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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

GL1200

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The GL1200 arrived for the 1984 model year and continued the trend set by it's predecessor. Competition from Yamaha's Venture (which many motorcycle magazines compared to the Goldwing)

no doubt hastened the development of the successor to the GL1100 and the GL1200 was Honda's answer. There was the unfaired Standard, the dressed Interstate and the top of the range Aspencade, which had the Type 3 audio system. New, stiffer frame with major improvements, bigger and more responsive 1182cc version of the flat-four engine with bags more torque and hydraulic valve adjusters, better suspension and handling were the main attractions on the new Goldwing. A hydraulic clutch was another first for a Goldwing. Carried forward from the previous Aspencade were the now even better air suspension controls and linked brakes, and the new Aspencade had a more advanced audio system and upgraded LCD dash.

The front wheel was a rather unusually small (for such a large machine) 16" and this gave the steering a very light and quick feel. The styling of the plastics was more aggressive than the GL1100, the fairing, trunk, panniers and lights all had a more squarish brute look which was evident on many motorcycles and cars for a while in the eighties. The flowing lines of the previous model were not quite as subtle on the GL1200, but the integration of the luggage was much better now because there were less gaps and spaces between the panels and much more efficient use was made of the available storage space.

Four 32mm CV carburettors managed to give better response with a light feel, without the need for accelerator pumps. The GL1200 was the first Goldwing to drift away from the common Honda "parts bin" approach and most of the parts fitted to a GL1200 were unique to that machine and not fitted to any other Honda motorcycle. Hondaline could supply you with a CB radio and other fripperies considered essential by many owners of the new machine. The aftermarket suppliers had a field day, small cottage industries had sprung up everywhere to feed the habit and the vast range of chrome goodies, backrests, lights etc. available for the Goldwing rivalled that which could be had for Harley-Davidson owners. 

1985 saw Honda drop the Standard unfaired Goldwing.

Since the introduction of the GL1100 Interstate, sales of the unfaired versions had slumped dramatically and in spite of the predictable whining and howls of protest from the aftermarket fairing and luggage suppliers, this was the beginning of the era when accountants really did have a big say in marketing policy, so the Standard was unceremoniously put down by Honda. Alongside the Interstate and Aspencade, Honda brought in the GL1200LTD for this year only. The LTD had computerised fuel injection, auto levelling rear suspension and a sophisticated trip computer. The fuel injection, while not entirely without it's faults in the real world, transformed the GL1200 into a real animal which made the carburettor models seem sluggish in comparison. The LTD was only available in two-tone gold/brown.

From 1985, GL1200 alternator capacity was increased (though still not by enough to cater for all the accessory lights that owners usually fitted) and the ignition pick-up coils were mounted at the front of the engine instead of the rear. An altered top gear made for smoother cruising in top and the fairing had better ventilation. 

1986 saw mainly cosmetic changes to the Interstate and Aspencade, the LTD was replaced by the SE-i, which came in Pearl White only and had little over the LTD except for Dolby noise reduction on the Panasonic Type 3 audio system (the Aspencade got the same audio treatment), an uprated 500 watt alternator, a slightly better seat (which was also fitted to the Interstate and Aspencade) and different badges. The SE-i had ballooned out to over 770lbs.

Many people who had bought the supposedly unique LTD the year before felt cheated by what looked like another LTD in the shape of the SE-i in a different colour, the general feeling being that Honda were just cashing in again this year. An Aspencade badge on the saddlebags of the SE-i didn't go down too well with buyers who wanted their own unique Goldwing to be distinct from the "lesser" models. The carburettor models were back to 30mm CV's with accelerator pumps, although it made little noticeable difference to the riding experience.

The final year of production for the GL1200 was 1987 and there was little change. No doubt Honda were saving the major surprise for the following year, although the Goldwing faithful had been expecting the rumoured "Super Goldwing" for the current model year.

The SE-i was gone and the Interstate and Aspencade got a much plusher saddle, the best on any Goldwing to date. The Aspencade now had cruise control and trunk mirror as standard, and the lower cowl (oil filter cover as Honda called it) and side vents seen on the SE-i were now fitted to the Aspencade. Colour-matched riders footpeg accents with a nice chrome trim were also fitted to the Aspencade this year. The final drive and differential had been made much smoother and quieter and this translated into less chucking and jumping at trundling speeds. All of these improvements meant that the 1987 models were the quietest and best sorted GL1200's to date.

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