A 2000km introduction to the 2018 Honda Gold Wing
2018 Honda Gold Wing Review | Part III
This is my third ride report detailing my experiences on the road testing the new for 2018 Honda Gold Wing. The first yarn detailed my early morning ride home to Eildon from Melbourne, the second covered the sojourn from Eildon to the new Bend Motorsport Complex near Tailem Bend. This third instalment sees me leave South Australia and head back over the border to The Grampians in Western Victoria, before swinging through the 1800s goldrush town of Ararat en route to Melbourne.
My final day on the 2018 Gold Wing started out in a far from auspicious way with the fire alarms at the Coonalpyn Hotel wailing their awful tunes before 0400, and they were not silenced until gone 0500 … There was certainly no chance of sleep, so after a few thorough and repeated investigations that armageddon was not about to befall Coonalpyn, I stuck some ear plugs in and got to work on the laptop. MCNews.com.au is a hungry beast always demanding to be fed!
After a few hours work I packed up the Gold Wing for the final time to start my run home, via a few little diversions along the way to make things a little more interesting.
The cold morning dew had the Gold Wing wet all over, including the seat. While the machine warmed up I switched on the seat heaters to help dry the seat out before I boarded. It worked a treat, you can actually see where it is drying from the centre of the seat outwards in the shot below.
I eventually rolled out of Coonalpyn around 0700, a new audiobook playing via the Apple CarPlay system streaming to the Sena SRL headset integrated into the Shoei Neotec II. Despite the rude awakening and cold start I was looking forward to a great day ahead. The fog was starting to lift across the paddocks and a forecast of good weather ahead had me in a great frame of mind to enjoy the comfort of the Gold Wing as the miles rolled under our wheels.
It was actually cold enough for the tyre pressure warning system to alert me that the front tyre pressure was outside its pre-set recommendations. I assumed the cold morning was the culprit and just kept an eye on the pressure readout, within minutes the indicated pressures had started to raise and my suspicions were confirmed. A couple of minutes later at 110km/h saw the pressures up to normal and the warning light disappear. Still, nice to know the system works.
From my previous instalments you are probably getting the idea now that I am really enjoying the Apple CarPlay system on the Gold Wing, and you would be right.
After recently finishing audiobooks by John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop and F1 specialist Ross Brawn, it was a change of tack to listen to Jimmy Barnes telling his life story. All I can say is that I am glad the Noalimba Migrant Hostel I ended up in Perth as a young bloke 36-years ago was a lot better than the one he ended up in just out of Adelaide! Barnesy’s yarn also provided a very good insight into the perils and costs of true alcoholism and its destructive effects on families. I give it a nudge myself, but this was an eye opener as to what booze can really do to those who find themselves unable to control their thirst, and the reasons behind that addiction.
On a lighter and cooler note, it was around two-degrees according to the weather sites as I made my towards Keith, where I stopped to fuel both myself and the Gold Wing. A hearty breakfast it was too! Healthy? Not so much…
After crossing the Victorian border at Serviceton I continued on through Nhill, skirting the Little Desert National Park, then continued through Dimboola and Horsham. I then chose a twisty road diversion to Halls Gap, via Wartook on the Northern Grampians Road.
The back way into The Grampians was a good opportunity to again test the DCT in ‘Sport’ mode, where I left the Gold Wing to select the appropriate gears by itself. I mounted the camera right near the DCT actuators so the shifts can be clearly heard.
In automatic mode it did a great job, holding gears where required, and shifting down, sometimes rapidly through a few cogs when I applied a lot of brake pressure. See and judge it for yourself in the short video below. Sport mode though is a bit too excitable for leisurely journeys. Tour mode is a better choice for most riding, however, I actually found the Economy mode the best for urban work and eventually defaulted to this setting for everything other than playing silly buggers in the bends.
The Gold Wing has always handled quite well, for such a big luxurious tourer, but it is fair to say the new bike steers so much better, handles bumps at both ends so much more concisely, and is certainly much more of a joy in the twisties than before.
That new front end combines with an improved rear suspension lay-out and an almost 50kg weight loss all add up to a very satisfying package to ride. The brakes are also linear in their action and strong when called upon hard.
Anything cruiser based in the touring spectrum such as an Indian, Triumph Thunderbird or Harley’s Road King, despite the Milwaukee machine’s recent steps forward, can’t remotely hold a candle to the Gold Wing when it comes to sporting ability and pure riding satisfaction behind the bars. So, to the obvious comparison…
Gold Wing versus K 1600 BMW
With the Gold Wing so far above those aforementioned cruiser based machines in every area of performance it has to be asked how it stacks up against the Bavarian brawler in a suit that is the K 1600 GT.
If I was to compare the two I would say the Gold Wing is the Rolls Royce Phantom of the two. The Honda just surfs oodles of bottom end torque while soaking up the bumps with aplomb, poise and a sense of nonchalance.
The BMW is more akin to the Bentley Flying Spur W12, brasher, faster, sportier, but also with sumptuous levels of comfort and convenience.
The K 1600 GT doesn’t have the convenience of the DCT or the Apple CarPlay system, but it does have a great two-way quick-shifter and a decent multimedia suite with optional Garmin navigation system.
Comfort wise they are both extremely sumptuous, but when passengers are considered the Gold Wing certainly has the upper hand, even if the BMW is chosen in full GTL spec.
In sporting mode though the balance shifts back towards the Bavarian thanks to its slightly quicker steering, more ground clearance and wailing 160hp in-line six.
Looks are of course subjective, but I think the Gold Wing has the more handsome and modern profile. The Gold Wing really has to be seen with your own eyes in the sun to be appreciated, and the Tour Premium version in its mix of Graphite Black and Prominence Red really is the standout of the Gold Wing range.
Read about my 7000km odyssey on the BMW K 1600 GT
The Final Run to Melbourne
From Halls Gap I then turned eastwards again towards Ararat. While Ararat is famous for its goldrush days of 150 years ago, it also has a somewhat dark past with its litany of lunatic asylums. You can even go for a ghost tour of the Aradale Asylum, where it is said that 13,000 people died during its dark 130 year history that included some barbaric attempts at what amounted to the so called ‘treatments’ for ‘lunatics’ and ‘idiots’.
In modern daylight however Ararat is quite a pretty town with a bustling main street and plenty of lovely old buildings to admire as you roll through. I look forward to visiting again some time and exploring its surroundings a little more closely.
As I still had a little time up my sleeve, I then chose another diversion via the Pyrenees Highway towards Avoca, but turning before that town onto Lexton-Ararat Road followed by Lexton-Talbot Road. I chose this route after having a gander at google maps on and guessing at what might be some interesting escapades away from the conventional routes. I then navigated my way via the maps functionality incorporated into Apple CarPlay. Below is a shot of what the navigation looks like on the Wing’s 7″ TFT screen, but this image was taken when elsewhere earlier in the day and zoomed out for an overview.
Now, this is where I get to my primary beef with the ground breaking multimedia experience that the 2018 Gold Wing provides. In order for Apple Carplay to activate your phone must be connected via a cable and holder located in the top box. That poses no problems, as the full functionality of your phone is available from the bars of the bike while on the move. That’s not my beef.
For Apple CarPlay to work you also need to have a bluetooth headset connected to the bike. If your headset connection breaks for any reason, you then need to reconnect your phone and bluetooth headset in order to reactivate Apple CarPlay. I have no idea why Honda have made a headset connection a mandatory requirement for the use of CarPlay. Your phone is in the top-box, you have speakers on the bike, so why mandate a bluetooth headset in order to use the capabilities of the system? It makes no sense and puts a drawback on the system that has no requirement to be there. As I was to discover when my headset went flat due to me not charging it for a 1000km or so, and I lost all the CarPlay integration as a result. Which means I was on roads less travelled, and now having to make do without the awesome navigation system I had come to rely on.
Time was getting on, and I had to try and make Honda HQ by 1630 after a day that had amounted to a modest 650km, after taking in my diversions. I was going to take further detours through Daylesford and would have done so with GPS back-up, but with my schedule I could not risk any navigation mistakes or pissing about with google maps by the side of the road to cost me time. So from Talbot I simply chose the easy main road options for the rest of the journey through to Melbourne.
I was certainly sad to be returning the Gold Wing. It had charmed me in many ways. There is no doubt that it is the most sumptuous and well appointed touring motorcycle ever made and rightly deserves its place at Honda’s prestige end of their motorcycle range. The update had been a long time coming, but it has certainly proved worth the wait. It’s certainly a bike in my dream shed of bikes should I win the lottery.
The 2018 Gold Wing range starts from $35,999 and goes right up to the $42,999 burger with the lot that is the Gold Wing Tour Premium that I rode on this journey. Check out the first two instalments of this 2018 Honda Gold Wing Review using the links below.