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Tuesday, August 11, 2020



The GL1800 was finally announced for the 2001 model year. The official unveiling had been done the previous August and in an age where people could hide small cameras the size of a button on their person,

it's a miracle how Honda managed to keep pictures of the new Goldwing a secret for so long. Honda should really be put in charge of national security in Japan! They managed to keep a lid on things right up to the last minute. 
Honda had managed once again to completely redesign the Goldwing from the ground up. Everyone and his dog knew that Honda couldn't simply continue to make their flagship tourer heavier as the engine size got bigger. Over the previous thirteen years, most magazine test riders agreed that the GL1500 had been pushing the limits of what they called the "performance envelope" and common sense suggested to Goldwing riders that if the next Goldwing couldn't at the very least maintain the weight of the GL1500, then the end of the line had already been reached. With this in mind, Honda built an all new aluminium frame which comprised only 31 parts, compared to the previous models 130 and the new frame weighed 25lbs less than before.

The new frame was much stiffer than before (a 77% increase in torsional rigidity and 119% increase in lateral rigidity) and combined with an engine both bigger at 1832cc's (118 bhp and 125 lb./ft. of torque) and 4lbs lighter than before, this meant that the GL1800 weighed 40lbs less than the GL1500. The frame was produced by Kaiser Aluminum and was designed in conjunction with Honda of America Mfg. in a project that started in 1998. The frame was produced in Kaiser's extrusion plant in London, Ontario and from 2000 they started supplying the extruded sections of the GL1800 frames to the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio.

Honda technicians welded the sections together manually. In April 2002, Kaiser won the Transportation Category award of the 2002 International Aluminum Extrusion Design Competition, for their efforts on the GL1800 frame project.
Anyway, back to the main subject before I go off track too much. The whole look of the Goldwing had now changed from big comfy tourer to a more sporty long distance machine designed to appeal to the younger rider as well as existing Goldwing owners. Big news also was the inclusion of fuel injection and the option of ABS brakes, long overdue on the six cylinder monster. Slightly slimmer bodywork dragged the design into the new Millennium, yet Honda had managed to make the seat much bigger and this time there was enough pillion space to swallow the rear ends of even those requiring XXXXL pants.

The seat height and diameter of the wheels remained the same as before, but the tyres were wider and for only the second time on a Goldwing they were not supplied by Dunlop, but Bridgestone. Honda's efforts resulted in a machine that went and stopped far better than most people had dared to hope and riding it gave the impression that it was far lighter than the GL1500, rather than a mere 40lbs. Magazine test riders all over the world heaped praise on the new Goldwing and it was no longer a machine for Goldwing bashers to ridicule. The general consensus was that the GL1800 was much more practical than before and was a motorcycle that many (and younger) riders would use every day, rather than saving for use only at weekends. Available colours for 2001 were Illusion Red, Black, Pearl Hot Rod Yellow and Pearl Apollo Blue.

The Hondaline department, now very slick and efficient, were not caught napping this time. The marketing of accessories was helped by wide use of the Internet, as well as brochures and magazine adverts. There was a staggering 51 items available from Hondaline for the GL1800, far surpassing any effort made for previous Goldwings and they were available right from the time the GL1800 hit the dealers showrooms. Indeed, it was now possible for a Goldwing to become a bottomless pit for those who had the cash to spend on Hondaline accessories and the aftermarket suppliers had to take a deep breath and look very hard to find spots to fill this time and over the coming months there was a drip feed of items made available, rather than the usual flood. 

2002 saw no major changes. The GL1800 was too new to do more than tweak here and there. Three new colours were introduced (Pearl Sunburst Orange, Stream Silver and Illusion Blue-also known as Pearl Chromium Purple) alongside Black, Illusion Red and Pearl Hot Rod Yellow with Pearl Blue being dropped after only one year.

The Goldwing was still available with or without ABS brakes. The full Hondaline range of accessories was available and the aftermarket to their credit had managed to add many more bits and pieces to their product ranges. The high price of the Hondaline stuff no doubt gave lots of scope for the competition. A recall during the previous year saw the pulse rotor being replaced on many models and the kill switch on lots of models had to be fixed too, so Honda seem to be on top of things. Anyone who didn't like the GL1800 could still buy GL1500's new (year 2000 models) from many dealers, there were lots of them still in crates. They were now selling at up to 10% more than when they were still in production and of course this is because the GL1800 was much more expensive to buy.

2003 arrived and the GL1800 continued to be improved on.

No major model or name changes, the ever popular Candy Red (different shade to the GL1500, the new colour was called Durango Red) made a welcome return this year. Stream Silver, Black, Pearl Hot Rod Yellow and Illusion Blue were retained. Another orange colour was introduced, this time a darker Jupiter Orange. The early CD player problems appeared to have been fixed and the Bridgestone tyres that cupped and wore out at worryingly low mileages have been replaced by Dunlops. The overheating issue that affected some GL1800's was now being attended to with the US Service Bulletin 13. Announced in September, a US recall for certain VIN numbers to inspect and repair/strengthen the lowest crossmember of the frame was of more significance for some owners.

A European recall for this issue in early October indicated that the problem was more widespread than it seemed earlier in the year. Only one GL1800 was affected by the frame recall in Ireland. Some bike magazines reckoned that this made the GL1800 the most recalled motorcycle that Honda had produced to date! For some reason, the windshield now had two sliding bolts instead of four. The rumour mill had started to grind into action again, with reports of a possible Aspencade and SE addition in a year or two. A huge range of aftermarket accessories was by now available for the GL1800, alas at the expense of the GL1500 and older models. Every year sees available accessories for older Goldwings sink without a trace. It's always about money folks, and it seems the minute a particular model becomes a bit old, the accessory manufacturers ruthlessly cull the available goodies.

Only three years after the demise of the GL1500, almost 50% of the accessories for this machine had disappeared from the big name catalogues (I notice this because I collect the catalogues), even though there are more 1500's on the planet than any other Goldwing. By summer of 2003, the last of the 2000 model year GL1500's seem to have been sold and searching the dealers for one out of the crate was now a waste of effort.

2004 arrived and we got the '04 models that were available to U.S. dealers from July 28th 2003. The rest of the world has to wait for the start of each year to get that years models, but the Americans get to sample them months before the rest of us. The fact that Goldwings are all made in the USA accounts for this. No major changes this year either. Lighted handlebar (long overdue) and radio switches and a vent in the windshield were about as exciting as it got.

The rear brake calliper got a heat shield between it and the exhaust muffler. New colours in the shape of Flare Red (which had a different pattern on the saddle material and different badges), Kelly Magenta, Pearl Challenger Brown and Titanium. For some odd reason known only to Honda, Magenta was cancelled almost immediately after dealers got the 04's so there should only be a few hundred available (collectable perhaps in the future) and Arctic White had been added to the line-up instead. Candy Red and Black are retained for this year. Rumours of a slightly redesigned lower fairing (for the 2005 model year) to accommodate new radiator fans or a modified cooling system had been doing the rounds on the Internet forums for some time now. 

The 2005 Goldwing models were announced on September 8th 2004.

For the Goldwings 30th anniversary the only changes were anniversary badges and key and some new colours. Colours for 2005 were Pearl Yellow, Arctic White, Metallic Silver, Dark Gray Metallic, Bright Blue Metallic and Candy Black Cherry. Flare Red, Pearl Challenger Brown and the ever popular Candy Red were casualties this year and Black (which had been available on all GL1800 model years since it's release) was also dropped. The Silver and Pearl Yellow bikes get the same saddle pattern as the Flare Red had in 2004 and there was a different opening ceremony on the display of all 2005 models as well. The rumoured cooling system changes were unfounded and already the talk was of changes for 2006, with the possibility of an SE model being the favourite topic among those disgruntled Goldwing faithful who expected more than just new badges for the 30th anniversary of Honda's flagship touring motorcycle. 

The 2006 model was announced as usual the previous September. This time there were some big changes and refinements. The GL1800 for 2006 came in four variations, which caused confusion for many buyers at the time. The first was with the Premium Audio package, which had six speakers and an 80 watts per channel external amplifier. The Gold Wing Audio/Comfort package model added (in addition to the audio package mentioned) heated grips and a heated saddle (separate controls for front and back) and warm air flaps in the lower exhaust cowls similar to those found on the GL1500SE. The Audio/Comfort/Navi package added a flash-card based GPS system to the other options, GPS being a long overdue and welcome addition, although it wasn't available on European models for 2006. The top of the line model was the Audio/Comfort/Navi/ABS package.

In a move that didn't go down well with loyal Goldwing customers, this meant that you had to buy the most expensive version to avail of ABS brakes. An airbag system was promised during the 2006 production run. In reality, this might mean that we might see airbags in September 2006, for the 07 model year.
Other changes included larger radiators and cooling fans, better rubbers between the engine guards and exhaust cowls, new rear trunk and saddlebag lights (the saddlebag lights won't fit pre 2006 models but the trunk lights will), facelifted meter panel and instruments, and bigger rear speaker pods. Many of the wiring connector blocks are smaller and neater automotive types and are a departure from the traditional Hitachi types. Colours for 2006 were Topeka Gold, Challenger Brown Metallic (Titanium), Cabernet Red, Arctic White, and Black was back for 2006 as is Pearl Challenger Brown. Hondaline hadn't been asleep during these changes either. Several new items were added to the already long list of wallet-draining goodies. These included a small trunk rack, nice round exhaust extensions and little speaker pod armrests. Many accessories (Hondaline and aftermarket) for the 2001-2005 models either won't fit the 2006 models, or need adapted wiring looms to plug into the new machines. 

September 2006 saw the 2007 line-up rolled out. Four variations of the GL1800 as in 2006, but changed once again this year, so buyers needed to be awake when deciding which model to go for. The Premium Audio package for the base model stayed the same. The Audio/Comfort model now had the Sat-Nav included. The Audio/Comfort/Navi model now had ABS brakes and the top of the range model was the Airbag model, which also had theAudio/Comfort/Sat-Nav/ABS. This means that ABS was now available on the top two models for 2007. Cabernet Red was carried over from the previous year. New colours were Billet Metallic Silver, Crucible Orange Metallic, Nebulous Black and Dark Blue Metallic.
Two GL1800 variations were available for Europe for 2007.

The Sat-Nav and Airbag was included on the GL1800 DeLuxe model destined for Europe market that year and this model also had ABS brakes and the Audio/Comfortpackage. The basic GL1800 model for Europe came minus ABS, Sat-Nat or airbag. 
 The 2008 Goldwing model information was released earlier in the year than the traditional September and we had all read the fine print while the summer was still young. Models are the same as for 2007 and new colours are Pearl Alpine White and Candy Caliente Red. Cabaret Red was retained for this year and Challenger Brown Metallic (Titanium) and Gloss Black were resurrected after last years absence. 
The lineup for 2009 wasn't particularly big news, even though Honda threw a few more gadgets at the now long-running GL1800. Much bigger and not very welcome news was that Honda were pulling production of the Goldwing back to Japan, after 27 years of production in the USA. It's fair to say that the 2010 Goldwing will be made in Japan and of course speculation is rife that a new Goldwing will be unveiled next year as the new location is retooled, presumably for a new model. 
Anyway, back to the 2009 GL1800 models.

The Sat-Nav maps have been updated this year. New to the Goldwing is a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and XM radio. The TPMS is fitted to all models and an indicator flashes when tire pressure is 10 percent low and it stays on when pressure is 20 percent low. XM radio is now available on all Sat-Nat models. This XM radio system also carries the ability to provide real-time traffic and weather info, for a monthly fee. The Goldwing Airbag model is top of the line and includes the Premium Audio, all-new TPMS, XM Radio, Sat-Nav and ABS brakes. The Gold Wing Premium Audio/Comfort/Sat-Nav/XM/ABS model also has the TPMS and XM Radio, only the airbag is absent.

Next is the Audio/Comfort/Sat-Nav/XM Radio model. The Audio/Comfort is the base model once again. Colours (six) for this year are Metallic Silver, Deep Blue Metallic, Metallic Titanium, Candy Black Cherry, Pearl Yellow and an all-new Metallic Blue. 
 The Goldwing 2010 lineup was more of the same. Those expecting a replacement for the now nine year old GL1800 were in for a dissapointment as Honda probably used existing stock badged as 2010 models to buy time, while the new factory in Japan could be preparing for production of a new Goldwing. Five colours for 2010 and these are last years Pearl Yellow and Mesquite Brown Metallic, Candy Caliente Red resurrected from 2008, Pearl Glacier White. Nebulous Black Metallic makes a welcome return after a long absence.
 For the 2011 model year .... well actually there was no 2011 model at all for that year. But fear not, Goldwing production didn't end, it was stalled while the production plant is moved from Marysville USA to Kumamoto in Japan. American Honda announced their plans at the 2010 Wing Ding in Des Moines, Iowa. Apparently Goldwings will be made in Kumamoto during 2011 for the 2012 model year. Anyone wanting to buy a Goldwing for the remainder of 2010 and early 2011 had to buy one of the many unsold 2010 GL1800 models.

The fact that Honda moved all the tooling for the GL1800 to the new plant rather than scrapping it after ceasing production of the current model indicated that the 2012 would be the same basic platform. 
 The 2012 Goldwing model was revealed early in 2011. You guessed it, an upgraded GL1800. Some big styling changes that were not universally well received were the obvious changes. A restyled read-end with more saddlebag storage space was welcomed, less so the back end which many Goldwingers say resembles a cross between a Victory Vision and a BMW.

The revised suspension and different front tyre apparently improve handling, slightly. Revised audio controls layout with integrated iPod connectivity, and Sat Nav models benefit from an easier to see screen and at last the ability to upload trips from your computer. The saddle material has been changed this year. The newly redesigned headlight drew immediate and almost universal criticism for lack of visibility to oncoming traffic, when compared to the headlight on previous GL1800's. 
GL1800 models this year are the Gold Wing Audio Comfort, Gold Wing Audio Comfort Navi XM, Gold Wing Audio Comfort Navi XM ABS and the top of the line Gold Wing Airbag. Colours are Black, Candy Red, Ultra Blue Metallic and Pearl White. All models have silver coloured lower fairing panels.



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