(For Sale) 1997 Honda GL1500 Goldwing SE ( Special Edition )


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1997 Honda GL 1500 Goldwing SE

1997 Honda GL 1500 Goldwing SE

626-333-6200 | billing@vbsweb.net


1997 Honda GL1500 Goldwing SE ( Special Edition )


By Steve Saunders

http://www.goldwingfacts.com/goldwinghistory.htm

I have lost count of the number of times
people have said to me; “You ride a Goldwing. I thought they stopped
making them in the 1980’s”. Well folks, Honda are still making them in
the 21st. Century and for anyone who thought otherwise, read
my version of the history of the Honda Goldwing
motorcycle
.

The Honda Goldwing motorcycle first saw
the light of day at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in October 1974, as the
flat-four cylinder, 999cc GL1000 Gold Wing
and was released to the world for the 1975
model year
. While this first production
version of the now famous Goldwing was
ultimately
deemed to be a success (it was
after all the birth of a legend)
, it’s place in the world of
motorcycling was not entirely cast in stone at the beginning. Part of
the reason for this was the fact that the GL1000 didn’t really fit
properly into any particular motorcycle class, even though it was
officially tagged as a tourer. Weighing in at 584lbs dry, it was far too
heavy to be called a sports bike and the upright sitting position
also helped to kill of any such sporting pretensions.
The rear coil spring suspension wasn’t up to
the job of handling all the weight when the rider was pushing it through
heavy going, such as the winding country roads that all bikers love
(at least occasionally) to tackle. The total
absence of touring kit fitted as standard didn’t help the
official touring image either,
Honda didn’t make their own saddlebags and trunk
available for the GL1000 until it’s last year of production in 1979, in
spite of promising to do so in 1975
. A Honda
fairing was not even an option until the GL1100 Interstate was released
in 1980!
Honda’s claim that the GL1000 was a
tourer must have rang hollow in the ears of many owners keen to have
their machines kitted out for the job. It’s almost like the design team
had a picture of what they wanted to make, but no clear idea of where to
fit it once it went into production. More than one GL1000 owner has told
me that their early impressions from the press reports was that Honda
seemed to be more concerned with emphasizing the outright straight-line
performance of the beast, and cementing it’s role as a proper touring
motorcycle seemed to be of secondary importance at the time. One has to
bear in mind that Honda (and all the other major motorcycle
manufacturers) were trying to develop many models in the 1970’s, this
being the biggest boom time for motorcycles ever, period. This was a
time when everyone and his sons bought motorcycles and paying attention
to the needs of different types of riders (cruiser types, racers,
commuters, tourers etc.) must have been very difficult during those
hectic days.
Nevertheless and in spite of all the confusion about the
Goldwings role in life, the GL1000 proved to be a very reliable
motorcycle, quite capable of going very long distances without missing a
beat and almost immediately the aftermarket fairing & pannier suppliers
started to cater for the requests of those who wanted to use the GL1000
for more than just popping down to the shops or Sunday morning posing at
the local meet. This is what finally gave the Goldwing it’s place in the
motorcycling world, it really became a touring motorcycle because it’s
owners shaped it into one and Honda, always keen to keep an ear to the
ground, listened to what the customers wanted (just as well too or they
might have killed the Goldwing off before long, not least because
expected sales of the Goldwing in the first year of production were less
than 10% of what Honda had predicted) and started planning the next
incarnation of what has turned into a legend in the world of touring
motorcycles.

In the meantime, 1976
saw the standard GL1000 unchanged, apart from a badly needed
grease nipple on the driveshaft. A limited edition LTD model was rolled
out alongside the standard model and the LTD had some nice badges,
pinstriping, a better seat, flared mudguards, gold coloured wheels and
spokes and some more nice but otherwise unimportant cosmetics, all at a
fairly hefty extra cost of course. The LTD version of the GL1000 was
only available for that one model year.


1977
saw the first tentative model changes based on
customer feedback to Honda (hands up all those who can remember filling
out those early questionnaires at rallies) and the Goldwing got higher
handlebars with neoprene grips, dual contoured saddle and chromed heat
shields on the header pipes. Chromed upper engine mounting brackets were
a nice touch. More importantly, the steering head bearings were now
tapered rollers instead of quick-wear & seize ball types. Front & rear
engine and rocker covers were now thicker and this was designed to
reduce noise, but no-one really noticed. The fuel tank had an internal
coating applied to prevent rust.

Smaller carburettors, shorter
valve timing and increased spark advance in
1978
were designed to give
the GL1000 increased roll-on performance in top gear, which translated
into slightly less top speed but more torque, which

apparently
is what the long distance rider
needed.
The camshafts were severely detuned in
order (along with the carb revisions) to improve low speed performance.
It’s generally accepted that these well-meaning changes really blunted
top-end performance, while doing very little good for the low-end.

The fuel, coolant temperature and voltage
gauges were fitted to a pod and mounted on the tank, which made fitting
a tank bag rather difficult, but few really objected as they looked
good. The awkward but functional kick starter was omitted this year (the
broken ankle brigade may have sparked fears of litigation) and the
troublesome wire wheels were replaced with five spoke Comstars, although
they didn’t fare much better in terms of longevity. Gone was the worry
about rusted or loose spokes on wire wheels, now owners were fretting
about cracked rims and loose rivets on the Comstars. The stepped saddle
was introduced this year and has been a feature of all Goldwing models
ever since. A fully chromed exhaust system which didn’t rust as fast as
the earlier painted ones, rear indicators moved from the frame to the
rear mudguard and shocks with much welcomed and long overdue two-stage
damping (in addition to longer forks & springs) completed the picture.
The beast still handled like a brick when pushed hard, in spite of the
new FVQ (often called fade very quickly) shocks and the better forks.
The new exhaust made the machine sound livelier and the smaller mufflers
allowed easy access to the clutch, which was just as well as this was a
problem area on the GL1000 in those days.


1979
saw big discounting on GL1000’s as the replacement
model was eagerly anticipated and the last remaining numbers of the
original (quite large numbers too and new GL1000’s could still be
sourced from storage for several years after production ceased) could be
had with some minor changes in the shape of a then very cool looking CBX
style tail light with two bulbs, rectangular indicators and brake fluid
reservoir and black brake and clutch levers instead of the previous
unpainted alloy ones.
This last year for the GL1000 was an
opportunity to lose some of the excess weight and regain some of the
performance the model had lost in previous years
(particularly in 1978)
, but alas a final
opportunity to remedy some of the more persistent GL1000 problem areas
was lost and the cosmetics were the only areas attended to at the end of
the decade. Thus the Goldwing continued it’s slide down the credibility
scale until the 1980 model year. Honda managed to keep the lid on the
replacement for the GL1000 until the last possible moment. To this day
and to their credit, Honda are probably better at keeping secrets than
the CIA or the KGB etc. The GL1000 bowed out at the end of it’s
production cycle a bit less powerful and slightly heavier than the first
models at 604lbs dry.

 

The GL1100 was announced for the 1980
model year and this time Honda got it right. This was the first ever
Japanese mass produced motorcycle to roll off the production line fully
kitted out as a proper touring motorcycle. Full fairing, trunk and
panniers on the Interstate model (the unfaired model was called the
GL1100 Standard), all at a time when injection moulding for motorcycle
plastics was in it’s early days and to Honda’s credit, the quality, fit
and finish of the stuff was first rate. The new frame was stiffened
considerably to cope with the extra poke and the not inconsiderable
extra weight of the Interstate. The bigger 1085cc engine was still a
flat-four, but gave more torque and also ran smoother and less
truculently than the previous model, due in no small part to the smaller
carburettors and electronic ignition. The suspension was air assisted
and this greatly transformed the handling and comfort of the beast and
inspired much more confidence when the going got a tad aggressive, in
spite of the weight increase of the dressed models to 672lbs. The forks
could take between 14-21psi of air, the rear shocks 29-42psi. The
Standard model weighed 18lbs less than the last GL1000’s, which showed
how more modern production methods could be used to reduce weight by
using more in the way of lighter plastics for parts like mudguards,
dummy tank etc.
Motorcycle magazines immediately gave the new
machine the thumbs-up and customers all over the world hassled their
dealers for a machine that Honda couldn’t kick out of the factory quick
enough to meet the demand. Even in the USA, bikers who were used to the
home grown tourer in the shape of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide were
gobsmacked at the new standards of reliability set by the Goldwing. The
big Honda went and stopped very respectably for such a beast, kept all
of the engine oil actually inside the engine instead of all over the
ground and it’s reliability meant that the Goldwing rider didn’t have to
fill the luggage space with repair tools every time the machine was
taken out. The GL1100 was the Goldwing that the original model should
have been, but the faithful had to wait since 1975 for the opportunity
to get their hands on this magnificent machine.
1980 was a big year
for Honda Motorcycles in other ways too. In May the first Goldwings
started rolling off the production line in the new plant in Marysville,
Ohio, USA. This was a very clever and well thought out move by Honda,
creating jobs for Americans to produce their flagship motorcycle in the
USA would see the Goldwing (and by association other Honda products)
more widely accepted in the biggest consumer market in the world.
For
some time now, Honda had been producing accessories for their own
motorcycles, under the imaginatively thought out Hondaline brand name.
For those who weren’t satisfied with the already comprehensive kit on
the GL1100, Hondaline had such luxuries as a full radio/cassette, CB
radio and lots more bits at exorbitant prices that didn’t seem to deter
customers one bit. Honda knew that the typical Goldwing rider was past
the first flush of youth and probably had his mortgage (or most of it)
paid off and had cash to spare for the luxuries that a younger rider
would rather forego in order to feed his children, keep the wife content
and maintain a roof over their heads. The aftermarket suppliers too were
quick to adapt to the new challenge (no doubt they all knew that the
Goldwing was here for the long term) and before long one could buy
countless accessories for the Goldwing, from many suppliers eager to
meet demand and fill the large gaps that Honda had left. This pattern
has been repeated for every Goldwing model ever since and the GL1100 is
the machine that really saw the Goldwing accepted as the ultimate
tourer, a title that the Goldwing has held more or less unchallenged
since then.

1981 saw some
minor tweaks and improvements, such as a reshaped saddle which was
slightly lower than before. As on the 1980 model, the saddle could be
adjusted forward and back by about 40mm, but this time with a press of a
lever instead of the previous fiddling with Allen keys. The saddle on
the Goldwing has probably seen more changes than any other area of the
machine over the years. Almost yearly there are subtle changes to the
shape and foam density and no matter how much effort Honda put into this
area, there are always plenty of people whose rear-ends don’t quite fit
comfortably enough. The rear shocks could now take up to 57psi of air,
this being the limit for the rest of the GL1100’s production life.
Orange & Gold pinstriping this year, a scratch-resistant windshield and
better instrument shielding to stop unwanted reflections on the
windshield all showed Honda were keen to refine the beast. Saddlebag
liners were available from this year as well, at extra cost.

The
1982 GL1100 had some major
improvements in the new Aspencade. This machine had an electrically
operated air pump for the suspension, accessed from the top of the dummy
tank, instead of the previous tyre valve setup (retained on the Standard
and Interstate) which required the rider to either keep a manual pump
handy or go to the local garage to pump up the suspension. Two-tone
paintwork was applied to the Aspencade and all the GL1100’s got smaller
wheels (18″ front, 16″ rear) and twin pot brake calipers. The wheel rims
were now wider (2.5″ front and 3″rear) to allow for wider tyres on all
models and self-cancelling indicators were fitted to all models from
1982. All GL1100’s from 1982 got neater crash bars which replaced the
previous shin bashers (although the new ones weren’t perfect either) and
dual piston brake calipers all round. The Aspencade also got vented
stainless steel discs, two-tone seat and trunk pouches, the Clarion type
2 AM/FM stereo radio, digital dash, CB radio (US machines) and a clock.
The stereo, CB radio and air pump are available as options on the
Interstate.

1983 was the
final year of production for the GL1100 and Honda didn’t disappoint,
even though the model was being replaced the following year. All models
got flatter footpegs, the passenger ones being slightly adjustable. The
Aspencade now had eleven spoke aluminium wheels instead of the previous
troublesome Comstars (which were never really able to cope with all the
weight), had the suspension pump controls mounted on the handlebars just
below the dash and finally got linked brakes which were much welcomed by
the Goldwing community. The Aspencade now had an LCD dash with advanced
(for the time) features. The choke lever was now operated by thumb on
the left handlebar. Anti-dive forks (TRAC) helped considerably to reduce
wallowing. Changes to the gearing saw better fuel economy, a shorter
first gear made the machine faster off-the-line but top gear
acceleration was now a bit more sluggish. Changes to the forks helped
prevent bottoming-out and stronger springs in the rear shocks meant that
the bike could be ridden without any air in them, although this wasn’t
always entirely wise, especially when travelling two-up. The
self-cancelling indicators had some improvements to make them more
reliable and the seat was redesigned to give the passenger more room.
Locating the trunk both higher and further back gave even more space for
those passengers who were never completely happy no matter how much
Honda improved the Goldwing. The standard had been set for future
Goldwings and whether you loved them or not, everyone knew that the
beast was going  to get bigger and more luxurious as time went on.
The Aspencade now tipped the scales at over 700lbs! Comfort and size
were the criteria from now on. When the replacement for the GL1100 was
announced, this time there was no major discounting of prices on the
last of the outgoing model. Dealers had no trouble shifting existing
machines and there was no panic in trying to offload them. A far cry to
just four years back. Interestingly, this has been the case with the
arrival of new Goldwing models ever since and reinforces the belief that
the GL1100 was the machine that rubberstamped the Goldwings seal of
approval with long-distance riders all over the world. There is no doubt
in my mind that the GL1100 was the make or break Goldwing, a repeat
lukewarm reception by the buying public for this model (similar to that
experienced by the GL1000) would surely have seen any further
development of the Goldwing stopped at this point.

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.

After a false start the previous year, the long awaited GL1500
finally hit the buying public for the 1988
model year. This of course was a major new model and totally redesigned
from the ground up. The GL1500 now had a silky smooth flat six cylinder
engine of 1520cc and a reverse gear, real news for touring motorcycles
in those days. This was the first mass produced six-cylinder motorcycle
to have a reverse gear and was more in line
with the intentions of Honda’s 1470cc six -cylinder prototype M1 of
1972. The M1 had been an engineering exercise to see what could be
achieved with the available technology of the day and it is possible
that the GL1500 engine designers drew some inspiration from the earlier
work. All new bodywork on the GL1500 almost enclosed the whole machine
and the single key operation of the trunk and panniers, as well as the
bodywork design on which not a single screw or bolt could be seen,
showed that the Honda designers had spent a lot of time on this bike.
They had in fact started work on this machine the same year that the
GL1200 was launched! The GL1500 was the quietest Goldwing yet, from the
engine to the exhaust note. The traditionalists complained that it
looked, sounded and rode too much like a two-wheeled car and indeed
riding it gave one a feeling of being insulated from the road. Of
course, anyone who traded up to a GL1500 from an older model Goldwing
soon adapted to the new machine and I doubt if many GL1500 owners were
inclined to offload the new machine for a previous model after riding
the six cylinder monster. Monster it was too, in weight as well as size
and the first year GL1500 was a colossal 793lbs, although riding the
thing was so easy that it felt lighter than the GL1200. The saddle was
the most sumptuous yet and was quite capable of carrying the most ample
of rear ends for long distances in comfort. Air assisted rear suspension
was fitted to the new machine. All of the switchgear, lights, indicators
etc. had been designed specifically for the GL1500 and there was none of
the all too common “parts bin” approach that was evident on other Honda
offerings of the day.

1989
saw the ever popular Wineberry (not identical to earlier versions)
colour return. The nice 1500/6 badge on the rear of the right saddlebag
was lost forever, otherwise nothing major to report.

1990 saw some decent revisions, when
the GL1500SE was placed alongside the GL1500. The SE had two-tone paint,
trunk spoiler/light, windscreen vent, lighted handlebar switches,
adjustable passenger footboards and foot warmer vents that looked better
than they worked. All this extra kit on the SE could be yours for about
15% extra cash over the cost of the stock GL1500. Camshaft and
carburettor modifications that year helped to eliminate chucking at
trundling speed and the trunk and pannier lids were made to fit better
in order to keep water out. Rear wheel to drive flange changed from 6
spigots to 5.

1991 saw the
arrival of the Interstate, which was now the basic model. The Interstate
was 40lbs lighter, due to the lack of reverse gear (no, you couldn’t fit
one later on folks), cruise control and on-board air suspension
compressor, more basic sound system and passenger footpegs instead of
boards. Interestingly, Honda lowered the seat height of the Interstate
by almost an inch by skimming some of the foam, but didn’t do so with
the other models. Speaking of other models, the previous GL1500 was now
the Aspencade. There was also an Anniversary model (for the 10th
anniversary of Goldwing production in the USA), which was available in
two-tone gold/brown.

In 1992,
the Interstate got a slightly better specified audio system but no other
real news to report then. This and the following couple of years were
not exactly a time of inspiration for the Goldwing, although there was
some refinement of the model. Perhaps the GL1500 design team can be
forgiven for using up all their imagination on the initial model,
leaving little in reserve for future improvement.

1993 didn’t see much change either,
the SE getting the CB radio (previously an expensive Hondaline
accessory) as standard. The cruise control now took it’s reading
directly from the camshaft, which made it more responsive and from now
on the 1520cc engines all had needle roller bearings in the rocker arm
pivots. Small improvements like this went a long way and tied up the
loose ends.

The following year, 1994
was no different, apart from the usual new colour options and it
is testament to the design of the GL1500 that Honda could get away with
no major modifications for so long. The GL1500 was so far ahead of the
competition in design and specification that it was still selling like
hot cakes. Indeed, the Goldwing was Honda’s second
best-selling motorcycle in the USA in 1994.
Nevertheless, the
Goldwing community was becoming impatient for change and the presence of
Honda folks at major US rallies this last year handing out
questionnaires was an indication that something new was at least being
thought about.

Finally, the 1995
model year saw some real change. On the surface, new 20th. Anniversary
badges, a new chrome screen garnish, slimmer side panels to make it
easier for the short legged to get their feet down and some other
styling refinements looked like not a lot had changed. But under the
surface Honda had managed to make the suspension both lower and stiffer
and this improved the handling no end. Also, with some foam shaved from
the saddle, the SE and Aspencade were now 40mm lower than before, which
finally made them the same height as the Interstate. These changes gave
the Goldwing a new lease of life, although there were many who had
expected major changes, like better brakes or fuel injection.

The
next two years saw no more real changes apart from the Interstate being
discontinued in 1996 (not too many
folks mourned it’s passing either), but by now we were in the early age
of the Internet and with many Goldwing web sites and homepages springing
up all over the world there was a huge following eagerly seeking out
information on a possible replacement for the now rather middle-aged
GL1500. A recall to have the bank angle sensor replaced was announced
this year and applied to all GL1500 models back to 1988.

1997 saw the SE’s lower underbelly
panels colour matched to the main panel colour, helping to make the
Goldwing look more streamlined. Symbols instead of text on the handlebar
switchgear made it easier to read them no matter where you came from.
Some important but invisible changes inside the engine were carried out
too. The clutch was stronger and some of the components from the
Valkyrie engine (main bearings, piston & ring sets, valve springs,
con-rod bolts) were now shared with the Goldwing. The Valkyrie final
drive was fitted to the Goldwing as well, as was much of the gearbox
which gave marginally cleaner and smoother shifting. Not many folks
noticed the difference, myself included and I happily rode my new ’97 SE
for three years oblivious to the differences until I started doing a bit
of research on the different model changes.

1998 saw quite a few cosmetic
differences, nine in fact. The Aspencade and SE got a new clear plastic
headlamp and clear indicators (these were only on the American market
models though, Europeans were fobbed off with the old lights and
indicators), white faced instruments, new fishtail type exhaust tips
that altered the exhaust sound, two-tone saddle with better back support
for the pillion passenger, new rocker covers with “1500” gouged into
them instead of the previous classy logo strip (which had previously
been gold plated on the SE’s), a skimpier engine guard (the older one
would have hidden the ugly new rocker cover if it had still fitted) and
badges that looked more aggressive than before. These cosmetic changes
gave the ageing GL1500 a much sleeker look, although such things as the
rear lighting setup and flat looking rear-end were beginning to look a
bit fussy in the new age of curves and flowing lines.

These
changes were carried through to 1999
but by now everyone was awaiting the much anticipated new Goldwing,
which had been rumoured for the last three years. Nevertheless, the
recent cosmetic changes to the Goldwing were sufficient to keep sales up
(no doubt aided this last couple of years by a buoyant world economy),
in spite of such mouth-watering hallucinations of a possible 2000cc
eight cylinder Goldwing with auto-transmission, or try the one about a
V6 2.5 litre replacement with six speed transmission (I know a few
rumour-mongers who had red faces a couple of years later). The power of
the rumours was very strong and there was always someone who knew
someone that had a relative who drank beer with a buddy employed in the
Goldwing plant who put the headlamp bulbs in the GL1500 and this guy was
sworn to secrecy but… Thus the fever spread and those of use who lived
through the time saw it all, the fake photographs doctored so easily by
Photoshop gurus and posted on the Internet by members of a now very
computer-literate public, the fake postings on web sites and in
magazines etc. It was all good fun though and kept us all guessing for a
long time. Surely the new model would arrive for the dawn of the new
Century?

Disappointment for the 2000
model year and we saw the GL1500 enter another new year alive and
well. This was not what was expected for the Goldwings 25th anniversary.
The only differences were that Honda had dropped the unpopular white
faced instruments (back to black for 2000) and the SE got chromed rocker
covers. There was also a nice 25th anniversary badge.
The long
awaited new Goldwing was announced in April of that year and the GL1500
finally stepped down after an almost unheard of thirteen year reign at
the very top and an increase in weight to almost 820lbs. Most of the
other pretenders to the throne didn’t fare so well, the Yamaha Venture
and Suzuki’s Cavalcade had both competed against the GL1200 but the
GL1500 had killed them off in short order. The only real threat to the
Goldwing in recent times had been the BMW K1200LT, but Honda were about
to answer this and set the standard once again with the GL1500’s
successor.

The GL1800 was finally announced for the
2001
model year, and in fact it was correct to say it arrived
in time for the new Millenium. 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. The audio system was modified internally,
mainly to cure a problem with the CB mute circuit now working properly.
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
noticeable changes were anniversary badges and key and some new colours.
Under the skin however, the GL1800 frame had been considerably
strengthened in the lower crossmember area. This was to end the
possibility of the frame cracking in this area. 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. First glance revealed a re-designed dash and larger front
and rear speaker pods, but the changes went much deeper. 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 meant that we seen
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 the
Audio/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/Comfort package. 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 to NT maps this year. The unit now
took SD cards and the NAVI graphics were improved, making the display
easier to see. 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 Pearl Hot Rod
Yellow, Candy Black Cherry, Mesquite Brown Metallic, Monterey Blue
Metallic, Pewter Silver Metallic and Columbia Blue Metallic. 

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 will be no Goldwing model at all for that year. But
fear not, Goldwing production hasn’t ended, it’s just been 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 2011 will have 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 indicates that the 2012 may well be the same basic
platform. Time will tell and we will probably have to wait until
mid-2011 before Honda reveal their plans for the 2012 model.

 

 

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