Honda Gold Wing Anniversary Edition Review

With a trip from New Jersey to Niagara Falls on the calendar and an invite from Honda to test a choice of motorcycles, there was only one choice to be made, the 2015 Gold Wing Anniversary Edition.

250 miles a day had pretty much been my limit on sport bikes and cruisers, so the 500 mile trek to Canada was going to need a bike more apt for the long haul.

The Gold Wing is definitely built for the long haul with cruise control, as much storage as a small crossover, captains chairs, navigation, satellite radio, a full coverage windshield and too many options to get to know in a long weekend. But the 900+ pound beast can be a little intimidating when one first climbs into the saddle.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big machine. We've already mentioned the weight, but with a 66.5 inch wheelbase and nearly 1,000 pounds of machine, some extra care needs to be taken when maneuvering the big Wing.

The horizontally opposed 1832 CC six cylinder engine has no trouble moving the Gold Wing as acceleration is both quick and linear. The first time the weight shows itself in the ride is when breaking into a corner. With that much mass moving in one direction, there is a definitely sensation of understeer: that the motorcycle wants to continue pushing through the corner instead of bending around it.

The feeling of understeer is quickly compensated by doing everything sooner than I was used to doing on a smaller machine: brake sooner, begin the turn sooner, come out of the turn sooner. After a few miles of getting used to the driving dynamics and compensating for the weight, the Gold Wing was a willing partner.

Coming to a stop requires a bit more attention than usual as well. A Gold Wing rider needs to know exactly where he's going to be able to place his feet as soon as the bike comes to a stop. If this motorcycle starts to tip, there's not going to be a lot to stop it if your feet aren't firmly planted. That said, the Gold Wing is incredibly well balanced, and as long as you don't come to a stop on an angle or drop your foot in a hole, you won't feel the weight of this bike.

There are times when that extra mass pays big dividends. My first ride around town to get used to the feel of the Gold Wing was quickly interrupted by road construction that included deeply grooved, grated roads getting ready to be paved. Being that I had roughly 10 minutes in the saddle of the Gold Wing, the upcoming grates in the road caused me a little apprehension as the grooves can tend to act like rails on smaller bikes. The Gold Wing went over and through the grooves in the road like they weren't even there.

Another time the extra weight is welcome is at speed on the highways. Passing an 18-wheeler on a highway can always be an adventure because of the air wash coming off the front and sides of the big rig, but the Gold Wing was a rock instead of a kite as it effortlessly plowed through the draft of semi-trucks.

I'm not sure there is a car or motorcycle on earth that makes eating up miles on 70+ MPH long, straight interstates "fun", but the Gold Wing sure makes it easier. The full coverage windshield let me raise the visor on my helmet, something I rarely do above 20 MPH on any other machine.

Some people will never use a cruise control, but I use one constantly. With the overzealous patrolmen in the northeast, it's the best speeding deterrent I know. Having it on a motorcycle enables the rider to focus much more on the road rather than glances at the speedometer every few seconds to make sure it's not venturing from the +8-10 MPH over the speed limits safe zone to the +11 or more MPH danger zone.

Where the Gold Wing is most at home is long, winding two lane roads. Not canyon carving switchbacks, but two lanes that follow a river, or go through a national park. The drive from Hancock, N.Y. to Port Jervis N.Y. along the Delaware River on route 97 is one of the best rides I've done anywhere on any motorcycle.

The rolling hills and long curves along the river basin were ideal for the big Wing. The versatile overdrive on the Gold Wing can engage comfortably at 45 MPH and little to no shifting is needed to pass a Jeep Liberty with Wisconsin tags and an "I love my cat" sticker on the back who is enjoying the sites. The weight of the bike disappears and it becomes as agile as any cruiser. The Gold Wing will easily hold a line in a turn once it's planted. Even the threatening scattered shower was of little comfort concern because of the full coverage windshield and encompassing bodywork.

The Gold Wing has the best passenger seating of any motorcycle I've driven. The captain's chair for the passenger and elevated seating position makes being a passenger on a Gold Wing maybe even more fun than being in the pilot. This is the first motorcycle I've let my six year old son ride with me. He had back support and visibility, two of the things he lacks on smaller bikes that prevented me from allowing him to ride. A cruise along the Niagara river up to the shore of Lake Ontario with him was the highlight of my trip.

The Gold Wing is rated by Honda at 35 miles per gallon, but I got just over 41 MPGs on mostly highway driving. The lack of a remaining range readout on the instrument panel stood out. If it was there, I didn't find it, but with 250 miles per tank, it may not have been deemed necessary.

One of the quirks with the cruise control was that the velocity of the bike would drop up to five MPH before engaging and resuming intended speed. I quickly learned not to engage the cruise control in the left lane on the highway if someone was behind me that I thought I would be pulling away from.

The surround sound stereo works great even at speed. XM radio is available, but I popped a USB thumb drive into the back luggage compartment and it flawlessly synced my play list to the system. I was surprised to be able to listen to the stereo at highway speeds, but the music sounded as clear as most convertible car systems. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds of riding the motorcycle itself, but several hours into a 500 mile day, and the music becomes a welcome accompaniment.

The navigation was easy to use and did a great job of listing upcoming turns and distances so there were no surprises. If I have a complaint it was the over-nannying of engaging the navigation. If the motorcycle was moving at all, nothing can be changed, including actually scrolling the screen to the navigation to resume your trip. For a motorcycle that has18 buttons within thumb range, stereo, CB, and more bells and whistles than will ever be used, to be locked completely out of the Nav while in motion was maddening. Not inputting new addresses or destinations is understandable, but I couldn't even toggle to the navigation to resume a trip once the wheels started moving.

Being that this is the first motorcycle I've driven that even had a navigation system, it's not exactly a necessity, but considering the literally thousands of combinations of usable buttons at my fingertips, completely locking the navigation seemed unnecessary.

As I've seen Gold Wings through the years on the highways, I've always kind of wondered is the experience truly motorcycle riding. They're so big they look like two wheel convertible cars. I this akin to driving a Winnebago? My uncle has a Gold Wing. He was catching some flak from a Harley rider who thought his Gold Wing was less than cool. My uncle asked him how much the man rode his bike? The man replied "about 2,500 miles per year". My incredibly reserved uncle chuckled and said "I drive more than that in reverse."

After putting 1,000 miles on the 2015 Honda Gold Wing Anniversary Edition in two days, I can unequivocally say it terrific motorcycle riding. As I stated earlier this Gold Wing is ideal on long twisty roads. It's combination of comfort and relative agility make it a joy on long, relaxed rides. There are two times where motorcycles are less than ideal, stop and go traffic and long stretches of empty highways. The 900+ pound Gold Wing might be the last motorcycle I want in traffic, but it'd by my first choice for a 100+ mile trip.

This is a motorcycle that will beg you to take it out and pile mile after mile on it. Isn't that the point of owning a motorcycle after all?

ENGINE

Engine Type 1832cc Liquid-Cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Bore And Stroke 74mm x 71mm
Induction Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
Ignition Computer-controlled digital with three-dimensional mapping
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Valve Train SOHC; two valves per cylinder

DRIVE TRAIN

Transmission Five-speed including Overdrive, plus electric Reverse
Final Drive Shaft

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES

Front Suspension 45mm cartridge fork with anti-dive system, 4.8 inches travel
Rear Suspension Pro Arm® single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single shock with computer-controlled spring preload adjustment with two memory presets; 4.1 inches travel
Front Brake Dual full-floating 296mm discs with CBS three-piston calipers
Rear Brake Single ventilated 316mm disc with CBS three-piston caliper
Front Tire 130/70R-18
Rear Tire 180/60R-16

DIMENSIONS

Rake 29.15 degrees
Trail 109mm (4.3 inches)
Wheelbase 66.5 inches
Seat Height 29.1 inches
Curb Weight 904-933 pounds, depending on option packages selected (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and a full tank of fuel-ready to ride)
Fuel Capacity 6.6 gallons
Miles Per Gallon 35 MPG - Miles per gallon values are calculated estimates of fuel consumed during laboratory exhaust emissions tests specified by the EPA, not during on road riding. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you ride and maintain your vehicle, weather, road conditions, tire pressure, cargo and accessories, rider and passenger weight, and other factors.

OTHER

Model Id GL1800
Emissions Meets current California Air Resources Board (CARB) and EPA standards.
Available Colors Black, Light Silver Metallic and Candy Red/Black

FACTORY WARRANTY INFORMATION

Three Years Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.

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