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  • Robert Farago

2024 Honda Gold Wing Review


Forty-three years in the making, the 2024 Honda Gold Wing is a dead nuts reliable two-wheeled luxobarge. Unless you convert it to a trike or attach a trailer. A trailer? On a motorcycle? Proof – if proof be needed – that…


The Honda Gold Wing isn’t cool - especially amongst people who ride “American iron.”

Saying “I have a Gold Wing” to a Harley owner is like ordering a Shirley Temple in a biker bar. Indian owners share the contempt. Hell, most Honda owners look askance at the American-made “gold standard” tourer.


Is shopping for a Honda Gold Wing a tacit admission that I’ve become the Old Fat White Guy born-again biker I used to mock in my salad days?


I’m not fat, and I need a motorcycle that can explore the length and breadth of the American hinterlands without breaking down.


A bike that’s still my friend when the road looks rough ahead and I’m miles and miles from a nice warm bed. And so to the test drive. Ride! Test ride.


Size/Weight



Approaching the Gold Wing, I wouldn’t have been more intimidated if I was about to climb into a Kenworth.


Even without the armchair out back, the clipped Wing “bagger” is a beast, stretching 8.13 feet from nose-to-tail, weighing-in at 804 pounds.


Harley, Indian and BMW full dress tourers are even heavier, but my long distance 1985 BMW K100 RT was a foot shorter and 254 pounds lighter. Just sayin’.


Design


Honda’s done its best to disguise the behemoth’s bulk. The latest iteration uses jet fighter folds, origami creases and angry Ninja headlights to Transformer your great grandfather’s Wing into something you don’t have to register with the Panama Maritime Authority.


I heard someone say “if the Gold Wing was a dog I’d shave its ass and make it walk backwards.” I say the bagger's legit – from every angle except the rear. If you like big butts and cannot lie (about your credit score), Honda’s got the motorcycle slide-outs of your dreams.


The Gold Wing’s rear end says motorcycle like a piano says guitar. As the side bags are less capacious than a carry-on, safety is the only advantage. Cars following the Gold Wing think it’s a car.


You get the same impression when you throw a leg over the seat.


Dash



Surveying the Gold Wing’s dash from the driver’s – sorry rider’s seat confronts you with more buttons than you’ll find in a small airplane. Complete with a rotary knob modeled after a monochromatic mushroom-headed Mario.


Every button does something: summoning Apple CarPlay, raising and lowering the windscreen, adjusting the suspension (lighting up the “Old Lady On Board” LED), making a cup of coffee (with Honda’s Nespresso accessory) and more.



Getting to grips with all those controls – to the point where you don’t have to pull over and RTFM – is not impossible. At least as doable as mounting a magnetic chessboard on the Wing’s tank and playing the Caro-Kann Defense at 80 miles per hour.


None of the Wing’s plasticky pushers are backlit. The odds of a gloved hand hitting the right button at the right time in the dark are only slightly higher than the odds that the average Gold Wing buyer will ride his bike at night.


BMW tourers eliminate all that clutter with a Jumbotron screen and a handlebar-mounted, Bop-It-inspired Ferris wheel. While the Wing does the menu thing on a smaller canvas via Mario, its at-a-glance analogue speedometer and tachometer are the right answer for both safety and style.


Engine/Handling



The Wing’s 1,833cc liquid-cooled, six-cylinder four-stroke engine is the motorcycle’s secret weapon.


Don’t be fooled by its 124.7 horsepower. Honda’s flax six is the torque of the town, cranking-out 125.4 pound-feet of twist. Delivering linear acceleration with less vibration than a chunk of granite, just sitting there, minding its own business.


To get on with the business of cornering, Honda’s mounted the horizontally opposed (not by me!) six at the very bottom of the bike. With the motorcycle’s weight balanced front and rear, with a double-wishbone suspension fore and aft, the Gold Wing is inconceivably maneuverable.


The big assed bike flicks left and right with ease. It stays glued to your chosen line through the twisty bits as well as any tourer ever made – save BMW’s top-heavy cruising bikes. Machines that are ready, willing and able to fall over at slow speeds, and won’t get up without a winch.


DCT Transmission



Introduced in the 2008 FR1200F, the latest gen Honda motorcycle DCT turns the Gold Wing into the world largest moped.


No manual clutch or fancy footwork required. Just twist ‘n go! Leaving your left hand free to try to convince passing motorcyclists that you are, indeed, on a motorcycle.


The Gold Wing DCT gives pilots – sorry riders, the option of using buttons to upshift or downshift manually. In Sport mode, there’s no need. In Tour, sure. Especially when passing. But first you’ve got to switch-on manual mode, then press play. Making Sport mode the default option.


In Sport, slow speed throttle inputs are a bit… jerky. A challenge that may disappear after the engine’s break-in period. If not, activating a soupçon of linked braking while applying the gas is the only viable solution.


There’s also a forward and reverse slow crawl function, a welcome addition for a bike that weighs as much as a male sea lion. Accessed by a medley of buttons, of course.


Speed



In Sport (as opposed to Tour, Rain and soul-killing Eco), the Wing’s power plant hauls its heft from zero to sixty in 3.4 seconds. That’s the same sprint time as Ducati’s 549-pound V4 S Multistrada.


The Gold Wing rider taking flight above canes his Honda to 133mph, leaving seven mph on the table. Suffice it to say, bonzai!


I want a motorcycle that’ll cruise at 120mph all day (middle America is as flat as three-day old Coke Zero) and putter around when Smokey’s out and about. The Wing’s the thing.


Sound


Regular readers will recall that I passed on the smaller, lighter, even more nimble BMW R 1200 RT because its Boxer engine wasn’t music to my ears.


The Honda Gold Wing’s sound track lacks a scintilla of a Harley’s masculine growl. Instead, the Honda’s ever-so-refined flat six does an excellent imitation of the first gen Porsche Boxster at full chat. Unlike Porsche Club members, the Wing also knows when to STFU.


Comfort



The Honda Gold Wing bagger lacks the Tourer’s heated seat and grips and mission critical taller windscreen. Retrofitting heated bits is expensive and electronically risky. The taller windscreen is being fitted as I write.


So yes, I surrendered my life insurance policy and bought a Honda Gold Wing. I’m paying 28 large on the road. Well, at the salesman’s desk. The metallic green machine’s not in my possession yet; I’m waiting for Amica to do the right thing for my bank account.


The Wing Takes Flight



Is the Honda Gold Wing the perfect long-distance touring motorcycle? Nope. Is it the best long-distance touring motorcycle money can buy? Unless you seek membership in the Cult of Harley or an Indian tribe, yes.


The only questions remaining: can I let go of decades of derision and will Travels with Charley Substacking live up to the best the motorcycle touring genre has to offer? If not, it won’t be for lack of trying. Come May, you be the judge.

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