1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

4 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing
Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing

1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

The Lowdown

This is where I learned that enormous, heavy, luxo-tourers aren’t for me. There’s nothing wrong with this motorcycle when you look at it as a comfortable point-A-to-point-B device but if that’s the goal to optimize for I’ll drive a car. It’s just as much fun.

The Details

Once in every long while a motorcycle comes along that makes you wonder how you ever lived without it.

This is not that motorcycle.

Once in every long while a motorcycle comes along that makes you wonder what you were thinking when you bought it.

Now you’re talking.

The Honda GL1000 Gold Wing was born out of the arms race begun in 1970 with the Honda CB750. Bigger was better and the makers were caught up with the obsession to one-up each other with bigger and bigger engines. That race is still going strong today with engine displacements that equal small cars.

A Honda VTX has the same displacement as my Miata!

In 1976 Honda delivered the Gold Wing– a 1,000 cc monster and their largest bike to that time. This was long before touring bikes existed as a category. Specialization was a long way off and no one really thought of putting bikes into categories back then.

Fairings and luggage weren’t even offered as options. For Honda, the Gold Wing was just a way to up the ante in the ongoing displacement war.

The motorcycle press immediately criticized the bike as being big, heavy and awkward to handle. Sales weren’t stellar and it appeared that the GL1000 might prove to be a short-lived mistake.

Then something completely unexpected happened. People started buying Gold Wings and outfitting them with aftermarket touring equipment. It proved to be the perfect horse to carry all that heavy fiberglass and steel.

Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing

Craig Vetter made a fortune selling touring equipment for this bike. Vetter’s Windjammer fairing that you see in the picture was the look of the day. You can still see old Gold Wings dressed like mine and rolling up many happy miles on the highway.

It wasn’t something anyone planned but the special-purpose touring motorcycle was born. Honda took notice and started producing their own touring accessories. Soon the accessories became standard equipment and the Gold Wing established the position that it still holds today as the premier touring motorcycle.

My problem with this bike is that I’ve gotten spoiled. Over time the motorcycle market has continued to subdivide itself and I’ve found that what I really want is a sport-tourer like my BMW R1150RT. Sure, I enjoy racking up thousands of highway miles and the old Gold Wing can do that with competence but I need the gratification of a bike that is equally at home in the twisties. This bike is every bit as much of a pulse-quickening thrill as driving a minivan. Maybe even less.

For a lot of people that’s good enough but it doesn’t put a smile on my face.

I’ve ridden a naked GL1000 and the reviewers are right. It’s big and awkward. Clamp fifty pounds of vintage 70s touring equipment on it and what little handling it ever had to begin with is completely lost.

I’ve ridden the new GL1800 too and came away with a different impression. That is an interesting bike! It is big but well-balanced and is surprisingly fun to ride. Strange as it may sound Honda put a racing designer in charge of creating the new Gold Wing and it shows.

I came within inches of buying one. As an aside, if I had to choose between the new Gold Wing and the BMW K1200LT it would be a no-brainer. The Gold Wing wins hands-down.

The only reason to prefer the K1200LT is if you’re attached to the brand.

Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing
Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing
Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing

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