The Nuclear Tourist: Day 1

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

A first date with the 2018 Gold Wing Tour

Today was my get-to-know-you ride with the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour. A first date, if you will. Of course, one that took place over 12 hours and 600 miles. In that time, we learned a lot about each other, but first we had to get past that initial awkward stage of the Wing being a DCT model and me reaching for the clutch lever at each stop for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, we began to click off the miles.

Riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing On The Nuclear Tourist Tour
The Nuclear Tourist Tour: Day 2
The Nuclear Tourist Tour: Day 3
The Nuclear Tourist Tour: Day 4

We hit the road a lot later than I would have liked and didn’t get going until about 11:15. So, I knew I’d be spending a good bit of the latter part of my ride in the dark. The route avoided the interstates as much as possible, taking me from Austin to Sweetwater (because that was the name of a town in one of my favorite movies, Once Upon a Time in the West) and then picked up Highway 84 (which took me through towns with names like Muleshoe) for the remainder of my trip to Santa Rosa, NM. The roads were mostly flat and frequently divided highways. The scenery was good if you’re fond of wide open spaces. I saw more freight trains in one day than I’ve seen in the last several years.

All loaded up and ready to hit the road. Would you be surprised if I told you that this shot was taken by a Honda PR person?

With the suspension set to “rider with luggage” mode, the Gold Wing Tour floated over the highway and its irregularities. The new engine is ungodly smooth at highway speed – even when the bike is traveling at throw-you-in-jail speeds. I kept the ride mode set to Tour since that’s what I was doing, and there weren’t any corners, anyway. At a steady 80 mph, the engine is spinning roughly 2,700 rpm, and like I said, it was vibration-free.

Since the temperatures ranged from 65° to 23°, I was happy for the weather protection the windshield offered. Although it creates a great pocket of relatively still air, I was really grateful for the heated grips, seat, and my electric vest as the temperature dropped after dark.

My view for most of the day, although there were fewer trees in other places.

The last thing I want to comment on before I call it a night is the Gold Wing’s GPS. It is the best motorcycle GPS I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. The wide screen offers plenty of room for the map and the list of upcoming turns. When a turn is approaching, a secondary map with higher resolution replaces the turn list on the right side of the screen, simplifying the act of getting through complicated intersections in unfamiliar towns.

Tomorrow’s trip begins with a dash up to Los Alamos, NM, before heading back to the south in the direction of Tucson, AZ. I’m already looking forward to it, but first, sleep.

( Click here for live route .)

The route for the Nuclear Tour: Day 1.
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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  • Jeff S. Wiebe Jeff S. Wiebe on Jan 25, 2018

    I get ~daily emails from MO inviting me to read new pieces of writing about motorcycles. Some of these pieces are indistinguishable from a traditional motorcycle magazine's pieces, and some are indistinguishable from a motorcycle blog's pieces. I generally take a look at both types, and without giving it much thought I appreciate each for what they are.
    Those of us who are motorcyclists are used to recognizing that every motorcycle ever made has its compromises, no motorcycle does everything equally well, a sport bike isn't a dirt bike isn't a cruiser or tourer, etc. Generally we evaluate a bike based on its intended use, and don't vilify a supermoto for having suboptimal wind protection. A similar approach with the reading of motorcycle writing seems reasonable to me. A multi-day piece broken into bits, each of which is written & posted 'from the road' after riding ~600 miles, has its own charm. Casually looking forward to more.

  • TonyCarlos TonyCarlos on Jan 25, 2018

    Okay, so the bike is smooth in tour mode. Is it harsh in non-tour? Or is it too floaty in other modes? And what are the other modes? You had 600 miles of bad scenery. That’s not enough motivation to play with settings?