We like to test bikes in their intended environments, so an extended tour on Ike’s Interstate is the only way to put a Gold Wing through its paces. Any bike can be fun for a day, right? I rode the big white Wing 2400 miles in four days on I-40 to refresh my memory as to why this 16-time Cycle World Ten Best winner has been so successful.
In 2006, Honda split the GW into four different trim levels. Our bike is the third-most optioned Wing, which includes premium audio, the comfort package (heated seats and grips), GPS navigation and ABS brakes for $23,649 in disco-fabulous Pearl White.
Unchanged except for the addition of the airbag, navi and other luxury options since 2001, the Gold Wing uses a sohc flat-Six engine that made 103.9 creamy-smooth horsepower and 111.5 ft.-lb. of torque on the Cycle World dyno. It’s bolted into a sporty twin-spar aluminum frame that puts 66.4 inches between the axles, with air-adjustable rear suspension and a non-adjustable fork holding everything up.
First impressions are lasting ones, and the Wing doesn’t disappoint. The seat is supportive and spacious, like an Aeron office chair with 110-mph casters. The reach to the ground is reasonable, even for my 5-foot-6 frame, and the pegs are low. The motor spools up quickly and the controls–although having an aircraft-cockpit-like appearance–are intuitively designed and easy to operate, even without reading the 272-page manual. It’s easy-handling with neutral steering, feeling very light up to speeds that, um, let’s just say are a bit illegal.
Handling prowess is not a surprise: Honda’s goal was to build a giant sportbike. Judging by the way the bike corners and flicks from side to side–yes, flicks–and lunges out of bends in top gear, I’d say big H succeeded.
But Honda also wanted a supreme tourer with ultimate wind protection, comfort and storage capacity. The adjustable screen and jumbo fairing create a quiet pocket of air for a wide range of riders, while great ergonomics make 800-mile days enjoyable. It has more than 33 gallons of storage space, so you can take piles of stuff with you. The sound system is very good–six speakers boomed out my favorite podcasts (yes, there is an mp3 player jack) distortion-free, audible even through a full-face helmet and earplugs. And the weather band helped me avoid some gnarly summer thunderstorms.
Although close to ideal, the ride wasn’t a perfect experience. The navi system needs updating: It would be nice to have weather and traffic info, and why not program it to display the nearest gas stations when the fuel runs low? Because with a 6.6-gallon tank and an observed 36-mpg fuel consumption, the range is about 200 miles to Reserve–a little disappointing for a touring bike that so easily eats miles.
After four days on the road with my big white buddy, I didn’t want the trip to end; I felt like I could go on forever. That, my friends, is the mark of an excellent grand tourer.
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