise that all these bells and whistles put a big load on the electrical system. One evening I made the mistake of leaving the key in the accessory setting. When I came back the next morning the battery was completely drained. Fortunately accessing the battery is as simple as popping the hood on a car (pull off the left plastic side cover beneath the seat). I hooked it up to our trickle charger and a few hours later I was back in business. Stay tuned for the second part of our review in which we discuss the performance capabilities of the Gold Wing.