Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, and Honda's Gold Wing has long been the standard setter in the touring category. That distinction may or may not have something to do with its narrow victory in the poll to determine About.com's long term test bike, but I think the Gold Wing is an intriguing choice since it's such a specific type of motorcycle. Day to day riding might be more convenient with an all-rounder like the Triumph Tiger 1050 or the Honda VFR Interceptor, but riding this $23,099 Gold Wing Audio/Comfort/Navi/ABS regularly will be a novel way to put its rather focused abilities to the test.
This isn't my first experience riding a Gold Wing, but I must admit that rolling out of Honda headquarters felt different this time; after all, I'll have to live with the Gold Wing for a while, developing a bond that lasts longer than the typical press bike loan (which is usually between one to three weeks.)
Right off the bat, this Honda is heavy. Though its seat is counterintuitively low for such a big bike, it takes some effort to lift it upright and ready it for riding. On the other hand, its oodles of storage are a refreshing alternative to the roughly 1.2 cubic inches of underseat storage found on most motorcycles. Then there's the dash, replete with an elaborate stereo and CB system, cruise control, satellite-linked navigation, and even a button for reverse (which is actually an electric motor that tugs the bike backwards for gravitationally challenged parking maneuvers.) Surprisingly, the 'Wing has foot pegs rather than floorboards, and I must say I was expecting boards on such a big bike.
Rolling out of Honda HQs, the first thing I'm struck with is the smoothness of the horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine; it purrs along effortlessly, yet strikes up the torque when you rev it, hustling this 900+ lb behemoth with surprising swiftness. This Gold Wing is equipped with anti-lock brakes, but the bike's supersized downforce makes it feel like they'll never be necessary (though I'm sure they will be.) Freeway speeds feel incredibly natural, and the leather saddle is so plush it begs you to take the long, long way home. It's so accommodating, in fact, that my first instinct was to plan to ride the Gold Wing to an upcoming event 274 miles away in Las Vegas, Nevada... until I realized it wouldn't work with my schedule, and I booked a flight instead.
Nonetheless, I'm looking forward piling the miles onto the Gold Wing (both local and long distance), and getting better acquainted with its oversized personality. Since my travel schedule will take me out of town for a few weeks, I'm parking the 'Wing at SUV expert Jason Fogelson's place. Jason's always been curious about Gold Wings (and is a Harley-Davidson Sportster owner), so stay tuned for his first impressions in the next Honda Gold Wing long term update.
- Honda Gold Wing Update #2: Jason's First Impressions
- Honda Gold Wing Update #3: Riding the 'Wing Like a Sportbike
- Honda Gold Wing Update #4: Washing the 'Wing
- Honda Gold Wing Update #5: My (Feeble) Attempts at Hypermiling the 'Wing
- Honda Gold Wing Update #6: About that Tire...
- Honda Gold Wing Update #7: Hittin' the Open Road