“Just going to visit my money,”
I would tell people, quoting the quip often used for any trip to Ottawa.
But this was more about the drive than the destination. It was about taking our time through small towns and scenic rides along Ontario’s back roads, about carving curves and corners on country roads and loping down long, lonely two-lane highway straights and, most of all, about doing so on Honda’s revised, re-engineered and totally renewed 2018 Gold Wing.
The Gold Wing rules motorcycling’s touring class, the most recent fifth generation GL1800 maintaining that dominance since its 2001 debut.
But the intro of an innovative BMW K1600GTL pretender to the throne probably spurred a Honda revision, resulting in the leaner and meaner Gold Wing for 2018, a motorcycle more technologically advanced, more compact and more maneuverable, thanks to updates, upgrades and an astonishing 40 kg weight trim.
Notable features and improvements include:
The 2018 models come in four flavours
- Updated design, edgier, less rounded, lower and swept back with 11.8 percent improved aerodynamic efficiency
- New, more compact, 6.2 kg lighter 1833 cc engine, now DOHC with four-valve train
- New six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT with Walking Mode forward/reverse
- New radially-mounted six-piston dual front calipers with bigger 320 mm rotors
- New double-wishbone front-suspension & Pro-link rear
- Electronically-controlled suspension
- Throttle-by-wire with multiple riding modes
- Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC)
- Hill Start Assist
- Smart Key
- Apple CarPlay via seven-inch multi-info TFT display screen
- LED lighting
- Electric windscreen adjustment
- the base Gold Wing, a “bagger” without top box ($26,999), Gold Wing Tour with top box ($30,799), Gold Wing Tour DCT with the automatic dual clutch transmission ($31,999) and, tested here, the top-of-the-line Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag model with all the bells and whistles ($34,599).
Our trip started off from Honda Canada’s headquarters. My wife Mary and I packed our gear and here’s where most of the complaints focus.
The smaller sidecases hold 30 litres each (-10 litres) and the top box measures 50 litres (-15 litres). But we’ve trained to travel light and it turned out to be no problem, although I’d be tempted to add the optional trunk rack for any trip over two weeks.
The Gold Wing’s wheelbase has been stretched slightly but the bike feels shorter, smaller and low-slung on the road, even though the seat height has been raised five mm.
The new 1,833 cc six-cylinder engine now features a four-valves per cylinder layout and enough efficiencies for an estimated 20 percent improvement in fuel economy.
My real world results with two passengers and luggage would work out to 4.9L/100km (comb), closer to a 10 per cent improvement compared to 5.5L/100km (comb) averages earned on past Gold Wing trips.
With improved fuel economy and the weight trim in mind, Honda also reduced fuel tank size by four litres (21 litres) which, according to our numbers, would still result in a 400-plus km range.
Acceleration is as brisk as ever, accented by a burlier exhaust note.
The former five-speed manual gearbox has been replaced by a six-speed manual with closer ratio low gears or, as tested here, by Honda’s third-generation seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) with automatic or manual modes.
90,000 km ride around the world on a Gold Wing
Yes, muscle memory will occasionally trigger phantom grabbing and stabbing at non-existent clutch levers and shifter pedals but the DCT is easy enough to get used to. And it adds the benefit of a low-speed Walking Mode in both forward (1.8 km/h) and reverse (1.2 km/h) directions.
A throttle-by-wire system offers four riding modes - Tour, Sport, Econ and Rain - as well as Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) and Hill Start Assist.
We settled on Tour mode and the DCT clicked quietly through early upshifts, topping out at a very car-like 2,000-rpm or so at highway speed. There’s some lurching and faltering through low speed downshifts, a minor negative that I would expect will be refined in future.
The mode choices also affect suspension settings and, with the electronic preload adjustment set to two riders with luggage, the new double-wishbone setup in front made for a vastly improved ride, swallowing up all the back road bumps.
Even though the bike is narrower up front (cowl width reduced by 200 mm), with the more compact engine pushed forward, the rider and passenger also sit 36 mm closer to the new electrically powered windscreen.
The handlebars have been moved forward, the footrests have shifted slightly to the rear and mass centralization contributes to more nimble maneuverability. The cockpit view is familiar but less buttoned.
Are you ready for a high-performance, side-by-side three wheeler?
The gauge cluster’s seven-inch full-colour TFT display screen is bracketed by an analogue speedo and tach combo.
And, following up on the airbag, in other motorcycle firsts, the Gold Wing adds a Smart Key that locks the bike as you walk away and Apple CarPlay system with Apple Music and Maps, even allowing texting and phone calls (yikes!).
It’s a complete package but, even in this top trim, I’d be tempted to add the aforementioned chrome trunk rack ($600), front LED fog lamps ($500) and the rider backrest ($400), making for a total culmination of technologies and new features you’d expect from this modern interpretation of Honda’s ultimate touring machine - the 2018 Gold Wing.
2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag GL1800DAJ
1833 cc liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder
PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
As tested seven-speed DCT with automatic/manual modes & Walking Mode
Front double wishbone with Showa shock, 109 mm (4.3”) travel; Rear single-sided swingarm Pro-Link with Showa shock, electronically-controlled preload adjust, 105 mm (4.1”) travel
Front 130/70R - 18 radial; Rear 200/55R - 16 radial
Front dual 320 mm discs with radially mounted six-piston Nissin calipers; Rear single 316 mm disc with three-piston Nissin caliper. Electronically-controlled combined ABS
745 mm (29.3 in)
1,695 mm (66.7 in)
383 kg (844 lb)
Candy Ardent Red/Darkness Black Metallic (Two-Tone)