By Dave Abrahams

The Honda GL1000 Gold Wing, introduced in October 1974, was Honda’s first purpose-built touring bike, and its smooth-running, liquid-cooled flat-four engine and comfortable ride soon made it the world’s No.1 long-hauler.

In 1981 production was moved to Marysville, Ohio to escape punitive US import taxes. The Gold Wing was no longer available in South Africa, but a number were still privately imported as ‘used’ machines.

In 1984 their enthusiastic owners formed the Wing Riders of South Africa and the following year the first national Gold Wing rally – the Wing Fling – was held in Christiana in the Free State. Since then the Wing Fling has been held in a different province in every year.

In 1988 the Gold Wing became a 1520cc flat six and in 2001 the engine was enlarged again, to 1832cc, and fuel-injected for the first time. Integrated fairings, panniers and top box are now standard, as are radio, satnav, cruise control and intercom between rider and pillion; the Gold Wing is the standard by which full-dress tourers are measured, and a thriving aftermarket industry has grown up around them in the United States.

TRIKES AND TRAILER S

Several companies offer three-wheeled ‘trike’ conversion kits, as well as mono-wheel and more conventional two-wheeled trailers.

More than half the 83 Gold Wings from all over Southern Africa that attended the 2013 Wing Fling, held last week at Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, were trike conversions, and many arrived pulling trailers.

The variety of bolt-on aftermarket parts available for ‘Wings - from gold-plated engine and fairing trims to pillion armrests and cup-holders (no, seriously!) meant that no two were alike, and many sported magnificent custom paint finishes.

These machines inspire impressive loyalty in their riders; the care and attention lavished on them is awe-inspiring, as are the distances many of them have racked up.

GLAMOROUS GATHERING

The theme of this year’s Wing Fling was ‘Hollywood’ and the participants were greeted on arrival and checked in by members of the host chapter dressed as movie icons such as Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne.

The next four days were spent in long, leisurely outrides - with plenty of ‘pit stops’ for socialising - and serious polishing of bikes and trailers for a very detailed and professionally-judged concours competition, with points allocated not only for the conditIon and cleanliness of the machine but also for age and odometer reading.

At the glamorous gala dinner on the final evening, Wing Riders president Anton Bellingan presented prizes in no fewer than 18 categories, based on engine size, number of wheels and whether it was pulling a trailer - but the top award, the ‘Peoples Choice’ floating trophy, went to a 1990 GL1500 with 111 000 miles (177 600km) on its US-spec odometer, ridden by Johnny Smith of Germiston.

CONCOURS WINNERS

Best Lights Parade – Bike: Stephan Polssnig

Best Lights Parade – Trike: Delphuis Symington

Best GL1500 Bike: Andre Engelbrecht

Best GL1800 Bike: Deon van Tonder

Best GL1500 Trike: Delphuis Symington

Best GL1800 Trike: Tienie Venter

Best Trailer: Nick Hecter

Best GL1500 Bike Rig: Sakkie van Zyl

Best GL1800 Bike Rig: Deon van Tonder

Best GL1500 Trike Rig: Nick Hecter

Best GL1800 Trike Rig: Sarel van Zyl

Wing Riders Choice – GL1500 Bike: Frikkie de Wit

Wing Riders Choice – GL1800 Bike: Deon van Tonder

Wing Riders Choice - GL1500 Trike: Kevin van Niekerk

Wing Riders Choice – GL1800 Trike: Ardus Lubbe

Wing Riders Choice – Best Kept Wing: Kevin van Niekerk, GL1500 Trike

People’s Choice – Concours d’Elegance: Ardus Lubbe, GL1800 Trike

People’s Choice – Concours d’Etat: Johnny Smith, 1990 GL1500 Bike