The Honda Gold Wing has always been a popular motorcycle here in the USA offices. We’ve ridden them all over the country, but these big touring bikes had fallen off the radar for a few years. That all changed when Honda revealed a new and improved 2012 Gold Wing. We had our first taste of the bike during a brief day ride in Southern California a few months back but the folks from American Honda were keen to remind us just how great their luxury touring motorcycle is by dragging us to the east coast for a long, grueling ride through the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Their plan was simple: Send us on an epic three-day motorcycle tour with a few unique twists and turns that transformed a routine press event into the ultimate Honda Gold Wing adventure. We would fly to Orlando, take a train to Virginia then ride the Blue Ridge Parkway to Tennessee… two-up. Rather than randomly assigning us a Castrol Honda umbrella girl, we were allowed to bring our significant other’s along for this journey so my long-time girlfriend Laura was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join me. Our Goldwing Adventure would incorporate all forms of transportation including planes, trains, boats and of course, motorcycles so it was sure to be a memorable mission.
We arrived in Orlando on a Sunday evening for the start of our Gold Wing adventure. Our night consisted of libations at the Waldorf Astoria and getting familiarized with the host of high-tech accessories the Wing is now equipped with during a tech briefing: A state of the art electronics package that includes a new Satellite-Linked Navigation System (Navi) which is fully compatible with the recently-unveiled Honda Trip Planner (available on the official Honda website) an MP3/Satellite Radio/iPod compatible stereo and the requisite electronically-adjustable preload suspension topped the list. It could have easily slipped past anyone who wasn’t paying attention, but the Honda Trip Planner is a big part of the Gold Wing navigation system and destined to play a role in the social media aspects of the Gold Wing Riders Association and other Honda clubs. The HTP allows riders to transfer maps and route data from the Wing’s GPS via a USB storage device, making it easy to share their rides with other Wingers.
Our adventure started in Orlando (Left) but we soon made our way to the Amtrak station for the start of an overnight journey to Virginia. There was food, fun and plenty of bench racing on the tracks (Center). We unloaded our fleet of 2012 Honda Goldwings off the train next morning and made our way east for an afternoon of fun in the liquid sunshine to Ronoake.
Armed with a deeper understanding of the Gold Wing we proceeded to imbibe and soak in the splendor of the Waldorf. The next morning we embarked on an overnight Amtrak Auto Train from Florida to Virginia. Since this was the first overnight train-ride for many of us it was a novel way for the Gold Wing Adventure participants to get to know each other better and add a very cool element to the trip. We all enjoyed the fine dining and had some serious fun in the bar-car until the wee-hours of the morning. We awoke in Virginia after a restless night’s sleep in our motorhome-like cabins and that’s where the riding adventure would begin.
Over a dozen 2012 Gold Wings were unloaded from the storage cars and an assortment of editors, wives and significant others geared up for a long day in the saddle. Thunder clouds loomed on the horizon as throngs of oldsters did their best to freak us all out as the struggled to locate the parking lot exit through a labyrinth of bikes, riders and support crew. It was comical if not a bit scary.
We were lucky to get out of the parking lot alive on our fully-accessorized Candy Red and Silver Gold Wing. The Navi system also has an overview of the weather in the bottom left hand corner of the monitor – a Doppler-like map that shows green where the rain is and red where the bad weather is. We were riding through a red cloud, fitting since we were on a Honda, but bad news since things were about to get a little moist. Without a doubt we were on the most-
The 2012 Honda Goldwing is a motorcycle which provides a combination of two-up comfort and performance that has made it the bike of choice for thousands of riders everywhere.
accessorized flagship bike in our fleet but none of that would matter in a few minutes. The chrome crash bars, kick-stand and fender trim wouldn’t protect us from the precipitation but I wish it would have. The distant thunder we heard earlier was followed by lightning and torrential rains of biblical proportions that descended upon us within an hour’s ride from the station.
Virginia may be for lovers but there wasn’t much love from Mother Nature for us on the first day. While the Gold Wing offers-up great wind protection it simply could not shield us from the wall of water falling from the sky. And we couldn’t exactly turn tail and run either since we were committed to making it to our destination before dark, so we soldiered on. We were soaked, sitting in pools of warm water and riding by braille since you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front you. It’s nothing new in this line of work but I took a small bit of pleasure knowing that everyone with a passenger was getting the full press-intro experience on this day.
The rain only lasted for an hour or two so it gave everyone a chance to test the waterproof claims of their riding gear. By the time we trickled into the parking lot of the historic Hotel Roanoke around dusk everyone in the group were still a little wet and weary. It wasn’t anything that a long hot shower couldn’t cure. Had we been hard-core Wingers we would have been setting up a tent at the KOA.
We rolled out of bed early the next day and saw that weather was still going to be a factor. This time our rain gear was on from the get-go as we made the long highway drone to Asheville. Though we were riding on some long stretches of super slab the highways between Virginia and North Carolina are so curvy that it wasn’t a total bore. The scenery is amazing and the wet season had all the foliage vibrant and green. It’s beautiful out on the east coast in spring. As far as our Gold Wing was concerned, the seat and pillion perch are more comfortable than any other motorcycle on the road and it is sweet to have tunes at your disposal when you’re riding. There’s a good reason you see thousands of two-up Gold Wing riders touring the America’s back roads: Because these bikes rock.
(Left) Jamie was assigned Charlie as he personal umbrella boy. Times, they are a changing. As you can see the rain didn’t dampen our spirits. (Middle) Laura never complained or whined about the rain. Good thing she didn’t know I could barely see through the deluge! We arrived at the historic Hotel Roanoke just in time. I don’t mind riding in the rain but the lightning was scary.
Let’s talk about the sound system and other gadgets some more. We had the tunes blaring and Navi on mute as we logged the miles on our second day. The highway afforded the opportunity to get acquainted with the myriad of gizmos and amenities the 2012 Gold Wing offers. You can sift through satellite radio, pull-up tunes from your iPod or chat on the communication system. Heck, there’s a CB too so we had a fun time staying in contact with the rest of the riders for a while. Eventually, I can’t help but shut down the extra noise though. There’s a tranquility that comes from riding that I think I enjoy more than the Steve Miller Band.
Unlike some OEM motorcycle navigation systems, riders cannot adjust the Goldwing’s Navi system on the fly. It must be turned on and a destination chosen prior to getting underway. The folks at Honda are staunch believer in rider safety, so you have to pay attention to the road instead of fiddling with the GPS. With our 3D Navi map scrolling along and a few select tunes to keep us company we made up for lost opportunities to soak in the surroundings from day one. The Smoky Mountains by motorcycle is the only way to go.
The Biltmore Mansion is even more extravagant than it looks. It’s big, ostentatious and has a lot of rooms. The same can be said of Honda’s Goldwing. I couldn’t resist that one.
We arrived at the posh confines of the Biltmore Estate in Ashville in a procession of glistening chrome, shiny paint and the din of tunes emanating from our bikes. The second day of the Gold Wing Adventure ride revealed that the motorcycles are not only comfortable for the rider but very accommodating to a passenger over the long haul. The passenger seat on our bike included the optional arm-rests which Laura found to be a nice addition. There are cubby holes along the side so she could stash snacks, extra gloves, sunglasses or her cell-phone for easy access. It would be catastrophic if you dropped something while underway but she never did. The separate seat-heater is a nice touch too but it all came back to general passenger comfort. My girl liked it and the rest of the pillions seemed to have nothing but good things to say as well. Honda wanted to get feedback on two-up comfort so they had to be pleased.
That evening we celebrated our rain-free run with champagne on the viewing deck atop the 175,000 square foot Biltmore Mansion, overlooking the surrounding 150,000-acre spread. The Vanderbilt family has a significant influence on this part of the state as our guided history tour revealed and they are still luring in tourists who want to see what ostentatious looks like, first hand. I couldn’t help but think how much of a pain it would be to have 43 bathrooms to maintain, though you would be all but assured of some private time. Too bad we weren’t allowed to use any of them after the champagne tasting. Well, at least we got to check out the facilities in the stables, which were more lavish than most houses I’ve been in. There’s one thing for sure that Honda and the Vanderbilt’s have in common: They both like to go big.
The final leg of our Gold Wing Adventure ride would take us along the Blue Ridge Parkway and onto the infamous section of road known as Deals Gap. This winding tarmac is also known as The Tail of the Dragon because there are no less than 318 turns along an 11-mile stretch. At the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort we tried to blend in among the hundreds of other motorcycle enthusiasts who were out for a ride on a sunny afternoon. That meant the road was fairly clear and devoid of cages so we would have our run of the place.
The 2012 Goldwing symbolizes all that we like about Honda motorcycles. The bike is smooth and has amazing fit & finish. The layout is well thought out and there are not many compromises when it comes to rider comfort. Long distance travelling is its forte.
After stuffing our face with one of the best burgers ever grilled, we tackled the Tail of Dragon aboard our war horse-esque Gold Wing. The perfectly smooth tarmac twists, winds and undulates through miles of mountain pass. It was a surprise how well behaved the Wing is in these conditions. Fully loaded with two riders the Honda carved up the corners in a way that truly belies its actual size. There are descents and climbs along the way which showed how well the brakes performed under tight, heavy load conditions while the climbs revealed the smooth low-end power delivery of the Opposed Six engine. We made good time and had a lot of fun flopping the big ballerina from side to side. Sure, we scraped some floorboards and wouldn’t be able to hang with a CBR600RR rider for very long if it wanted to ditch us, but we had a lot of fun nonetheless. This truly is an epic ride and one that every motorcycle rider should make a pilgrimage to at least once. It was our first time at Deals Gap and when it was all said and done, we were both glad we came.
The 2012 Honda Goldwing is more than the sum of it’s parts: Advanced electronics, stereo, better suspension and a lot of all around comfort for both the rider & passenger. Nuff said.
Our Gold Wing Adventure wrapped up at the Crowne Plaza in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was an impressive journey that ended with one of the most epic rides on the east coast. That’s one more-check off the old bucket list and one more reason to be thankful for motorcycle friendly places like Deals Gap and the amazing byways of Virginia, Carolina and Tennessee.
Honda wanted us to experience the Gold Wing way on this trip. They arranged for incredible stay-overs, mapped out amazing rides and even used the Honda weather-changing satellite to deluge us and keep us humble in the early going. As a rider and passenger tandem we came away from the experience believing that the Gold Wing is alive and well and better than ever. This motorcycle was created for people who love to travel on two wheels and it shows in every aspect from the huge luggage capacity, to rider-friendly ergonomics all the way down to the industry-exclusive reverse function. When it comes to logging long miles in the seat of the original luxury touring bike, the Gold Wing continues to be the gold standard.