2012 Gold Wing – first impressions

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Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Kevin Wing
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For the past 35 years Honda has pretty well held the title of luxury tourer in the motorcycle world.

From it’s debut with a horizontally opposed four 1,000cc engine in 1975 to its spectacular remake in 1988 with an opposed six, and again in 2000 when it grew to 1,832 cc and got an aluminum frame to boot, the Gold Wing has seen off contenders almost as swiftly as Colonel Gaddafi.

But nothing stays the same forever, and 2012 sees a new contender for the crown in the shape of BMW K1600GTL tourer.

Like the Gold Wing, the BMW uses a six-cylinder motor (with inline configuration as opposed to, well, opposed) and have matched much of the Gold Wing’s trinkets, only the GTL also weighs in at a massive 64 kilos less… and it comes with an electronically adjustable windscreen too (gasp)!

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This is how it all started in 1975.

Whether this sent the engineers in Japan into quick makeover mode, or the fact that Honda recently moved Gold Wing production back to Japan and wanted to give it a tweak in the process, is not known.

But a tweak it got and CMG’s Costa Mouzouris is among the first journalists in the world to give it a spin at Honda Canada’s annual media event, held in the warmth of Savannah, Georgia.

Question is, has Honda done enough to quell the revolution and keep the Gold Wing firmly in its position at the top?

THE CHANGES

Well, mechanically speaking the 2012 Gold Wing remains unchanged. It’s in small refinements to existing hardware that Honda has focused on.

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The obvious visual change is the restyled fairing.

A restyled fairing adds extra wind protection to the lower body and leg areas, and a set of vents have been integrated around the taillight to reduce air pressure in the cockpit, providing smoother airflow around rider and passenger.

Also new in the bodywork department are reshaped and more streamlined saddlebags with increased capacity (with an additional seven litres of space), bringing the total storage space to more than 150 litres.

The suspension also gets some attention, with revised settings and new bushings in the forks that help smooth suspension action over sharp bumps. There’s a new urethane seat and cover, beneath which is new seat foam, both changes meant to improve comfort.

Oh, and there’s a next-generation navigation system which has a brighter screen, acquires satellites faster and gives a lovely 3D terrain view. It also has the capability to share routes between bikes using an SD card to transfer GPS files.

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Cockpit gets a makeover too with as many buttons to press as before!

There’s also a new audio system that now connects to your iPod through a USB port, allowing you control it with the sound system’s handlebar-mounted switches, as well as providing a charge to the iPod’s battery.

The previous ’Wing only had an auxiliary wire that plugged into the iPod’s headphone outlet, so no control was available and the battery didn’t charge.

But when the changes go on to list reshaped tail lights and updated instrumentation, then you have to wonder if the BMW K1600GTL has caught Honda with their pants down.

At least the Honda has an airbag option that you won’t find on the Beemer.

RIDING IMPRESSION

gold_wing_rsf_action.jpgMinor mods to the suspension are really quite effective.

From a distance, the new two-tone paint scheme and absence of chrome give the 2012 Gold Wing away. But it’s from the rear, especially when looking at the saddlebags – which are now more integrated into the machine – that you really get an idea that a few things have been changed.

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Vents above and below taillights improve cockpit comfort.

Sitting on the machine doesn’t hint at any major redesign; all the familiar buttons are there, the riding position is mostly the same (the seat bolster on the new bike seems to be a bit farther back), and hitting the start switch reveals the same flat-six drone the Gold Wing has been emitting since 1988.

It’s once you’ve been rolling awhile that you realise you’re riding a new Gold Wing.

The biggest change is in the suspension. Although the changes seem trivial on paper (New for 2012: fork bushings!), what they’ve done to the ride is quite noticeable. Where the previous model would send jolts through the chassis and handlebars on sharp-edged bumps (we had a couple of 2010 models for comparison), the new bike rode over them with nary a hiccup.

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Rubbery feeling at the bars when turning has been reduced.

The change isn’t revolutionary, but I’d liken it to having a bike with fully adjustable suspension and finding the ideal setting. As on the previous model, rear preload is adjustable via pushbutton.

Also, the previous Gold Wing, weighing up to 421 kg (928 lb) wet (ABS model), had a slightly rubbery feel at the handlebars when turning (relatively) aggressively. This tendency has been noticeably reduced on the new bike, with a much more solid, connected feel between hand grips and front tire.

This is surprising, because aside from a change in internal suspension settings and newly developed Bridgestone tires, the chassis and suspension received no other changes.

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Bags get more integrated into the rear.

Changes to the bodywork claimed to improve cockpit comfort – do. Airflow is, as claimed, smoother from the waist down, so smooth, in fact, that you can feel warm air at your lower legs when opening the warming vents. Turbulence around the feet on the previous model made this feature redundant.

Also, the vents incorporated into the tail end, around the taillights, seem to have reduced the back draft that used to push a rider slightly forward at speed on the older bike.

One item, however, that unfortunately got no attention in the “redesign” is the windscreen. It’s the same, clunky, manually adjustable item as on the previous model, and it still causes some helmet buffeting, though the changes to the airflow may have reduced it a tad.

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iPod gets USB connection but no retainer.

Gold Wing riders may or may not rejoice at the new sound system. Menus and operation are familiar, so someone trading up from a previous-generation bike won’t have to relearn all the controls.

Sound quality is much improved though, and the new USB wire for iPod connectivity, which allows you to control several of the iPod’s functions from the rider’s seat, is convenient.

The USB wire is now located in the top case (the previous iPod connector was in the left-hand fairing compartment), but there’s no secure place to mount your iPod and you’ve got to leave it flopping around in the cavernous top case, which is a little odd to say the least.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE

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All in all the tweaks are positive but is it enough?

I have to wonder why Honda didn’t perform a more thorough redesign of its flagship touring machine. It would have been the opportune time to do so, after all, with Honda’s move of Gold Wing production to Japan and a new six-cylinder luxo-tourer coming from Germany, why not?

crossrunner-rsf.jpgIf they can do this to a VFR800, why not the Gold Wing? On second thoughts, maybe not.

Heck, I wonder why Honda’s engineers didn’t just strip the machine to its chassis and build up from there, much the way the company did with its Crossrunner, which is essentially a redressed VFR800.

That way they could have finally included that ever-elusive electrically adjustable windscreen …

It’s a good thing that the Gold Wing’s design was pretty sound to begin with, though, because to justify Honda’s reluctance to really redesign the bike, a true Gold Wing enthusiast can at least use the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

But will that be enough to fend off the rebellious BMW?

The 2012 Gold Wing will be in dealers in May, available in airbag and non-airbag models. Pricing hasn’t been released, though Honda has hinted that the target price is expected to match the price of the 2010 model.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike 2012 Honda Gold Wing GL1800
MSRP TBA (expect around $30,000)
Displacement 1,832 cc
Engine type Horizontally opposed six, liquid-cooled
Power* (crank) 117 HP @ 5,500 rpm
Torque* 123 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Tank Capacity 25 litres
Carburetion PGM-FI
Final drive Five speed (plus electric reverse), shaft drive
Tires, front 130/70R-18
Tires, rear 180/60R-16
Brakes, front Dual 296 mm discs with three-piston caliper
Brakes, rear Single 316 mm disc with three-piston caliper
Seat height 740 mm (29.1″)
Wheelbase 1,690 mm (66.5″)
Wet weight* 405-417 kg (904-933 lb) depends on options
Colours Candy Red, Blue Metallic (comes with airbag)
Warranty TBA
 * Claimed

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Those of you making fun of the Wing in general, hear this: If you have not ridden one, then hold your tongue till you do. I had the same comments many of you had about ‘cars’ and 900lbs, etc. Once you pull your feet off the pavement, you will want this bike. This from a sport bike rider of over 40 years…and yes, I still have sport bikes and ride them like I stole them, but the Wing can take you to Alaska easily and back and the difference between it and a sport bike is much smaller than you know…

  2. So finally a you are able to control the ipod volune from the handle bar and it charges the i pod as well
    Well then that removes the last barrier for me to buy one
    other than the price
    jp

  3. Let me tell you a bit about me… I’ve been riding street bikes since 1979 and T’ve had more than 30 bikes over these years. 😉 I presently ride a 2010 VFR1200FA. Most of the bikes I’ve owned were sport bikes. In 2004, I tried a 2004 Gold Wing for a full day and when I came back at the dealership, I couldn’t wait to sign the paper. I was sold to the Gold Wing :grin . Yes it is big and heavy but once you’re rolling, you don’t feel it. I liked it so much than one day, I went for a long ride with my buddies on their sport bikes and they could not believe that I did not take my sport bike for the ride. After that trip, most of them coudn’t believe what a Gold Wing could do on a sport ride… 😉 So for the ones who’ve never tied a Gold Wing, I strogly suggest that you try one prior to make negative comments about it. I don’t have the Gold Wing anymore but for the two years I had it, I had a real pleasure riding it on long trip while I would ride the sport bike on shorter trips.

  4. I have a 2008 yamaha 1300 Tour Delux.It will blow the tires off most Harleys.But thats not the Bike I really want. The pocket book called the shots on that one. I really like the new 2012 Goldwing. It looks sharp and sophisticated,as I see it anyway. But I,m still contemplating between it and the 2010 model.Ive always wanted a wing and the possibility is near.I,ll have one before the summer is over.

  5. I have read most if not all of your comments that you people have posted on the GOLD WING. Let me tell you some about me first… I am 54 years old, not a weakling but nor am I some superman. I can throw the goldwing around from side to side like a toy..! Well almost, it does have some respectable weight…that’s for sure..! I first tried out a god wing some 4 years ago now, and after getting on it, I have to tell you I was scared shitless that I was going to dump that monster on it side. That 980 some pounds, those numbers scared the shit out of me at first…and I do say…at first..! After taking it out for what was to be a one hour test right, I fell in love with it….so much so that the shop was just about ready to call the cops to report a stolen bike. See the one hour test ride turned into 6 hours and I got it back to the shop just 5 minutes before they closed the doors…!

    As soon as you get it rolling you lose about 300 pounds or more of that 980 pounds and I was riding that thing with comfort and riding it as if I was on my VT750 shadow…! It fact it felt as light and nibble my shadow. The only thing that brought me back to reality is when I stopped at a light and had to put my feet down. See I am short in the legs and I was in my tippy toes when I stopped. Other then that…I loved it. In fact I loved it soooo very much that as of May 08 / 2011 I will be the PROUD owner of a brand new 2010 goldwing…! I do not care much for the new 2012 gold wing and how it looks, the 2010 looks great…a real classic in my books. So I say to all of you that have been taking cheap shots at the gold wing, to shut up…and get on one and take it for a real ride for a hour or more. Then when you have done that…then talk to me about it…!

    Lloyd
    North Vancouver
    CANADA

  6. you guys are criticising a bike that you’ve obviously never rode, This bike is the best fulldressor on the market, you can do so much to customize it to make it your own,yes its heavy, but the weight is low slung and it handles like a rocket, i lay my 2007 into the corners with sparks flyin from the pegs and i’ll run down any bike on the market, when i was young and dumb i rode the 1000R, and the lord has allowed me to grow older and wiser so i bought me this dresser that rides on a rail ! Like the sign says, Follow the Leader, He’s on a WING !!!

  7. Forgot to post this earlier, this my Wing in the middle of installing a new tire… Much easier than a motorcycle jack especially a 1,000 from home and one needs to change out the tire…

    [img]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_Me-_ItFE5-o/Sy-6OifVZVI/AAAAAAABAOI/OpUHiog_c9Y/s144/Nathans%2022nd%20B-Day%20012.JPG[/img]

  8. Here is just how easy it is to pick up a Goldwing…

    [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8Er4FFEQ8I]Link Text[/url]

    I’d recommend putting the bike in gear first though…

  9. I way over 200 and I couldn’t pick up my wing until I saw a video of this tiny little woman doing it. It was an Ah ha moment.

    It’s technique, not weight that is the problem.

  10. I’m 32 and just purchased the 2010 model. I absolutely love it. All weight is shed once it gets going and even a slow speeds, the bike is easy to handle since the weight is carried so low. I personally think the GL1800 handles better than my 1st Gen VMax although that’s probably not saying much.

  11. I have to agree that anyone complaining about the weight of a ‘Wing hasn’t ridden one. I am 145 lbs soaking wet and came off of a V Star 1100. I would not go back to the V Star if you paid me. The balance and handling of the wing are hard to beat.

  12. After 26 years and 6 Gold Wings I have to say the people here that say the Wing is to heavy or to big haven’t rode one. If it falls over it is one of the easiest bikes to pick up because of the crash bars it does not lay flat on the ground, Check out you tube for videos of a young lady picking one up. I think it is the best bike for traveling, I think BMW’s maintenance schedule will push the cost of ownership up real high, where the Gold Wing has it’s first valve check at 32,000 miles. There are many Gold Wings on the road today with over 200,000 miles on them and with no major repairs ever done. I agree that if Honda would out a motorized adjustable windshield on it that would be a big improvement. Take a test ride any you will see it’s not your fathers Gold Wing. 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, thats great for a BIG bike,

  13. Well, I am all of 155lbs soaking wet, and I have problem picking up my Wingabago the few times the whale landed on it’s side. It also has 123,000 miles on it with only an alternator replacement during that time. In 1976 I was at Manis Harley Davidson in Stratford, CT looking all wild-eyed at a new SuperGlide. It was HUGE, at least 600lbs or so. I was 23 years old and went about 140. The owner asked me if I planned on actually the motorcycle or did I want to carry it around in my pocket. His point was made. The weight is what it is.

    Obviously, this 2012 Goldwing is simply a cosmetic makeover. And why not? Goldwings are simply the finest motorcycles on the planet when you simply have to go 3,600+ miles in 56 hours or so. BTDT

    As far as the K1600 goes, until there are thousands of riders with 100,000+ miles on those machines it is simply vaporware in my book. I hope BMW hit a home run, that machine has a lot of new and potentially great technology. As long as the bike is reliable it will be a winner.

  14. While they may steal a few sales, I really don’t think the Wing and the new BMW 1600GTL serve quite the same purpose. The Wing is about maximum 2-up comfort for long distances which I doubt the new BMW can match. The BMW is no doubt sportier and quicker though.

  15. Having paid 14,700 for a 7 year old 90,000 km Lincoln Town Car Signature Series with Moon Roof, Alpine DSP sound system, Air Ride, Leather Interior, Huge Trunk, 5-6 passenger capable, Climate Control Ready, and (25 MPG on computer; the Honda gets 50 max?) I just don’t warm up to expensive motorcycles anymore, am I getting old? It is hard to keep irrational dreams alive in my mind.
    My personal thoughts on a biking subject, regards, j.

  16. There have been Gold Wing naysayers since 1975, when it seemed too big, too smooth, too expensive, yadda yadda. I’ve ridden few and none of the modern ones, but their popularity speaks for itself, and it is a bike made for traveling from coast to coast to coast.

  17. Anyone that thinks a GL1800 has to be an old man’s bike or a “winnebago” has never ridden one. For such a big motorcycle, it handles well, and is easy to ride all day. It’ll lift the front wheel off the ground if you aren’t careful with first gear. I’m not saying it’s a sportbike, but it certainly isn’t a tractor, either.

  18. First lets get one thing straight the Goldwing is never referred to as a “Winnebago”, we Wingers prefer the term of endearment “Leannebago”, but it would have to be a the “Sport” version. :grin

    The Goldwing is quite easy to pick up from a fallen position, (Which btw does not happen very often due to the GL1800’s very low center of gravity and highly capable low speed maneuvering abilities), you just have to use your brain more than your back when picking the bike up. It is actually quite easy to flop the bike on its side, change out the rear tire and put her back upright in less than 15 minutes by yourself.

    Some of you guys really need to ride before you criticize! :roll

    The “New” 2012 is growing on me, just enough improvements to basics that I might consider it as a new purchase to replace my 2005 GL1800A. But the ’05 is still running like new, is paid for and still looks great. Besides it only has 50,000 miles on the clock, still got another quarter of a million miles left in her…

    Now if Honda would redesign the top box to match the “new” saddlebags and finish the paint job, (Primer gray and black “accents” is not a finished color!) I may consider a new Wing! 8)

  19. Echoing DougD, 933 pounds of road-hugging weight. I’m in the right age demographic for one of these things however I still have a somewhat functioning brain so I’ll pass.

  20. I don’t think we are in the demographic for this bike…my dad’s friend has one…(I’m 40…so I guess I have 20yrs to save up?…in his defence he’s had it 10yrs, so I only have 10yrs to save?)…he luvs it and says he won’t ride anything else…priced @ $30k+ and weighing in at over 900lbs…wow…if one falls over it will be in it’s final resting place…unless someone helps GRANDPA pick up his bike…with a crane :grin (could anyone right that bike?)

    A buddy of mine (@ 50yrs) is thinking of getting the BMW…he likes the comfort & power…but I doubt he’ll get one, still too young at heart…

    Later.

  21. Does the world really need a 1.6 litre luxo-tourer, let alone two of them ? How many of these barges does Honda and BMW really expect to sell ?
    Just asking…

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