Sean Finley | October 7, 2021
For comfortable, long-distance two-up motorcycle touring, the Honda Gold Wing sets the bar. Although the original 1975 Gold Wing did not include a fairing, windscreen or storage, its smooth, dependable 999cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine and smooth ride encouraged owners to travel long distances and helped spawn the luxury touring category. In 2018, the latest generation Gold Wing was introduced with significant updates, including a new 1833cc flat-six engine and a double-wishbone front-suspension system replacing traditional telescopic forks.
Photography by Mark Snavely
Harley-Davidson, Indian and Yamaha offer strong alternatives to the Wing if you want a V-Twin, but the most similar option is the BMW K 1600 GTL which we compared to the 2018 Gold Wing. The Honda edged out the BMW in that test, but our biggest gripe against the Honda was relatively small storage capacity.
For 2021, Honda made the first updates since the 2018 launch and increased the storage capacity of the rear trunk while also relaxing and raising the seating position for the rear passenger on the Tour models. The audio system was upgraded with 45-watt speakers, improved automatic volume adjustment, and a standard XM radio antenna. Android Auto integration was also added (Apple CarPlay was already available on previous models). Honda still offers five trim packages of the Gold Wing: Gold Wing and Gold Wing DCT (both come without a trunk, a shorter windscreen, and other minor differences), Gold Wing Tour, Gold Wing Tour DCT and Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag.
Exploring Arizona | 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour Automatic DCT Review
To put the latest Wing to the test, we brought a Gold Wing Tour DCT model to my relatively new home in Prescott, Arizona, to explore our new surroundings on some spectacular highways. My lovely wife of over 30 years and I have done much two-up riding, but that has mostly been on adventure bikes as I prefer to have the option to explore dirt roads (mostly while riding solo). I have long feared that allowing Lori to experience the comfort of a Gold Wing would end our days on adventure bikes.
As expected, Lori loved the back seat on the Gold Wing. We did not have experience with the previous generation for comparison, but long rides were not a problem for her, and she felt that the relaxed backrest, cushy seat and position were great. An ADV bike will have a hard time matching that. As for me, I put in some long days on the Wing, including a 500-mile solo ride from So Cal to Arizona, and the seat and riding position is comfortable for my 5’10” build. But something about the riding position, which is lower than an ADV or off-road bike, put a strain in the middle of my back. I haven’t heard of anyone else having this issue.
The windshield is infinitely adjustable via an up-down switch on the left handlebar, and Lori and I loved it. The up position eliminates almost all wind, while the lower positions allow wind flow on warm days.
When traveling with Lori, we’ve had our ADV bikes fitted with three hard bags (two side-mounted and one rear trunk). Being a bit of a Gold Wing newbie, we were surprised to learn that the previous generation had less storage than the two side trunks, which are relatively small. Even for a day trip, we could barely store our two helmets and jackets on the bike when visiting sights. The rear trunk does easily fit two helmets now, and you can fit a lot of luggage, but it is less storage than we’re used to. Maybe the ADV bikes still have a chance, as Lori likes to bring her stuff.
I have long feared that allowing Lori to experience the comfort of a Gold Wing would end our days on adventure bikes.
The ultra-smooth ride of the adjustable suspension swings the pendulum back in favor of the Gold Wing. We noted in our previous test that you can see the wishbone suspension moving, and you can see just how well it is soaking up rough roads. You can change the preload to one or two riders and with or without luggage. Lori and I were both impressed with the smooth ride and riding two-up or solo, I found the bike to be very predictable in all riding conditions, and it is surprisingly sporty for an 800-plus pound bike.
Like the suspension, the motor is also incredibly smooth and provides plenty of power. And the automatic DCT transmission is equally smooth, and as fellow staffers have noted in previous tests of the latest Gold Wing, I don’t see any reason to choose the manual clutch. The DCT is amazing on this bike. There are four ride mode options with the DCT: Touring, Sport, Economy and Rain. You can also choose a manual setting or override any auto settings with a trigger and thumb button. I preferred the Touring mode and occasionally would override the downshifts going into corners or if I needed to make a pass.
As for the upgraded speakers for 2021, this is not something I can comment on as I use a Cardo headset, which sounds way better than any external speakers. I found it relatively easy to pair up the Cardo headset but not so much with pairing up the Apple CarPlay. I love Apple CarPlay in a car, but the need to pair up the phone-bike-headset seemed not always to work, and I heard similar feedback from other riders. It works great when it works, but it did not always work for me.
One other cool feature is the Smart Key; the bike and trunks will work with the key in your pocket, but neither works when you walk away with the key. This is nice with a car but even better when you are wearing riding gear, especially gloves, making it challenging to find and use a key.
Sportier Than You Think | 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour Automatic DCT Review
If you have never ridden a Gold Wing, you would probably be surprised at just how sporty they can be for such a big bike. There are some fantastic twisty roads in Northern Arizona, and during my ride from California, I happened to have a guy riding BMW K 1600 pass me on the open highway before we got into a particularly great section of highway 89 heading up into the mountains towards Prescott. The two of us upped the pace for an hour-long stretch and gave some air-high fives as we rolled into town.
Wrap Up | 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour Automatic DCT Review
The Gold Wing is an excellent motorcycle for touring, and now that my wife has experienced first-class comfort on the back of a bike, I will probably always hear about how that great seat and smooth ride. We still own an ADV bike at this point, but I can see the attraction to having a Gold Wing in the garage. CN
2021 Honda GL1800 Gold Wing Tour DCT Specifications
|ENGINE TYPE:||4-stroke, horizontally opposed 6-cylinder|
|VALVETRAIN:||Single overhead Unicam, 18- valve|
|BORE X STROKE:||73 x 73mm|
|INDUCTION:||Single throttle w/ 50mm bore, Throttle By Wire (TBW)|
|IGNITION:||Full transistorized ignition|
|STARTER:||Electric w/ integrated Starter Generator System (ISG)|
|TRANSMISSION:||7-speed automatic DCT w/ Walking Mode F/R|
|CLUTCH:||(2) multi-plate wet clutches|
|FRONT SUSPENSION:||Double-wishbone front-suspension system w/ Showa shock absorber, electronic preload adjustable|
|REAR SUSPENSION:||Pro-Link system w/ Showa shock absorber, electronic preload adjustable|
|FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL:||4.3 in.|
|REAR WHEEL TRAVEL:||4.1 in.|
|FRONT BRAKE:||2 radially mounted 6-piston Nissin calipers w/ 320mm rotors, electronically controlled combined ABS|
|REAR BRAKE:||Single 3-piston Nissin caliper w/ 316mm rotor, electronically controlled combined ABS|
|FRONT TIRE:||130/70-18 in.|
|REAR TIRE:||200/55-R16 in.|
|HEIGHT:||56.3 in. low windscreen; 61.2 in. high windscreen|
|SEAT HEIGHT:||29.3 in.|
|GROUND CLEARANCE:||5.1 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY:||5.5 gal.|
|WEIGHT (curb, claimed):||838 lbs.|
|COLORS:||Candy Ardent Red; Metallic Black for Gold Wing Tour and Gold Wing Tour DCT|
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