2001 Honda Gold Wing Road Test

Calvin Kim
by Calvin Kim
MO recently logged some serious saddle time on the all-new Honda Gold WingGL 1800.

Already legendary for luxury, designers spiced things up with race-bredbrakes, suspension and aluminum frame technology. The goal, so say Hondaofficials, is to please stalwart Gold Wingers while also attracting youngerriders.

So is the new 'Wing a winner? Let us know what you think.

2001 Honda Gold Wing

Half an Acura, twice the fun.

Important Things To Do At MO Today:

Gold Wing Tech Info || Gold Wing Accessories || Riding Impressions ||

By the Motorcycle Online Staff
Photos by Kevin Wing and American Honda

Columbus, OH, November 1, 2000 --


Honda always has battled with Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki for supremacy inthe sport bike market. In the sport touring world, Honda's VFR Interceptorand ST1100 (known in Europe as the Pan European) primarily compete withBMW for top honors. Honda's line of Shadows, meanwhile, appeal to whatlittle cruiser market isn't gobbled up by Harley-Davidson.

If there is, however, one market segment where Honda enjoys absolutesovereignty, it has to be luxury touring.

Introduced in 1975, Honda's Gold Wing (with the help of Vetter) arguablyspawned the luxo-touring genre. Since then, Honda has heaped on the cubiccentimeters and slathered on the luxury.

And Gold Wing riders ate it up. They formed clubs, organized rallies,logged countless highway miles and exhibited fanatical customer loyalty.

Although it looks like a yellow peanut M&M, the new 'Wingwill not melt in your hand or your mouth.The first serious threat to the Wing, however, appeared spring of 1999 inthe form of the BMW K1200LT. The big beemer offered all of the Wing'sluxury, plus amenities like heated grips, a CD-changer and anelectrically-adjustable windshield.

More importantly, an advanced suspension, tires and brakes enabled the LTto haul serious ass through the canyons as well as the interstate. As ourrecent shootout revealed, the soft and comfy Wing was no match for thebeemer in the twisties.

Though it may seem like BMW forced the issue at Honda, the truth is arevised GL has been in the works for quite some time.

Honda officials said about 10 years ago, they recognized the success oftheir Acura line of luxury cars. They also noticed the demise of theland-yacht variety of Cadillacs and Lincolns.

Seeing this shift towards performance in the luxury car market, it soonbecame apparent the GL 1500 incarnation of the Gold Wing was more akin toyour father's Oldsmobile than a sleek and athletic Acura.So around 1993, Honda put some solid ideas to paper.

In 1996, Honda placed Executive Chief Engineer Masanori Aoki at the helmof the project. Aoki, a performance bike enthusiast, led teams responsiblefor track burners like the CBR-600 and the NSR-250.

Aoki believes that while most riders don't strive to drag knee or travelat triple-digit speeds, everyone can appreciate a strong engine and nimblehandling.

The Gold Wing in its element."A motorcycle's base is performance," Aoki said. "Every motorcycle riderlikes a sportbike feeling."

Aoki explained that the mission of his team was to improve handling andbraking while increasing power. Other goals included simplifyingmaintenance, increasing gas mileage and cruising range and also exceeding2008 California emissions standards.

These are daunting goals in and of themselves. But there was onecaveat: preserve the spirit of the Gold Wing.

"How do you take a much venerated motorcycle, redo it, and not screw itup?" Gary Christopher, Honda senior manager of press and racing said.

Well, Gold Wing fans, unless you have something against getting more of agood thing, the 2001 GL 1800 Gold Wing is anything but "screwed up."

Honda hosted the 2001 Gold Wing GL 1800 press introduction at its Honda ofAmerica Motorcycles factory in Columbus, Ohio.

The week-long event included a full technical briefing, a plant tour plustwo days of riding along the scenic, yet challenging back-roads ofSouthern Ohio.

Gold Wings, old and new.Journalists on hand garnered ample saddle time on both thesoon-to-be-released 1800 and the current 1500 model.

While frequent bike-swapping and heavy-handed shenanigans made itdifficult to gauge real-life gas mileage or cruising range, the experiencemade it abundantly clear the 1800 is as good or better than the 1500 inevery imaginable way.

In a nutshell, the 1800 accelerates quicker, stops surer and inspiresnewfound confidence in the corners.

Available ABS and a redesigned linked brake system promise improvedsafety. Radial tires, an anti-dive fork and electronically-adjustable rearshock provide predictable handling. Luxury, meanwhile, is enhanced by theavailability of a six-disc CD changer and heated grips. Access tofrequently-maintained parts is improved while a 600 mile service is nolonger necessary. A valve inspection (not necessarilyadjustment) only is recommended every 32,000 miles.

Last but not least, Honda just received official word that the Wing's1800cc, 118 hp, fuel injected six cylinder engine exceeds California'sstringent 2008 C.A.R.B. emissions standards by almost 25 percent.

But, is the spirit of the Wing preserved? It's safe to say about 95percent remains happily intact. And considering the 100 percentimprovement everywhere else, giving up a scant bit of old schoolvibe is a true bargain.

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