Picture from Kyalami launch: Denis Droppa
Picture from Kyalami launch: Denis Droppa

SA Bike Festival, Kyalami - Honda has redesigned its flagship Gold Wing tourer from the ground up to make it smaller, lighter and more agile. Considering that the previous generation of the aptly nicknamed Lead Sled had ballooned to well over 400 kilograms, it was a move whose time had come.

The 2018 Wing, launched in South Africa on Friday, the first day of the SA Bike Festival at Kyalami, has a redesigned 1833cc flat-six engine with a 1mm narrower bore, aluminium sleeves and Unicam four-valve heads with forked rockers. Bore pitch has been reduced by 9mm and the crank sensor has been moved to the back of the block, making the complete engine 33.5mm shorter overall and 6.2kg lighter than its predecessor.

A single 50mm fly-by-wire throttle body with four ride modes and idle-stop function replaces the previous dual set-up, significantly improving fuel-efficiency and enabling Honda to reduce fuel capacity by four litres to 21.1 litres. Outputs are quoted as 93kW at 5500 revs and 170Nm at 4500rpm, channeled via either a six-speed manual or a new, third generation seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

The base TOUR mode gives a 1:1 ratio between twistgrip and throttle body butterfly, with default damping and front/rear brake force distribution; SPORT delivers a quick-action throttle movement for stronger acceleration, with firmer damping and more rear braking; ECON mode slows the throttle action with default damping and brake force, while RAIN dials back the power, slows throttle action even more and softens the suspension.

The engine has been moved 40mm forward in a new aluminium beam frame, moving the riding position 36mm forward to create a much more compact motorcycle, with double-wishbone front suspension replacing the traditional forks and a single-sided swing-arm.

The previous model’s barn-door screen and fairing were designed to create a large pocket of still air around the rider and pillion; the new, much smaller bodywork channels air around them while significantly reducing drag. The screen is electrically adjustable for both and angle, to provide a cooling breeze when needed, and all the lighting on the bike is by LED..

In talks with Gold Wing riders Honda discovered that most road trips are now three days or less, so it reduced total luggage capacity to only (!?) 110 litres, while still ensuring that the top box will still safely store two full-face helmets. Gas struts smooth the movements of the top box and pannier lids

Smartronics

There’s no other word for the gizmo-laden Wing’s new features, starting with an 18cm colour liquid crystal display between the speedometer and rev counter, for the audio and navigation systems as well as managing the torque control and electronic suspension adjustment, with tyre pressure displayed as a numerical figure in the bottom left corner. The display can be adjusted through eight brightness levels - and it’ll self-adjust to maintain readability in varying ambient lighting.

Satellite navigation now includes a gyrocompass, so that guidance goes on even in a tunnel, and you can now cancel any waypoint or 'go home' instruction while riding.

Rear spring preload is also now electrically adjusted through four levels, independently of the four riding modes, to suit a single rider, a single rider with luggage, a rider with pillion or a rider with pillion, fully loaded with luggage, and displayed on the screen.

The ignition and electric steering lock can be turned on or off remotely, and the panniers unlocked, using the smart key, and DCT models have a revised cruise control that will seamlessly change gears when needed, to maintain optimum fuel-efficiency.

The sound system has been upgraded and the speakers repositioned provide quality sound inside the new fairing, and there are satellite audio controls on the top of the right-side pannier, enabling to pillion to adjust the volume of the rear speakers, switch the source and fast forward. Bluetooth connectivity and a USB ports are standard and the new Gold Wing is now also compatible with Apple CarPlay, so you can access use the information and media in your iPhone.

And with all that, the wet weight of the 2018 Gold Wing is down from 413kg to 379kg, or 383kg with DCT transmission.

FACTS: Honda GL1800 Gold Wing

Engine:1833cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke flat six
Bore and Stroke:73 x 73mm
Compression Ratio:10.5:1
Valvegear:SOHC with four valves per cylinder
Power:93.0kW at 5500rpm
Torque:170.0Nm at 4500rpm
Induction:PGM-FI; 1 x 50mm throttle body
Starting:Electric
Clutch:Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulic
Transmission (Manual):Six-speed gearbox, shaft
Transmission (DCT):Seven-speed automatic, shaft
Front Suspension:Double wishbone with central damper
Rear Suspension:Unitrak, gas-charged shock, adjustable
Front Brakes:2 x 320mm, 6-piston fixed callipers
Rear Brake:316mm, 3-piston floating calliper
Front Tyre:130/70 - 18
Rear Tyre:200/55 - 16
Wheelbase:1695mm
Seat Height:745mm 
Wet Weight (manual):379 kilograms
Wet Weight (DCT):383 kilograms
Fuel Tank:21.1 litres
Price (Manual):R367 000
Price (DCT):R392 000

IOL Motoring