I didn’t get much riding time on Honda’s 2015 40th Anniversary GL1800. We will be seeing more on it from our magazine. Editor Don Williams took the bike from me to do a photo shoot after I’d ridden it for only 100 miles. That’s not enough time for a worthy review so I thought I would offer some insights as a long time Gold Wing lover, rider and owner of several, including a custom 1981 GL1100 bagger that’s in my garage.
For that 100 miles I luxuriated in the ride and experienced a few wonderful and nostalgic flashbacks of the 40 years of Gold Wings that I have sampled. That’s because there is still a chromosomal link connecting the 1975 model to the 2015 version and every one in between.Forty-years later and they still have a similar purpose, an opposed-cylinder engine design and a 5-speed transmission with no gear indicator. Shifting remains slightly notchy and, like earlier models, benefits from pre-loading the shift lever slightly before pulling it up.The faux fuel tank remains with the real tank under the seat and the list of amenities available today has escalated from a reverse gear to a CB radio to airbags and a full electronic suite.Since I’ve owned a few and ridden many, I have found that each year’s offerings were always true to Honda’s luxury touring mission. Even the spare 1975 Standard model (compared to just about every other bike at the time) was luxurious. And once the Interstate and Aspencade models made their debuts, all slathered in plastic and options, there was no turning back for this still highly relevant machine.I’m a sportbike kind of guy but don’t hold that against me. That said, I have always appreciated a fine touring bike, for touring, and the new Honda Gold Wing 40th Anniversary is the epitome of refinement. Even with the improvements over 40 years – from the 1000, 1100 and 1200cc 4-cylinder models through the 1500 and 1800cc 6-cylinder engines and carbs to fuel injection – it’s easy to recognize the similar DNA that runs through each of these bikes.Smooth as silk has always applied to this marque and turbine-like is an apt adjective for the way the newer models make power. It is extraordinary, even compared to the BMW K1600 GTL. The Beemer is smooth with an aggressive nature while the Gold Wing is silkier, supple and compliant with a lot of punch but not so much growl. Anyway, a Wing buyer is usually not a BMW guy nor is he anything else but a Wingnut.The GTL is more apt to be ridden fast in the tight stuff but the Wing can hold its own. On the freeway recently, I was boxed in behind a Prius in the left lane doing about 60. When a small opening appeared, to allow me to pass on the right, I had to make a fast move before my path became obstructed. I yanked it over, far to the right and gassed the Wing hard. It dug in and responded like a Quarter horse in a barrel race.I then pulled it up straight, charged through the opening and flung the bike to the left while adding throttle. The performance was very gratifying as each of the aggressive maneuvers was met by a perfect balance of handling, accuracy and acceleration.There was no wobble or jacking nor any response other than exactly what I input (unlike my ’81). All this happened in mere seconds and I could not have asked for a more solid platform upon which to accomplish this action. Rail it over, put your spurs to it and pass with prejudice. It never lost its composure once.At first glance the dashboard looks just like Honda has taken it from one of their cars. There are three big gauges above a large color display/GPS. The rest is covered with a score of buttons and lights and a small data display. Incidentally, this Wing has the best self-canceling turn signals I have ever experienced. The stock pipes have a beautiful sound without being overwhelming and, personally, I would not consider any change.For the size of this machine, the cabin is tight for a 6-footer. The pilot feels he is “in” the bike and not on it. Sitting as far back into the seat as possible, my knees are about an inch from the lower dashboard. My upper arms, when holding the bars, are completely vertical, elbows pointing down and my forearms are at a 90-degree angle. Comfortable, but I prefer to reach a bit. Probably perfect for a 5’8″ to 5’10” rider, but I fit well enough. Taller riders might consider having the seat re-sculptured to move the support a bit farther back.The foot pegs are quite low to the ground yet the bike has ample clearance for its nature and the ride does not suffer for it. The seat is low, too, and the whole package is nice for shorter riders.This new Wing prefers to cruise yet is ultra sure footed and can be aggressively ridden. Whether on the open road or weaving through traffic, riding is easy and carefree. For the right buyer the Gold Wing is the perfect choice and 2015’s model continues that tradition.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!