The Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
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Here’s looking at you, Wing
Aesthetics are in the eye of the viewer, but not everybody liked the form of the GL1000. Large side-panels kept the under-seat gas tank from view, but gave the bike a slightly porky air. For 1975 the colors were Candy Antares Red and Candy Blue Green; the Sulfur Yellow that many people think was on the original Gold Wing was a 1976 color.
When journalists got their first taste of the GL1000, they were pleasantly surprised. With a claimed 80hp, it turned 13-second quarter-miles at over 100mph. And it was a helluva lot smoother than a Z-1, especially when consuming 500-mile days; with a top speed of 120mph you could go as fast as you wanted for as long as you wanted. The worst thing you might suffer was a numb bum, as the seat padding is woefully thin, reflecting an effort to keep the Gold Wing seat height to under 32 inches.
The Gold Wing is also unbelievably quiet. The liquid cooling keeps engine noise well abated, while a gigantic exhaust system gives a whispery exhaust note, even at 8,000rpm. The only real disappointment is the suspension, with rather stiff 37mm front forks giving 5.6in of travel, and less-than-compliant rear shock absorbers having 3.4in of travel. The factory thought some riders might try to dice with sport bikes, and best to be too tough than too weak, but limited cornering clearance kept the seriously sport-minded crowd away, as they preferred the Honda CB750F Super Sport.
The Gold Wing really appealed to travelers wanting to go from St. Louis to Denver in a day. Touring motorcycle riders took the bike to heart, and the aftermarket boomed like nothing ever seen before, from frame-mounted fairings to hundreds of chrome doodads to make your Wing, well, yours.
More than 13,000 Wings were sold in the U.S. in 1975, and as Honda saw how popular it was as a touring machine, its engineers began making small changes to boost its appeal in the category. Realizing that mid-range power was more important to these riders than top end, for 1978 the cams were changed and carbs reduced to 31mm for more low-end muscle, at the expense of a half-second in quarter-mile times. The forks were upgraded slightly, providing an inch more travel and better damping, and new shocks were fitted with improved damping characteristics.
Early reports of weak braking in wet-weather conditions roused the interest of the U.S. Department of Transportation, so new discs, calipers and pads were added. A recall was also made on all earlier models so that dealers could install new rear brake pads. Also in 1978, Honda’s Comstar wheels replaced the spoked wheels, which struggled with the speed and weight of the bike, especially with an aftermarket fairing and luggage bolted on. The saddle was improved, as was the whole styling motif. With changes to the faux tank and side panels, the new GL looked more like the CB750F.
The Gold Wing was a wild success; according to Honda over 97,000 GL1000s were sold in this country from 1975 through 1979. And come 1980, major changes were in order. The original, Japanese-made GL1000 was replaced by the new GL1100, built at the new Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio. It was now a real American motorcycle. MC