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Church of MO: 2001 Honda Gold Wing

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Twenty years ago Honda gave the Gold Wing 300cc more, a 6-disc CD changer and 27.9% more sportiness. Calvin spent a week in Ohio walking around on it eating fatty foods and filed this report.

Motorcycle.com recently spent some time in the saddle on the all-new Honda Gold Wing GL 1800Already legendary for luxury, the designers spiced things up with race-bred brakes, suspensions and aluminum frame technology. The goal, Honda officials say, is to appeal to loyal Gold Wingers while attracting younger riders. So, is the new “Wing” a winner? Tell us what you think. Honda has always fought with Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki for supremacy in the sports motorcycle market. Honda’s Shadows range, on the other hand, is aimed at this small cruiser market that is not swallowed up by Harley-Davidson.

However, if there is one market segment where Honda enjoys absolute sovereignty, it is luxury tourism. Introduced in 1975, Honda’s Gold Wing (with help from Vetter) arguably spawned the luxo-touring genre. Since then, Honda has crammed the cubic centimeters and coated the luxury.

And the Gold Wing runners ate it. They formed clubs, organized rallies, drove countless miles of freeway, and demonstrated fanatical customer loyalty. Although it looks like an M&M yellow peanut, the new ‘Wing will not melt in your hand or your mouth. The first serious threat to the fender, however, appeared in the spring of 1999 in the form of the BMW K1200LT. The large beemer offered all the luxury of the wing, as well as amenities such as heated grips, a CD changer and an electrically adjustable windshield.

“Most importantly, advanced suspension, tires and brakes allowed the LT to haul serious ass through canyons as well as the highway.”

More importantly, advanced suspension, tires and brakes allowed the LT to haul serious ass through canyons as well as the highway. As our recent shootout revealed, the soft, comfortable wing didn’t live up to the beemer in the twisties. While it may appear that BMW has forced the issue into Honda, the truth is that a revised GL has been in the works for some time.

Honda officials said about 10 years ago that they recognized the success of their Acura luxury car line. They also noticed the disappearance of the Cadillac and Lincoln land-yacht variety. Seeing this shift towards performance in the luxury car market, it soon became apparent that the GL 1500 incarnation of the Gold Wing was more akin to your father’s Oldsmobile than a sleek, athletic Acura. So, around 1993, Honda put some solid ideas on paper.

In 1996, Honda put chief executive engineer Masanori Aoki as the head of the project. Aoki, an avid performance bike enthusiast, has led teams responsible for track burners like the CBR-600 and NSR-250. Aoki believes that while most riders don’t try to drag their knees or travel at triple-digit speeds, everyone can appreciate a powerful engine and agile handling.

The Gold Wing in its element.The Gold Wing in its element.

“The basis of a motorcycle is performance,” said Aoki. “Every biker loves the feeling of a sport bike. “

Aoki explained that his team’s mission is to improve handling and braking while increasing power. Other goals included simplifying maintenance, increasing gas mileage and cruising range, and exceeding 2008 California emissions standards. These are daunting goals in themselves. But there was a caveat: preserve the spirit of the Gold Wing.

“How do you take a much revered motorcycle, remake it and not screw it up? Gary Christopher, senior director of press and racing at Honda. Well Gold Wing fans, unless you’ve got something against getting more of a good thing, the 2001 GL 1800 Gold Wing is anything but “messed up.”

Honda hosted the 2001 Gold Wing GL 1800 press release at its Honda of America Motorcycles plant in Columbus, Ohio. The week-long event included a full tech briefing, a factory tour, and two days of driving along the scenic but challenging back roads of southern Ohio. Golden wings, old and new. The journalists present have accumulated a lot of saddle time on the soon to be released Model 1800 and the current Model 1500.

While frequent bike swapping and gun shenanigans made it difficult to assess actual gas mileage or cruising range, experience has clearly shown that the 1800 is as good as or better than the 1,500 in every way imaginable. In short, the 1800 accelerates faster, stops more safely and inspires newfound confidence in the corners. Available ABS and a redesigned linked brake system promise improved safety. Radial tires, an anti-dive fork and an electronically adjustable rear shock provide predictable handling. Luxury, meanwhile, is enhanced by the availability of a six-disc CD changer and heated grips. Access to frequently serviced parts is improved while 600 mile service is no longer required. A valve inspection (not necessarily an adjustment) only is recommended every 32,000 miles.

Finally, Honda has just officially learned that the Wing’s 1800cc, 118hp, six-cylinder injection engine exceeds California’s strict 2008 CARB emission standards by almost 25%. But, is the spirit of the Wing preserved? It’s safe to say that around 95 percent luckily remains intact. And considering the 100% improvement everywhere else, ditching a bit of the old school vibe is a real godsend.

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