2018 Honda Gold Wing First Ride Review | Around Twin Ring + Video

The new 2018 Honda Gold Wing takes the iconic touring machine to a completely new level according to the spec sheet. Ultimate Motorcycling was invited to a sneak preview ride after the recent MotoGP race at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Although not the ideal test arena for a touring motorcycle, the 2018 Honda Gold Wing acquitted itself well, and Honda brought along a ’17 model for back-to-back comparisons. Ultimate Motorcycling President Arthur Coldwells found himself at the controls.

Note on pics: The new Gold Wings were in pre-production camouflage/stealth mode in case there were visitors at the track who might photograph them.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Review at Motegi

1. The new motor is essentially the same capacity and configuration, and so although it is only a little more powerful it has noticeably more mid-range. The Gold Wing has always had jet-turbine-like thrust, but the new model is a big improvement in the vital mid-range area. Coming off corners the 2018 Honda Gold Wing pulled much harder than the current model.

2. The Gold Wing now has four riding modes. There is a marked difference between all four modes—Tour, Sport, Econ, and Rain. Although they all produce full power the level of aggression is dramatically different. Modes can be changed on the fly for varying conditions.

3. The new Gold Wing has traction control. Useful rider-aids such as traction control and ABS are built into the different modes at differing levels of intrusion. I never felt any of them working, despite pushing quite hard. I will assume that the new, wider 200mm Bridgestone rear tire gripped well on Motegi’s surface. The front Bridgestone remains the same size as the 2017 Gold Wing.

2018 Honda Gold Wing First Ride Review 4. The 2018 Honda Gold Wing comes in two flavors of transmission—DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) and 6-speed manual—and they are both excellent. DCT is now coming up to ten years old, and is on its third generation—so it’s pretty much flawless. The six-speed manual is dramatically smoother, lighter, and much quieter to operate than the old 5-speed gearbox; night and day, actually. It’s easy to say that DCT is for those who want luxury, and the six-speed is for those who want sport. However that really is an over-simplification as both versions are very much adept in both arenas. I’d have a hard time deciding, but ultimately I’d feel short-changed if I didn’t go for the seven-speed DCT, which also gives access to other electronic aids.

5. The new double-wishbone front end has great feel. Advantages abound, but after more than 100 prototypes Honda got the weight distribution exactly right. There is more weight on the front for excellent feel, and much less flex over bumps and on the brakes—and both are very obvious when riding. Around 30 percent less shock is transmitted to the rider, per Honda, and the end result is a smooth-feeling ride that is much more confidence inspiring and way less fatiguing.

6. Gold Wing handling was always amazing for such a heavy machine, and it has been greatly improved. The whole machine is now around 90 pounds lighter. Coupled with the incredible new front end, you get feathery light turning without the bike ever becoming nervous. Performance-focused Gold Wing riders are going to have a lot of fun stepping up their game.

7. The 2018 may be lighter but it’s still substantial, and hasn’t lost that Gold Wing luxury feeling. This is a premium motorcycle and it feels every inch a flagship. I realize Motegi’s smooth surface isn’t the real world road surface, but the 2018 Honda Gold Wing just glides. Having the previous model available proved that the new one is a big upgrade in ride quality even on Motegi’s relatively smooth tarmac.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Review8. New radially mounted six-piston calipers bite down more efficiently on the new Gold Wing. Enhanced by the absolute rigidity of the front suspension, the Gold Wing feels way more stable on the brakes, especially coming down from high speed. Heavy load carriers, including trailer aficionados, will love the new brakes and firm-feeling front end.

9. Passenger comfort is changed. The passenger back rest (Gold Wing Tour) is less reclined than the current model, however the dramatically improved aerodynamics keep the passenger much more away from the windblast, so overall comfort is hugely improved. On the downside, passengers who like to use the grab-handles will need arms like a chimpanzee to reach them. Hello, aftermarket—I feel an accessory coming on!

10. The aerodynamics have been changed for the better. Efficiency is the name of the game for the 2018 Honda Gold Wing, and the airflow is a huge improvement. The rider gets more airflow as needed, so no more sweltering in a windless vacuum on hot sunny days. The passenger gets a lot less buffeting, especially around the head, and also from the eddying wind effect pushing them at the back—yes, I also rode as a passenger. This is a major upgrade, and an enormous factor in the improved luxury of the new Gold Wing.

11. Overall, riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing tells me it is a significant upgrade at every level. The old machine now seems like a dated, bloated, couch on wobbly wheels. That’s not fair because it is a great motorcycle, and deserves its many accolades and iconic status. However, the new 2018 Honda Gold Wing is simply a quantum leap of an improvement, and there’s no easy way to break that to you if you own a previous iteration.

For specs and a First Look, visit 2018 Honda Gold Wing First Look | 18 Fast Facts.

Click to page 2 for a photo gallery