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The Honda Gold Wing, since its introduction as a naked 1000cc machine in 1975, has always been the ultimate in two-wheeled travel. And it’s a motorcycle that’s been very much on its own journey, growing in physical size and displacement over the decades, all the while creating an enduring and unrivalled reputation for luxury, quality and comfort.
For 2018 in response to the evolution of demographics and the motorcycle market, the development team in charge of the bike’s future made a radical departure from what would have been a traditional update trajectory. The GL1800 Gold Wing took a new direction and was brand new from the wheels-up, becoming sleeker, lighter and more agile – very much a rider’s motorcycle – while adding a host of new features to cement its reputation as a technological flagship. And as a result, the Gold Wing’s appeal became broader, reaching out to a younger generation of motorcyclists that may have overlooked – or simply not been aware of – the previous designs.
For 2020, improvements to suspension and slow speed manoeuvrability further complement the evocative, flat six-cylinder engine at the heart of Honda’s flagship premium tourer, which continues to deliver its unique avalanche of torque and power to transport rider and passenger in style.
Sharing a common engine and chassis platform, the ‘Wing’ is available as the base model GL1800 Gold Wing, and as a ‘Tour’ edition with top box and air bag. Both versions offer a version equipped with Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) for added versality and comfort.
The engine and chassis were designed together for 2018, moving the riding position forward and creating a much more compact motorcycle. The aluminium beam frame is constructed around the link front fork, which allows the engine to sit forward in the machine - as the front wheel moves up and down in a more vertical plane - while providing high quality suspension control and front-end stability thanks to its stiffness and reduced friction. Suspension damping can also be adjusted electrically.
Optimised for size, the new flat six-cylinder engine for 2018 lost none of its power, torque or addictive delivery. A new addition for 2018, Throttle By Wire (TBW) remains in 2020, with 4 rider modes; TOUR, SPORT, ECON and RAIN. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) maintains rear wheel traction while the suspension damping and Combined Brake System (CBS) alter depending on the mode selected. Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Idling Stop offer ease of use and improve fuel efficiency.
The manual transmission is 6-speed, while the DCT features 7-speeds, with clutch feel, shift speed and rpm range of up/downshifts tailored specifically to each riding mode. It also features a creep forward and back function. The manual machine employs the same reverse system as featured on previous designs and for 2020 both versions benefit from improved FI and DCT settings to further aid slow speed manoeuvrability.
Above all, a total sense of freedom can be found on the 2020 Gold Wing, with sheer riding enjoyment, performance matched by the stylish design. Aerodynamically efficient fairings channel air around the rider and the electric screen adjusts for preference; the seats provide all-day comfort. Features like the Smart Key system, Apple CarPlay™ and Bluetooth connectivity bring outstanding convenience.
Colour options available:
- GL1800 Gold Wing – Matte Majestic Silver Metallic
- **NEW** GL1800 Gold Wing with DCT – Matte Ballistic Black Metallic.
- GL1800 Gold Wing Tour – Candy Ardent Red / Darkness Black Metallic
- GL1800 Gold Wing Tour with DCT & air bag– Darkness Black Metallic with Grey / Candy Ardent Red with Black / **NEW** Pearl Glare White
Styling & Equipment
- Taut lines with a contemporary edge show off the motorcycle underneath
- Electric windscreen adjustable for angle and height
- Cruise control operates smoothly via Throttle By Wire (TBW)
- Ample luggage capacity for touring; top box takes 2 full-face helmets
- 7-inch TFT display provides navigation and audio information
- Apple CarPlay™ allows iPhone users to use their device
- Full LED lighting and auto-cancelling indicators
- Smart Key control adds convenience for ignition and luggage
- ‘Tour’ versions now come with LED fog lights as standard
- Outlets for two USB cables for 2020
- Bigger grab handles for even greater passenger comfort on ‘Tour’ versions
The 2018 Gold Wing brought a completely different look from the expansive design and attitude of previous generations, with more relaxed lines and a more honed, athletic ethos. Key words the Honda team used during development were ‘Refined Shape, Taut Styling’.
The styling presents a unique silhouette and counterpoints comfort with the dynamic abilities of chassis and engine, with the traditional Gold Wing premium level of fit, finish and materials. Its ‘face’ is daringly forward-slanting; combined with the compact fairing proportions, it presents an energetic frontal signature.
The key line of the body, stretching front to back, highlights the differing upper and lower bodywork functions while clearly showcasing the reduced overall size of the machine. A central element is the fairing, with its sharp and solid flat surfaces, and its nuanced aerodynamic detailing. It adds a tension that hints at the performance on offer.
Also on display is the motorcycle itself – the double wishbone front suspension, flat six-cylinder engine, exhausts – in all their functional beauty. Drawn together, the design elements create cutting edge style, underpinned by incredible levels of engineering and electronics
It may have become smaller and tauter for the 2018 upgrade, with a strong focus on the aesthetics, but the development team responsible also had comfort, heat management and, most importantly, air management high on their agenda. The fairings channel airflow around the rider and pillion, effectively providing a pleasant cooling breeze.
A small electric screen operated from the left handlebar provides excellent wind protection yet at the same time a sense of space and freedom when required. Screen angle and height adjustment is step-less. Available as options are a larger screen, a fully-adjustable deflector for the arms and upper body and fixed deflectors for the lower legs and feet.
From a seating perspective, rider and pillion are separated. The rider can enjoy a total focus on riding the bike, while the pillion, benefitting from an increase in size of the grab handles for 2020, can sit back and enjoy the ride. The rider’s seat shape is comfortable and supportive while allowing movement and easy ground reach.
All lighting is LED, and for 2020 the ‘Tour’ versions come with fog lights as standard fit. The lower portion of the headlights use 5 polished optical lenses on both sides to create a Jewel-Eye low beam light signature. Using high beam (in the upper portion) creates a stereoscopic impression. The front indicators are housed in the mirrors and the indicators also auto-cancel; the system compares front and rear wheel speed difference and calculates when to cancel the indication relative to the riding situation.
When riding, the speed that’s been set with the cruise control switch (located on the right handlebar) is shown in the bottom left area of the speedometer.
Through TBW the system achieves a smooth transition to the specified speed and an ultra-smooth operation, especially when going uphill. In the case of the manual transmission models, squeezing the clutch or brake, or twisting the throttle cancels cruise control. For the DCT variant (in AT mode) after completing the deceleration with the cruise control system in operation – and resuming the previous speed – the Gold Wing returns to the preset with an appropriate shifting schedule.
Before designing the luggage space for the 2018, redesign Honda took out research to see just how owners were using their Gold Wings. And that intelligence led to the decision to reduce the total luggage volume as most were ridden for shorter, 2-3 day tours, with no need to carry larger amounts.
The rear top box of the ‘Tour’ versions holds 2 full-face helmets; combined with the panniers 110L storage capacity is available. Opening is via a button or Smart Key. Available as options are a luggage rack for the top box and exclusively designed inner bags.
The capacity of the fuel tank is 21 litres with fuel economy of 5.6 litres/100km.
Luxurious instrumentation creates a unique cockpit. Different low-contrast colours with dark tones are applied to the dials, of which the peripheral areas form cone-shaped slopes to create a feeling of depth. A ring with a metal texture surrounds each dial, and the graduations glow in LED, giving concrete depth and a calm, cool image.
The 7-inch full-colour TFT liquid crystal display screen provides infotainment-related information (for the audio and navigation systems) as well as managing the HSTC and suspension adjustment. Information is displayed in differentiated segments in a very functional order, so the rider can get all the relevant data with the minimum of eye movement.
Brightness adjusts automatically (with the maximum luminous intensity of the screen being 1000 cd) and the rider can also choose from 8 brightness levels. Tyre pressure is displayed as a numerical figure in the bottom left area of the instruments.
Pride of place – on the centre console and Smart Key – is the Gold Wing emblem. Its crisp 3D, two-tone chrome design merges the strength and dignity of a lion’s head with the majestic wings of an eagle ready to pounce with open talons. It activates all the motorcycle’s systems and also incorporates the emergency key. The ignition and handlebar lock can be turned on or off while just carrying the Smart Key.
Operation of the luggage is simple. With the Smart Key present, a push button opens the panniers and top box. It is also possible to temporarily unlock the luggage via remote control; the unlock button on the Smart Key enables the passenger to instantly access the saddlebags and the rear luggage box. Hydraulic dampers smooth the opening and closing. Pushing and holding the call button results in the indicators flashing.
The Gold Wing is compatible with Apple CarPlay™, so the rider can utilise the personalised information and content inside their iPhone, such as telephone numbers and music playlists. Bluetooth connectivity has been adopted and for 2020 two USB cables can be plugged in.
Lightweight speakers achieve a sound quality with vivid presence. A passenger audio control switch is available to ensure an even more pleasant riding experience; the switches are located on the upper part of the right pannier and adjusting the volume, switching the source and fast forwarding is possible.
The navigation system is displayed on the 7-inch full-color TFT liquid crystal display screen in the central area of the instruments and includes a gyrocompass, which means guidance is continued even inside a tunnel. Cancellation of any waypoint or ‘go home’ instruction operation while riding is also possible. Maps are updated for 2020, and also now offer the possibility of entering up to 99 different waypoints for detailed journey planning.
- Aluminium beam frame, with engine and rider in a forward position
- Double wishbone front suspension and Pro-Arm rear
- Suspension settings optimized for two-up comfort on ‘Tour’ versions
- Front and rear damping level adjusts to suit riding mode selected
- Rear spring preload electrically adjustable
- ABS and Dual-Combined Braking System (D-CBS)
The Gold Wing’s die-cast aluminium twin beam frame was re-designed for 2018 to package the engine in a tighter space, 40mm further forward. Its structural thickness was also optimised in each area to deliver a smooth and stable ride, from walking speed upwards, whether on tight city streets or out on the open road.
The riding position for rider and pillion came forward by 36mm and thanks to the dynamic of the double wishbone front suspension (and the angles the double wishbones are set at) the back of the front tyre under full suspension compression also came forward, by 24mm.
Another benefit of the double wishbone front suspension is the reduction in sliding friction (from bump deflections and steering input) that a standard telescopic fork creates as the stanchions travel up and down in the fork leg. Bearings are used in all shaft bush areas for steering and suspension stroke, further reducing friction.
The steering input – via the dual fork holders – is also separated from the suspension provided by the single shock absorber and the Gold Wing’s yaw moment make it nimble and easier to steer. In addition, a patented steering cross tie-rod connects the handlebars to the front axle and the position of the handlebar pivot, with less mass around it (plus siting of the handlebars) delivers an entirely natural feel to the rider.
The Dual Combined Brake System (D-CBS) optimally distributes braking forces to the front and rear wheels. The use of a single light circulation type ABS modulator integrated with the brake ECU, keeps weight down within the braking system. It also operates in linkage with the current Riding Mode of choice, automatically adjusting the braking characteristics to the riding situation, enhancing security. Dual 320mm front discs are gripped by 6 piston calipers, the rear 316mm disc by a 3-piston caliper.
The Gold Wing also benefits from the Pro-Arm; a first for Honda when used on the Gold Wing in 2018. The old design used tapered bearings plus pivot point plates of the necessary thickness to provide correct rigidity. The Pro-Arm design uses a redesigned pivot shaft structure and attaches to the frame on its left side. The right side serves as a maintenance access.
This changes the stress and forces on the frame’s swingarm pivot plates, allowing much greater freedom of design, and making the machine easier to manage; it also contributes to stability. Pro-Link provides progressive suspension action and comfort – the link plates have been optimised and spherical joints are used throughout, cancelling out torsion.
Damping level is also adjusted electrically relative to the riding mode. Stepper motors housed within the front and rear shock absorbers move needles to control oil flow, tailoring damping force for the riding situation.
Rear spring preload is also electrically adjusted. It’s an intuitive – rather than numerical – system. Separate from the 4 riding modes, there are 4 settings of preload relative to load from soft to hard: single rider; rider with luggage; rider with pillion, and rider with pillion fully loaded with luggage. The setting is displayed on the TFT screen and adjusted via switch. New suspension settings for 2020 are aimed at improving long haul comfort for rider and passenger.
Rake and trail are set at 30.5°/109mm, with wheelbase of 1695mm. The Gold Wing weighs 365kg wet and the DCT version weighs 364kg. The Gold Wing Tour weighs 380kg wet in its MT version and the DCT and air bag version 383kg.
- Flat six-cylinder engine with 4 valves per cylinder
- Throttle By Wire (TBW) adds 4 rider modes to tailor power output
- FI improvements to fine tune low speed manoeuvrability
- The rider modes also manage HSTC, suspension damping and brake force
- Idling Stop and Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) on DCT version
- Hill Start Assist (HSA)
- 6-speed manual gearbox with assist/slipper clutch
Core to the appeal of the Gold Wing since 2002 has been its turbine-smooth flat six-cylinder engine, which produces torque from low rpm with a distinctive power delivery and feel that quickly become addictive.
To realise the handling ambitions of the chassis, the 2018 Gold Wing’s 1,833cc engine was also redrawn. Still as a horizontally-opposed flat six, but with four valves per cylinder rather than two, much more compact in size and 6.2kg lighter than the previous design.
Peak power of 93kW arrives @ 5,500rpm, with peak torque of 170Nm delivered @ 4,500rpm. The bore size of 73mm matches the stroke of 73mm; the left and right cylinders are offset 4mm and the cylinder sleeves are aluminium. Compression ratio is set at 10.5:1 and improvements to the FI for 2020 have been introduced to fine tune low speed manoeuvrability.
The Unicam cylinder heads – the inlet valves are operated by finger-follower rocker arm, the exhaust valves by roller rocker arms – also employ a co-axial rocker-arm shaft for both inlet and exhaust.
The combustion chambers are a 4-valve ‘pentroof’ design (rather than a 2-valve ‘bathtub’) with the inlet ports designed to promote ‘tumble’ flows inside the cylinders thus improving efficiency. The piston skirts wear a molybdenum coating to reduce friction.
The addition of Throttle By Wire (TBW) in 2018 brought with it 4 rider modes to alter the engine’s character and power delivery, linked to Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), suspension damping and the Dual Combined Brake System (D-CBS).
TOUR mode is the base setting for comfort and power. It gives a direct 100% opening ratio between throttle grip and throttle body butterfly, with ‘default’ damping and front/rear brake force distribution.
SPORT serves up the highest throttle to butterfly ratio and delivers strong acceleration, with firmer damping and rear brake lever pressure.
ECON mode offers maximum fuel economy and easy cruising, with lower throttle to butterfly ratio and default damping and brake force.
RAIN turns the dial down to suit wet and slippery conditions, with lowest throttle to butterfly ratio, default braking force distribution and soft suspension damping.
In all 4 riding modes HSTC constantly allows controllable acceleration in slippery conditions.
A single throttle body replaced the dual throttle bodies of the previous design, with revisions to the diameter and thickness of the intake manifold employed to save weight. Intake manifold volume, from the throttle valve to intake valve was reduced by approximately 10%, speeding up airflow and improving response.
There are two air intake ducts sited front left and right rear. This structure generates swirling as the air is drawn in – the result is more effective use of the air filter’s entire surface area and reduction in resistance. The internal shaping of both ducts is optimised to align with the intake pulses of the engine’s low-rpm range, improving response and torque from smaller throttle openings.
To complement the engine’s deep bass signature the exhausts emit a powerful throb, without excessive noise. The cross-sectional areas of the exhaust pipes were reduced 20% for two out of the six cylinders in 2018, bringing about the change in sound volume and depth.
The ISG (Integrated Starter Generator) combines the generator and starter motor into one component, with the generator effectively becoming the starter motor when supplied with reverse power.
In the 2018 redesign, the damper used for the coupling joint that transmits the driving force from both the ISG side and the crankshaft side was changed from the viscous type used for the generator of the previous model to a mechanical type, using an arc spring and rubber; reducing weight by approximately 2.4 kg for the system as a whole. Helical gears are employed for the ISG driving gears, reducing the mechanical noise of the engine.
Key characteristics of the Idling Stop system are the ultra-quiet start-up of the engine thanks to the use of ISG, and the smooth starting feeling achieved through a combination of DCT and TBW control. When stopping at a traffic light with the Idling Stop system on, the engine automatically stops after 3 seconds and, when restarting, the rider only needs to turn the throttle, which immediately starts the engine.
The system is controlled so that hydraulic oil pressure is applied in advance to the DCT line that activates the clutch when the engine starts, so the time lag from when the rider opens the throttle to movement is reduced. To curb any abruptness the TBW makes the throttle butterfly open gradually following the throttle opening – thus the smooth acceleration befitting of a Gold Wing. Idling Stop can be turned ON or OFF from the right handlebar switch.
Hill starts on a conventional motorcycle often involve simultaneously releasing the brakes, opening the throttle and engaging the clutch according to the grade of the slope. To ease this effort, the Gold Wing has adopted Hill Start Assist (HSA) on both its Manual and DCT versions.
After stopping on a slope, further squeezing the brake lever quickly results in the ABS modulator generating hydraulic pressure for the rear brake caliper. When setting off – even when the brake lever is released – the hydraulic pressure temporarily retains braking force (for about 3 seconds) so starting on the uphill slope with the throttle is possible. When in operation, the HSA indicator is switched on to inform the rider.
The 6-speed manual gearbox is also fitted with a ‘cam damper’ between the clutch and transmission, separating each inertial mass, reducing noise and improving shift quality/durability. A cam assist and slipper clutch (with fewer discs and reduced hydraulic friction in the release mechanism) replace the traditional hydraulic assist clutch. This reduces clutch load at the lever by 20% and also smooths downshifts; the slipper mechanism also contributes to the high-quality downshift feel.
Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)
- Third-generation DCT with 7-speeds
- For 2020, DCT is newly available on the standard GL1800 Gold Wing model
- Smoother, quieter with faster upshifts and downshifts
- Walking mode allows machine to ‘creep’ forward or back
- The 4 riding modes also manage DCT for optimised response
- Optimised low speed manoeuvrability for 2020
Honda has sold over 100,000 DCT equipped motorcycles across Europe since the system first appeared as an option on the VFR1200F in 2009. Testament to its acceptance in the marketplace, during the last financial year, DCT accounted for 48% of European sales on models where DCT was an option.
Honda’s unique DCT is a natural fit for the Gold Wing engine and the 2018 development revolved around DCT as the base. Employing the third generation of the system and the first to have 7-speeds, it’s specifically designed for long-distance cruising; it’s also extremely smooth and fast shifting.
For 2020 the Gold Wing’s DCT system has been further optimised for low speed manoeuvrability, with close ratios reducing shift-shock. In the higher speed range, they are set wider apart to reduce engine rpm. In both speed ranges comfort is improved as shifting up or down is of the highest quality.
DCT delivers consistent, seamless gear changes up or down and very quickly becomes second nature in use. It uses two clutches: one for start-up and 1st, 3rd , 5th and 7th gears: the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th, with the mainshaft for each clutch located inside the other for compact packaging.
Each clutch is independently controlled by its own electro-hydraulic circuit. When a gear change occurs, the system pre-selects the target gear using the clutch not currently in use. The first clutch is then electronically disengaged as, simultaneously, the second clutch engages.
The result is a consistent, fast and seamless gear change. Furthermore, as the twin clutches transfer drive from one gear to the next with minimal interruption of the drive to the rear wheel, any gear change shock and pitching of the machine is minimised, making the change feel direct as well as smooth. Extra benefits include durability (as the gears cannot be damaged by missing a gear) impossibility of stalling, low stress urban riding and reduced rider fatigue.
Shift noise and shock were addressed throughout the development of the third generation of DCT, with noise damper rubbers on both ends of the fork guide and the master arm greatly reducing any impact sound during gear changes.
A spring damper is installed between the clutch and the main shaft in order to absorb the torque in the rotational direction, thus reducing the noise and shock of the contact between the clutch and main shaft when shifting gears.
The Gold Wing’s DCT features a 1.8km/h forward Walking Mode with reverse of 1.2km/h, operated instantly from a +/- switch on the left handlebar.
The main shaft has a double tube structure, with the outer main shaft (connected with the even-number gears) linked to the inner shaft with a chain, by way of the gears on the counter shaft. This structure gives the outer main shaft the role of the reverse idle shaft, which has resulted in a lightweight reverse mechanism with a compact structure - with no need for any reverse idle shaft.
When activating Walking Mode the two clutches of DCT are utilised to enable moving backward with clutch #1 and moving forward with clutch #2. In this way, moving forward or backward at walking speed is now possible with only clutch control, without any need for gear shifting. Furthermore, the throttle-by-wire system controls speed by minutely controlling the clutch capacity, while maintaining a certain engine speed, assuring controllability with a sense of security in wide-ranging situations.
The 4 riding modes are interleaved with DCT. All share the same engine character, delivery and suspension settings as the MT model but add extra DCT-specific parameters. TOUR uses the default setting for smooth clutch engagement and gearshifts in AT mode, with a low-to-high rpm range for gear shifts. SPORT deploys a more direct clutch engagement, with gear shifts programmed in a mid-to-high rev range.
ECON has a soft clutch engagement, with low-to-mid rpm gear hold and default shifting feel. RAIN also operates a soft clutch, low-to-high rpm gear hold range and slower shifting in AT mode.