Road test: 2012 Honda Gold Wing – Everything Zoomer

26 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Road test: 2012 Honda Gold Wing – Everything Zoomer
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Road test: 2012 Honda Gold Wing

Given permission and but a solitary minute, I’ll turn a motorcycle’s back tire to mere ashes all the while inhaling as much of that putrid smoke as my lungs can hold.

On a good day, on a track I like, on a bike such as BMW’s mind-boggling and fast S1000RR, I’ll exit corners spinning the back tire, then wheelie all the way until the next turn, all the while wearing a stupid ear-to-ear grin. I think tripling the speed limit, in the right environment, of course, is actually therapeutic. I could go on.

For some reason, however, getting on the back seat of a motorcycle is something I find terrifying. In fact, I just don’t do it. Well, I should say didn’t do, as Honda’s new 2012 Gold Wing — a model owners often describe as being “all about the passenger” — demanded I overcome that fear.

Guess what? I think I even kinda enjoyed it.

Like Harley’s Fat Boy or Kawasaki’s Ninjas, the Gold Wing is one of those models that has essentially become a brand unto itself. It this case, the model’s claim to fame is that it virtually invented luxury touring. There are other models in this category, but, really, none is its equal.

Harley’s Electra Glide is very interesting, but it offers a completely different approach to touring. And, with its new K1600GTL, BMW looks like it now stopped trying to compete directly with the Honda. The Gold Wing formula really is unique.

For 2012, the decade-old model evolves in a way that could be best described as a refinement of the 2010. Note there is no 2011 model as Honda took “a year off” to move production to Japan from the United States.

As it is often considered the ultimate passenger machine and is supposedly now even more pillion-rider friendly, the Gold Wing gave me little choice — I had to let go of the grips and move back a seat to see for myself what the fuss was about.

I have to say I now get it. Honda describes the Gold Wing’s passenger seat as a throne, and there’s really not a lot of exaggeration to the claim. Other than the back seat of an Electra Glide or maybe a Victory Vision, you simply won’t find a more comfortable back perch to sit on.

Both the front and back seat, which are heated with individual controls, now offer cushier foam and are lined with a material more akin to luxury car leather than the vinyl-like (by comparison) 2010 seat.

The view from the elevated back seat is enhanced since you look above the rider’s helmet. And that back rest not only feels as though it provides a car seat level of support, it comforts by holding you in place no matter how hard the throttle is twisted. Other characteristics, such as very good wind management, impressive audio quality from the new Panasonic sound system (now finally with iPod integration), a total absence of vibration from the unchanged, turbine-like six-cylinder boxer engine and what is simply the most comfortable motorcycle suspension on Earth, add up to create what really is an extraordinary passenger experience.

Here’s why it’s so important. Most of the time, that passenger is your spouse. And since touring with a happy spouse means, as everyone knows, that you’re happy, too — and vice versa — this stuff really matters if you intend to seriously hit the road two up.

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Fortunately, the Gold Wing is also quite pleasant for the rider. Although undeniably improved, the 2012 version still generally feels much like the 2010. Air flow is somewhat improved around the leg area, while the navi system is faster, with more functions. But what really feels better is the suspension action, which is now amazingly refined.

New tires also do their part to marginally improve handling, which remains incredibly tight and light for such a humongous motorcycle.

Finally, even though it clearly looks familiar, the body is all-new with styling that seems more focused. There’s less chrome and the once-trendy clear-lens tail lights are gone.

What struck me most about the Gold Wing, however, isn’t the numerous small improvements this new version (which should be available next month at about the same price as the 2010s) receives nor the fact I may have conquered my phobia of back seats but rather what an engineering feat it is. Something so big with so much equipment just shouldn’t feel this light on its tires and as planted and inviting while leaned over.

The improvements might not be enough for the owner of a 2010 model to run to a dealer, chequebook in hand, but those with a better reason to upgrade will no doubt acquire luxury touring at its finest — and guaranteed two-wheeled happiness for two passengers.

Photograph by: Kevin Wing, Postmedia News

Copyright 2014 ZoomerMedia Limited

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