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First Ride

>> 2012 Honda Goldwing <<

l l u F Tes t Dean Mellor

Martin Ph ot og ra ph y Lou

Main: Open roads are where the Goldwing is in its element 1. The cockpit is wide and covered in buttons, switches and dials, but satnav and dash are clear and concise 2. Combined brakes with ABS offer loads of stopping power and good feel 3. All 421kg bikes need reverse, and it works a treat

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t h g i fl en updated and e b s a h g in w ld o G a d The 2012 Hon mpetition co w e n ff o e av st to ce arketpla repositioned in the m 2




t first glance, the 2012 model Honda Goldwing is not significantly different to the GL1800 model that was launched back in 2006, although it is now built in Japan rather than the USA, and a few subtle improvements have made it a more refined machine than its predecessor. You’d be forgiven for expecting Honda to go all-out to produce a new Wing in the face of growing competition in the luxury touring segment, but to take on the new BMW K1600GT and K1600GTL, Honda has simply slimmed down the Goldwing range from two models to one, and repositioned it in the marketplace with an aggressive pricing strategy that sees the machine now retail at $35,290 – down significantly on the $37,990 and $43,990 asking prices for the US-built GL1800 Standard and GL1800 Luxury Goldwings. Not so coincidentally, the Goldwing’s new price is also smack-bang in between the $34,990 K1600GT and the $36,990 K1600GTL. Honda’s flagship tourer, with a pedigree dating back to the 1975 GL1000 Goldwing, is still the last word when it comes to motorcycling in the lap of luxury. And despite its gargantuan size, mammoth weight and plethora of high-tech features, the latest generation Goldwing is still a reasonably agile machine on the open road, with

strong performance and good dynamics. The most visibly obvious changes for 2012 are a revised fairing and screen, tweaked headlight design and new taillight assembly. These updates are not purely cosmetic: the new fairing has extra width to better protect the rider and pillion; improved aerodynamics to reduce buffeting around the rider’s legs; vents at the rear bodywork to reduce the negative pressure that forms at the back of the bike, improving stability at speed; and larger panniers that increase total luggage capacity to more than 150 litres. Beneath the acres of bodywork lurks the same twin-spar aluminium chassis of the previous model, with 45mm forks up front and a monoshock rear with computer-controlled spring-preload adjustment and a single-sided swingarm. The suspension bushes have been revised front and rear which is claimed to result in better compliance over rough roads. Honda’s super-smooth 1832cc SOHC 12-valve horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is unchanged for 2012. It’s mated to a five-speed gearbox with shaft final drive. This electronic fuel-injected powerplant is incredibly refined and you can sit at a standstill on the bike and blip the throttle without detecting any trace of movement whatsoever. And the engine layout keeps the bulk of the weight down low which

aids low-speed manoeuvrability. Also unchanged is the five-speed gearbox, which spins in the opposite direction to the crankshaft to cancel out the side-to-side torque effect of the longitudinally mounted engine. Considering the generous capacity of the engine, the plentiful torque on offer and the shaft final drive, there’s little in the way of driveline lash, either. A big flywheel effect makes it easy to poke around smoothly at low speed, such as in stop-start traffic, and an integrated reverse gear (that operates via the starter motor) makes it easy to move the 421kg beast around carparks or when performing three-point turns. But it’s on the open road that the Goldwing has been designed to roam freely, and at highway speeds the rider and pillion will really appreciate the new 80W six-speaker audio system that now features a surround sound system (SRS) and iPod integration. The CD stacker is no more, replaced by a USB jack in the topbox that accepts iPods, iPhones or USB sticks, and full integration means that music can be selected on the move, and tracks are clearly displayed on the full-colour dash display. This is a much better set-up than before, where media players such as iPods could only be connected via a headphone jack. The satnav system has also been significantly

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Touring timeline 1

revised and is standard equipment on the 2012 Goldwing. It features a brighter colour screen, better satellite reception and enhanced software. Map storage is now via an SD card and owners with appropriate software can pre-plan their routes and easily load them on to the SD card before they go on a ride. Routes can also be shared and uploaded to other Goldwings via the SD card if riders are travelling in a group. With long-distance, two-up touring the Goldwing’s prime purpose, rider and pillion comfort was obviously paramount in the design process. The already comfortable seat has been slightly revised with a minor change to its shape, and there’s a new urethane seat material. The waterproof seat covering also scores a perforated finish for a “sportier” look. The seat retains a heater function with separate controls for rider and pillion, and a low 740mm seat height makes it easy for even short riders to plant both feet firmly on the ground. While the rider has generous support around the lower


back, the pillion sits in armchair comfort, with a full-size backrest and big grab handles. There are also a couple of cubbyholes so the pillion can access small items on the move, such as a drink bottle or even a snack. From the rider’s perspective, the Goldwing is an imposing machine. Thanks to low-set panniers, it’s pretty easy to throw a leg over the Wing and, once perched in the comfy seat, you’re confronted by a super wide cockpit with buttons and switches all over the place. It’s this switch layout that is starting to look quite dated. On the lower left fairing there are no less than ten buttons, two dials and three rocker switches for the audio system, along with a button for the hazard lights. On the lower right fairing are the buttons to control the satnav, and just above those are rocker switches and memory buttons for the rear spring preload adjustment and headlight adjustment, both of which can only be adjusted when the bike is stationary. On the top left of the fairing is a lever to open and close

The rider has generous support, the pillion sits in armchair comfort Main: Wider fairing and screen offers improved protection and more integrated styling 1. The 1832cc SOHC boxer six is supremely smooth 2. More buttons and switches than you can poke a stick at

1972: Roots

A new design team is assembled under Soichiro Irimajiri, who headed up the design of Honda’s fivecylinder and six-cylinder road racing engines in the 1960s. The team creates the M1 prototype, powered by a liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with shaft final drive.

1975: GL1000 Goldwing

Not a flat six like the M1 prototype, the first production Goldwing features a unique 999cc liquidcooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. It offers high levels of refinement, performance and reliability. In 1976 Honda launches the Goldwing Limited Edition model. In 1979 the first Honda of America manufacturing plant opens in Marysville, Ohio, reflecting the fact that 80 percent of Goldwing production is being exported to the United States.

1980: GL1100 Goldwing

The GL1100 has a larger 1085cc engine developed for torque rather than power, while a longer wheelbase offers increased stability and more room for the rider and pillion. The air-assisted suspension sets new standards for motorcycle ride quality. At the same time the GL1100 Interstate offers factory-fitted fairing, panniers and top box.

1982: GL1100 Goldwing Aspencade The most luxurious Goldwing to date offers an unparalleled range of standard features, from LCD instrumentation and a CB radio to an on-board air compressor.

Made in Japan Honda has had plenty of Goldwings in stock in Australia for the past couple of years, but production actually ceased at the Marysville, Ohio plant in the USA in 2009. This new 2012 model is made in the state of the art Kumamoto Prefecture Honda factory in Japan, the same plant that makes the VFR1200F and CBR1000RR, amongst many other models.

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Touring timeline 1985: GL1200 Limited Edition

The unfaired GL1200 is discontinued and the GL1200 Limited Edition is introduced, complete with electronic fuel injection, a four-speaker sound system, cruise control, auto-levelling rear suspension, a trip computer and metallic gold paint.

1. You need to be stationary to adjust the rear preload and headlight aim 2. Hours of comfort and loads of luggage space

Bagged bike Introduced on the 2006 model, the Honda Goldwing remains the only production motorcycle in the world to offer an airbag, which is a standard feature on the Australianmarket model. The airbag module containing the airbag and inflator is positioned in front of the rider. There are two crash sensors, one on each fork leg, that are connected to the ECU which, in the event of an accident, determines whether or not to inflate the airbag.

1988: GL1500 Goldwing

The GL1500 finally scores a horizontally opposed sixcylinder engine, and is the benchmark in luxury touring for more than a decade.

The engine is smooth and linear, from 1500rpm to the redline 2001: GL1800 Goldwing

The GL1800 Goldwing has been developed by Masanori Aoki, whose CV includes the CBR250RR, the CBR400RR and the much-lauded CBR600F3. In Aoki-san’s words: “My job is to add more fun factor, to build a Goldwing with the kind of acceleration and handling people normally associate with sporting machines.” The horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is mounted in a box-section aluminium frame and in the course of the bike’s development no less than 20 technological innovations are patented.

2006: Industry-first airbag

The 2006 model introduced initially in the USA featured the world’s first airbag on a production motorcycle, as well as revised taillights and instrument panel.

the feet-warming vents. Below the centrally mounted colour screen are four buttons for the trip computer, and rolling switches for the heated grips and heated seat. On the right switchblock are controls for the cruise control system and the reverse-gear selector; and on the left switchblock are more controls for the audio system and optional intercom and CB radio (the latter not yet available in Oz). All of these buttons and switches are in addition to the usual controls for horn, indicators, high and low beam, kill-switch etc. that you’d find on any other bike, and are quite overwhelming when you first sight them, so it’s a good idea to set everything how you want it, including the manually adjustable screen, before you get moving. By contrast, the Wing’s dash is simple and easy to read, with analogue gauges for speedo, tacho, fuel and coolant temperature. And the trip computer is easy to navigate and the info easy to digest. The mirrors offer a great, vibe1

free view and the small air vent in the screen is brilliant on a hot day. When you select first gear and release the progressive clutch, you can certainly feel all of that weight that makes up this mighty luxury tourer, but the Wing is surprisingly easy to ride at low speed. The long wheelbase and big flywheel effect make manoeuvring a doddle at dawdling pace, and once you’re up to second gear or above, it is just as easy to ride as any other big tourer. The engine offers a smooth and linear power delivery, from about 1500rpm all the way to the 6000rpm redline. Cruising at 100km/h in fifth, which Honda calls an overdrive, sees the tacho needle hovering at around 2500rpm, and at these revs there’s enough grunt available to overtake without having to downshift. The big screen offers excellent protection at highway speeds and, by adjusting its height over a range of 100mm, you should be able to find a position that’s just right. Unlike some bikes 2

2009: Production ceases in USA 2012: New, built-in-Japan GL1800 Goldwing is launched.

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with big screens, there’s no undue back pressure that makes you feel like you’re being pushed forwards, and there’s no annoying distortion when you look through the screen. Veer off the highway and get into some nice twisty roads and the Goldwing will surprise you. There’s no doubt that this big, heavy machine needs to be fairly manhandled through the tight stuff, but it’s surprisingly swift and agile once you get the hang of it. Ground clearance is a limiting factor, and it doesn’t take too much lean angle to grind off the hero knobs, but once tipped over the Wing holds its line well, even over bumpy stuff where you might expect the soft-ish suspension to not offer the best control. The braking package is superb – twin 296mm discs up front gripped by three-piston calipers and a 316mm disc at the rear with a three-piston caliper – easily dealing with the Goldwing’s weight. Honda’s Combined Braking System (CBS) with ABS works exceptionally

well on this style of bike and offers plenty of confidence. And although the rear brake also operates the front, you can still lean on it to tighten your line mid-corner if necessary. The wing still offers a generous 25-litre fuel tank, which gives it a touring range of around 350km, and with all of the comfort on offer you can easily cover this distance without raising a sweat. And with its new, bigger panniers and massive topbox, it’s amazing just how much gear you can pack into the Goldwing. Remote central locking and a remote topbox release makes accessing all that gear easy too. So have the 2012 updates improved the Goldwing enough to keep the wolves at bay? Although the refinements are relatively modest, they have made a great luxury tourer even better. As for keeping the wolves at bay, we’ll put the new Goldwing up against BMW’s premium K1600GTL in an upcoming issue to find out, so stay tuned.

It’s big and heavy, but it’s surprisingly swift and agile once you get the hang of it Main: Ground clearance is limiting in the twisties 1. Redesigned taillights and better aerodynamics


Engine Configuration Horizontally-opposed six Cylinder head SOHC, two valves per cylinder Capacity 1832cc Bore/stroke 74 x 71mm Compression ratio 9.8:1 Cooling Liquid Fueling EFI, 2 x 40mm Keihin throttle bodies Power 87kW @ 5500rpm (claimed) Torque 167Nm @ 4000rpm (claimed) TRANSMISSION Type Five-speed, plus electric reverse Clutch Wet Final drive Shaft CHASSIS Frame material Aluminium Frame layout Twin-spar Rake 29˚ Trail 109mm suspension Front: 45mm fork, no adjustment, 140mm travel Rear: Monoshock, electronic spring preload adjustment, 105mm travel wheels/tyres Wheels Five/three-spoke cast aluminium Front: 18 x 3.5 Rear: 16 x 5 Tyres Bridgestone Exedra G709/G704 Front: 130/70R18 (63H) Rear: 180/60R16 (74H)

Accessories Deluxe Headsets Replacement Headset Coil Cord Replacement Headset Hardware Kit Push to Talk Switch Rear Spoiler with Brake Light (Candy Red) Rear Spoiler with Brake Light (Black) Rear Spoiler with Brake Light (Ultra Blue Metallic) Trunk Inner Light Trunk Inner Light Harness Chrome Trunk Rack Fairing Pouch with GL Logo Inner Trunk Pouch Saddlebag Cooler with Honda Logo Trunk Net Coin Holder Goldwing Owners Manual Folio Deluxe Saddlebag/Trunk Mat Set Saddlebag Lid Organiser with GL Logo Deluxe Saddlebag/Trunk Liner Set

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$220.19 $54.24 $19.96 $42.63 $333.60 $318.25 $350.88 $91.64 $52.33 $104.63 $36.12 $29.94 $56.17 $18.94 $23.35 $36.04 $116.74 $38.34 $141.30

Chrome Exhaust Tips with GL Logo $282.70 Chrome Swingarm Pivot Covers with GL Logo $136.57 Chrome Bar Ends $65.31 Chrome Front Fender Ornament $147.19 Gold Cylinder Head Cover Emblem Set $196.27 Silver Cylinder Head Cover Emblem Set $281.14 Chrome Front Fender Emblem $65.40 Chrome Passenger Floorboard Lower Cover $104.63 Chrome Rear Spoiler Accent $178.84 Chrome Sidestand $95.64 Chrome Front Fender Extension $111.19 ChromeFrontFenderRail $158.02 Chrome Front Disc Covers $422.58 Chrome Trunk Handle with GL Logo $72.08 Passenger Armrests $131.58 Tall Vented Windscreen $196.98 12V DC Accessory Socket Kit $45.58 Foglight Kit (LED) $696.52 Cycle Cover with GL Logo $164.40

brakes Nissin Front: Twin 296mm discs, three-piston calipers Rear: 316mm disc, three-piston caliper Control: CBS, ABS DIMENSIONS Weight 421kg (kerb, claimed) Seat height 740mm Max width 945mm Max height 1455mm Wheelbase 1690mm Fuel capacity 25L Performance Fuel consumption NA Top speed 200km/h (est) Contact & sale info Testbike Honda Australia Contact (03) 9270 1111 Colour options Ultra Blue Metallic, Candy Red, Black Warranty 24 months, unlimted km Price $35,290

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