The Honda Gold Wing, since its introduction as a naked 1000cc machine in 1975, has always represented the ultimate in two-wheeled travel. And it’s a motorcycle that’s been very much on its own journey, growing in physical size and displacement over the decades, all the while creating an enduring and unrivalled reputation for luxury, quality and comfort.
For 2018, in response to the evolution of demographics and the motorcycle market, it made a radical departure from what would have been a traditional update trajectory. The GL1800 Gold Wing and Gold Wing ‘Tour’* took a new direction and, brand new from the wheels-up, became sleeker, lighter and more agile – very much a rider’s motorcycle – while adding a host of new features to cement its reputation as a technological flagship, including the option of 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
And, as a result, the Gold Wing’s appeal became instantly broader, reaching out to a younger generation of motorcyclists that may have overlooked – or simply not been aware of – the previous incarnation. In 2020, improvements to suspension and slow speed manoeuvrability further complemented the evocative, flat six-cylinder engine beating at the heart of Honda’s premium tourer.
For 2021, the Gold Wing gains an audio upgrade and head-turning new paint option, further underlining its standalone desirability.
The Gold Wing’s engine and chassis were designed in unison for the 2018 rebirth, to move the riding position forward and create a much more compact motorcycle. The aluminium beam frame is constructed around a double wishbone front fork, which allows the engine to sit forward in the machine – as the front wheel moves up and down in a more vertical plane – while providing high quality suspension control and front-end stability thanks to its stiffness and reduced friction.
Optimised for size, the 24V flat six-cylinder engine lost none of its power, avalanche of torque or addictive power delivery. The addition of Throttle By Wire (TBW) control brought with it 4 rider modes: TOUR, SPORT, ECON and RAIN; the operation of the Dual Combined Brake System (D-CBS) alters depending on the mode selected. Hill Start Assist (HSA) and (on the DCT option) Idling Stop offer ease of use and improved fuel efficiency.
The manual transmission is 6-speed, while DCT features 7 speeds, with clutch feel, shift speed and rpm range of up/downshifts tailored specifically to each riding mode. It also features a ‘creep’ forward and back function. The manual machine employs the same electric reverse system as featured on previous designs.
The Gold Wing offers a total sense of freedom, with sheer riding enjoyment and performance matched by stylish design. An aerodynamically efficient fairing channels air around the rider, while the electric screen adjusts for preference; the luxurious seats offer all-day comfort. The lightweight audio system and speakers show off newly upgraded sound quality. And features like Smart Key operation, Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and Bluetooth™ provide modern-day convenience and connectivity.
The 2021 GL1800 Gold Wing is available in a contemporary new Pearl Deep Mud Grey colour scheme, with orange accents on the front fender, engine cover, headlight surround, fuel tank and rear section.
Styling & Equipment
The Gold Wing’s lines exude a honed, athletic ethos. The styling presents a unique silhouette and counterpoints comfort with the dynamic abilities of chassis and engine, with the traditional Gold Wing premium level of fit, finish and materials. Its ‘face’ is daringly forward-slanting; combined with the compact fairing proportions, it presents an energetic frontal signature.
The key line of the body, stretching front to back, highlights the differing upper and lower bodywork functions. A central element is the fairing, with its sharp and solid flat surfaces, and its nuanced aerodynamic detailing. It adds a tension that hints at the performance potential on offer.
Also on display is the motorcycle itself – the double wishbone front suspension, flat six-cylinder engine, exhausts – in all their functional beauty. Drawn together, the design elements create cutting edge style, underpinned by incredible levels of engineering and electronics
Comfort, heat management and, most importantly, air management are also high on the Gold Wing’s agenda. The fairing channels airflow around the rider and pillion, effectively providing a pleasant cooling breeze.
A small electric screen operated from the left handlebar provides excellent wind protection yet, at the same time, a sense of space and freedom when required. Screen angle and height adjustment is step-less. Available as options are a larger screen, a fully-adjustable deflector for the arms and upper body, and fixed deflectors for the lower legs and feet.
From a seating perspective, rider and pillion are separated. The rider can enjoy a total focus on riding the bike. The rider’s seat shape is comfortable and supportive while allowing movement and easy ground reach.
All lighting is LED. The lower portion of the headlights use 5 polished optical lenses on both sides to create a Jewel-Eye low beam light signature. Using high beam (in the upper portion) creates a stereoscopic impression. The front indicators are housed in the mirrors and the indicators also auto-cancel; the system compares front and rear wheel speed difference and calculates when to cancel the indication relative to the riding situation.
When riding, the speed that’s been set with the cruise control switch (located on the right handlebar) is shown in the bottom left area of the speedometer. Through TBW the system achieves a smooth transition to the specified speed and an ultra-smooth operation, especially when going uphill. In the case of the manual transmission models, squeezing the clutch or brake, or twisting the throttle cancels cruise control.
For the DCT variant (in AT mode) after completing the deceleration with the cruise control system in operation – and resuming the previous speed – the Gold Wing returns to the pre-set with an appropriate shifting schedule.
Luxurious instrumentation creates a unique cockpit. Different low-contrast colours with dark tones are applied to the dials, of which the peripheral areas form cone-shaped slopes to create a feeling of depth. A ring with a metal texture surrounds each dial, and the graduations glow in LED, giving concrete depth and a calm, cool image.
The 7-inch full-colour TFT liquid crystal display screen provides all the information for the audio and navigation systems, as well as the riding modes and suspension adjustment. Information is displayed in differentiated segments in a very functional order, so the rider can get all the relevant data with the minimum of eye movement.
Brightness adjusts automatically (with the maximum luminous intensity of the screen being 1000 cd) and the rider can also choose from 8 brightness levels. Tyre pressure is displayed as a numerical figure in the bottom left area of the instruments.
Pride of place on the centre console and Smart Key is the Gold Wing emblem. Its crisp 3D, two-tone chrome design merges the strength and dignity of a lion’s head with the majestic wings of an eagle ready to pounce with open talons. The Smart Key activates all the motorcycle’s systems and also incorporates the emergency key. The ignition and handlebar lock can be turned on or off while carrying the Smart Key.
Most Gold Wing owners ride short, 2-3 day tours, so the total volume of 60L between both panniers is ample. Exclusively-designed inner bags are available as an option. With the Smart Key present, a simple push of a button opens the panniers. It’s also possible to temporarily unlock via remote control; the unlock button on the Smart Key enables the passenger instant access. Hydraulic dampers smooth the opening and closing. Pushing and holding the call button results in the indicators flashing.
The Gold Wing is compatible with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, so the rider can utilise the personalised information and content inside their smartphone, such as telephone numbers and music playlists. Bluetooth connectivity has been adopted and there are two USB Type-C sockets to plug in to.
Newly upgraded, lightweight speakers achieve superb sound quality with vivid presence. A passenger audio control switch is available to ensure an even more pleasant riding experience; the switches are located on the upper part of the right pannier and adjusting the volume, switching the source and fast forwarding is possible.
The navigation system is displayed on the 7-inch, full-colour TFT liquid crystal display screen in the central area of the instruments and includes a gyrocompass – which means guidance is continued even inside a tunnel. Cancellation of any waypoint or ‘go home’ instruction operation while riding is also possible. Maps are updated and also offer the possibility of entering up to 99 different waypoints for detailed journey planning.
The capacity of the fuel tank is 21 litres with fuel economy of 5.5 litres/100km.
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