Now, don\'t go part exchanging your 750 crotch-rocket yet, but this latest reincarnation of Honda\'s Gran tourismo certainly scratches a sporting itch...
It\'s even got sticky tyres too!
Sportiness aside, having a bike like this deserved the planning of a long distance trip. Eyeing up that big his and hers bucket seats that wouldn\'t go amiss in your living room, it was obvious that some serious time could be spent in relative comfort. After a little family discussion, it was decided that we should attempt a trip to New Smyrna Beach. This was a decision that was not to be taken lightly, after all, it was nearly 60 miles away. We\'d have to pack judiciously, but after careful planning we set off, New Smyrna or bust.
Packing the bike was pretty interesting. Never have I seen so many nooks and crannies. The rear trunk has a voluminous 60 odd liter\'s of storage space.Enough to pack in two helmet\'s side to side, complete with spare visors, sun creams, lip balm and more sun cream.
The two side panniers were right handy for beach towels, evening clothes, shoes, hair products and more sun cream. They both have groovy hydraulic dampers that slowly open the "doors", very regal. Closing them was a task though, apparently it takes a while for the seals to soften up. A couple of times we were greeted with an open saddlebag warning on the main LCD readout. A judicious whack in the right place cured all. There were also pockets fore and aft for keys, wallets maps and of course, more sun cream. The front windscreen is fully adjustable with about 4.5 inches of movement. At 6\'1" I could easily see under the top of the screen and Honda offers both smaller and larger screens to suit your size. The screen was reasonably optically correct, albeit a little distortion on the lower left and right hand corners. The windscreen is also aerodynamically efficient and aids fuel economy. We do have 6.6 gallons of "go juice" available, but every little bit helps with our long, long journey of 60 miles.
Let me tell you about the brakes. LBS to be specific. I really liked the way the brakes worked on the bike. I\'m not used to stomping on the rear, but I had to whilst riding the tubby HD Road King previously mentioned. This Honda though, has two substantial 296mm front discs and a single, but larger, 316mm on the rear. The front lever activates the front and partial rear, whilst the rear activates the rear and partial front.
Actually it\'s far more complicated and technical than that, boring too. Hey, it works. I really didn\'t break my sportbike habit and typically used front only. Lever pressure was always two or three fingers only with remarkably little nose-dive. Whilst playing silly buggers on this bike, I never panicked about stopping on time and I am silly most of the time. For shits and giggles, I stomped the rear only: guess what happened? Nothing. It just stopped, really quickly. Linked Braking System? Absolutely made for this bike.
The Goldwing looks pretty normal, chassis wise. Being a sporty guy, I\'m used to seeing a nice slab of aluminum. This bike is no exception. Nice beam frame holding everything together, super tight and flex free. It hasn\'t always been that way with the Wing, I\'m told, and I\'m glad to see technology trickling down to all of the motorcycling genres. Single sided swinger as well. Matches the 996 I got from Ducati NA. Have to get on your hands and knee\'s to see this one though. But rear tire changers will thank you for it too. Rake is steeper from 30 degrees on the oldie to 29.25 on the new. Trail has been reduced too by 2mm. Not big numbers, but definitely in the right direction for precise steering.
Suspension hangs from the hard parts pretty good, but I did experience nasty feedback through the bike on hard edge asphalt seams. After adjusting the air preload, it felt a little better. Compression damping does seem a little harsh for a luxo tourer and I experienced a little "chatter" up front occasionally. My sportbike manners were showing and maybe I was pushing this bike harder than I should of, old habits die hard I suppose. The best compromise seemed to be with position 8 of 25, on the LCD preload readout. The bike feels very flickable and around town traffic is surprisingly easy to navigate considering the GL is bigger than that Geo Metro you just passed. Handling started to feel less tippy the more I rode. I understand that the prior versions of this bike were far more top heavy, I couldn\'t really imagine it.
This bike had all of the controls for the radio, CD and CB mounted up on the bars next to your normal switchgear. Quite handy there they are too. However, I did wish for a 5 inch thumb occasionally, especially whilst making a stab at the mute button, whilst changing down for traffic lights. Its a shame that they are not illuminated either. I\'m sure familiarity will aid nighttime adjustments, it was just a minor poo poo.
The GL also came with a nifty cruise control. It too was a little finicky in operation due to placement, (How long are the thumbs on a GL test engineers hand?) Getting the cruise activated smoothly took a knack and lurched a little due to the previous mentioned abruptness rolling off the throttle. I got better at it and more miles aboard meant more practice. This particular bike would "cruise" at just over 125mph indicated, although I wouldn\'t know because I\'m not like that… err, Officer.
The miles breezed by, and with the comprehensive instrumentation, meant I could keep an eye on ambient temperature, fuel load, radio volume, and other good stuff. After 60 long, long, miles we arrived at New Smyrna and headed to the nearest seafood eatery. I picked my wife\'s brains on how the trip was going for her. She liked the seat immensely as it locked her into a safe feeling position. She liked the backrest and would have preferred the stereo to be louder at speed. She also mentioned that riding on this bike made her feel "randy". I\'m not sure if this is a by-product of the seating arrangements, but it was enough to make me want to buy one.
Upon leaving the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to see the bike had changed color. The bike had metamorphosed from a burgundy to a gold color. After checking that indeed this was the same bike, by pressing the bike finder button, which in turn honks the loud dual tone horn. I used the same remote to unlock the saddlebags, giving you a wink of the turn signals to confirm the locking and unlocking procedure. I located the handbook and discovered that this was actually the ChromaFlair paintwork in action. Kewl.
After showing our long distance steed off to friends, we headed off home. The temperature had dropped 10 degree\'s to a "chilly" 65 degree\'s. This 60 mile return trip was starting to look bad. Big mileage AND bad weather. Nothing to do but press on. It was dark now, the lights impressed. There is an electrical adjustment next to the preload adjuster that moves the front headlamp up or down, depending on load carried and how much that guy in front pissed you off cutting in front of you like that. Full beam is stunning, if I wanted to travel fast at night, this Honda would top my list. Sticking that baby into the overdrive fifth gear, we were home in no time.
Later this year, the wife and I are thinking of going to Daytona. We are making careful plans, after all, it is 65 miles away. We\'ll probably play safe and grab another Goldwing. When long distances are involved, better play safe and take the tried and tested Honda GL1800. We\'re glad we did.