An adjustable windshield and large fairing make for a cocoon of comfort around the rider on the Honda Gold Wing. Comfort features such as heated grips and seat make the ride even more luxurious.
Our long-term Honda Gold Wing has been part of the MotoUSA fleet for just shy of five months and has been the steady go-to machine for just about any mission put before us. It has been used to blitz the vast expanses between America’s southwestern metropolises, cruises up and down the coast, and even as a grocery getter. More than once the black behemoth has been pulled out of the garage when the Southern California weather is on point and the traffic is just too much to deal with. With a carrying capacity that is on par with a compact car, the ‘Wing is the one bike you could live with as your sole means of transportation. Who needs a car when you’ve got a Gold Wing?
Having never ridden Honda’s flagship tourer before, the sheer amount of buttons and information is mind boggling at first. Everywhere you look there are buttons and dials and switches. Anxiety creeps in when looking for the cruise control button while trying to avoid the ejection seat or missiles away buttons. Okay, those buttons aren’t there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were. Any new Gold Wing owner should sit in the garage or drive way for a few hours to familiarize themselves with the layout of the flight deck. Once you know where all the buttons are everything works well, although the reach to some of the thumb activated controls are a stretch for some of our testers. Another gripe from both Hutch and I is the lack of illumination on the seat and grip heater dials. At night it is difficult to tell what position the warming goodness is set at.
With a large cargo capacity the Honda Gold Wing is well suited for long distance touring as well as running to the grocery store.
Ken went road warrior on the ‘Wing, riding from the Irvine offices to Phoenix and back in the space of two days. Not surprisingly this was the second jaunt for the Honda to Arizona, while none of the other steeds in the MotoUSA garage were even considered for such serious road duty. That in its self tells what all of us in the office know; there may not be another bike better for racking up the miles. Hutch applauded the smooth Flat-Six engine that purred down Interstate 10 with aplomb. The upright perch is comfortable for hours at a time, and the firm yet plush seat keeps your backside happy mile after mile.
I on the other hand enjoyed the suburban qualities of Honda’s luxury tourer on my stints in the saddle. Not having time in my schedule for a road trip, I made a handful of shorter cruises and trips on Big Black. I battled Los Angeles traffic, ran errands, and even took the wife out to dinner in San Diego. As impressive it is at long distance duty, it is just as strong at life in the urban sprawl. You’ll be happy to know a full set of motocross gear will fit easily in the top trunk and sidebags. The keyless locks are a cool touch, but you need to make sure the side cases are closed completely. If not shut correctly the side will not lock and can be opened by an opportunistic thief. Several times I had issues with the sidebags not closing as easily as they should. Even so, the Gold Wing is put together well, and with such a great package little trifles become bigger than they really are.
The silky smooth engine is a unanimous winner with the MotoUSA crew, but we all are surprised at the lack of refinement in the transmission. Shifts are clunky to put it politely, and hung shifts and missed gears are more frequent than we would expect from such a great motorcycle. We feel part of the problem lies in the long throw of the shifter. A shorter, more positive feeling shift lever feel would make a huge difference in the around the town performance of the Honda Gold Wing.
The sheer amount of buttons, dials and switches in the Gold Wings cockpit can be overwhelming at first glance.
Fuel mileage is not a strong suit of Big Black. The 1800cc puts out enough power to propel a nuclear submarine, but it is thirsty. Average fuel mileage hovered right around 28 mpg. This had Ken more than a little concerned as he blasted across the desert wasteland between San Diego and Phoenix. When it is time to refill the fuel cap gets a two-thumbs-down for everyone that visited the pumps. The cap does not stay attached to the tank and so you end up setting it on the seat or gas pump. Why doesn’t a motorcycle that costs as much as a family car have a decent gas cap?
Even with its flaws becoming more apparent as we spend more time with the Gold Wing, not one of us here would advise against the purchase of Swiss army knife of motorcycles. It does almost everything well, and some things excellent. It will be a sad day when Honda comes to take Big Black away.