Honda Gold Wing

Honda Gold Wing GL1800

Honda Gold Wing GL1800
Manufacturer Honda Motor Co., Ltd
Also called GL1800A (with ABS)
Production 1974-present
Assembly Marysville, Ohio (2000—2009); Kikuchi, Kumamoto Japan (2011—present)
Predecessor GL1000, GL1100, GL1200, GL1500
Class Touring
Engine 1,832 cc (111.8 cu in) water-cooled flat-six, SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder; with PGM-FI
Bore / stroke 74 mm × 71 mm (2.9 in × 2.8 in)[1]
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Power 88 kW (118 hp)[2]
Torque 167 N·m (123 lbf·ft)[2]
Ignition type Digital electronic
Transmission 5-speed manual, plus electric reverse
Frame type Diamond multi box-section aluminum alloy
Suspension F: 45mm cartridge fork with anti-dive system, 140 mm (5.5 in) travel
R: Single-sided swing arm with electronically controlled preload, 105 mm (4.1 in) travel [1]
Brakes F: Dual discs, 3-piston calipers
R: Single disc, 3-piston caliper
Tires F: 130/70R-18 63H, R: 180/60R-16 74H
Rake, trail 29.25 degrees/109 mm (4.3 in) [1]
Wheelbase 1,692 mm (66.6 in)
Dimensions L: 2,635 mm (103.7 in)
W: 945 mm (37.2 in)
H: 1,455 mm (57.3 in)[3]
Seat height 29.1 in (740 mm)
Weight 799 lb (362 kg) GL1800A [1] (dry)
858 lb (389 kg) (fuel tank empty)
898 lb (407 kg)[4] (wet)
Fuel capacity 25 L (5.5 imp gal; 6.6 US gal)
Fuel consumption 30 mpg-US (13 km/l; 36 mpg-imp) (low)
40 mpg-US (17 km/l; 48 mpg-imp) (high)
36 mpg-US (15 km/l; 43 mpg-imp) (avg)[4]
Related Valkyrie Rune; Valkyrie (F6C); F6B

The Honda Gold Wing (colloquially Goldwing or GoldWing) is a series of touring motorcycles manufactured by Honda. It was introduced at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in October 1974,[5] and went on to become a popular model in North America, Western Europe and Australia, as well as Japan. Total sales are more than 640,000, most of them in the U.S. market.[6][7]

The Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan (Japanese) includes a Honda Gold Wing GL1000 manufactured in 1974 as one of their 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology.[8] Through 2012, Honda GL models have appeared eighteen times in the Cycle World list of Ten Best bikes.[9]

Over the course of its history, it has had numerous changes to its design and production. In 1975 it had a 999 cc (61.0 cu in) flat-four engine and in 2001 it had a 1,832 cc (111.8 cu in) flat-six. By 2012, the model had a fairing with heating and an adjustable windscreen, panniers and a trunk, a seatback for pillion rider, satellite navigation and radio, a six-speaker audio system with MP3 and iPod connectivity,[10] anti-lock braking, cruise control, electrically assisted reverse gear, and an optional airbag.[11]

Gold Wings were manufactured in Marysville, Ohio from 1980 until 2010, when motorcycle production there was halted.[12][13] Production resumed in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan in 2011 using tooling transported from the old plant.[14] The 2011 model year was not produced.

Gold Wing development

In 1972 Honda assembled a design team to explore concepts for a new flagship motorcycle, something Honda R&D had deliberated over ever since the CB750 was introduced.[15] The project leader was Shoichiro Irimajiri, who in the previous decade had designed Honda’s five- and six-cylinder Grand Prix motorcycle racing engines (as well as the RA273E V12 engine for Honda in Formula One auto racing) and then helped with the development of Honda’s car business.[16] Irimajiri-san was thus an apt choice to create an amalgamation of disparate technologies—automobile engines and multi-cylinder race bikes.[17][18]

A related event was the introduction of the CVCC clean-burn auto engine at the 1972 Tokyo show. It was Honda's first liquid-cooled engine to go into production; Honda cars as well as motorcycles had all been air-cooled up to that time. Soichiro Honda was not easily convinced that liquid-cooling was superior to air-cooled engines (which he had worked on for 50 years)[19][20] but younger engineers eventually prevailed.[18]

Honda F1 racing RA273E 3-liter V12 engine designed by Shoichiro Irimajiri

M1 prototype

During its development in the late 1960s, the CB750 was called informally the "King of Motorcycles"[21] so it was fitting that Honda's next big thing would become known by the moniker "King of Kings" at inception (as well as later on).[5][22] By the end of 1972, the project team had made a break with motorcycle tradition (and a complete change from Honda practice)[18] in the form of an experimental prototype, known by the code name M1. Instead of a transverse engine layout, the M1 motorcycle (still in the possession of Honda R&D today) has a longitudinal engine, making it ideal for a driveshaft even though every prior Honda used a chain for the final drive. Rather than a parallel twin or inline-four engine the M1 has a flat-six engine, and at 1470cc, it has twice the displacement of the CB750. Instead of designing it for high-performance (although some of the engineers wanted to) the M1 engine was built to produce plenty of torque across a wide power band. Unlike every other Honda motorcycle of the time, the M1 engine uses water cooling.[17]

The M1 engine puts out 80 horsepower (60 kW) at 6700 rpm, allowing for a top speed of 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph).[23][24] Unconstrained by practicalities, this brainstorm from the project team was far from a production prototype. On the contrary, the M1 was never meant to see the light of day. Nonetheless, the M1 must be seen as the primordial Gold Wing because so many of its basic and distinguishing features appear in the lineage.[16][17][25]

The flat-six gives the M1 motorcycle a very low center of gravity, which enhances stability, but the length of this engine plus gearbox does not allow a comfortable riding position, which was so cramped that the project moved towards the concept of a more compact engine.[23][24]

1976 GL1000 engine closeup
1938 Zündapp K800 on display at the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum
1983 BFG 1300 motorcycle

Project 371

The undefined touring bike was then code-named project 371, and Toshio Nozue (who had worked on CB750 development)[26] took over from Irimajiri-san as project leader. The M1 engine displacement of 1470cc was deemed too big,[27] and six cylinders were considered to be too many, for the target market.[28] The M1 design was eventually replaced by a more compact one liter flat-four engine.[29][30]

Powertrain pedigree

When the Gold Wing flat-four with shaft drive debuted in 1974 it combined technologies from previous motorcycle designs, as well as existing automotive technology.[31][32] The traditional BMW Motorrad layout, a wet-sump unit construction boxer-twin using shaft final drive, goes back to the R32 model that began production in 1923.[33] In 1934 Zündapp used the same powertrain layout for their K800, stepping up to a four-cylinder boxer engine; during World War II the K800 was the only four-cylinder motorcycle used by the German armed forces.[34] The 500cc Wooler design of 1953 improved upon the Zündapp by adding overhead valves to its boxer four and rear suspension to its tubular frame; although with capital in short supply, followed by the death of John Wooler, this ambitious shaft-drive motorcycle never quite got off the ground.[35]

In automobiles, the four-cylinder boxer powerplant goes as far back as the start of the 20th century;[36] and in the early 1970s flat-four engines were being manufactured[33] by Subaru, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, VW and Porsche as 4 and 6 cylinders, and used in aircraft as the Porsche PFM 3200, motor, as well as Citroën.[37] The Citroën engine is remarkable because it was used (with only a few modifications)[38][39] to power the BFG 1300 (French) touring bike, which was also popular with the French police in the 1980s.[40][41]

The Gold Wing was the first production motorcycle from Japan that had a four-stroke engine with water cooling (needless to say, the first for Honda)[42] but the Suzuki GT750 with a water-cooled, two-stroke triple, preceded the GL1000 by four years.[43] Two-stroke water-cooled engines from The Scott Motorcycle Company go back at least as far as the 1920s.

Target market

The primary market for the Gold Wing was the potential Long Distance Rider,[44] needing a motorcycle suitable to the task. In North America that required comfort for the long haul: wind protection, smooth ride, comfortable seat, storage for the necessities, and power in abundance.[45][46] The secondary market was to be in Europe where riders, constrained by frontiers, emphasized performance over luxury.[23][47]

In the early 1970s, Americans with an inclination to cover vast distances had few manufacturers to choose from: Harley-Davidson (Electra Glide), Moto Guzzi and BMW. The Electra Glide was a comfortable, high-maintenance and high-vibration bike with fanatically loyal riders.[23][48] Even so, Harley faced some serious competition from Moto Guzzi's then-new 850cc Eldorado (distributed in the U.S. by Berliner Motor Corporation).[49]

The BMW was smoother, more reliable, but as expensive as the Harley[15] and better suited to a weekend trip than crossing a continent. Large Japanese bikes of the time, such as the Honda CB750 and the Kawasaki Z1 were relatively inexpensive but troubled by vibration, by the need for drive chain maintenance and by gas tanks too small for their thirsty engines.[5] The Gold Wing was aimed at a market segment that did not yet exist: American riders not likely to buy a Harley or BMW but who would open their wallets for an affordable machine offering comfort, endurance, low-maintenance and a high-torque, smooth, quiet engine.[17][23] Honda would ultimately be quite successful in attracting a new kind of long distance rider.[18][50]


Gold Wing GL1000

1975 Honda Gold Wing GL1000
Production 1974—1979
Assembly Japan
Engine 999 cc (61.0 cu in) SOHC flat-four
Bore / stroke 72.0 mm × 61.4 mm (2.83 in × 2.42 in)
Compression ratio 9.2:1 [51]
Power 80 hp (60 kW) @7500 rpm [8]
Torque 63 lb·ft (85 N·m) @5500 rpm [31]
Ignition type Contact breaker[52]
Transmission 5-speed manual
Frame type Steel full-duplex cradle
Suspension F: Telescopic fork 143 mm (5.6 in) travel
R: Swing arm, 86.3 mm (3.40 in) travel
Brakes F: Dual discs, single-piston calipers
R: Single disc, opposed 2-piston caliper
Tires F: 3.50 H-19 (tube type)
R: 4.50 H-17A (tube type)
Rake, trail 28 degrees/120 mm (4.7 in)[51]
Wheelbase 60.6 in (1,540 mm)[15]
Dimensions L: 2,305 mm (90.7 in)
Seat height 31.9 in (810 mm)[52]
Weight 584 lb (265 kg)[8] (dry)
Fuel capacity 19 L (4.2 imp gal; 5.0 US gal)

The Project 371 team's final powertrain layout was a 1 litre (61 cu in) liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, SOHC engine, with a gear-driven generator at the back end of the crankshaft. Using gears to drive the generator caused it to spin backwards (relative to the crankshaft) and thus to counteract the engine torque reaction.[47][53] Cylinder blocks and crankcase were integral, with the transmission situated below the crankcase to keep the unit construction engine as compact as possible. Final drive was by shaft.[54][55]

Production Gold Wings went on sale in the U.S. and in Europe in 1975, but pre-production GL1000 models were first revealed to dealers in September 1974 at American Honda's annual dealer meeting in Las Vegas, and then shown to the public the following month at the IFMA (German) Internationale Fahrrad- und Motorrad-Ausstellung (International Bicycle and Motorcycle Exhibition; today Intermot) in Cologne.[13][56]

Small fairings had been mounted on two of the production prototypes for the U.S. dealer show in Las Vegas.[47][54] These fairings were designed by Honda to be sold as Hondaline accessories, were supposed to be manufactured in the U.S. by the Vetter Fairing Company, but this particular design never went into production due to the accidental destruction of the molds.[57] Consequently, the Gold Wing was born into the world naked, lacking saddlebags and having no place for luggage, without even a windshield.[13] This created a 'golden' opportunity for accessory manufacturers,[32] and a market soon developed offering fairings and luggage accessories, particularly the Windjammer series designed by Craig Vetter.[5]

The original GL1000 (designated K0) had an electric starter backed up by a kick start lever stored inside a dummy fuel tank, which also housed the radiator expansion tank, electrical components, as well as the air filter supplying four Keihin 32 mm CV carburetors. The real fuel tank was under the seat, in order to keep the center of mass as low as possible.[58] The bike had a dry weight of 584 pounds (265 kg)[55] and a retail price of US $2,900.[50][52] 13,000 Gold Wings were sold in the United States in 1975.[15]

There were no significant changes in the standard Gold Wing for 1976 (the K1 model) although the price increased slightly to $2,960.[54] To mark the United States Bicentennial year Honda announced the GL1000 LTD with distinctive insignia and color scheme (e.g., gold stripes, gold wheels)[16] plus some extra amenities.[58][59] The LTD was a genuine limited edition with production restricted to about 3,400 units,[54] and with an upscale price of $3,295.[50]

In the third model year (K2) Honda began refining the Gold Wing, although the changes for 1977 were small, such as exhaust pipe heat shields, revised seat and handlebar, as well as a new fuel gauge.[58] Weight increased to 595 pounds (270 kg) and the price rose to $2,938.[50] The motorcycle division of Honda UK produced 52 Executive GL1000 K1 bikes by adding premium accessories to 1977 Gold Wings and selling them for £2300 (exclusive to the UK).[54]

1979 GL1000 with Windjammer fairing on the Bonneville Salt Flats

The engine was modified in 1978 for the GL1000 K3 model, in order to make more torque available at lower engine speeds; the carburetors were reduced in size by 1 mm, the exhaust system was redesigned, valve timing and ignition timing were altered.[60] The kick-start mechanism was removed from the engine, and a reserve lighting module for the headlight and taillight (automatically switching to the second filament when one burns out) was removed from the electrics.[54] A small instrument panel appeared on top of a restyled dummy fuel tank. Wire-spoke wheels were replaced with Honda's new ComStar wheels, but the existing tires with inner tubes remained.[58][61] Dry weight grew to 601 pounds (273 kg) and the selling price went up to $3,200.[50]

1979 marked the end of GL1000 development with the K4 model (the UK version was designated KZ). Dry weight increased slightly to 604 pounds (274 kg) and the selling price jumped to $3,700[54] for the last Gold Wing to be powered by a one-liter engine.[27][58] There were only minor changes for this model year, except for the ComStar wheels; new ComStars had stronger steel spokes on aluminum rims instead of the original aluminum spoked wheels that precipitated a 1979 recall (for the 1978 model year).[62][63] During the final run of the GL1000 in 1979, Hondaline saddlebags and trunk were available, but Honda still did not offer a fairing.[56]

Honda sold more than 97,000 units of the GL1000 in the United States between 1975 and 1979.[15]


Gold Wing GL1100

1980 Honda Gold Wing GL1100
Assembly Japan '79-'80; Marysville, Ohio '80-'83
Engine 1,085 cc (66.2 cu in) SOHC, flat-four [64]
Bore / stroke 75.0 mm × 61.4 mm (2.95 in × 2.42 in)
Compression ratio 9.2:1
Power 81 hp (60 kW) @7000 rpm [65][66]
Torque 88 N·m (65 lbf·ft) @5500 rpm [65][66]
Ignition type Electronic
Transmission 5-speed manual
Frame type Steel full-duplex cradle
Suspension F: Air-assisted telescopic fork, 148 mm (5.8 in) travel; anti-dive '82-'83
R: Air-assist shocks 80 mm (3.1 in) travel [67]
Brakes F: Dual discs, 1-piston calipers '80-'81
R: Single disc, 1-piston caliper '80-'81
F: Dual discs, 2-piston calipers '82-'83
R: Single disc, 2-piston caliper '82-'83
Tires F: 110/90-19 62H, R: 130/90-17 68H '80-'81
F: 120/90-18 65H, R: 140/90-16 71H '82-'83[64]
Rake, trail 29.17 degrees/134 mm (5.3 in) '80-'81 [68]
29.17 degrees/132 mm (5.2 in) '82-'83 [69]
Wheelbase 1,605 mm (63.2 in)[67]
Dimensions L: 2,340 mm (92 in) GL1100 Standard
Seat height 790 mm (31 in)
Fuel capacity 20 L (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal)
Honda GL1100 Interstate at the 2012 Christmas toy run in Valdosta, Georgia [70]

After five years of the GL1000, the second-generation Gold Wing was released in 1979 as a 1980 model, and the GL1100 would be continued through the 1983 model year. The GL1100 was manufactured in Japan until May 1980 when Honda started building 1981 models at the Marysville Motorcycle Plant in Ohio[13][71] (which had been making frames and parts for various models since 1974).[72] Gold Wings would be built at a rate of 150 units a day for the years 1981-1983. Engines were still being built in Japan, but Honda began to market the machine as being made in America.[73]

The Gold Wing faced competition from Japan in the form of the Suzuki GS1000 with an inline-four engine, and especially in the Kawasaki Z1300 that had a massive DOHC 1300cc straight-six engine with water cooling. Honda responded by increasing the displacement of the Gold Wing, and then followed-up by announcing the first Japanese full-dress tourer.[71] The new engine was more than just a GL1000 with a 3 mm larger bore, the alterations clearly emphasized torque over horsepower.[16] The cylinder heads were modified to improve combustion at low and middle engine speeds, transmission gear ratios were changed and the final drive ratio shortened to make more torque available at highway speeds.[60] The bore size for all four carburetors was again reduced by 1 mm, to 30 mm.[74]

The wheelbase was lengthened over that of the GL1000, and air suspension was added.[16][59] The GL1100 had an adjustable seat, and for the first time used tubeless tires, mounted on black reverse ComStar wheels.[58] The naked Gold Wing, which would become known as the Standard model, weighed 589 pounds (267 kg) dry and sold for US $3,800.[50] In spite of the fact that here were only minor changes to differentiate the GL1100 '81 edition from the previous year, the price went up to $4,100.[71]

All the 1982 Gold Wings had transmission ratios revised (again) to lower engine rpm at cruising speeds, new brakes with twin-piston calipers and wider tires on smaller wheels.[60] Dry weight for the GL1100 '82 was 595 pounds (270 kg) and the price was $4,250.[50][71]

Transmission gear ratios were revised yet again for the 1983 Gold Wings to lessen engine speed on the highway.[60] But the significant changes were not to the engine, they were to the running gear in this last year for GL1100s. Cast aluminum eleven-spoke wheels replaced the ComStars. The front suspension was endowed with TRAC anti-dive forks with an integrated fork brace,[58] and the rear suspension worked even with no air pressure.[71] Honda's first combined braking system, dubbed Unified Braking at the time, debuted in 1983; it engaged both front and rear brakes in unison when the brake pedal was applied.[75][76] Dry weight for the standard GL1100 inched up to 599 pounds (272 kg) and the price crept up to $4,300.[50]

GL1100 Interstate

Honda went beyond the mechanical makeover of the naked Gold Wing in March 1980 by releasing the first Japanese turn-key tourer, the Interstate model (GL1100I) with a factory-installed full fairing, saddlebags and a removable trunk, plus a long list of optional extras including a stereo system.[77] This bike was called the De Luxe model (GL1100DX) in some markets.[74] The fairing was designed to protect both the rider and a passenger from the wind. Likewise, the saddlebags and trunk were intended to carry the baggage of two people.[42] This made the Interstate significantly heavier than the standard model, with a dry weight of 672 pounds (305 kg), and more expensive at US $4,900.[16] The almost identical Interstate model for '81 was $5,100.[71]

The GL1100I '82 model offered more options, such as a new stereo, a 40-channel CB transceiver, and an on-board compressor to adjust the suspension air pressure.[58] Dry weight was 679 pounds (308 kg) and the price was $5,450.[50][71]

The GL1100I '83 received the engine and running gear updates of the standard model; dry weight increased to 686 pounds (311 kg) and selling price to $5,550.[71]

Honda Gold Wing GL1100 Full-Dresser

GL1100 Aspencade

Starting in 1982, Honda offered three different Gold Wing models.[58] With the introduction of the Aspencade (GL1100A) Honda took the full-dress tourer to a new level of luxury, with a larger seat, two-tone paint and more storage compartments, together with many options from the Interstate that were being included as standard.[16] All three brake disks on the GL1100A were internally ventilated. The additional items jacked up the dry weight to 702 pounds (318 kg) and the price to US $5,700.[50][71]

The GL1100A '83 received the same engine and running gear updates of the other models. The Aspencade also got new front and rear brakes, with internally ventilated front discs (only), as well as a digital LCD instrument panel and some additional amenities for rider and passenger. Weight went up just a bit to 707 pounds (321 kg) but the price leapt to $7,000.[71]


Gold Wing GL1200

Honda Gold Wing GL1200
Production 1983—1987
Assembly Marysville, Ohio
Engine 1,182 cc (72.1 cu in) SOHC, flat-four
Bore / stroke 75.5 mm × 66 mm (2.97 in × 2.60 in)
Compression ratio 9.0:1
Ignition type Electronic
Transmission 5-speed manual
Frame type Steel full-duplex cradle
Suspension F: Air-assisted, anti-dive telescopic fork, 5.5 in (140 mm) travel
R:Air-assist shocks 4.1 in (100 mm) travel
Brakes F: Dual discs, 2-piston calipers
R: Single disc, 2-piston caliper
Tires F: 130/90-16 67H, R: 150/90-15 74H
Rake, trail 30 degrees/4.6 in (120 mm)
Wheelbase 1,610 mm (63 in)[78]
Dimensions L: 2,355 mm (92.7 in) GL1200 Standard
Seat height 780 mm (31 in)
Fuel capacity 22 L (4.8 imp gal; 5.8 US gal)
Honda Gold Wing GL1200 Full-Dresser

In 1983 Honda was facing a challenge in the marketplace from a new full-dress tourer, the Yamaha Venture XVZ 1200 with its DOHC four valve per cylinder V4 engine (as Yamaha's XS Eleven Venturer had challenged the GL1100 two years earlier). Honda hit back at the Milan motorcycle show late that year by announcing a new 1984 Gold Wing that pushed its four-cylinder engine design to its limits. The bored and stroked boxer produced more power and torque; a new final drive ratio gave the GL1200 taller gearing in order to reduce noise and vibration.[60] The four Keihin 32 mm CV carburetors were larger than those on the GL1100 engine, on the other hand, they were the same size as the '75-'76 GL1000 carbs.[52] Incorporating hydraulic actuation for the clutch, in addition to hydraulic tappets for the valves, made the new engine virtually maintenance-free.[16] In order to make the Gold Wing more nimble, front and rear wheel diameters contracted (and tire widths expanded) one more time.[79] The GL1200 was built on a new, stronger frame and despite all the improvements, the claimed dry weight of the naked bike remained unchanged at 599 pounds (272 kg), and it was priced at $4,800 for the 1984 model year.[50]

1984 was the one and only year for the GL1200 Standard (which was not exported to Europe) for the reason that sales had decreased in favor of the Interstate and Aspencade models. This led to the decline of aftermarket manufacturers such as the Vetter Fairing Company.[80]

The GL1200's competitors were becoming more numerous. Last of the big Japanese manufacturers to do so, Suzuki finally entered the marketplace in 1985 with their full-dress tourer, the GV1400 Cavalcade with a DOHC, four valves per cylinder, V4 engine. In 1986 Yamaha enlarged the Venture's V4 engine to 1300cc, and Kawasaki introduced the ZG 1200 Voyager XII with a four-valve, DOHC, Inline-four engine.[79]

With three versions of the Gold Wing boxer motor spanning a dozen years, by 1987 further development of the flat-four engine was regarded as being constrained by the law of diminishing returns.[81] Piston displacement had been increased twice to generate more torque, but this also made each power stroke more intense. During the same time period, gear ratios had been raised to decrease engine RPM (boosting fuel economy and reducing vibration as well as noise levels) which in turn made pulses through the drivetrain seem rougher to the rider because firing intervals were farther apart. The obvious way to deliver power more smoothly (as Irimajiri-san had demonstrated with the M1 engine) was to step up from four cylinders to six.[60]

GL1200 Interstate

Having introduced the full-dress Interstate with the GL1100, Honda used the GL1200I '84 to refine the Gold Wing's fairing so that it would come across as a basic part of the bike and not as an afterthought. The new model Interstate (still called De Luxe in Europe) had an automotive-style instrument panel up front and increased luggage capacity in back: 38 liters (1.3 cu ft) in each saddlebag plus another 63 liters (2.2 cu ft) in the trunk.[80] Dry weight for the 1984 Interstate was 697 pounds (316 kg), and its price was $6,200.[79]

Despite giving the Gold Wing taller gearing the year before, in 1985 Honda shortened the overall gearing to improve performance.[60] There were many small changes to the GL1200I '85 but atypically its price was the same as it was the previous year, and at 699 pounds (317 kg) its weight was basically stable.[79]

The GL1200I '86 got more small updates, but the significant change was that all Gold Wing engines were being produced in Honda's Anna, Ohio plant from July 1985.[16][82] Claimed dry weight for the 1986 Interstate was unchanged; however, its price increased to $6,700.[79] The GL1200I '87 got a new seat design with three-stage foam;[58] neither weight nor price increased for 1987, the last year of the four-cylinder Gold Wing Interstate.[79]

GL1200 Aspencade

The GL1200A '84 had all the features of the GL1200I, plus a new Panasonic audio system that combined AM/FM radio, cassette player and an intercom between the rider and passenger. Unlike the analog instruments of the Interstate, the Aspencade had a dashboard with an LCD digital display.[58] The GL1200A also had foot boards for the passenger instead of footpegs.[79] Claimed dry weight for the 1984 Aspencade was 723 pounds (328 kg), and its price was $7,900.[50] The price was unchanged for 1985, and the Aspencade received the same updates as the Interstate model for that year. Dry weight for the Aspencade was 728 pounds (330 kg) in both '85 and '86.

In 1986 Dolby noise reduction was added to the audio system, which was replaced with an improved Panasonic system in 1987. The price was $8,500 for both years. In its final year, the GL1200A got the same seat upgrade as the GL1200I '87 model and some amenities that had been optional were made standard, increasing the dry weight of the Aspencade to 743 pounds (337 kg).[50][58][79]

Fuel-injected models

In 1985 Honda marked the tenth anniversary of the Gold Wing by launching a gold-painted, $10,000 Limited Edition model (GL1200L) luxuriously equipped with cruise control, auto-leveling rear suspension, an electronic trip computer and a four-speaker audio system.[16][50] The significant development was that the GL1200L was furnished with Honda's programmed fuel injection system, previously used on the turbocharged CX500T and CX650T (variants of the GL500 and GL650 Silver Wing).[83] Also known as the LTD, 5372 units were built and sold only in North America. Claimed dry weight for the GL1200L was 782 pounds (355 kg).[79]

To a limited extent, the Limited Edition turned out to be a sham when the SE-i (Special Edition—injected) debuted in 1986, as essentially a repainted GL1200L selling for $2 less than the '85 model.[79] The SE-i had the same Dolby audio system as the GL1200A '86 and was only available in the US.[58][80] This was the only year for the SE-i because the high cost of the fuel injection system forced Honda to return to carburetors for 1987.[60]


Gold Wing GL1500

1998 Honda Goldwing GL1500SE
Production 1987—2000
Assembly Marysville, Ohio
Engine 1,520 cc (93 cu in) SOHC, flat-six [84]
Bore / stroke 71 mm × 64 mm (2.8 in × 2.5 in)
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Power 100 hp (75 kW) @5200 rpm [84][85]
Torque 150 N·m (110 lbf·ft) @ 4000 rpm [84][85]
Ignition type Electronic Solid-state Digital
Transmission 5-speed manual; electric reverse
Frame type Steel full-duplex cradle
Suspension F: Anti-dive fork 5.5 in (140 mm) travel
R: Air-assisted shocks, 4.1 in (100 mm) travel
Brakes F: Dual discs, 2-piston calipers
R: Single disc, 2-piston caliper
Tires F: 130/70-18 63H, R: 160/80-16 75H
Rake, trail 30 degrees/111 mm (4.4 in)[86]
Wheelbase 1,690 mm (67 in)
Dimensions L: 2,630 mm (104 in) GL1500
Seat height 30.3–29.1 in (770–740 mm)[52]
Fuel capacity 23 L (5.1 imp gal; 6.1 US gal)
1992 Gold Wing GL1500 Aspencade

A new design team began work on the fourth-generation Gold Wing in 1984. Honda describes prototype testing as involving sixty developmental stages, and building fifteen different test bikes, including one made from a GL1200 frame coupled with the original M1 engine so that a six-cylinder could be compared to a four-cylinder head-on.[16][87] This early '70s prototype had an influence far beyond what the M1's initial designers could have expected.[17]

New Gold Wing engine design goals were smoothness, quietness and enormous power.[16][58] Ultimately, a redesigned Gold Wing made its debut at the 1987 Cologne Motorcycle Show, 13 years after the original GL1000 was first shown to the public at the same venue, and the GL1500 brought the most changes seen to the Gold Wing series since its inception. The biggest difference was that the flat-four engine was replaced with a flat-six engine.[87] Although the GL1500 still used carburetors, there were just two large 36 mm CV Keihins supplying all six cylinders, the first time any Gold Wing had less than one carb per cylinder.[52]

Honda also enclosed the entire motorcycle in plastic, giving it a seamless appearance. The seat height was lowest yet on a Gold Wing, the passenger back rest and trunk were integrated, and a central mechanism locked the trunk lid and saddlebags. Rear suspension air pressure was adjusted by an on-board compressor. One major innovation was the addition of a "reverse gear", which was actually a creative use of the electric starter motor linked to the transmission. Because of the size and weight, Honda felt that some people would have problems backing it up.[58][87]

The new Gold Wing had grown in nearly every dimension. A larger windshield, longer wheelbase, two more cylinders, more horsepower, more bodywork, more electronics, more accessories and more mass: 794 pounds (360 kg) dry.[81] Options include a passenger audio control and rear speakers, CB radio, auxiliary lights and exterior trim.[58] In another first for the GL1500, 1988 was the year Honda exported Gold Wings from the US to Japan for the first time.[88] The US price was $9,998.[50]

For 1989 Honda modified the brake discs, and raised the price by $1,500. Brake discs were modified again in 1990, as were the carbs and camshafts, without a price increase.[58] The claimed GL1500 dry weight for '90 was 798 pounds (362 kg). In addition, a Gold Wing 15th Anniversary Special Edition model (GL1500SE) made its debut in 1990[87]

The following year, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of American-made Gold Wings, every bike produced for 1991 came with a numbered plaque and anniversary edition insignia. There were three '91 models: Aspencade indicated the regular GL1500 model; the luxurious Special Edition from the year before carried on as the SE model; and the Interstate name denoted a stripped-down model.[58]

GL1500 with the dashboard visible

GL1500 Aspencade

When the Honda of America Manufacturing (HAM) plant in Marysville, Ohio produced its 500,000th vehicle in 1991, it was a Gold Wing Aspencade.[89] The claimed dry weight for the GL1500A '91 was 800 pounds (360 kg); the asking price was $12,000, and then $12,300 for 1992. Honda began offering extra cost paint options, and Honda Canada inaugurated Canadian Edition Gold Wings in '92.[50][87]

Beginning in 1993, all GL1500 rocker arms pivoted on needle bearings, and the cruise control was updated to directly read crankshaft speed for enhanced precision; the GL1500 '93 cost $12,400. 1994 was the seventh year of GL1500 production (longer than any of its forerunners) and nothing significant changed except the asking price: GL1500A '94, $13,000.[50][58][87]

1995 was the 20th Anniversary of the Gold Wing.[16] American Honda published a special hard-cover book Gold Wing: The First 20 Years (Twentieth Anniversary Edition).  All 1995 models got commemorative emblems, cosmetic changes, a thinner and narrower seat and suspension improvements which reduced ground clearance, contributing to an even lower seat height (offsetting the weight gain).[44][58] The GL1500A was at its heaviest in '95; the claimed dry weight would stay at 802 pounds (364 kg) until the end of this model. The GL1500A '95 price rose significantly to $14,000.[50][87]

The 1996 Aspencade received an upmarket audio system that had been exclusive to the GL1500SE. The price of the GL1500A '96 rose to $14,700. Yet another milestone was reached in mid-1996 when a Gold Wing Aspencade was the millionth Honda motorcycle made in America to roll off the assembly line at the Marysville Motorcycle Plant.[16][90] The GL1500 family got bigger when Honda created the first GL1500C Valkyrie in May, 1996 (for the 1997 model year). The Valkyrie was the first naked GL since 1984.[58][87]

1997 GL1500s received engine, transmission and final drive improvements first introduced on the GL1500C; Aspencade price rose slightly to $14,900. A 1998 Gold Wing styling makeover extended to the engine with redesigned valve covers, but no price increase. Honda commemorated 50 years in America by adding 50th Anniversary emblems to all 1999 Gold Wings; the GL1500A '99 price increased to $15,100. The 2000 Gold Wings had chrome-plated valve covers, Canadian and American models also had gold-plated 25th Anniversary emblems marking 25 years since the first GL1000 debuted for the 1975 model year.[87][91][92]

The final GL1500 Aspencade model sold for $15,200.[87] A complete redesign of the Marysville Motorcycle Plant began In January 2000 to build the next Gold Wing,[16] and stories soon came out in the motorcycle press that the Gold Wing itself was being redesigned.[92] The GL1500 had been in production for 13 model years, which was as long as all of the four-cylinder Gold Wings combined; moreover, GL1500 engine continued to be used in the Valkyrie through the 2003 model year.[93][94]

GL1500 SE

Honda Gold Wing GL1500SE in Sausset-les-Pins, southern France

The original 15th Anniversary Special Edition model had a vented windshield, additional lights, upgraded sound system, two-tone paint with special insignia, adjustable passenger floorboards and adjustable foot pegs as well as foot heaters for the rider. In 1990 it sold for $13,500 and weighed 807 pounds (366 kg) dry. The GL1500SE '91 was essentially unchanged, though weight and price were up a bit at 809 pounds (367 kg) and $14,000.[50][87]

Hitherto optional rear speakers and CB radio became standard on the GL1500SE '93; boosting both its weight—813 pounds (369 kg)—and its price, $14,700. The GL1500SE '94 price was $15,300 and the GL1500SE '95 20th Anniversary model jumped to $16,300. The GL1500SE '96 took another jump to $17,400.[50][87]

The GL1500SE '97 with powertrain updates cost $17,600. The restyled GL1500SE '98 was up to $17,800. Honda marked its 50th Anniversary in 1999 without a GL1500SE price increase, and the American-made GL1500SE '99 that was exported to Japan got a two-tone paint job. More significantly, the export model got an exhaust air-injection system along with carburetor modifications in order to pass Japan's new emission regulations.[45][87][88]

The 25th Anniversary GL1500SE in 2000 had a price increase to $17,900. Claimed dry weight from 1995 to 2000 was 816 pounds (370 kg).[87]

GL1500 Interstate

The GL1500I '91 model had its weight and price cut by eliminating the reverse gear, cruise-control, the passenger footboards, and by replacing the audio system with a small Kenwood radio. The seat was lowered by 0.8 inches (20 mm). Claimed dry weight for the 1991 Interstate was 760 pounds (340 kg) and it cost $9,000. In 1992 the Kenwood radio was, in turn, replaced by a new Panasonic 25-watt-per-channel sound system with intercom. Weight for the GL1500I '92 rose slightly to 767 pounds (348 kg) and its price to $9,200.[50][87] The Intersate had a 1993 price increase to $9,600 and then again to $10,000 for 1994.

As with the other 20th Anniversary models, the cost of a GL1500I '95 jumped appreciably to $11,200. The last GL1500I was the 1996 model selling for $11,900. Claimed dry weight for '95 and '96 was 769 pounds (349 kg).[50][87] The Interstate model was discontinued, replaced in 1997 by the Valkyrie Tourer (GL1500CT) as well as the 1999 Valkyrie Interstate (GL1500CF).[95][96]


GL1800 Gold Wing

The 2001 GL1800 was the first new model in 13 years. The engine was for this model increased to 1,832 cc (111.8 cu in), and fuel injected. At the same time, the weight of the bike decreased from that of the GL1500. This was done by making the frame out of high-strength aluminium. This was an extruded frame, and was composed of only 31 individual parts (almost half the number of the previous frame).

ABS braking was an option, added because of the increased power of the new engine, from 74 kW (99 bhp) to 87 kW (117 bhp).

The 2006 model had an optional airbag.[11] Other 2006 options were an in-dash GPS with audio information provided through the speakers and headset cables, and a rider comfort package including seat heaters controlled from the dash, heated handlebar grips, and engine-air vents (able to be opened and closed by a lever on the left side dash) located in front of the driver's foot pegs.

The 2010 model year was the last to be produced in the United States. The 2011 model year was not produced. Manufacturing shifted to Japan in 2012.

2012 Gold Wing GL1800 model for Japanese market, with windshield wiper

"1st Gen" and "2nd Gen" GL1800s

Some retailers of aftermarket add-ons/replacements parts group all GL1800 models into two categories (example: Honda Gold Wing Parts & Accessories by They describe all GL1800s made from 2001-2010 as "First Generation" or "1st Gen,"[97] while GL1800's made in 2012 or 2013 are described as "Second Generation" or "2nd Gen."[98] This is somewhat misleading because, in terms of complete Gold Wing evolution, the GL1800 itself is actually the 5th generation.[22][99]

As mentioned above, there was no 2011 model year produced.

Honda made subtle changes to the made-in-Japan 2nd Gen GL1800.[16] Restyled bodywork makes the fairing and saddlebags look to be less bulbous, even though the saddlebags hold more than before and the fairing was modified to better protect the rider's legs, as well as to improve the foot-warming vents.[100] The trunk and fairing pockets, when combined with the new saddlebags, offer the rider more than 150 litres (5.3 cu ft) of storage.[101] The instrument cluster has a brighter display screen, as well as the latest satellite navigation and radio, and a new six-speaker audio system with MP3 and iPod connectivity.[10][102]


Main article: Honda Valkyrie
2000 Valkyrie Interstate in Portugal
"Limited Edition" Valkyrie Rune

In 1997 Honda brought back an incarnation of the "Standard Gold Wing," renamed the Valkyrie in the US, and called F6C in the rest of the world. It had a higher performance engine, based on the GL1500, in a cruiser-style frame. The Valkyrie Tourer version had a windshield and saddlebags. A more touring-oriented version was introduced in 1999 as the Valkyrie Interstate with a full fairing, saddlebags and trunk.

These models were dropped due to slow sales, leaving the standard Valkyrie, which was discontinued after the 2003 model year. In 2004 Honda released a "Limited Edition" model, the Valkyrie Rune, complete with 1,832 cc (111.8 cu in) engine and unique styling.

The Valkyrie engine is based on the Gold Wing engine, but has solid lifters instead of hydraulic lifters, six carburetors instead of the Goldwing's two (carbs ≤ 2000, FI ≥ 2001), more aggressive camshafts, a free flowing exhaust, and altered ignition timing to increase performance.

Valkyrie revival

At the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda revealed a new naked version of the GL1800, the 2014 Valkyrie, using the same 1832cc six-cylinder engine as the Gold Wing but weighing 70 kg (150 lb) less.[103][104] The new Valkyrie has increased rake and trail, front and rear suspension revised for the reduced weight, 50/50 weight distribution and large tires after the fashion of sport-bikes.[105] Going beyond the naked bike genre, the Valkyrie's horsepower-to-weight ratio puts it clearly into the muscle bike class. It's expected to be on sale by Spring, 2014, for about $17,000 for the base model (the model with an anti-lock braking system will cost more).[106][107]

F6B "Bagger"

In 2013 Honda brought out a new variation on the traditional Gold Wing, itself being available in two models, The F6B and F6B Deluxe. The F6B is basically a greatly stripped down version of the 'standard' Gold Wing with most of the chrome trim being 'blacked out', giving the F6B a look that should appeal to many cruiser buyers. It is affectionately known as the Bagger.[108] The rear trunk has been eliminated and the windshield is much smaller. The seat is changed for both the passenger and the rider with the most obvious difference being that the passenger no longer has the oversize backrest - a result of the removal of the trunk. The F6B Deluxe does, however, come with a small passenger backrest as standard equipment. The basic design is, otherwise, the same as the full blown Gold Wing except that there is no reverse gear and early models did not have cruise control.

See also


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  99. "2010 Honda Gold Wing GL1800 Road Test". Rider Magazine. June 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2013. The GL1800—the fifth stage in the GL’s evolution—has changed little since its 2001 debut, and with Gold Wing production moved from Ohio to Japan and no 2011 models produced, expectations ran high. As we chronicled last month, the 2012 Gold Wing will get many useful enhancements but not the complete overhaul many were hoping for.
  100. Elvidge, Jamie (1 October 2011). "BMW K1600GTL vs. Honda GL1800 Gold Wing". Motorcyclist Online. Source Interlink Media. Retrieved 26 November 2013. The Honda shines in the luggage department, too, showing how decades of real-world research pays off. Capacity of the trunk and saddlebags is enormous, and their operation is very car-like, so you can stuff in your junk and snick it shut with one hand.
  101. "Honda Gold Wing Timeline". News & Views. American Honda Motor Co. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  102. "2012 Honda Gold Wing First Look". Motorcycle USA. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2013. Unchanged is the familiar 1832cc Flat Six powering the Honda. The Wing also remains a heavyweight touring platform, tipping the scales at a staggering 903-944 pounds, depending on the options. Thankfully, the electric Reverse system remains a standard feature. Also standard fare on the base Gold Wing are five-position heated grips, seat and backrest. Honda’s combined braking system is standard as well, with ABS optional.
  103. "Revealed: Gold Wing F6C". Visordown. Immediate Media Co. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013. The Gold Wing F6C has a new aluminium subframe, new styling and steering geometry and radiators mounted on the sides instead of the front.
  104. Ets-Hokin, Gabe (20 November 2013). "2014 Honda Valkyrie Announced!". Motorcycle Daily. Retrieved 1 December 2013. If anything, the new Valk is a Rune for the masses, as it uses much the same formula, albeit for a broader audience.
  105. "Honda Launches 2014 Honda Valkyrie". Bikeland Media. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013. Veteran reviewers agree the F6B and the Gold Wing already carve corners far better than anyone who hasn't ridden them can believe. The Valkyrie goes beyond the F6B in handling and other areas, especially in stripping weight; down to a svelte 750 pounds wet.
  106. Cook, Marc (19 November 2013). "2014 Honda Valkyrie | FIRST LOOK". Motorcyclist Online. Source Interlink Media. Retrieved 20 November 2013. Like the original, which debuted way back in 1996, the new Valky bases off the Gold Wing, picking up the existing SOHC, 12-valve opposed-six-cylinder engine trussed into an aluminum twin-spar frame. This time, though, the styling isn't American Retro—it's more like Gold Wing meets Transformers.
  107. Wilson, Andrea (20 November 2013). "2014 Honda Valkyrie First Look". Cycle News. Retrieved 20 November 2013. The engine configuration – combined with where it’s mounted in the Valkyrie’s aluminum twin-spar frame - makes for a low center of gravity. That, combined with a low seat height of 28.8 inches, is designed to add great handling in addition to performance.


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