How Did The Honda Gold Wing Get Reduced To An ‘Old Man’ Bike?
Since about this time last year, I started getting an itch to hop back into the world of motorcycles. It's something I haven't done since I was a youth, and with the price of gasoline these days it's not the worst way to save a buck. While that decision was an easy one, the harder query remains "which one do you want."
Growing up, having a motorcycle meant you had a dirt bike. Small gas tanks, long-travel suspension, knobby tires, and a lingering smell of premix were the tell-tale signs of an amazing childhood. In rural Southwest Oklahoma, it was like a cult that so many youths belonged to. I don't remember a single friend not having a dirt bike. We'd spend all week working on them just to go out and break stuff on Saturdays. Life was grand.
I'm not sure if it was the smoking good deal or my own trying to capture the past, but I ended up rolling home with the fastest dirt bike I've ever owned one random day last summer... but it's not enough to scratch the itch.
As I started to think I'd like something to ride on the pavement again, I started looking around at some of my favorite models from the past. Initially, it started out with the infinitely cool old vintage Honda CBs, but as fun as it would be to run around on something kitschy-cool in town, it'd be cooler to have something that could do some serious highway models.
In what I'm assuming is a normal progression, when I realized a small city bike wouldn't cut it out on the open road, I started looking into other bigger models. I've been on a handful of Harley's and can positively say they're not for me. That slouched, hanging from the monkey bars while your legs are lulled to sleep by the vibration just isn't for me.
I thought "Maybe it's time I look at one of those BMW GS 1200's." It was the classic go anywhere, see anything travel bikes, but I'm not familiar with those engines, so it was an easy-come-easy-go thought. Thinking it might even be too big, I thought I'd go smaller.
Our local dealer had a Suzuki V-Strom 650 in the showroom. While attractive, it seemed a little small. Kawasaki had a similar Versys 650 but who buys a travel bike on a 19" front wheel? I sat on a slightly larger Yamaha Tanere 700, but I've never been a fan of their gear boxes, and that's when I saw the best-looking bike I've ever seen.
Maybe I'm showing a little too much of my 80s childhood, but the Honda Africa Twin is straight out of a classic Dakar rally. Built like a bulldog, Honda's legendary reputation for reliability, and a price tag that didn't sting too bad in the pocketbook, I thought this was the one until I really gave it some deep thought.
As I was looking for something that could take me through Monument Valley or up the Al-Can Highway, I realized this bike probably wouldn't be the best choice. There's no doubt it could do it and look good doing so, but I'm wanting to tour the country in lieu of racing across it. Instead of following that traditional motorcycle cyle of owning a dozen bikes in my adulthood, I figured I could just skip to the end and hop straight onto a Gold Wing.
Release the mockery.
I know, Gold Wings are the "old man bikes" of the world. It's a reputation that Gold Wing earned by being the bike that achy old bikers could lay into as a last resort to keep them on two-wheel burning up the road. Like a couch on wheels, it's a bike that can do hundreds of thousands of miles. The fact that you normally only saw old dudes on them was young men traditionally shoot for style rather than comfort, and these Gold Wings cost an arm and a leg to get into if you're looking at a new model.
Back in the 80s, when the Gold Wing became the Gold Wing, it was the most technologically advanced motorcycle in the world. Even to this day, it's still the most tech-advanced production bike in the world. Only having a handful of iterations, there's a shockingly huge used market for these bikes, and there are so many of them, stepping into the ultimate touring motorcycle is shockingly affordable even today.
Still, it's the old man bike and I've yet to grow into an old man. My pals still fancy style over substance, but I suspect when I come rolling in on that smooth leather-clad rolling recliner, it might just win hearts and minds in my little click of bros. It's a bet I'm willing to take too. I don't care if it's an old man bike, I was raised smart enough to look to the old-timers to see how something is really supposed to be done.