Part of my feeling that the Honda Goldwing is probably the best overall touring bike ever made is due to the incredible reliability reputation these bikes have been able to achieve. Their flat 6 cylinder configuration has been the envy of all of the other touring motorcycle production companies from the beginning and they have long been known as the longest lasting motorcycle engine out there....bar none.
Also, the handling and balance of these bikes, especially the 1800 versions built in 2001 and after is incredible, often being described as having the handling of a sports bike or a bike of much smaller weight and girth.
And the comfort is legendary, for both rider and passenger. The most comfortable bike made in my opinion....hands down.
The chronology of the Honda Goldwing
The GL1000 1974 debuts at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in October as the flat-four cylinder naked bike. What was so intriguing about the Goldwing is that to the best of my knowledge, this was the first bike that was based around an automotive engine. The bike was built around the engine. Supposedly, it was a failed automotive project, was meant to be a car but the engine was so good that Honda decided to scrap the car project and build a motorcycle around the engine.
The 1975 GL1000 Gold Wing – first year of production was 1976 – GL1000 LTD model. Style/Comfort changes: flared mud guards better seat. Quality/Safety changes: grease nipple on driveshaft
1977 – Some changes in styling and comfort. Higher handlebars with neoprene grips, dual contoured saddle and chromed heat shields on the header pipes introduced. Quality/Safety changes: steering head bearings were now tapered rollers instead of quick-wear & seize ball types. Front and rear engine and rocker covers were now thicker and designed to reduce noise. An internal coating applied to the interior of gas tank to prevent rust. Last year with kick start option.
1978 – Style/Comfort changes: stepped saddle. Quality/Safety changes: smaller carburettors, shorter valve timing and increased spark advance for less top speed but more torque
1979 - last year of production for the GL1000. Style/Comfort changes: first year Honda made their own saddlebags and trunk for it, black brake and clutch levers
The 1980 GL1100 - the GL1100 Interstate released and fully kitted as a touring motorcycle, bigger 1085cc engine (still flat-four), smaller carburetors and electronic ignition, air assisted suspension equalled greater handling and comfort
1981 – Style/Comfort changes: reshaped saddle and slightly lowered. Quality/Safety changes: scratch resistant windshield and better instrument shielding to reduce reflections
1982 – introduction of Aspencade model with major changes. Style/Comfort changes: smaller wheels (18” front, 16” rear) with twin pot brake callipers and wider rims (2.5” front, 3” rear), neater crash bars, Clarion type 2 AM/FM stereo radio, digital dash, CB radio, and a clockQuality/Safety changes: electrically operated air pump for the suspension instead of the previous tyre valve setup and dual piston brake calipers all round
1983 – last year of production for the GL1100. Style/Comfort changes: flatter footpegs with, the passenger ones being slightly adjustable, passenger seat was redesigned to give more room, LCD dashQuality/Safety changes: Aspencade now had eleven spoke aluminium wheels instead of the Comstars, the suspension pump controls mounted on the handlebars just below the dash, linked brakes and choke lever now operated by thumb on the left handlebar. Anti-dive forks (TRAC to reduce wallowing, better fuel economy, a shorter first gear made the machine faster off-the-line but top gear acceleration was now a bit more sluggish. Changes to the forks and stronger springs in the rear shocks helped prevent bottoming-out
The 1984 GL1200 - Comfort and size (now 1182cc) defines the brand for long distance riders from now on. Style/Comfort changes: advanced audio system and upgraded LCD dash. Quality/Safety changes: stiffer frame, hydraulic valve adjusters and clutch, better suspension and handling, better air suspension controls and linked brakes, four 32mm CV carburettors give better response with a light feel, without the need for accelerator pumps
1985 – GL1200 LTD. Computerized fuel injection, auto levelling rear suspension and a sophisticated trip computer alternator capacity was increased and the ignition pick-up coils were mounted at the front of the engine instead of the rear. An altered top gear made for smoother cruising in top and the fairing had better ventilation.
1986 – SE-I model introduced. Style/Comfort changes: a few style changes over the LTD: Dolby noise reduction on the Panasonic Type 3 audio system, a slightly better seatQuality/Safety changes: 500 watt alternator, carburettor models were back to 30mm CV's with accelerator pumps1987 - last year of production with little change and minor improvements. Style/Comfort changes: a much plusher saddle and color-matched rider footpeg accents with a nice chrome trim. Quality/Safety changes: cruise control and trunk mirror as standard, and a lower cowl/oil filter cover, side vents (seen on the SE-i) now fitted to the Aspencade, the final drive and differential now much smoother and quieter for less chucking and jumping at trundling speeds. The 1988 GL1500 - WOO HOO, major new model and totally redesigned from the ground up The first Goldwing using a flat (6) six cylinder engine, 1520cc and a reverse gear. Style/Comfort changes: bodywork almost encloses the whole machine and single key operation of the trunk and panniers, most comfortable saddle yet. c Air assisted rear suspension
1990 - GL1500SE model introduced. Style/Comfort changes: trunk spoiler/light, windscreen vent, lighted handlebar switches, adjustable passenger footboards and foot warmer vents, trunk and pannier lids were made to fit better in order to keep water out.
Quality/Safety changes: Camshaft and carburettor modifications helped to eliminate chucking at trundling speed.
1991 – Interstate is now the basic model and is 40lbs lighter, due to the lack of the following: reverse gear (note: no ability to fit on later), cruise control and on-board air suspension compressor. It also only offered a basic sound system and passenger footpegs. Style/Comfort changes: lowered seat height, about an inch by skimming some of the foam. NOTE: the previous GL1500 is now the Aspencade.
1993- Style/Comfort changes: the SE getting the CB radio (previously an expensive Hondaline accessory) as standard. Quality/Safety changes: cruise control readings taken directly from the camshaft for grater accuracy, all 1520cc engines now offer needle roller bearings in the rocker arm pivots
1995 - Style/Comfort changes: 20th. Anniversary badges, chrome screen garnish, slimmer side panels from the saddle, SE and Aspencade saddle now 40mm lower than before (same height as the Interstate). Quality/Safety changes: lower and stiffer suspension for improved handling. Last year of production for the Interstate.
NOTE: A recall to have the bank angle sensor replaced was announced this year and applied to all GL1500 models back to 1988.
1997 - Style/Comfort changes: symbols instead of text on the handlebar switch gear Quality/Safety changes: stronger clutch and the following list of components from the Valkyrie engine: main bearings, piston & ring sets, valve springs, con-rod bolts, final drive and much of the gearbox offering marginally cleaner and smoother shifting.
1998 - Style/Comfort changes: for the Aspencade and SE: new clear plastic headlamp and clear indicators, white faced instruments, new fishtail type exhaust tips (this altered the exhaust sound), two-tone saddle with better back support, a skimpier engine guard
2000 - Style/Comfort changes: back to black backed instruments and the SE got chromed rocker covers, a nice 25th anniversary badge.
The 2001 GL1800 – A complete redesign from the ground up featuring an all new aluminium frame comprised of only 31 parts, compared to the previous models 130 and the new frame weighed 25lbs less than before. This significant change offered a new stiffer frame (a 77% increase in torsional rigidity and 119% increase in lateral rigidity). However, there was frame weld cracking on some of the 2001-02 models which required a huge recall program from Honda which they did their best to comply with. There was some problem in that many of the Honda dealers were not equipped to do aluminum welding and often independent welding shops were employed to inspect and to make any necessary repairs. A bigger engine at 1832cc (118 bhp and 125 lb./ft. of torque) and still the GL1800 weighs 40lbs less than the GL1500. Style/Comfort changes: slightly slimmer bodywork and a much bigger seat, height and diameter of the wheels remained the same as before, but the tires were wider. Quality/Safety changes: fuel injection and the option of ABS brakes
2004- Style/Comfort changes: lighted handlebar and radio switches and a vent in the windshield. Quality/Safety changes: a heat shield between the rear brake calliper and the exhaust muffler.
New Package Approaches for 2006 and 2007: 2006 - Style/Comfort changes: new rear trunk and saddlebag lights (the saddlebag lights won't fit pre 2006 models but the trunk lights will), facelifted meter panel and instruments, and bigger rear speaker pods.Quality/Safety changes: larger radiators and cooling fans, better rubbers between the engine guards and exhaust cowls, smaller and neater wiring connector. 2006 packages:Premium Audio package: six speakers and an 80 watts per channel external amplifier.Audio/Comfort package (in addition to the audio package mentioned:) heated grips and a heated saddle (separate controls for front and back) and warm air flaps in the lower exhaust cowls similar to those found on the GL1500SE.Audio/Comfort/Navi package: flash-card based GPS systemAudio/Comfort/Navi/ABS – top of the line package includes ABS brakes 2007 packages:Premium Audio package for the base model stayed the same.Audio/Comfort package includes the Sat-Nav.Audio/Comfort/Navi package includes ABS brakes.Audio/Comfort/Sat-Nav/ABS /Airbag model.
I can't imagine what Honda will come up with for the next generation of Goldwing motorcycles....solar powered?? Nuclear?? 4000cc?? Your guess is as good as mine.
And the list goes on. I have owned many more that I'm not taking the time right now to show on this page. And there will probably be many more additional acquisitions down the road.
To Summarize, in my humble opinion, the Honda Goldwing is my clear favorite to ride when my goal is to take a long trip with bunches of miles and I want to do so in comfort and with a bike that handles in such a way that inspires confidence for rider and any passenger.
I have had the privilege of owning several Honda Goldwings..Both of the 1500 size and the 1800 version. I love them both although they are distinctly different. Do you have an interesting Honda Goldwing story to tell us on this forum? Funny...technical...Love...Hate...You're the boss here. Enjoy and participate.
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