A quick call to our friends at Honda UK and a 2006 Goldwing was given (I wish) loaned to me for the 7 day trip, we have been looking at our options with a view to changing my Blackbird for something a bit more of a full on touring bike, and what could be more full on?
I have ridden a 1500 wing that a friend loaned me a couple of years ago so I had some idea of what to expect, but the new 1800 model is a far superior machine in my view as you will see here.
After swapping keys at Honda UK I climbed aboard and looked around. Any trekkies out there will love this bike-it’s got more buttons than the Star Ship Enterprise.
Just looking down you can see controls for adjusting the rebound on the suspension front and rear, full built in sat nav controls, the radio has control buttons not just for the radio but also a CD multi changer and an MP3 player (both extras), and there are buttons under the sat nav to change the screen from radio to cd to sat nav plus more for the trip meters etc. Underneath that are 2 dials for the heated seats, and then the airbag. That’s the fairing.
On the handlebars are the cruise controls and heated grips on the right, with such jolly’s as a set of radio controls on the left with the indicators, headlight hi/low etc. That’s when I made the conscious decision to forget about them until I get home, then have a play.
Turn the key and the screen at the front of the tank lights up and you set the sat/nav with the press of a button, otherwise it won’t work on the move and the radio kicks in, press the start and you get what can only be described as a whistle from the engine. You don’t get the sound of an engine until you rev it, then it comes alive.
Selecting first gear is made with a clunk, I suspect a trait of all shaft drives, then feeding in some power were off. The throttle is a bit tight on this one so you are conscious of the physical effort needed to twist it enough to get yourself moving. The initial thing you notice is how light and manageable it feels at slow speeds, the old model was noticeably heavier and awkward in slow mode.
Within 5 minutes I’m on the motorway heading home and using the power on hand am soon whipping along quite nicely, due to an accident the M25 was closed clockwise so the rubber neckers were creating a hold up my way. Unplanned I end up testing the filtering; I’m not sitting here among the morons who act as if they’ve never seen an accident before.
The first 5 minutes are nervy while I get used to the width and squeezing it between the cars but I’m soon making steady progress through the hold up, but you always get one who will sit right next to the lane dividing line. There is no way they can say they can’t see you in the mirrors when this behemoth is coming along so I stay cool and ignore them, I did toot one and you should have heard the noise form the horn-it is loud as in LOUD.
Back in the clear I am soon home enjoying a cuppa readying myself to see what all those buttons do, but first things first-the wife has to try her perch. Nice wide seat, armchair style backrest with the sticky out bits you get on the side of sports seats hold her in place and foot plates, she’s a happy bunny. An hour later I have checked how everything works, especially the sat nav, and all is good but there is no music from the rear speakers, I’ll sort that later.
Come the morning of departure the luggage(one side box each) is filled with our gear for the week in bin bags (just in case they leak) but not the top box, I leave enough space to get the lids, maps and other small items in. On the way to Dover I’m feeling for any major changes to the handling because of the extra weight but can’t find anything of concern. We’re the first of our group to get to the dock so we park up at the front of the lane and head to the café for a coffee.
We’re called onto the boat first so we can get strapped before the cars come on and this is my first concern, for some reason there is always water on the deck even in a heatwave? I’m poodling along with my feet ready should it slip but I have no problems, we’re parked, strapped down, helmets in the top box and upstairs to get a seat before the rabble arrives.
An hour and a bit later and we’re ready to disembark, ignition on, press the enter button on the sat/nav controls (didn’t need it to get to Dover!) press the start button and we’re on our way with 350 miles to go. I leave all the buttons alone until we’re clear of Calais and heading for Brugge on the A16 then sort out the cruise control. As the trip went on the sat nav proved to be fantastically accurate, the doubts were all in my head but at least there’s something in there.
With a speed limit of 130kph (85mph) I set the cruise control and let go of the throttle, riding left handed, and what a difference it makes, you can either not hold the grip at all, hold it on it’s own or hold both, but the thing is your hand is not forcibly holding the throttle open. This makes for a totally relaxing wiz up the motorways and with the plush seats, the relationship to the pegs-plates for the pillion, you arrive fresh and not feeling as if you‘ve been riding for 5 hours-nice.
I’m used to having soft luggage that needs to be strapped and bungeed to the bike making loading and unloading a pain in the butt, this time, to just take out your bags and carry them to the room is magic. Our accommodation in Gasthaus Pension Kraemer-Koch www.gasthof-kraemer.de south west of Bonn is extremely comfortable, with a host in Manfred that speaks excellent English and a wife who cooks food to die for we were well settled.
In discussions between the 5 of us that went we knew where we wanted to go and visit in advance but how we were going to get there had to be planned. On a previous trip I had bought a map called Motorrad Powerkarte 5- Eiffel region www.map-ride.de, which is laminated and waterproof showing all the local roads, but it was tricky trying to define the best routes for bikes.
Out came the ADAC Motorradtouren map, I bought a pack of these from the Bmf a few years ago which highlight the best routes for bikes in the region, there is also a list of UEM (Union of European Motorcyclists) approved accommodation which are biker friendly. There are now 13 maps in the set and you can get a pack from JWH for £6.50, a sound investment.
We headed off on day one for the Nurburgring around 40 minutes from our accommodation, the road being the main route south proved to be a lot of fun. You go from hairpins, to wide open curves, to twisties in this short run so we knew the rest of the week was going to be good.
One of our group went for a lap round the ring on his BMW R1200 and came back with a big smile on his face, at 19 euro’s which is around £13 you get a lap of the track measuring just over 13 miles. All the instructions are on boards scattered around the meeting area, so you know what to do once on the track, seeing bikes coming back on trucks bent and twisted steered him towards taking it easy. The main thing to watch for are the cars, all makes, all ages going at all speeds, so if you go take it easy to start.
From here we headed to Cochem in the Mosel Valley, a beautiful town we have visited before. If anything the road to here gets even better, again it is still a major route and the first place I found the limits of the bike, kind of. Heading into what looked like a left hand curve turned into a left hand hairpin-whoops, but I needn’t have worried the wing took it easily in it’s stride.
I was using my toe sliders as feeler gauges so when they touched down I knew not to lean much further, I was expecting, as I had on the 1500 a bit of fork flex as the corner tightened but there was none of it. Keeping the throttle steady the bike followed the bend without a flicker of complaint and for something this bike that is impressive. I think I can safely say you will run out of ground clearance long before grip, the cornering and all round road holding of the wing is very impressive.
The week was spent riding roads made in heaven and the wing was not put off by any of it, everything I threw at it it took in it’s stride and in some cases proved more capable than me. Getting it lined up for some severe uphill hairpins on the banks of the River Rhine was tricky, and there was a bit of a wobble on my part getting it round but it was no problem to the bike.
A day running to Luxembourg proved to be just another easy ride and after a days sightseeing we followed the River Sauer which sits on the border, from Echternach to Vianden-the road looked better on the map. We were so disappointed we cut back into Germany and got onto another bike route.
I was used to the bike now, it’s size didn’t worry me anymore, the balance of clutch and throttle I had spot on-or so I thought. Your confidence gets to a level you feel you can handle anything and then it bites you in the a**e, while doing a U-turn on a narrow road (I didn’t believe the sat nav) a case of not enough oomph from the right hand saw the bike resting on the crash bars and me and the wife playing dead flies in the road. All this at 3mph how embarrassing….
We picked the bike up, “blimey that was easy” the wife stated and she was right. A quick wipe of the hand under the crash bars revealed there wasn’t even a scratch on them, a prime example of something doing what it was designed to do. She, the wife, wasn’t too enamoured with hairpins after that but I loved them.
The rest of the week was more of the same and the ride home took longer than expected but the comfort was the same, luxurious.
Other than maybe 2 other models of bike there is nothing else like this on the market, the category it is given is Touring but it is more than that. It is an excellent mile muncher with control, comfort and visibility playing a major role, on the minor roads it will hold it’s own with very good road holding. You don’t get the feeling that it will put you in a position you can’t get out of, but at the same time don’t expect the earth, it is still a big bike that could bite back if you asked too much of it.
At £17,499 this bike is not cheap but I think it is an excellent touring tool which I don’t think can be beaten in this category, if your future holds long trips in store seriously look at one of these, we are.
NB. By the way, the rear speakers, we never did get them working! On returning the bike I told the engineer who said ”they won’t work as there’s none in there, they’re an optional extra”! Come on Honda?
Dave Muckle - BMF