When the American author Robert Pirsig took a two-week road trip to California on his motorcycle, he wrote that if he’d been in a car, watching the scenery pass by through the window would be like watching it on TV. “But on a cycle, the frame is gone,” he noted. “You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
That was half a century ago, and nothing has changed since. Touring motorcyclists still ride for the sense of connection with the road and the communities they visit – the open-air sensation of pushing through the wind, turning up your favourite song, and getting lost in the moment. It’s about the smells and sounds that just can’t be experienced inside the compartment of a car; the feeling of control at the handlebars, while you’re left open to the whims of the elements.
Orangeville, Ontario, resident Liz Jansen has been passionate about motorcycle riding for 48 years. “It’s invigorating for all your senses,” she says. “It’s like a spiritual connection. You get the smells, the air changes, the temperature changes – all of that. I connect on a whole different level and it’s so freeing.”
This is the experience Honda motorcycle engineers were seeking to enhance during the redesign of the all-new Gold Wing, a legendary flagship among touring bikes. The exterior, now in its sixth generation, is 20 cm narrower at the front. The new electronically adjusted windscreen can easily be lowered in clear weather, or raised against the rain. The ride is luxurious and protected, but it doesn’t alter the passionate philosophy touring riders seek.
“The whole experience on a motorcycle is just so very different,” says Bruce Redstone, who teaches photography at Toronto’s Humber College. “The cliché is that it’s more like flying – the sensation of leaning in through the corners. You’re outside and you experience the environment, and I love being outside.”
Redstone knows too that even when the ride is cool and wet, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. The well-equipped Gold Wing Tour model offers heated handgrips, front and rear heated seats, cruise control and proven aerodynamics – there’s no backdraft at speed.
Most importantly, Honda has added selectable riding modes on all Gold Wing models – riders can easily switch between Sport, Touring, Eco or Rain modes to automatically adjust the bike to the road conditions ahead. Plus, there’s available Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) and the latest generation of advanced ABS brakes to help keep the bike stable in various riding conditions.
Not that poor weather will slow down riders like Redstone. “My friend and I went down to Pennsylvania and had everything from beautiful sunshine to rain and hail, but at the end of the day, it was a great day in the saddle,” he says. “We just love riding.”
The all-new Gold Wing is available with either a new six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The advanced DCT is designed to make motorcycle touring more enjoyable, by remarkably freeing up the need to deal with a hand-operated clutch or manually changing gears for riders to stay more focused on the road and the experience.
“If I had to choose only one bike,” says Richard Moore, a Milton, Ontario, musician who owns several motorcycles, including a 1985 Gold Wing, “if my wife and I wanted to take a long trip, say, to the west coast, the Gold Wing would be the bike. It offers almost everything and it’s comfortable, too.”
He’s considering the 2018 Gold Wing now, and already thinking about the next big trip. “Motorcycling is a conversation piece,” says Moore. “You pull into a gas station and people tend to come over to talk. You get to know the communities you pass through. That just doesn’t happen in a car.”
What’s new about the 2018 Honda Gold Wing?
The all-new Gold Wing goes beyond with more features and technology than ever before including:
- A completely new six-cylinder engine that’s more fuel efficient than its predecessor, while also offering increased power and responsiveness.
- The choice between two transmissions – a new, yet more traditional six-speed manual, or a technologically-advanced seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT).
- Four selectable riding modes (Sport, Touring, Eco or Rain) that automatically adjust throttle, suspension and brake settings to match road conditions.
- The seven-inch infotainment display screen features Bluetooth connectivity, a full navigation system and even Apple CarPlayTM to link with compatible iPhones for apps, directions, calls, messaging and music.
- The all-new removable rear trunk is cleverly designed to deliver sleeker styling when removed or provide additional storage capacity when needed.
- Premium LED lighting with bright and distinctive “wing” design headlights featuring integrated self-cancelling LED turn signals.
- The handy electronic smart key never has to leave your pocket to start the Gold Wing and easily open lockable storage compartments.