Trev details his first experiences aboard the new Honda Gold Wing
I picked up a new top of the range Honda Gold Wing late yesterday afternoon from Honda’s Campbellfield HQ, on the outskirts of Melbourne. This presented me with an opportunity to stay in the area and catch up with some friends for dinner and drinks before an early getaway this morning to make my way home to Lake Eildon.
When picking up the machine it was parked next to the previous model Gold Wing, the difference is startling. The new Gold Wing has dropped 48kg and more than a few dress sizes. Physically it is a much smaller beast than before, and sat there dwarfed by its predecessor, who suddenly looked very old indeed… Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me but must get around to shooting old and new together in the near future to really illustrate just how stark the difference in size actually is.
There is no doubt that the new Gold Wing offers a much fresher and more modern face to what is Honda’s premium luxury touring flagship. While the previous bike was still a very grand tourer and performed quite well, it is fair to say that a comprehensive update was well overdue.
After my evening socials, followed by a few hours kip, I hit the road about 0445 this morning. It was wet and dark, some recent fairly heavy showers in the area had soaked the roads and a little bit of precipitation was still about. It was not cold though, the ambient temperature around 15-degrees and thus no need to activate the heated grips or heated seat on the new wing.
My mount was the top spec’ DCT version of the new Gold Wing with all the bells and whistles. Two things that are immediately noticeable as missing though were the traditional clutch lever and foot operated gear shifter. So how do you go with slow speed maneuvering?
A button on the LH switchblock activates a walking mode, with the manual shifting + and – buttons then used to slowly move the machine forwards at 1.8km/h, or backwards at 1.2km/h. On the DCT editions of the Gold Wing, the reverse gear walking speed assist function is no longer operated off a cable driven by the starter motor, but instead is managed via some trickery in the set-up of the dual clutches.
Once out of the car park and off the back streets I merged into heavy vehicle traffic on the Hume Highway. I left the new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to its own devices in auto to swap through the cogs itself as it saw fit. The transmission became smoother as the drivetrain got up to operating temperature, with shifts then becoming almost imperceptible. The only slight notch was as the transmission dropped down to second gear just before coming to a complete stop at traffic lights, where it then clicked through to neutral without me even feeling it.
At 110km/h highway speeds the Gold Wing is turning over a leisurely 2000rpm and with the electrically adjustable windscreen in the upright position the stereo was clearly audible inside my helmet from the dashboard mounted speaker system. It even worked well enough a bit above that speed, clearly besting the other systems on the market which generally are only really functional at speeds up to 100km/h.
I was in a very happy place indeed rolling along the Hume on the Gold Wing, completely comfortable and enjoying the comfort of the machine I started to think about extending this journey onwards instead of heading home but alas, too much work awaits…
I normally peel of the Hume at Broadford and take the twisty backroads that pass the Broadford Motorcycle Complex before then continuing through Strath Creek and joining the Goulburn Valley Highway. However, I knew there were road works after the Murchison Gap, so continued up the Hume before taking the Tallarook turn-off further on, which then joins Goulburn Valley Highway near Trawool.
For the stretch through Tallarook I buttoned the throttle right off as the native fauna through this area have watched too many kamikaze movies. Rancid corpses of kangaroos littered the roadside and with no real moonlight to help warn me of the presence of the live and kicking ones, caution was warranted. The lights on the Gold Wing worked well with the high beam in particular offering a good long and wide spread of the road ahead. On Aussie backroads though you can never have enough lumens out to the sides to help you see any wildlife heading your way out of the scrub, thus some sort of extra driving lights with their beams concentrated to the sides would be a worthwhile investment for an intrepid traveller that likes to cover kilometres at night.
I reached Yea a little before 0600, rolling the throttle off from 100km/h the DCT system dropped down to sixth gear, turning over 1500rpm at the 60km/h town speed limit. As I rolled to a complete stop the gearbox shuffled its way down the box as I maneuvered into a parking bay outside the Yea Take Away. The Gold Wing automatically selected neutral as I swung the sidestand down.
Yea Take Away was already open so I took a seat in there to do some updates to MCNews.com.au and jot down these notes about my trip home. The flys of Yea were also up and about nice and early, despite there still being no daylight whatsoever and sunset still an hour-and-a half away. Thus I tucked into my breakfast between using my hands to swat away some of the most persistent little bastards I have come across. The scrambled eggs were pretty shithouse too… After processing the overnight news of Michael Dunlop signing with Tyco BMW for TT 2018 and updating stage three news from the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, I hit the road again on the Gold Wing just as dawn started to break.
Heading north-east out of Yea I continued along the Maroondah Highway and started experimenting with the four riding modes. Tour, Sport, Rain and Economy are the four modes which tailor the throttle maps, DCT change points, plus suspension responses, traction control settings and braking force distribution in the dual-combined braking system.
By far the biggest changes felt when cycling through the modes is the shift mapping of the dual-clutch transmission. Tour certainly strikes the nicest balance between performance and smooth operation. The Sport setting is best reserved for when you are having a go, and thus concentrating on your riding inputs, as the machine is so much more responsive with deft throttle and brake control required for best results.
I peeled off the Maroondah Highway at Molesworth to enjoy the bends of Whanregarwen Rd. Here I gave the bike a bit more curry and there is no doubt that the Gold Wing is most certainly a torque monster, the heavily modernised engine really does dish out plenty of grunt from idle right through to a little under 6000rpm.
The DCT helps propel the machine forward in an incredibly smooth and efficient fashion. The previous machine’s gearbox was certainly not the smoothest, thus the seven-speed DCT is a real boon in this new model, which also by the way, can still be had with a conventional six-speed transmission. One would hope the manual box has been improved in this latest generation also.
The 2018 Gold Wing with its all new double-wishbone front suspension system steers so much better than that outgoing machine. Tip-in is not incredibly light, but it is fluid and predictable. Once then commited to a line the bike does not waiver, and shrugs off mid-corner bumps in a far superior way than its predecessor. A huge improvement.
The wing charges around its 200 km/h speedo with enough ferocity to be entertaining. In Honda’s release notes they boast about a better exhaust note to the new bike, I am not so sure. The previous bike had a satisfyingly guttural growl that reminded me of my beloved six-pack Hemi Charger. The new machine sounds a lot more refined with mechanical noise virtually imperceptible, but I quite like mechanical noise thus I think the new bike not quite as sonorous as its predecessor.
I stopped at Alexandra to try out the Apple CarPlay functions that the Gold Wing brings to motorcycling for the first time. Your phone must be connected to the Gold Wing via a cable port in the top box, and also be connected via bluetooth to a compatible helmet headset. In my case that was the new Shoei Neotec with its integrated Sena SRL system. The combination worked perfectly and I could have clear GPS navigation now shown on the 7-inch TFT screen in full colour, with addresses able to be added by voice prompt while riding, or directed via the buttons on the LH switchblock to scroll through the menu options.
From here I could also select what music I wanted to play from my phone, and also used the Audible app via Apple CarPlay to activate the current audiobook I am enjoying, ‘Total Competition – Lessons in strategy from Formula One’ with Ross Brawn and Adam Parr. Absolutely love this sort of functionality and would get so much use out of these systems while long-distance touring.
A run over Skyline Road then terminated at Eildon before I headed up to Foggs Lookout on Mount Pinniger to take a photo of the wing overlooking Lake Eildon from a height of 500 metres above sea level. The lake is currently at 61.36 per cent of capacity, at which it holds about three times the water volume of Sydney Harbour.
All in all an enlightening early morning first encounter with Honda’s new flagship. Stand by for more on the new Gold Wing over the following weeks as I grow more accustomed to its charms, and try and discover any not so charming character traits. At this stage though I think it is fair to say we are going to become good friends…
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