Living with a 2001 Honda GL1800 Goldwing

Raah! Johnny Cantlie and his Goldwing


August 2001

Sniffing around, I saw that the one motorcycling species we were lacking from our excellent groupage was a Super-Tourer. Plenty of supersports, plenty of superbikes, but no Super-Tourers. Which, I thought, wasn't really on.

Having the carpark thronging with squadrons of plastic crotch-rockets is all very well, but not everyone wants to do 160mph everywhere, hoiking wheelies at every opportunity.

Some of us want to take in the sights and sounds of the passing scenery rather than slithering head-first into it at 12,000rpm. As such, there really is only one bike. Honda's all-conquering GL1500 GoldWing has become the GL1800 GoldWing for 2001, and in doing so has re-affirmed itself as the ultimate Super-Tourer tool. Four-speaker CD-changer stereo. Cruise control. Reverse gear. Flat-six 1.8 litre, 120bhp engine. Armchairs for the driver (you don't actually do anything as common as riding a GoldWing) and passenger. Fog lamps. Incredible headlights. Massive luggage capacity. And for 2001, the new beam frame is 118% stiffer than the old, bendy spaghetti thing it replaces.

So what am I going to do with the Wing this year? Well, ride it a lot (obviously) to the South of France, fit some extras entirely in keeping with the GoldWing stylee, and try and evaluate whether something as excessive as a GL1800 can make sense in the real world. Real world? I'd rather leave it behind, thanks very much. Just jump on my Wing, turn left at the next intersection and set the cruise control to 100mph. Laters.

September 2001

Six weeks into GoldWing ownership, and we're still very much in the honeymoon period. Thus far, here's a quick list (in order of neither preference or importance) about what's good, and bad, about life with a Wing.

Filtering through traffic is possible but tricky. It definitely needs a windscreen wiper. It's actually more comfortable than my bed. The 1.8 litre motor is utterly beautiful. Sportsbike riders treat you with disdain. But you can surprise the living bejeezus out of them with 120bhp on tap. The gearbox can still get confused if you're not slow    and deliberate.

The GoldWing is an entirely excellent thing to ride to work every day. Due to appalling home management by myself, I'm currently residing with my (only slightly) psychotic sister some 60 miles from work. In these proper summer evenings we're having, I actually look forward to the trip home on the Wing. Kick into overdrive, set cruise control to 80mph, hunker down in the seat, adjust the stereo. Life is good. The stresses of the day - and believe me, there have been a f ew recently - just get forgotten.

For such a large bike, the Wing handles really well. The motor's still loosening up at the moment so I'm not taking it above 5,000rpm, but I don't need to. Steve and Taff at Honda UK have fitted the 6-changer CD player in the boot and the rear speakers, which improves the audio no end, but I'm looking for higher-quality hi-fi. A quick trip to the sound shop awaits.

October 2001

Got the Wing serviced at Tippets Motorcycles, who are just over the way from us. I hoped the change of filter and oil would make the gearchange work a bit smoother and it's worked, up to a point. You still have to be firm with up-changes but the Wing now rarely leaps out of 3rd with a gear-shuddering clatter. Jim Bowen made a very valid point the other day - the GL1800 would be awesome as an automatic. It makes sense and suits the riding sensation of the Wing down to a tee!

Living with the Wing simply gets better, but as suspected, my long-termer is now the most sought-after vehicle in the office. Bertie nabbed it for a weeked to go 'dahn saaahf' and loved the whole Wing experience (but he felt it lost a bit of the allure when the CD changer ate his Level 42 collection) Alex is going away with it to France in a couple of weeks, Mark Graham is pinching it for a long weekend, Daryll went down to Newquay with it - but they all say one thing: windscreen wiper.

In the recent return to more traditional British summer, the simple fact of the matter is that rain sticks to the Wing's incredibly effective screen. Peering round the side or over the top of the screen isn't an option, and if it's night-time, you're buggered. Does anyone do wiper kits for the GoldWing? For next month, we should have the Wing slammed and ICE'd as originally planned. Huzzah!

March 2002

Ah, the GoldWing. As we click into 2002 it seems as though I have never been without it. Indeed, life without a GoldWing for me would now be impossible. Impossible and miserable, because as effective as the Wing is in summer, so it is in winter.

The massive screen and warm-air ducts keep this freezing January air directed well away from the rider, so much so that I'm still riding round in an open-face helmet in this salt-encrusted Arctic mire.  Only the hands and feet get blustered by the wind, so you need a good set of Gore-Tex boots and gloves to keep them properly covered up. 

There's a delicious black coating of salt over every surface that has to be removed via jetwash at least once a week if it's not to start attacking and furring various fasteners around the Wing's considerable girth.

The sheer weight and solid balance of the Wing keeps it firmly glued to the ground despite constant submergings in ice and brine solution, and the Honda build quality has thus far allowed it to survive the winter intact. Having now cruised the Wing through a great summer last year, and now this evil monstrosity of a Siberian weather front, I can say without fear of contradiction that it's in a different league to the rubbery old GL1500 it replaces.

Despite being physically larger in most respects, the GL1800 is far more of a real motorcycle and you can larrup around on it, scraping footboards as you go, as well as kicking-back in ultimate style when you hit the motorway and thumb the cruise-control. My only real criticism of the Wing - lack of a windscreen wiper - remains as valid now as it did in the summer, but other than that the GL1800 is one complete - and utterly stunning - motorcycle.

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