2005 Honda Gold Wing Retro Review | Perennial Tourer
Story by Eric Bass
What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate MotorCycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.
Few models can claim a longer life span or more loyal following than Honda’s 30-year-old flagship tourer, the Gold Wing. As I began to give the 2005 Wing a stationary once over, it became rapidly apparent that the fit and finish of the machine was first-rate. The bike includes remote-powered luggage compartments, a six-disc CD changer that pops up from the spacious trunk’s interior with a simple sliding action, a truly plush pillion and a generous 147 liters of storage space.
Once in the saddle, I was met with an array of telemetry, including an AM/FM/CB/CD sound system, cruise control, height-adjustable headlights, variably heated grips, electronically adjustable rear suspension with 25 preload settings and two-position memory and, oh yes, a reverse gear.
With a 29.1-inch seat height, my 30-inch inseam was barely adequate to reach the ground, but by leaning forward in the saddle, my heels were able to find the macadam. The engine turned over with a purr and I backed the Honda out of its spot, utilizing the electric reverse gear with some amount of glee. Engaging first gear, the throttle response was abrupt and I got underway with a bit of a surge. As it turns out, although the bike is well balanced, the Wing’s throttle is a fairly blunt instrument, and a deft ability at feathering the clutch and brakes is crucial to slow-speed maneuvering.
My first proper road test was on Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway, a major thoroughfare with unpredictable traffic patterns, and I waited, perhaps a bit too patiently, at the corner for a sizeable gap to appear in traffic. As I saw my chance, I put the 800-pound tourer into first gear, made the turn, straightened her up, snapped my wrist down on the throttle and shouted, “Go, Bessie, go!” Frankly, the response I got was more reminiscent of Secretariat.
With an aggressive snarl, “Bessie’s” 1832cc liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engine shot me forward with 125 ft lbs of torque and 118 hp worth of gusto past the unsuspecting Porsche that had passed me moments earlier. I would later learn that while the Gold Wing has gained nearly 220 pounds of dry weight since 1975, it now runs the quarter mile a full second faster.
Settling into my cruise, I commenced tinkering with the rolling toy store at my disposal. Given the chilly December temperature, the heated grips seemed a logical place to start. The minor inconvenience of its right hand fairing placement aside, the five-position thermostat allows for an optimal comfort level no matter the climate. The 16-bit ECU cruise control engages quickly and accurately and is, of course, relieved of duty by activation of the linked braking system.
When combined with optional ABS and an anti-dive system that utilizes servo pressure from front brake torque, the big Honda provides perhaps the most intelligent set of anchors available today. The actual grunt work is performed by strong-willed, dual full-floating, 296mm front discs and a single ventilated 316mm rear disc, all squeezed by three-piston calipers. The real-world result is a bike unruffled by emergency braking conditions and more than competent enough to provide a relaxed disposition toward life’s unwelcome surprises.
In 2001 the Gold Wing received a twin-spar, aluminum box-section frame that offers nearly double the stiffness and torsional rigidity of the old steel frames. Once tipped into a sweeper, the bike tracks like a slot car and isn’t afraid of a grin-inducing lean angle. Past Malibu’s coastal sweepers, I emerged into a stretch of open road, and as I brought the Honda up to freeway speeds, the bike’s wind capabilities became quite evident.
The Panasonic sound system may not be up to Walt Disney Concert Hall standards, but I found that the speakers provided ample bass and volume, and I couldn’t conjure up a single skip from the CD player. While I typically prefer a more foot-forward riding position, the Wing’s ergonomics still felt relaxed and opulent after a full day’s ride, and I confess to feeling a bit dismayed when it came time to disembark.
I can attest that in the new millennium, the bike that virtually invented the touring category, and that has dominated it ever since, has been redefined for the better. Having been thoroughly disabused of any notion that the Gold Wing is little more than a two-wheeled station wagon, I would go so far as to say that between its potent acceleration, confident braking and competent cornering, the Wing feels like, well . . . feels like a real motorcycle.