Happy Many Birthdays, Mr. Goldwing

Honda Goldwing 1975THE MOTORCYCLE CHOICES WE MAKE: As motorcycle riders, we have a lot of choices as to which bike(s) to call our own. As we use our checkbooks to vote for our favorite bikes over the passing years, we are either moving towards an idealized “best” bike, or simply trying something new.

Since every motorcycle is a compromise of many factors, the increasing selection that manufacturers have been offering over the years allows a motorcyclist to seek one that best represents each rider’s personal preferences. (And that doesn’t even take into account any customizations a rider engenders to make a bike more his/her own).

At any given time, I’ve always found myself keenly interested in a handful of other bikes, all in addition to whatever I’m currently riding. Further to that, I’ve always maintained a passing interest in a much larger field of bikes. (In other words, I like all kinds of motorcycles).

HONDA GOLDWING – ALWAYS AN ANOMALY

However, one bike has always been somewhere on my radar screen, albeit as somewhat of an anomaly to me: The Honda Goldwing.

The very first GL1000 that came out in 1975 (which was in production until 1979), caught my interest because of its shaft drive – which to me was a logical feature for any long-distance bike and there were not many in that era.

Although that first Goldwing did not have the saddlebags, fairing, and all the bells and whistles normally associated with a Wing, it was a HUGE bike – for the time. I don’t recall too many 1000cc bikes back in the mid 70s.

I did get to ride a GL1000, and I certainly didn’t dislike the bike, but I’d say it didn’t capture my imagination. To me, in that time period, it seemed an exercise in excess. (I mean a 750cc back then was a big bike).

It was a few more years before the Goldwing came on my radar screen in a more pronounced way.

GOLDWING: ON-BOARD AIR COMPRESSOR!?

I was on my first coast-to-coast motorcycle tour in the early 80’s. The trip itself was truly a life highlight, but one minor side note that caught my attention was all the Goldwings I observed across the country. They were by far the most popular “touring” bike among the riders I observed and/or chatted with that were actually riding long distances.

However, I should note there was a geographic exception: the several hundred miles around Sturgis, South Dakota, on that same trip, was ruled by any kind of Harley (like every year since it was started in 1938). But of course that’s a reflection of that famous annual rally….

Anyway, the GL1100 “Aspencade” had just come out from the Midwest (Honda started manufacturing Goldwings in Ohio in 1981 until 2009, when they moved Goldwing production back to Japan).

That bike had everything – and more!

I recall somewhere out in America speaking to a Goldwing rider who was telling me all the accessories his Goldwing came with, in addition to the standard full fairing and saddlebags. I was impressed as he pointed out the AM/FM Radio, floorboards, and CB Radio. But when he told me that it had an onboard air compressor to adjust the suspension, I made him repeat it. Once again, the thought of “exercise in excess” entered my mind – and yet I was amazed at the thing. (Although I could not envision ever owning one).

On the other hand, the bike was famous for its smooth, long-distance ride. Now, that was very appealing to me!

Of course since then, the Goldwings have gotten even bigger and just in case you’re of the type that considers there could never be too many accessories or gizmos on a motorbike, realize that the multitude of goodies that comes with, or are options on the current GL1800 (airbag anyone?), are only a starting point. Over the decades, the aftermarket to provide Goldwing accessories has become an entire industry in itself.

Although Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha, have in the past, attempted to emulate Honda’s success, they ultimately withdrew their offerings. The only other bikes in its category are the BMW K1600LT and the Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

REMARKABLE LONGEVITY

I’ve watched the Goldwings evolve over the years with some interest. Not only because of all the excess, but since I’m a long-distance rider, I still continue to see the national highways and byways well-represented by Goldwings. I’ve also been impressed by its longevity. ANY motorcycle that can last for this many decades (its world debut was in Germany, at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in October 1974), when so many models only last a handful of years, needs to be recognized as truly remarkable.  And I wish it many more years of continued success.

I still consider the bike an exercise in excess, but warmly embrace and respect it as a vital and important part of the motorbike world.

And although I may very well end up buying a Goldwing mysef at some point, I would be much more inclined to do if Honda would consider making a Goldwing “light” version, by going back to 1000cc and stripping off everything except the saddlebags and fairing, to make their famously smooth motorbike appealing to those who prefer a simpler style of touring bike. But in the modern era of “bigger is better” and “faster is the master,” my inclinations would probably be deemed “old fashioned.”

28 thoughts on “Happy Many Birthdays, Mr. Goldwing

  • hi I have 1983 interstate and 1994 1500 se and my 1983 170 000klic and still going strong thinking of take out the faring and bag put it standard to drive aroun town lve that bike

  • First GW I ever laid eyes on was at a campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was riding the best route in the East on a Honda CB 175 and this guy rolls up on a ’75 GW 1000, about six times the displacement of my little machine. Talk about “excess”, this seemed to scream it. Years later I got a used 81 GW 1100 with about 9,000 miles on it. Still riding it with 122,000 on the clock. Very little work done on it over the years beyond routine maintenance. I also have an ’05 Yamaha VStar 1100, but still ride the Wing regularly. Amazing bike for sure.

  • I bought my ’83 Wineberry interstate new in 1983. Now in 2015, I have about 89,000 on her but haven’t been able to ride for several years now. I want to get. Her out and live again as I have a little more time to do so. Yesterday a new AGM battery, new tires and a few other additions to get her ready for the road again and I’m on my way. My problems now are: a frozen rear brake caliber, constant leaky left fork, rebuild the whole brake system for safety, adjust the engine out ( only got about 35-42 MPG my last riding days. Any suggestion or hi t of where to go to read the latest “hints” on “wing recovery” appreciated. We are seemingly in -seperate me as my best trip was to Alaska from my natie North Louisiana in 1986. I’m older but the spirit lives. Any hints appreciated. I did find original Wineberry paint in California I’ll be ordering soon for that touch up thing but pin damaged from sun damage on the top another challenge.; where can I get pin stripping?
    My best to all, David

  • Stumbled on to this web site

    Just bought a 1983 1100 A … fully loaded,,, burgundy red and in grat nick… 52000 miles on it

    But the temp outside is like 5 degrees with snow so will have to wait for warmer weather to ride… This bike has been garaged all its life and I am the second owner. I wasnt looking at a GW on craigs list when searching for bikes but this one caught my eye for being so well kept and only 1500.00 bucks… Brought it home and have already been offered 2500.00 for it ,,, hmmm

    I will fine tune it and soon as spring hits I already have plans to go out of state down south and cruise…. Have yet to get radio/cb working and thinking of updating it with mp3/radio/cd and with gps and a few other newer things

  • I bought my 1983 GL1100 Interstate in perfect stock condition in 1996 with 8,000 miles on it. The original owner said he was too busy to ride it. Today the bike has less than 23,000 miles on it, lives in a temperature controlled garage, is only feed nonethanol gasoline and stabilzer, and has annual routine maintenance whether it needs it or not. I soothe my guilt about not riding it by looking forward to the day when I sell it to a very, very lucky third owner.

  • i have a 1981 gl1100i that was given to me by my uncle he bought it new in T.N. he did 15 or 20 long distance trips in this thing as well as used it as a commuter bike. in all the bike is still 99% original including engine minus the brake pads tires and water pump(just changed last year). so at 500,000+ miles i would say gold-wings are the definition of reliability.

  • The F6B Gold Wing I ride is the same as the first one to hit the road. A flat engine with a shaft drive. Two more pistons were added to handle the weight of the added farkles. This is one smooth combination. As a member of some Gold Wing forums I have noticed a large number of riders are clamoring for a change. The existing product is one tuff act to follow. Possibly a electric motor would be smother but there goes the long distance element.

  • I had heard a story that in the early ’70s, the CEO of Honda was presented the GL plans, and he said no. When he retired, the plans were brought back, a prototype engine was built and put on a test stand, and when it reached the equivalent of 100K miles, they pulled the plug on the test, since it was already in production by then. Very long lived bike, I bought mine about 15 years ago, and love it. 61,000 miles, 4 carb kits, 2 timing belts, 1 ignition coil, 0 regrets.

  • Just bought a ’82 interstate. She is a beast lol, although it went thru a tornado and laid on its side for a week, i clean it up and she fired right up with 48k miles! What a trooper!

  • I have a 1983 Gl1100I. Bought for 1,000.00. i never road it just bought it because i figured it was a Honda, how could i go wrong. Well, turns out I got lucky, very lucky. The bike was well maintained. the guy selling it is a Harley enthusiast and didn’t think too much about it. Well it’s been two years, all I have done is go everywhere he has gone on his Harley. He can’t believe how well my Goldwing just keeps on going. I got the deal of the century for A grand. bought it with 67,000 miles on it and it now has 72,000.00 . Very reliable. Thank you Honda. One more thought. after riding for two hours he needs a break, i could keep on going and going.

  • I TOTALLY agree with Malcolm about the Goldwing/VTX comparison. Had a barebones 81 Goldwing that I added a Vetter fairing and saddlebags too. Great bike. After about 3 years, I thought I needed something a bit cooler . . . hence the purchase of the VTX1800. Great looking bike (always got the comment: “Nice Harley”). I guess if I wanted a Harley I should have bought one. After a few months on the VTX, I regretted it. Not as nimble, a lot heavier and not nearly as comfortable.

    After a job loss, had to sell the VTX. Now that I’m employed again, heading off this weekend to buy an 82 Aspencade. Can’t wait!!!

  • Seems somehow you missed the very thing you are looking for and there is a whole big piece of bikers out there that own, ride, build and rebuild “naked wings”… the very thing you seek. Also, the wing was offered thru ’75 – ’83 as a Standard model. No fairing, no bags straight 1000cc – 1100cc watercooled, shaft drive sewing machine smooth boxer 4 cylinder which besides being the most comfortable on the road was also one of the fastest ….. I have absolutely no problem keeping up with friends on their souped BMW, Ducati’s, Yamaha’s thru the Missouri twisty turneys on my 80 1100. Ok Vetter fairing with lowers and sometimes leather bags over the seat. I am now looking for an ’83 Interstate, a model between the standard and Aspencade, no digital, no on board compressors, just bigger brakes, stabilized forks and a tweak to 5th gear for better mileage .. 45 – 50 but yes the hard bags and fairing of a “bagger” ……. and you can buy these fine machines all day long for the cost of the down payment for a piece of “miwaukee iron” …….. just saying ….

  • The new issue of the British motorcycle Mag, Motorcycle Sports and Leisure compared the new Gold Wing to the BMW 6 cyl and a Harley Dyna. The unanimous opinion was that the Gold Wing was very comfortable but was left in the dust by the BMW, in terms of both performance and technology. Harley took third as kind of a “attitude” cruiser.

  • I’ve owned the same 1977 GL1000 for 20 years now. When the GL1000 came out in 1975 I was working in a Honda shop. I was the low mechanic on the totem pole and the older guys didn’t want to fool with them, so I got most of the work. They cost $2900 and I was making $5 an hour. I promised myself that one day I was going to own one. I’ve had this bike longer than I”ve had any wife. I will own it until the day I die and then it goes to my son. It will make a pair for him. We spent the winter of 2008 restoring is 1978. I’ve taught him everything I know about the Gl1000 and he’s a great mechanic. He’s promised to pass both bikes on to his son. I can see both of these bikes still running 50 years from now.

  • I purchased a beautiful ’79. The stator was out, and there were several issues with wiring. I’m using the bike as a daily (multiple times daily if possible) rider and is a dream. I too, though, have my eyes set on a newer, bigger, fancier, more comfortable Wing. I’ve owned 3 Yamahas, 1 Kawasaki, 1 Suzuki, 1 Hercules, a 250 Honda I wish I still had, and my choice of all is a ‘Wing of any kind. I’m now an avid buy an old one and get it on the road kind of guy, always looking for the next project.. Ride safely,

  • I bought my first wing. A 1982 GL1100 a year ago It had 57000 miles on her. Now 74235.Very comfortable good on gas no problems at all. I still have my 1994 VT1100 shadow spirit in the garage but I am going to sale her now. All I do is start her up once a week and ride around the block and plug her back into the charger. My wing is not to big and I use her on my daily cummute to downtown L.A California coming from riverside Ca.

  • have a 82 1100 Interstate, and a 78 1000, both wonderful bikes

    Love an 1800, but not the price. I have 5 in the garage now and no where near the price of one 1800 for all of them.

  • The Goldwing in my opinion would have to be “The Rolls Royce” of motorbikes, especially the models from GL1500 and newer.
    Now in response to Tim, they all ready make a lightened version of the goldwing. It’s the little sister which used to be a ST1100, now it’s a ST1300. V4, 5 speed, rear panniers, fairing etc, all that you need for a light weight tourer. Larger fuel tank so it will go further than a goldwing.

  • I have been an owner of Goldwings since 1976 and currently own several including a 2006 airbag. With the suspension upgrade I have installed and all the other goodies its akin to flying a quick private plane at ground level

  • I had not ridden in over 20 years, and my wife decided to buy me a bike to stop my whining about how much I missed it. She had found a 450 nighthawk, which I drove for about 2 weeks, then found someone on craigslist that had a 1980 goldwing is and wanted to trade down. a 750 was the biggest bike I had owned before that, and I loved the gl1100 feel. I did make the mistake of letting a non pro mechanic work on it, and it was destroyed. I later found a 1985 limited and bought it. It isnt a monster bike by todays standards, but it has plenty of power and comfort, and the bigger bikes do not leave me behind. She had 32k miles on her when I got her, very low miles for an older touring bike, and the only expense so far besides regular maintainance has been to replace the tires. My next project is a restore of a 1975 gl1000 that was given to my brother as scrap metal, and has been sitting in a field for about 30 years….

  • Recently, I bought a 1982 Honda CB900C. I thought that was a large bike. I couldn’t imagine owning such a large bike. Then, I got up close an personal with a GL1000. What a nice little bike. Low, clean, interesting looking. I would own one in a second.

    Ok, maybe my next bike will be a GL1000. Would someone please buy one and not ride it too much for me? I’ll see you in a few years.

  • “…And although I may very well end up buying a Goldwing mysef at some point, I would be much more inclined to do if Honda would consider making a Goldwing “light” version, by going back to 1000cc and stripping off everything except the saddlebags and fairing, to make their famously smooth motorbike appealing to those who prefer a simpler style of touring bike…”

    That’s exactly what I’ve done — by buying a 1983 Goldwing 1100 Interstate, with 51,000+ miles on the clock (one look at the engine case tells me that’s actual, not one revolving the second time around!).
    Since these engines have been known to go multiple 100,000 increments, I may never need another motorcycle. I suspect I’ll buy one, though — like, maybe, a newer Goldwing?!
    What a fabulous ride! (I’ve been known to get so comfortable I yawn while driving. LOL)

  • OOOO 35 years! They better never stop making it, its their bread and butter, those VTX bikes are awful and Honda should stop copying the V-twin market and get back to doing what they do best, inline motors!

  • The first time I laid eyes on the 75 honda goldwing as a kid, I made up my mind that I would go into the army just to get one. But after owing many other motorcycles and after 3 marriages and 3 divorices I finally got my hands on a 1981 Goldwing Interstate around the year 2000. I still have it and it still runs, and runs good. It was well worth the wait. If all goes well I may be able to afford a 2000 Goldwing in 2012. Its worth the wait. Happy Birthday Mr. Wing

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