When I started writing about bike selection more than a year ago (it’s now January of 2010), I didn’t expect the narrative to be nearly so long nor so complex. And as recently as two months ago– in Pilgrims Progess(ion)— I thought the last line had been recorded, at least for a year or so. But then some of my online friends began to fantasize about a big, long haul ride, drawing motorcyclists from across the eastern half of the nation. We would converge on New England and ride together to Canada’s Prince Edward Island. For me, from my home near Atlanta, that would be a roundtrip of more than four thousand miles. For some others expressing enthusiasm for the adventure, it would be even longer. And I noticed that most of those brave souls were owners of motorcycles designed for just such ambitious touring. Yes… I can see you’re getting ahead of me already: And you’re right; I did, in fact, decide to investigate the super-sleds, the rolling rocking chairs, the monster touring bikes.
Coincidentally, at about the same time, I began to take long, enjoyable day rides with a group called the AME– the Atlanta Motorcycle Enthusiasts. This is the collection of riding companions I had yearned to meet someday, but whom I also believed were as likely to exist as leprechauns or unicorns. They are mature, responsible, serious-minded adults with no ambition to set records of time or distance or speed, but who simply enjoy getting together to ride to interesting and/or exciting places. They often make overnight trips– for example, the run from Atlanta to Cape Canaveral to watch a launch of the Space Shuttle.
Riding with the AME, I got to look closely at and to ride in tandem with some of those luxury touring bikes I was interested in seeing. I got to talk with their owners and riders and passengers. And in a short time I came to know and love the Honda Gold Wing. (If you click on the picture above to enlarge it and then look at the Silver bike in the middle, you’ll see one of the Gold Wings that inspired me.)
FROM THE RIDICULOUS TO THE SUBLIME:
You should be warned, the Honda Gold Wing is a living legend of motorcycle comfort and elegance. Some snobs would even cite it as opulent. In its latest iteration– and there have been several over the last 35 years– “The Wing,” as it’s called, sports a six-cylinder Honda crafted engine that’s bigger than the powerplants in some cars. It typically comes equipped with CB radio, AM/FM stereo, CD player, cruise control, a height -adjustable windshield, tunable suspension, and a plush passenger seat pre-wired for inter-com chats with the driver. Frequent options include anti-lock brakes (ABS), heated seats and handlebar grips, and an integrated GPS display. Some younger purists refer to it as “The Rocking Chair,” referring to its popularity among “‘more seasoned” riders. But those who know it well and ride it often call it “The Rocket Chair.” And yes, you are correct: it comes with an appropriate price tag.
That steep tariff for ownership explains why I limited my serious shopping to Gold Wings built in 2005 or earlier years; it was the limit of the budget imposed by my bookkeeper wife. And it turned out to be fiscal wisdom. I searched the web for likely candidates to become my new roadway companion. The prime criterion was that the bike have the safety attribute of ABS. There are many things you don’t want to do on a huge, heavy motorcycle, and going into a skid is right at the top of the list.
I had plenty of help in my search, most of it from enthusiastic members of the online forums I frequent. It was one of them, in fact, who notified me of the availability in Ohio of a beautifully equipped and maintained 2004 Wing at a generously reasonable price. And when I contacted the seller, I was delighted to discover a veteran Gold Wing owner and mechanic who not only vouched for the quality and integrity of the bike but had complete records to verify his hard work. Within a week, I was a “Winger.”
I’m pleased with and proud of the several long trips I’ve been able to take in slightly more than a year of motorcycling. But none of those roads was nearly so long and (as bikers say) so twisty as the one to choosing the ultimate machine. I believe I have reached that destination, and it has been a glorious ride… from one cylinder to six… from loud and sporty to formal and sedate… from a 350-pound street toy to 900 pounds of turnpike tourer.
Along the way, in sixteen months, I’ve ridden appreciable distances on ten different sizes and styles of two-wheel conveyances– mine and Delcia’s. But now I have stopped looking for that next experience because I have the best of both worlds. In great part that is due to a generous concession from the earlier mentioned tight-fisted wife. As she explains it, she likes the notion of my riding a powerful and comfortable cruiser when I go off to play with my friends on distant highways (Prince Edward Island being a case in point), but when she climbs on her big V-twin to ride with me around town or to wander with friends, she’d rather see me on the classically styled Big Beauty— my magnificent C90T. So she suggests that I keep them both, Scarlet and Beauty, and she leaves me to my own devices for assuring harmony between my rival sweethearts.