ROAD TO ASSEN – Gold Wing Story05/12/2019
The story of two men and their Honda Gold Wings
Riding every year since 1977, ‘Mossy’ has clocked up a massive mileage on hundreds of different bikes. He’s been a pro rider for many of those years, working as a London despatch rider for a decade, and 24 years as a bike testing journalist. Even so, he happily admits there’s still lots left to do and learn.
– Award winning journalist and multiple UK record holder.
– Professionally bike testing for 20-years
– Attended more than 350 bike launches and covered over a million road test miles.
– International road racer, with race wins at Oliver’s Mount, podiums in NZ and two top ten TT finishes.
Chad is just as happy elbow-down on a race track, or kicking up mud off road. Currently restoring a BSB Bantam.
My road trip started in York, with my first port of call being Brands Hatch to meet fellow journalist Chris Moss, who opted for the full-dress Gold Wing with DCT and airbag opposed to my standard model. This meant he had even more gadgets to play with, including the DCT seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox.
Assen in Holland plays host the round 10 of the British Superbike series. Arguably it’s the track most favoured by both racers and fans alike. The BSB stars love the fast and flowing sections, whilst the excited, dedicated race fans love the drama this unique track provides – though Dutch hospitality and fine beer possibly helps. The only problem is that it’s over 350 miles from Calais and, as I live in York, a door-to-door road trip of over 600 miles. That’s three countries and over 1200 miles in total, in just one weekend. Better make mine a Honda Gold Wing.
Chris is a legendary journalist with vast experience but packing lightly doesn’t come naturally to the former racer, which is why he managed to shoehorn most of his belongings into the panniers and top-box for a simple weekend away.
We fuelled up as we arrived in France, which meant we had over 200 miles available before needing to find fuel. Cruising between 70 and 75mph both bikes were averaging just under 50mpg, which meant with a 21-litre fuel tank we had a 230mile range. With a gentle throttle that could easily be stretched to over 250 or even 275 miles. In fact, we were well into Belgium before we had to stop for fuel – for both the bikes and the riders.
Again, Chris was quick to praise the Gold Wing Tour. “We’ve done 200 miles and it feels like 60 or 70, I’ve no aches or pains, I could have done another 100 no bother. I
thought I’d be bored on the motorway, but I’m not. The speed and gadgets are keeping me focused, this couldn’t be easier.”
For the next stint, I opted for the full-dress Gold Wing Tour DCT/airbag model which Chris had clung onto so tightly. Despite sharing many similarities with the standard Wing, the Tour is like flying first class and offers even more luxury: a heated seat for rider and pillion, taller screen, and the DCT negates the need for a tiresome clutch. The DCT gearbox is faultless and smoother than a penguin’s underbelly. The riding modes change when the gears are selected. For example, in sports mode the DCT will hold onto gears longer and change down sooner. The modes also alter the suspension, which is now electronically controlled. The only downside of the full touring model is you lose the central compartment, which now houses an integrated airbag, and it’s also a little heavier. However, the airbag now adds unquestionable safety and Honda has added a crawl mode, activated by a separate button next to the reverse button. This allows you to creep forward in perfect safety and control – making slow speed moves without a conventional clutch less intimating.
The traffic started to build on the last stint as we entered Holland and sidestepped Amsterdam, but the mighty Wing took on the traffic with ease. There is no denying the Wing is still a large bike, but as the weight is carried low in the chassis, it has a natural balance. It’s far easier to commute on than you’d ever expect. The linked six-piston brakes are strong, and its commanding road presence means other road users are quick to make the room it needs as you filter between traffic. I knew the six-cylinder Honda would be at home on the motorway, but I didn’t expect it to be so agile and relatively easy-to-use at slow speeds.