My riding preferences lean heavily toward smaller, lighter, more lively naked bikes like the Suzuki SV650 and Yamaha FZ-07 or Aprilia’s fire-breathing Tuono V4 1100, but even as a diehard performance guy there are still aspects of the 2018 Gold Wing Tour that I appreciate. After all, I spent six months and 20,000 miles touring the US as an alternative to college, so I know what matters when you’re on the road. With all that in mind, here are my favorite and least-favorite features on the new G-Wing based on my first-ride experience in Texas.
That adjustable windscreen and the bike’s awesome aerodynamics.
If you’ve never maneuvered the sail of a windscreen on the previous-generation Goldy, let me outline the process. First, ya gotta pull over. Then flip the levers on either side of the dash, grasp the top of the screen, and either shimmy that giant sheet of polycarbonate up or down, depending on what you’re after. Thank goodness all that manual manipulation is in the past! The 2018 bike has an electrically adjustable screen that’s controlled by a rocker switch near the left grip. And no matter where you position the new, narrower windscreen, the airflow over you and your passenger is going to be smoother and cleaner than on the outgoing bike. We’ve got wind-tunnel testing to thank for that. Back-to-back rides confirm the new Gold Wing has better aero, and now that you can adjust the windscreen with the push of a button while in motion, the convenience and comfort factors are through the roof.
Next-gen linked brakes.
The crude functionality of early linked-braking systems left plenty of us with a bad taste in our mouths (I’m thinking of the setup that Kawasaki put on the Concours 14 a number of years ago), but the combined brakes on the Gold Wing are totally transparent and help slow the big rig down quickly while keeping the chassis perfectly level. Pressing the rear-brake pedal squeezes the rear disc and seamlessly feeds some pressure to the front calipers (specifically the center two pistons on each of the new radially mounted six-piston calipers) to ensure smooth, strong deceleration. It works so effectively that I rarely used the front-brake lever while riding around the back roads of Texas.
That new dash.
There’s no way to put it subtly—the outgoing bike’s instrumentation was a disaster. So. Many. Buttons. Over the years Honda kept adding features to the Wing until the entire cockpit was carpeted in buttons, knobs, and switches. The gauge faces and LCD screen were also looking pretty dated, so I was happy to see that Honda totally overhauled the dash on the 2018 bike. It’s not only functional, it’s attractive and thoroughly modern and really helps distance the new bike from the old one. A new menu system (that you navigate via the new 7-inch TFT display) eliminates dozens of buttons, and overall the cockpit appears more streamlined and sophisticated.
As always, the flat-six engine!
There’s something special about the way six cylinders turn gas into forward motion. The smoothness is unparalleled, the sound is inspiring, and the torque is phenomenal. The King Wing’s 1,833cc produce more than 100 pound-feet of torque right off idle, so there’s never a shortage of thrust, at least in the first few gears. Speaking of gears, there are now six (instead of five), and you can even get the Wing in a seven-speed DCT version. Ride-by-wire throttle, a slipper clutch, and four valves per cylinder are all new features for the reworked engine and only serve to make it more adaptable and better than ever.
You don’t buy a luxury touring bike because you want to pack light, but you’ll have to if you’re planning on touring on the Gold Wing Tour. The bike lost 40 liters of luggage capacity and the top box won’t even hold two full-face helmets. I guess Honda just expects everyone to pull a trailer? From the comments I’ve seen posted by existing Gold Wing owners, the loss of luggage capacity is a huge disappointment. I understand that slashing cargo space was key in slimming down the Wing, but it flies in the face of what this bike was supposedly designed to due. It’s called the “Tour” after all…
This goes hand in hand with the reduction in luggage space. Touring bikes need big tanks, yet the new Wing is down a gallon. Honda says the new four-valve engine is 20 percent more efficient so the 15-percent reduction in tank volume is nullified, but when I rode the ’18 it was only getting 2 mpg more than the last Gold Wing we tested. Still, 38 mpg is pretty impressive for a motorcycle that has a bigger engine than my first car (it was a Honda Civic hatchback, in case you’re wondering, with a 1.5-liter engine that netted 40 mpg when I wasn’t driving it like a rally car), and riders can expect to get about 200 miles out of the new 5.6-gallon tank.
Basic, nonadjustable suspension.
I’ll start off by saying that the “double wishbone” front end is an impressive bit of technology and the Gold Wing’s ride quality and handling are excellent right out of the box, but that was for 175-pound me, my featherweight wife, and nearly no luggage. Suspension setup is pretty subjective, so adjustments are important. Unfortunately, the only tuning option the new Wing offers is (electronically adjustable) rear spring preload. When other manufacturer’s flagship models offer fully adjustable and semi-active suspension systems, the Honda’s setup is pretty underwhelming. Good thing it works well!