There is no motorcycle quite like the touring institution that is the Honda GoldWing. It has been around since 1975 and continues to have its legion of fans. Honda has sold over half a million – an incredible feat, given that the current model retails for over 1.6 million Thai baht.
We hadn't ridden a Honda GoldWing for some time so jumped at the chance to test the 2013 model. How does it differ from the last iteration? There are two new colors, and its production has reverted to Japan.
This makes the current Honda GoldWing GL1800 model over a decade old but for minor revisions to gear, like the addition of satellite navigation and an airbag. But what with combined ABS brakes, cruise control and a 150-liter array of integrated luggage, the kerb weight has blown out to 420 kilograms, making this the heaviest motorcycle we've straddled – and the only one we've tried with a reverse gear. This proved handy; on an incline, it gently nudges you backwards, allowing a U-turn. The scariest aspect of riding a Honda GoldWing GL1800 is slow-speed manoeuvring. Lose your balance, and it would easily topple over. You would then need to secure the services of two men to help you get the beast upright again.
However, there's lighter model on the way. Honda will likely launch the Honda GoldWing F6B in Thailand, which sheds gear and 30 kilograms form the kerb weight. Without the topbox, this evidently makes the motorcycle easier to wield.
Once you get moving, the Honda GoldWing is like a regular cruiser, only with added comfort, huge torque – try 167 Nm – and better ground clearance. You need to steer this motorcycle actively to make it change direction, but the flat-six keeps the weight low and enhances stability in the turn.
Of course, handling is not the point: this isn't so much a motorcycle as a mobile disco. The audio system has an iPod input and goes stupidly loud, even at open-road speeds, so you've your favorite music all day long.
The features list includes cruise control and electronic rear preload adjustment (both bloody marvelous), an adjustable screen, and for Thailand useless heated seat and grips. Only a trip computer is missing.
If you value ultimate comfort and fit-out on your motorcycle, the choice between this or the BMW K1600GTL. The latter is lighter, quicker and handles better, but the Honda Gold Wing GL1800 has heritage. Whichever of these long-distance kilometer-quashers you opt for, it will primarily for their comfort and audio quality. Both features are addictive on a transcontinental motorcycle.