The Gold Wing - Honda’s seminal touring flagship - was completely reborn in 2018 with a radical weight reduction, double wishbone front suspension, brand-new, flat six-cylinder engine and 7-speed DCT option; now it rides into 2021 with upgraded audio and speaker quality.
Its status as a flagbearer for new technology is well-founded, with cutting edge features ranging from 7-inch TFT screen, gyrocompass navigation, Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, electric screen, Smart Key operation, 4 riding modes and Hill Start Assist. A new contemporary paint option also arrives for 2021.
The Honda Gold Wing, since its introduction as a naked 1000cc machine in 1975, has always represented the ultimate in two-wheeled travel. And it’s a motorcycle that’s been very much on its own journey, growing in physical size and displacement over the decades, all the while creating an enduring and unrivalled reputation for luxury, quality and comfort.
For 2018, in response to the evolution of demographics and the motorcycle market, it made a radical departure from what would have been a traditional update trajectory. The GL1800 Gold Wing and Gold Wing ‘Tour’* took a new direction and, brand new from the wheels-up, became sleeker, lighter and more agile – very much a rider’s motorcycle – while adding a host of new features to cement its reputation as a technological flagship, including the option of 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
And, as a result, the Gold Wing’s appeal became instantly broader, reaching out to a younger generation of motorcyclists that may have overlooked – or simply not been aware of – the previous incarnation. In 2020, improvements to suspension and slow speed manoeuvrability further complemented the evocative, flat six-cylinder engine beating at the heart of Honda’s premium tourer.
For 2021, the Gold Wing gains an audio upgrade and head-turning new paint option, further underlining its standalone desirability.
The Gold Wing’s engine and chassis were designed in unison for the 2018 rebirth, to move the riding position forward and create a much more compact motorcycle. The aluminium beam frame is constructed around a double wishbone front fork, which allows the engine to sit forward in the machine – as the front wheel moves up and down in a more vertical plane – while providing high quality suspension control and front-end stability thanks to its stiffness and reduced friction.
Optimised for size, the 24V flat six-cylinder engine lost none of its power, avalanche of torque or addictive power delivery. The addition of Throttle By Wire (TBW) control brought with it 4 rider modes: TOUR, SPORT, ECON and RAIN; the operation of the Dual Combined Brake System (D-CBS) alters depending on the mode selected. Hill Start Assist (HSA) and (on the DCT option) Idling Stop offer ease of use and improved fuel efficiency.
The manual transmission is 6-speed, while DCT features 7 speeds, with clutch feel, shift speed and rpm range of up/downshifts tailored specifically to each riding mode. It also features a ‘creep’ forward and back function. The manual machine employs the same electric reverse system as featured on previous designs.
The Gold Wing offers a total sense of freedom, with sheer riding enjoyment and performance matched by stylish design. An aerodynamically efficient fairing channels air around the rider, while the electric screen adjusts for preference; the luxurious seats offer all-day comfort. The lightweight audio system and speakers show off newly upgraded sound quality. And features like Smart Key operation, Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and Bluetooth™ provide modern-day convenience and connectivity.
The 2021 GL1800 Gold Wing is available in a contemporary new Pearl Deep Mud Grey colour scheme, with orange accents on the front fender, engine cover, headlight surround, fuel tank and rear section.
Honda’s DCT technology is now in its eleventh year of production, and over 140,000 units of DCT-equipped Honda two-wheelers have been sold in Europe. It delivers consistent, seamless gear changes up or down and very quickly becomes second nature in use. It uses two clutches: one for start-up and 1st, 3rd and 5th, the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th, with the mainshaft for each clutch located inside the other for compact packaging.
Each clutch is independently controlled by its own electro-hydraulic circuit. When a gear change occurs, the system pre-selects the target gear using the clutch not currently in use. The first clutch is then electronically disengaged as, simultaneously, the second clutch engages.
The result is a consistent, fast and seamless gear change. Furthermore, as the twin clutches transfer drive from one gear to the next with minimal interruption of the drive to the rear wheel, any gear change shock and pitching of the machine is minimised, making the change feel direct as well as smooth. Extra benefits include durability (as the gears cannot be damaged by missing a gear) impossibility of stalling, low stress urban riding, reduced rider fatigue and increased ability to focus on riding lines, braking and acceleration points.
The DCT system offers two distinct riding approaches – the Automatic settings, with pre-programmed shift patterns which constantly read vehicle speed, gear selected and engine rpm to decide when a shift should occur, and the Manual Transmission setting for gear changes using the paddle-shift style triggers on the left handlebar.
Employing the third generation – and the first to have 7-speeds – the Gold Wing’s DCT is specifically designed for long-distance cruising; it’s also extremely smooth and fast shifting.
It is also optimised for low speed manoeuvrability, with close ratios reducing shift-shock. In the higher speed range, they are set wider apart to reduce engine rpm. In both speed ranges comfort is improved as shifting up or down is of the highest quality.
Shift noise and shock were addressed throughout the development of the third generation, with noise damper rubbers on both ends of the fork guide and the master arm greatly reducing any impact sound during gear changes.
A spring damper is installed between the clutch and the main shaft in order to absorb the torque in the rotational direction, thus reducing the noise and shock of the contact between the clutch and main shaft when shifting gears.
The Gold Wing’s DCT features a 1.8km/h forward Walking Mode with reverse of 1.2km/h, operated instantly from a +/- switch on the left handlebar.
The main shaft has a double tube structure, with the outer main shaft (connected with the even-number gears) linked to the inner shaft with a chain, by way of the gears on the counter shaft. This structure gives the outer main shaft the role of the reverse idle shaft, which has resulted in a lightweight reverse mechanism with a compact structure - with no need for any reverse idle shaft.
When activating Walking Mode the two clutches of DCT are utilised to enable moving backward with clutch #1 and moving forward with clutch #2. In this way, moving forward or backward at walking speed is now possible with only clutch control, without any need for gear shifting. Furthermore, the throttle-by-wire system controls speed by minutely controlling the clutch capacity, while maintaining a certain engine speed, assuring controllability with a sense of security in wide-ranging situations.
The 4 riding modes are interleaved with DCT. All share the same engine character, delivery and suspension settings as the MT model but add extra DCT-specific parameters:
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 24 valve SOHC flat-6|
|Max Power Output||93kW/5,500rpm|
|Bore x Stroke (mm)||73mm x 73mm|
|Front Brake||320mm x 4.5mm dual hydraulic disc with 6-piston calliper, floating rotors and sintered metal pads|
|Rear Brake||316mm x 11mm ventilated disc with 3-piston calliper and sintered metal pads|
|Front Suspension||Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Pro Link|
|Front Wheel||18 x MT3.5 (130/70R 18)|
|Rear Wheel||16 x MT6.0 (200/55R 16)|
|Dimensions||L: 2,475mm, W: 925mm (DCT) / 905mm (MT), H: 1,340mm|
|Frame Type||Aluminium die-cast, twin tube|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||21.1 litres|
|Kerb Weight||MT: 366kg / DCT: 367kg|
|Clutch||(MT) Hydraulic, wet, multiplate with coil springs, assist slipper cam|
(DCT) Hydraulic, wet, multiplate with oil pressure
|Final Drive||Enclosed shaft|
|Gearbox||6 speed MT (including overdrive. Plus electric reverse)|
7-speed forward and reverse DCT