Motogenn's Bike of the month - Honda Gold Wing
Honda launched the Gold Wing in 1974 at the Cologne Motocycle Show. It is a series of touring motorcycles that feature shaft drive and a flat engine and were designed and built for long distance and comfort.
The Honda Gold Wing had most of its success in the U.S market and were assembled in Ohio for a good 30 years until 2010.
Popular and iconic, the Japanese Society of Automotive Engineers considers the ’74 Honda Gold Wing GL 1000 as one of their 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology and the GL models have appeared several times in the Cycle World List of Ten Best Bikes.
During it’s production life, the Gold Wing had many design changes. Firstly in 1975 with a 999 cc flat-four engine; by 2001, this became a 1,832 cc flat-six. The 2012 model had anti-lock brakes, cruise control, electrically assisted reverse gear, an optional airbag, a heated fairing and an adjustable windscreen, panniers and a trunk, a pillion backrest, satnav, and a six-speaker radio/audio system with MP3/iPod connectivity.
The Gold Wing was marketed to a new and emerging segment, a type of American long-distance rider who was not likely to buy a Harley-Davidson or BMW but who would open their wallets for an affordable machine offering comfort, endurance, low maintenance, and a smooth, torquey, quiet engine. The Gold Wing's secondary target market on the other hand was Europe, where riders prioritised handling and performance over luxury.
The first whispers of the Gold Wing were code-named Project 371, which finally resulted In the key characteristics of the Gold-Wing we know today; a liquid-cooled flat-four SOHC engine, with a gear-driven generator that contra-rotated to counteract the engine's torque reaction. Cylinder Blocks and crankcase were integral, with the transmission situated beneath the crankcase to keep the unit construction engine as short as possible.
After five years of the GL1000, the second-generation Gold Wing was released in 1979 as a 1980 model, and the GL1100 would be continued through the 1983 model year. The GL1100 was manufactured in Japan until May 1980 when Honda started assembling 1981 models in Ohio.
The 2nd Generation (GL1100) had a longer wheelbase and air suspension was added as well as an adjustable seat and tubeless tires.
All the 1982 Gold Wings had transmission ratios revised to lower engine rpm at cruising speeds, new brakes with twin-piston calipers and wider tires on smaller wheels.
Transmission gear ratios were revised again for the 1983 Gold Wings to lessen engine speed on the highway. But the significant changes were not to the engine, they were to the running gear in this last year for GL1100s.
In 1980 Honda released the first Japanese turn-key tourer, the Interstate model (GL1100I) with a factory-installed full-fairing, saddlebags and a removable trunk, plus a long list of optional extras including a stereo system.
Then, starting in 1982, Honda offered three different Gold Wing models with the introduction of the Aspencade (GL1100A). This is where Honda took the full-dress tourer to a new level of luxury, with a larger seat, two-tone paint and more storage compartments, together with many options from the Interstate that were being included as standard.
The 3rd generation GL1200 came about In 1983 after Honda was being challenged in the marketplace from a new full-dress tourer, the Yamaha Venture XVZ 1200.
Honda announced a new 1984 Gold Wing that pushed its four-cylinder engine design to its limits. The bored and stroked boxer produced more power and torque; a new final drive ratio gave the GL1200 taller gearing in order to reduce noise and vibration. The four Keihin 32 mm CV carburetors were larger than those on the GL1100 engine. Incorporating hydraulic actuation for the clutch, in addition to hydraulic tappets for the valves, made the new engine virtually maintenance-free. In order to make the Gold Wing more nimble, front and rear wheel diameters contracted (and tire widths expanded) one more time. The GL1200 was built on a new, stronger frame and despite all the improvements, the claimed dry weight of the naked bike remained unchanged at 599 pounds (272 kg) for the 1984 model year.
Following this, the 1985 GL1200L version featured fuel injection too.
The 4th generation GL1500 was smooth, quiet and powerful. The redesigned and sleeker Gold Wing debuted at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in 1987 and it had grown in nearly every dimension.
The 5th generation GL1800 was the first new model for 13 years. The 2001 GL1800 had a larger 1,832 cc engine with fuel injection and a power increase from 74 kW (99 bhp) to 87 kW (117 bhp). The overall weight was less and there was the option for ABS braking.
The 2006 model had further options: an airbag, GPS, plus a rider "comfort package" which featured saddle heating, heated grips, and adjustable engine-air vents ahead of the driver's foot pegs.
The 6th generation GL1800 introduced in 2018 saw Honda produce a completely redesigned Gold Wing. The new model has a new four-valve engine and is available in two versions: the standard Gold Wing (replacing F6B bagger) and the "top trunk" Gold Wing Tour. Sportier in appearance, technologically more advanced, and more compact, the 2018 Gold Wing is 41 kg (90 lb) lighter than before.
The frame has double-wishbone front suspension, four ride modes, traction control, LED lighting, hill start assist, Apple CarPlay and (on the Tour model) electronically adjustable suspension.
In 2021, Honda increased the size of the top trunk to 61 litres. The passenger's back seat rest boasts more comfort with changes to the angle, foam and profile. relaxed angle with thicker foam and taller profile and speakers were changed to 45 watt with automatic volume adjustment and standard XM radio.