Best Touring Motorcycle of 2018
Best Touring Motorcycle of 2018: Honda Gold Wing Tour
From the moment that the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour was only a product of the rumor mill, we knew that it was going to be a big deal. After all, how many manufacturers can claim to have a model in continuous production for 43 years? This also means that there was tremendous pressure on Honda to make sure that the newest Wing had the proper acknowledgement of the model’s storied past while still being a radical enough update to carry the bike into the future. We here at Motorcycle.com think that Honda succeeded.
We’ll start with the 1,833cc SOHC flat-six, which received a complete makeover, becoming a more powerful engine that is 29mm shorter front-to-back. In its lightest configuration (6-speed manual transmission) it’s also 13.7 pounds lighter. The perfectly square bore and stroke of 73mm x 73mm had the distance between bore-centers was shrunk by 9mm. Other space-saving measures were reducing the cylinder offset from the left and right cylinder banks 4mm and relocating the crankshaft pulser.
The valves-per-cylinder count jumped to four. Controlling those valves, the finger-follower rocker-arm system on the intake side and roller rocker-arm system on the exhaust side deliver both weight savings and add to the engine’s compactness. A new intake is both lighter and designed to swirl the incoming atmosphere to more efficiently flow through the air filter on its way to the new, single 50mm throttle body.
The result is an engine that produces a claimed 5 hp more power and gives better fuel economy, which in one of the controversial design decisions allowed Honda to reduce the fuel capacity by 1.1 gallons while maintaining the same touring range. Two transmissions are offered, 6-speed manual and 7-speed DCT. We’ve sampled both and have found the DCT to be the preferred one, as it includes Walking Mode, which allows easy maneuvering of the Wing in parking lots.
The other huge change to the Gold Wing Tour is the the inclusion of a double-wishbone front suspension. In addition to reducing front-end dive under braking and separating bump absorption from steering inputs, it also allows the wheel to track over bumps up and down instead of diagonally back towards the engine. This enables to the engine to be mounted further forward for better handling. Our time with the new suspension has left us quite impressed with its capabilities and immediately eliminated our concerns of being too isolated from the front contact patch. In our multi-state travels on the Gold Wing Tour, we’ve been impressed with the bike’s ability to provide the super-slab comfort required of a mega-tourer while also being fun to hustle down a winding mountain road.
The Gold Wing Tour’s styling deftly balanced maintaining the motorcycle’s recognizable lines while slimming its dimensions significantly. One of the few controversies surrounding the Gold Wing Tour, however, is the reduction in cargo-carrying capacity. Yes, touring bikes are about taking your gear with you while you travel, and some riders may feel the pinch of being able to carry only 73% as much stuff as the previous generation. That said, the keyless entry system is a pleasure to use, and the bags do compliment the overall lines of the bike.
The Wing’s instrument cluster has grown into a full infotainment system, the centerpiece of which is the exceptional 7-inch TFT display screen, which houses the menus for the rider aids, audio system, and most importantly, the navigation system. In a bold move, the Gold Wing’s GPS is standard equipment for all versions – with 10 years of free updates.
Apple CarPlay integration makes an appearance for the first time on a motorcycle, giving iPhone users access to their favorite entertainment and navigation apps. Standard Bluetooth allows riders to listen to music, navigation, and phone calls privately in their helmets.
We could go on – and have in the articles listed above – with all the reasons we love this motorcycle. So, we’ll simply say that the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour is Motorcycle.com’s Best Touring Motorcycle of 2018. Congratulations!
Best Touring Motorcycle Runner-Up: Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited
I’m not sure there’s a better bike for putting down over 1,000 miles a day for two days consecutively across the U.S. through all sorts of conditions. I say that from experience. I had a chance to spend some time with Harley-Davidson’s CVO Limited (the special edition uber trick, 117 cu in-clad Ultra Limited) in the Midwest riding through torrential downpours that had stalled trucker’s rides and put less-than-attentive drivers into the ditch (I counted 10 total, four of which were still actively being attended to by police). I started calling the CVO the gray whale. The nickname wasn’t a jab at the CVO’s 940-lb (claimed) weight, but rather an endearing moniker due to the fact that, together, we managed to pilot our way out of the ocean that had dumped from the sky in the midwest and on to dryer pastures – also because of its bitchin Magnetic Grey Fade paint job.
I came back from my trip praising the CVO to my coworkers, so naturally, when we started talking about the Best Touring Motorcycle of 2018, I threw the gray whale into the fish bowl. As we’ve mentioned before though, our MOBOs take into consideration more than just the actual motorcycle. We rate the motorcycle on its own merits, yes, but we also consider what the motorcycle means to the brand, industry, and consumers, which this year, caused the Honda Gold Wing to eek out the top spot from my nominee of the Motor Co.’s Electra Glide Ultra Limited.
I chose to nominate the Ultra Limited rather than the CVO because at $28,089, it’s a more attainable motorcycle when stacked up against the $43,889 CVO Limited that I put 2,500 miles on. Almost all of the best parts of the CVO can be had on the Ultra Limited, that is, except for the monster 117 cu in Milwaukee 8 that stirs up an intoxicating concoction of torque any time you twist your wrist. The 114 cu in power plant found in the Ultra (as well as all of the other 2019 touring models with Ultra or Special in their name) is a formidable engine indeed, trumped only by the CVO line’s 117.
Between the cruise control, rider and passenger floorboards, heated grips, plenty of storage space, and easy-to-use Boom! Infotainment system, all of which can be found on the Ultra Classic, the gray whale made for a luxurious cruise across nine states in 48 hours time. If you asked me to do it all over again, the exact same way, I would pick the exact same bike. Hands down. Although, if you told me I had a bit more time to explore some squiggly blue lines, I might consider our 2018 Touring Motorcycle of the Year, the Honda Gold Wing.
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