HONDA’S Gold Wing cruiser range oozes quality. From the inner fairing, pebble-dashed with buttons, to the integrated slim-lined panniers flanking the rear, Honda’s awkwardly named GL1800 Gold Wing F6B ‘Bagger’ is built to last.
Nor would it look out of place parked next to the Batmobile and I wonder if the designer harbours a secret desire to draw comic strips. Honda wasn’t going to bring it to the UK but projected demand has caused a U-turn.
It’s 28kg lighter than the standard Gold Wing, having ditched the top box, reverse gear and cruise control. What it has retained though, is the sci-fi 1,832cc, six-cylinder engine that propels you to ridiculous speeds like a rocket ship with the wings taken off.
Bracing myself to haul the beast upright from its side stand, I’m immediately impressed by how manageable the bulk is. The seat helps, at 15mm lower than the standard ‘Wing’s, but losing the humongous top box that could quite probably house a family of five has done wonders for the centre of gravity.
I survey the instruments. Three dials rest above a rectangular screen and I half expect the bike speak to me like Kit in Knight Rider. Although cluttered with digits and abbreviations, the absence of a gear indicator is noticeable. Perhaps it’s in the menu somewhere, but let’s be honest: you should never have to read a manual to work a motorbike.
There’s a cluster of buttons to fiddle with on the left handlebar and another load laid out in a neat grid pattern on the inside fairing, but most of them seem dedicated to blasting tunes out of the on-board sound system. There are no traction control or adjustable power maps here; such things defy the very purpose of a Bagger.
It’s odd because although this bike meets the ‘less is more’ principle, it’s so imposing and so luxurious-looking that I keep expecting to find more gadgets. But rider aids would raise the already steep price tag. Plus, as I quickly discover, they’re not really needed. This is back to basics – if a bike that’s as comfortable as a sofa could ever be described as basic.
Then I ride it. And boy does it ride. This mammoth of a motorcycle tips as though it’s being pulled into a lean by an invisible magnet. It’s a heavy bike and you’d feel it if you got it wrong, but the Honda makes its weight work to its advantage. It’s stable on straight line blasts and in long sweeping corners. Even feet-up U-turns are doable in a narrow two-lane stretch once you’ve acquired a little faith.
But it’s the tipping-in where the 385kg is so cleverly disguised. It falls to either side with a readiness that you simply wouldn’t expect from such a solid bike. It’s quite remarkable.
Snapping the throttle back, the Bagger takes just a second longer than I anticipate to wind itself up into a speeding mass. The engine chokes at the 6,500rpm rev-limiter and I’m reminded to shift up a gear. It’s so effortless, assuming you’ve been sensible in choosing how to turn around or park, that I can’t help but think it would be a prime candidate for Honda’s DCT automatic gearbox.
This windscreen has had its top sliced off like a hard-boiled egg. The bodywork provides a bubble of protection from the elements, but the stumpy windscreen directs the blast directly to the top of my helmet, rattling my eyes to the point where they feel bruised. I really want to nail the throttle and Lord knows the Honda can handle it, but I can’t see straight.
My blurred vision makes me want to slow down – and perhaps book an appointment with an optician. Scrubbing the edge off your pace is just a two fingered job, but hauling the Bagger to a standstill takes a more forceful grab of the lever.
It’s such an imposing, impressive motorcycle that even its horn sounds like something from a big car. It’s comically different to the usual tinny rattle of a motorcycle’s horn, and demonstrably more effective. What’s not so impressive is the fuel consumption. According to my ride, the Bagger’s thirst will carry you just 225 miles from a brimmed 25-litre tank; about 38mpg. That’s not great for a tourer but then again, it looks about as aerodynamic as a barn door and many times as heavy.
Still, it’s that rarest of things: a really lovable Honda. They don’t come along every day, so grab it while you can.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Honda GL1800 Gold Wing F6B ‘Bagger’, from £19,199 on the road.
Engine: 1,832cc, liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed six-cylinder producing 114bhp @ 5,500rpm and 123lb.ft @ 4,000rpm.
Transmission: five-speed sequential manual.
Dry Weight: 385kg
Seat Height: 725mm
Fuel capacity: 25 litres