Mike Stevens | Oct 6, 2008 | 3 Comments

“When it comes to the Gold Wing, you either ‘get it’ or you don’t.”

Honda’s gargantuan Gold Wing is truly the cruise ship of the motorcycle world. You don’t hop on it, you board it – and the view from the bridge, as you survey the ocean of bitumen stretched out before you, can’t help but evoke feelings of power and command.

What it lacks in manoeuvrability it more than makes up for with sheer, unadulterated luxury. It’s the Queen Mary 2 on wheels. Not convinced? Read on…

GADGET FREAK

The ’08 Wing’s list of appointments reads like a luxury car brochure. To start with, the standard bike comes with an AM/FM four-speaker stereo system, electronic cruise control and electronically-adjustable suspension (preload on the rear shock).

Then there are the heated handlebar grips, and the independently-operated electrically heated rider and pillion seats. There’s also a rider to pillion intercom system – provided you buy helmets to suit – and there’s even a reverse gear.

That’s right, it’s got reverse – simply engage neutral, hit the reverse button, and then press the starter button to crank the bike backwards using the starter motor. With a claimed dry weight of 369kg, or 381kg for the ABS and airbag-equipped Luxury-spec model pictured here, it’s kinda handy!

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Need more? The Luxury version sports a multi-disc CD stacker (with MP3 adapter), pannier bags (to unpack or pack the bike’s integrated panniers and top box in seconds), driving lights (not yet fitted to our test machine) and satellite navigation.

The sat-nav is superb, and comes with a full-colour display, a super-fast processor, optional voice commands and intuitive menu system. For safety’s sake, you can’t use the menu system while you’re on the move, but you can adjust the volume of the voice commands or zoom in or out via handlebar controls.

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DAUNTING DOO-DADS

Don’t be put off by the myriad knobs, buttons and levers. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but it’s all pretty simple once you’ve acclimatised to life at the helm.

You can forget about the CB controls for a start – at present the ’Wing is built in the USA, but the American CB system doesn’t meet the relevant Australian standards, so it’s not part of the Aussie-spec bike.

All this luxury is hauled around in impressive style by a whopping and wonderfully refined 1832cc, liquid-cooled flat six-cylinder engine, blessed with enough torque to alter the orbit of small planets.

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The way this thing can accelerate from a standing start is something every motorcyclist should experience at least once – it’s got the grunt to turn large trucks into tiny dots in your mirrors in just a few seconds.

Thankfully, the aluminium twin-spar chassis is more than up to its considerable task, as is the suspension and brakes. It’s outside the design brief, but should a sporting urge arise the ’Wing will still deliver – just don’t overcook it into a bend, because when the peg starts a scrapin’, you - and nearly half a ton of bike - have just run out of options…

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When it comes to the Gold Wing, you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. Those who claim you may as well be in a car have obviously never ridden one. It most definitely isn’t a car – but it is one of the most remarkable bikes on the planet.

It’s ruled the road in various incarnations for three decades now, and that reign is set continue.

BAGS ON BIKES?

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The release of the 2008-spec Honda Gold Wing heralds the Aussie arrival of the world’s first airbag-equipped production motorcycle.

Honda says the airbag system is the result of 15 years of research, analysis and development, and consists of the airbag itself (mounted in the centre console just before the sat-nav display), an Electrical Control Unit (ECU) and four crash sensors (two on each fork leg).

If the sensors detect a severe frontal or near-frontal collision, the ECU then deploys the bag, which is fully inflated with nitrogen gas just 0.06sec after the collision has been detected.

Honda says the aim is purely to reduce the speed with which the rider will go on to hit the ground or on-coming vehicle or object, thereby reducing the severity of injuries.

Honda makes no bones about the fact there are plenty of crash situations where the bag will be of little or no use, including a high-speed head-on collision, but it expects: “…the airbag to benefit riders in certain severe frontal crashes”. How effective is it? Only time and further crash analysis in airbag-fitted ’Wings will tell…

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Gallery

Specs: Honda GL1800 Gold Wing

Engine: 1832cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, SOHC, fuel-injected, 12-valve flat six-cylinder
Power: 87kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 167Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: five-speed
Front brake: twin 296mm discs, three-piston calipers with CBS and ABS
Rear brake: single 316mm disc, three-piston caliper with CBS and ABS
Front suspension: 45mm air-assist forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: monoshock, adjustable preload
Seat height: 740mm
Claimed dry weight: 381kg (ABS model)
Fuel: 27lt
Price: TBA (approx. $41,000 plus ORC)
Colours: Caliente Red Metallic, Billet Silver Metallic, Black-Z
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres
In the ballpark: BMW K1200 LT ($35,500 plus ORC); Harley-Davidson Electra Glide ($33,750 plus ORC)

Contact: (03) 9270 1111; www.hondamotorcycles.com.au

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