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Great Rides of Summer Week: 1982 Honda Goldwing GL1100

Goldwing As I’ve mentioned before, my family is a Honda motorcycle family.  My parents own 2 Honda cars, a Honda mower, and about a half dozen Honda motorcycles.  My brother rides a Honda ST1100 cycle and about a year ago sold his Honda Accord, and he's a CRX nut.  I own a Honda Civic and mower along with my cycle.  You can't get into my family's garages and not help but notice we are fond of Honda's.

This all stems fromt he fact that my dad is a Honda Gold Certified mechanic, though he only works on cycles now as a hobby.  So a few years ago when my dad called and offered me a 1982 Honda Goldwing, I didn’t think twice about saying yes.  I bummed a ride for the 3 hour trip to my hometown and then got to experience the wind in hair, sun on my back, and the thrill of the ride on my way back to my quiet Southern Minnesota home.

So what is a Goldwing you might be asking?  It is the 2 wheel equivalent of a Lincoln Towncar.  The Goldwing is Honda’s large touring motorcycle.  Introduced originally in late 1974, over time it became the benchmark for touring motorcycles in the United States.  Since the start of production, over 1 million Wings have hit the road. 

The earliest of Goldwings did not come outfitted as we know them today.  It wasn’t until 1979 that Honda added on the saddlebags and trunk for storage.  In 1980 they added a fairing to the “Interstate” version giving it the look most readers would now be familiar with.  The large fairing is a wonderful thing on those cool late night rides, and it extends the riding season by about half a month by keeping me protected from the nippy air in the Fall.  Having saddlebags and a trunk have come in very handy as well.  A couple of summers ago I regularly filled all three compartments with tools and clothes and rode the bike back and forth to a house I had to some serious remodeling/repair to.  Living 100 miles away from the house, and with gas prices being what they were the bike saved me some serious cash.  At the time I was driving an S-10 that got 15mpg on the highway on a good day, and I was commuting to the house at least twice a week, and sometimes even more frequently as I began to show it for rent.

As far as motorcycles go, it is big – mine weights a tick over 750lbs dry, and that’s without me on it.  They don’t call me “Big Chris” for nothing.  My 1982 Wing has a 1100cc four-cylinder boxer that put out 83bhp @ 7500RPM when new.  And if I don’t ride too hard, it will approach 40mpg cruising down the road. 

Lamentably, the unfortunate reality of the Summer of 2011 is that my Goldwing has not been running well.  First it was an issue with the brakes.  With that fixed, the very next day the bike nearly got me stranded 10 miles from home because it just wouldn’t run right.  I managed to limp it back home by riding on the shoulder at 25mph (idling in 3rd gear) and I’ve been fighting with it ever since.  My personal motorcycle mechanic (dad) is coming for a visit (grandma has to see her grandson!) this coming weekend and I hope we can sort it out without resorting to shipping it 3 hours back home.  About the time you are reading this we’ll be elbows deep trying to sort out what is going on. 

And that is the joy of a Summer ride – even when it isn’t running right, or the weather is bad, it still inspires hope.  I’m looking forward to the sun on my back as I ride down the road again soon!

Update:  We went to work on the cycle yesterday (my father & I) and when he got on the bike to ride it for a test drive it died when he drove out of the garage.  Full on dead, no power.  Got to scratching our heads, dug out the main fuse and discovered it had cracked in two (not blown).  So my issues with it running poorly recently were the result of the power arcing across the narrow gap in the fuse.  The main fuses on these Goldwings are a simple strip of lead rather than a traditional car style fuse.  Dumb luck is sometimes the best tool in the tool box.  2 minutes to fix and the bike runs like a charm again!

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They are rather immense. A Goldwing isn't so much a "large touring motorcycle" as it is a "two-wheeled transit bus."

My favorite descriptor is "a couch on wheels." Is it true that some Goldwings have air conditioning? Even if it's not true, that's hilarious.

Given my love for big American cars, I think if I was a motorcycle guy, I'd ride a Goldwing.

The Gold Wing received its first 6 cylinder engine in 1988, seven years before the Accord got its first V6. 1988 was also the year that the Gold Wing introduced the joys of reverse gear to motorcyclists. Reverse was actually achieved by using the starter motor to power the bike, also making the 1988 Gold Wing an early hybrid!

Motorcycle aircon -

That's the only system I'm aware of.

--Big Chris

It seems that Honda has done everything right in the motorcycle world. First, way back in the ‘60’s? was the Dream 305 with the ad that said “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” In one shot, that helped take the black leather jacket/undesirable stigma off of motorcycling.
Then in the ‘60‘s, the 750 inline four was introduced, and that ended the time of the English 750 twins. Almost everywhere one looked, there was a Honda 4. I have heard that working with the two inner carbs for synchronization was difficult. A variant of that was the Supersport? which put the four exhaust pipes into one. I don’t know how it was for the exhaust flow, but it was sharp. (I recently came across a pair of 750’s one of which was the SS. I bid on one, but never heard back. A concern now would be the availability of parts).
All of this had repercussions. Somewhere in this time frame, Harley had made a move to put a tariff on imports with displacements of a certain volume to help H-D maintain sales levels. If I remember correctly, this tax was removed within a few years, at H-D’s recommendation.
Then came the Gold Wing, or “Wing” as many state it. Within a few years of its’ introduction, many riders spoke of having driven 75,000 to 100,000 miles, with few problems. One of its features was shaft drive, which BMW had proven for a long time. (Jim Rogers and his lady at the time rode two BMW’s around the world. His “Investment Biker” is a worthwhile read, although rather dated.)
The Gold Wing grew in size and appeal. A new model, the Valkyrie “Rune” was introduced. It is a neat looker, but it doesn’t seem that it really caught on. If I remember correctly, it had a rather short run. A while after the production stopped, there were some available for what appeared to be special prices, and now, on occasion, a few are offered.
The prices are still substantial, but for what is essentially a show bike, not unreasonable.
What I would wonder is how the mileage changed when the six replaced the four.
Honda had a huge impact on the bike world. Reliability, for one thing. It made the other manufacturers take note of warranties, which previously had been rather limited. Now in many cases of low mileage models, warranties are transferrable.

I had an '84 Honda Shadow with a shaft drive system. It was the smoothest-running motorcycle I've ever driven. Didn't hurt that it only had 10k on it when I bought it.

Man, I sure miss that bike.

The guys over at have a site about bikes too. They gather interesting bikes for sale from around the webz and give a little history to boot...

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