2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT | First U.S. Ride Review

2018 Honda Gold Wing
The first major update to the Gold Wing since 2001 has shaved off 90 pounds, increased power, enhanced stability and braking and added a state-of-the-art infotainment system. Two hundred miles in Texas told us a lot about the Tour DCT Airbag model above. (Photos by Brian J. Nelson and Kevin Wing)

According to the bike’s thermometer it’s a chilly 45 degrees when my wife and I set out from the hotel outside Austin, Texas, on our first ride in the U.S. aboard Honda’s completely revamped Gold Wing Tour. That’s a heckuva lot warmer than it will be the next day in mid-January, though, when all y’all Texans will remember the Blue Norther that descended upon the state, bringing freezing rain and 20-degree temperatures that closed roads and Interstates and ended up limiting our ride to one 200-mile day instead of two. So today we’re making the most of our time, trying every feature the new Wing has to offer as we cruise around the Texas Hill Country enjoying the rise and fall of the winding roads and finally getting to experience the soul of this new machine on real American blacktop.

Read our tech rundown and ride review on the 2018 Honda Gold Wing in Japan

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Colors for the standard model (I call it the Sport) are Pearl Stallion Brown, Matte Majestic Silver and Candy Ardent Red.

The story linked above has a pretty thorough description of what’s new on the Gold Wing as well as a brief riding impression from my first hands-on experience at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan. After a few laps on preproduction machines it was apparent that the standard and Tour models definitely live up to the promise of more responsive power, less weight and a more compact size, enhanced stability and terrific brakes. Last week’s ride in the Hill Country served to bolster that assessment and gave us a better feel for how the new Gold Wing’s suspension performance, comfort and electronic user-friendliness measure up.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Ample cornering clearance for most riding allows for a spirited pace in the corners.

Bikes were assigned to each journalist in our group on the riding day, and Yours Truly was handed the keyless ignition fob for a top-line Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag model, which adds a 7-speed automatic transmission with forward/reverse Walking Mode and a lighter new airbag system to the base Tour model. The airbag is, ahem, no longer made by Takata, and has an updated collision judgment system. Honda has offered an Airbag model since 2006—in the event of a frontal collision, it should slow the rider’s momentum as he or she is thrown forward and reduce injuries. Not something I ever want to test. The tradeoff for this safety feature is that the handy tank-top storage compartment found on other models is filled with the airbag and the USB port inside is relocated to the trunk, which is where you plug in your iPhone to enable Apple CarPlay. Besides the lost storage it’s not really an inconvenience though, since in conjunction with a Bluetooth headset CarPlay allows you to do everything you should need on the road without having to access the phone itself (and you can still connect your phone to the bike just via Bluetooth if desired to use a basic feature set, but CarPlay won’t work). Apparently Google told Honda it wants to focus on the automobile market for now, hence the lack of Android Auto compatibility.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Left bar has Volume, Electric Windscreen, Infotainment, Horn, Turn Signals, DCT Shift and combo Hill Assist and Walking Mode buttons.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Right bar has one-touch ignition, DCT Neutral/Drive/Auto/Manual, hazard lights and Cruise Control buttons.

Genie and I were able to pair our Sena 20S headsets to the bike easily, then connected my iPhone in the trunk, where there’s a special holder for it in front. Before we even left the hotel parking lot we were able to listen to music from the phone, Pandora or Spotify, take and make calls and texts, use Apple maps or the bike’s built-in Navi and talk to one another on the headsets’ intercom. Honda is quite safety-conscious so a lot of Navi and vehicle function settings are disabled when underway, but there’s some cool stuff you can customize in the menus (like if the headlight turns on gradually or all at once), and you can even disable the self-canceling function of the turn signals. Music sound quality from the four 25-watt speakers on Tour models is pretty good (a 50-watt amp and speaker kit is available), but it was a bit tinny in the Sena 20S headsets. Honda says the upcoming Sena 10C Evo will have more compatible software, hopefully with more bass response. Regular co-pilots will want the optional passenger audio controller, which adjusts volume, source and track.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
A Blue Norther that descended upon central Texas forced the cancellation of our second riding day, but we still got in 200 miles of scenic Hill Country riding.

Twelve-volt accessory outlets are optional—and generally have limited output—so we connected our electric vest cords directly to the bike’s battery. We were still quite happy to have the bike’s heated grips, seats and passenger backrest as well and cranked them to high with their dedicated buttons. Levels for the front are displayed on the new TFT/LCD display, and the passenger has a 5-position control on the left saddlebag. Even in full riding gear we noticed higher heat levels in these areas over the old bike, and it wasn’t long before I had to turn down the grips and my seat. Genie left her seat and backrest on high most of the day, commenting that she loved them but that the lower settings seemed superfluous. Might be a different story in jeans and a T-shirt rather than full riding gear, not that you should ride that way….

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Standard seat carries over to the Tour model, so the passenger perch and low grab rails are the same. Backrest is comfortable and armrest extensions can be added (standard on Airbag model).
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Passenger heated seat controller on left saddlebag.

Getting the Wing’s weight and size down were primary goals, and to that end the seats and backrest are less plush than before, but not as plush doesn’t mean uncomfortable—at the end of our 200-mile day neither of us had any complaints with them. I was able to get my feet down easily, and enjoyed some decent lumbar support, too. It’s pretty obvious that the flat passenger seat on both models is the same and styled for the standard with no top trunk, since seat bolsters would look weird on that bike, so the aftermarket should be able to improve upon it for Tour models. Although the armrests that come standard on the Airbag model were comfortable, Genie did miss the storage compartments under them on the old bike, and found the new grabrails too low to be of much use, particularly under hard braking. Again I think the sleek, tucked-in rails are simply a form-over-function issue and will be easy to fix. Both of us did find it quite easy to get on and off the bike, since the front seat is nice and low and there’s nothing to get in the passenger’s way.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Genie’s only complaint about the passenger accommodations was with the low grab rails, which she couldn’t reach without leaning well forward into me.

Both riders are seated farther forward on the new Wing to help centralize mass and improve handling, and they also sit a little closer together, but there’s still plenty of room in between. Wind protection is stellar for the pilot, especially with the electric windscreen all the way up (where I had to look through it), and though there’s some noise in lower positions I didn’t notice any buffeting. A pop-up winglet on the fairing directs more air at the rider for warmer weather. Passengers are pretty well protected overall but being farther back they do have to deal with some wind noise and buffeting—by mid-morning Genie wished for her earplugs and had turned her electric vest back on, while I never needed them. As with the previous model it gets colder in the back simply because the airflow tends to close around the rider and hit the passenger. Not a showstopper but a larger windscreen and the accessory wind wings may be in order if you regularly ride in cold weather with a passenger.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Standard seat has a cutout for a rider backrest, and a passenger backrest is optional as well. You can even add the top trunk to this model if desired.

Overall the bike definitely looks and feels lighter, tauter and more compact, like a big sport-touring motorcycle rather than traditional luxury-touring machine, but in terms of comfort neither of us would hesitate to take it cross-country. The rider’s seat is low and the weight of the bike easy to manage when you’re pushing it around, and though the luggage capacity has been reduced a watertight duffel on the optional trunk luggage rack will easily replace that volume when needed. Honda feels that its customers tend to take 2-3 day trips now vs. longer ones and therefore less space is needed, and also made the point that the stuff we find takes up the most space—spare shoes, jacket liners, rainsuits, etc.—can be done without today by using modern gear. When we get a test bike next month we’ll pack for a longer two-up ride and see how the bike fares. Obviously there should be plenty of room for a solo rider.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
One of our goals for the next test of the new Wing is to measure stock tire wear, particularly on that big 200-series meat on the back.

Getting underway the first thing you notice is an almost complete lack of felt shock and vibration up front thanks to the new double-wishbone suspension. While you watch the tie-rod ends bounce furiously up and down over bumps, pavement seams and ripples, the handlebar grips, mirrors and fairing/windscreen remain rock steady, adding greatly to the bike’s comfort level and quality feel. After you adjust the preload yourself electronically, the suspension damping front and rear on the Tour models self-adjusts based on the set riding mode. It’s noticeably stiffer in Sport than in Tour, Eco or Rain modes, but seems well-calibrated for a comfortable ride in all of them. As in Japan I found the bike more stable overall, letting you look briefly at the scenery without drifting across your lane as on some other bikes, and that it steers neutrally and easily, with ample cornering clearance for normal riding. I need to ride it more back-to-back with the old bike, but I did notice what seemed like sluggish low-speed handling in our numerous U-turns for photos and parking lot maneuvers. Because it has a shorter handlebar than the old Wing’s lengthy tiller, the distance between the grips and the front axle is about the same. But the new double-wishbone front end stretches the distance between the steering head and the front axle to almost double the old bike, which may contribute to a resistance to turn at low speeds and a kind of vague feeling at higher ones, not unlike other bikes with alternative front-end designs (telescopic forks do tend to have very direct steering feel). Having a passenger may have exacerbated the feeling and only one other rider in our group complained about it, so perhaps it’s just a matter of my needing to get used to the new bike’s steering feel vs. the old.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
All-new 1,833cc flat six has 4 valves per cylinder now and is lighter and more powerful.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Combined ABS brakes feature radial-mounted 6-piston calipers up front and are much stronger now.

Although Honda says the engine’s small power increase is mostly on the bottom and top (it doesn’t provide claimed horsepower and torque numbers), to me it felt stronger overall, probably because of the improved power-to-weight ratio (the last Navi ABS model we tested weighed 916 pounds and churned out 105.7 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm and 100.9 horsepower at 5,700 rpm). Although the Tour DCT Airbag model we were on is the heaviest in the line at a claimed 842 pounds, on paper that’s still 91 pounds lighter than the previous Airbag bike. Acceleration is brisk in Touring and Sport modes and the bike has a throaty exhaust note—some may even find it a little loud now, and the deeper tone created a mild resonance in my left ear at times. Basically the riding modes change the ratio of the throttle opening to the grip opening, the level of Honda Selectable Torque Control or traction control (HSTC can also be turned off) and suspension movement. For riding briskly Sport mode keeps the rpm up, shifts more frequently, allows more rear-wheel slip and reduces pitching. Touring mode optimizes engine speed for mellower highway riding, and provides a comfortable ride and maximum torque control. Eco and Rain modes both soften the power delivery and ride the most for fuel economy or wet roads. On our Tour DCT Airbag model the 7-speed automatic transmission was terrific—it upshifts better than the rider ever could, and downshifts in auto or manual mode are noticeable but quite smooth as well. Honda says it made an effort to engineer enough “shift shock” into the DCT to give the rider a positive feel of engagement with a smooth ride, and it seems to have worked. The only time I wished for a manual clutch was in those U-turns and parking lots I mentioned earlier, when slipping it would give me more control over the throttle input and potentially easier maneuvering. I wasn’t able to get a direct mpg measurement, but the trip computer showed an average of 41.1 mpg at the end of the day, which would give the bike a range of 226 miles from its smaller 5.5-gallon tank.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Ergonomically the Wing is still a standard bearer for roomy comfort, even if the some of the former bike’s plushness has been shaved off.

At the end of the day we came away very impressed with the new Gold Wing, and can’t wait to get a test bike for a longer ride. For our reviews it’s been my goal to keep adding information each time we test the bike rather than repeat it, so be sure to read my earlier riding impression linked above (which has more tech, a full spec chart, a model feature comparison and more). We’re planning a comparison test with the BMW K 1600 GTL quite soon, so there’s more to come!

2018 Honda Gold Wing
All LED lighting is bright and attention-getting and extends to the front turn signals in the mirrors.

Mark’s Gear:
Helmet: Shoei Neotec
Jacket: Tour Master Transition 5
Pants: Rev’It
Boots: Dainese

Genie’s Gear:
Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
Jacket: Spidi
Pants: BMW
Boots: Firstgear

Keep scrolling for more photos.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Handlebar grip to front axle distance is about the same as before thanks to a shorter handlebar.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Saddlebags hold a reported 30 liters each, and all of the luggage has gas struts for smooth opening and to hold the trunk open.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Candy Ardent Red/Black Tour DCT model–note the rider’s central wind wing atop the instrument panel is popped up.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Valve inspection intervals are down from 32,000 miles to 24,000 but the Unicam valve train has screw-and-locknut adjusters, so many owners will be able to do it themselves.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
Among many other changes, reducing the bore size and incorporating Honda’s compact Unicam valve train with four valves per cylinder helped shrink the flat-six in size and weight.
2018 Honda Gold Wing
New stepless electric windscreen is controlled with a dedicated button on the left handlebar.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Honda keeps crowing about the weight savings, but didn’t gain but a few pounds maximum weight limit. I don’t know who Honda built this for. The seat is smaller fore and aft and the passenger seat is “not as plush”. Fuel capacity is lower, windshield requires earplugs for the passenger, and rear hand holds are useless for passenger in braking. I was excited when Honda announced the new Wing. I have owned three GL1800’s. But the more I learn, the less excited I am. Sounds to me like Honda got rid of the best features on the previous GL1800 and is trying to dazzle new perspective buyers with electronics. My wife and I ride lots of miles in comfort but an aftermarket seat is a must for big miles. I also noted that many optional features for the previous Wing that used to “plug and play” now require extra wiring harnesses, luggage rack, and optional handlebar controls. I am talking about the CB radio, XM radio, High mount spoiler with LED brake lights. These extras required for use of the above mentioned features could be near $1000 if not more. Also, only ONE color for the Airbag model???

  2. I too got a bit interested in the new design until I’ve read the articles on it. I’m 60 now so I could possibly be old enough to get one. I like Sport Touring bikes and Adventures due to how fast they are and comfortable with big fuel capacity for long distances. This new Wing sounds like a pretty big step backward to me. Pity, I’d hoped it would be more like the BMW 1600 GT, lots of power but Honda reliable. From what I’ve read so far, I think I will pass on this bike. Dang it, I was hoping to get back on a Honda but alas Honda is designing for some other demographic.

  3. Probably has the same poor windshield mechanism design of the ST1300 – and now has the same noise as it too!. If they were going to reduce the size and redo the engine, they should have increased engine out out as well.
    Also, Rider shouldn’t be comparing this bike to the BMW K1600GTL but to the new BMW K1600B Grand America (Rider should know better). The BMW Grand America looks a lot better than the new wing in my opinion (too many sharp angles on the new wing) … and rides wonderful too.

  4. I have a sport touring bike for when I want to sport tour. My Wing is for trips with my wife. Less luggage capacity is a big negative for me. I was already peeved that my 1800 has less useful luggage space than my 1500 did. However, I do like the fact that the weight is down and the handling is improved. Will have to wait to get touchy feely and test ride one for a final verdict.

  5. Seems to me this new Gold Wing is now a down sized GW or an up sized St1300. Heck the St panniers are larger. All for $$ in the mid 20k.

  6. All negative comments so far, and Honda Canada has sold every 2018 Wings thru its dealerships. Looking forward to own my 1st Wing. White DCT Tour.

    I have over 120,000 miles on my 2016 ST1300, never had an issue with the electric windshield.

  7. Clearly Honda is seeking to attract a new demographic of riders…and judging by the reports of very high pre-orders…they’ve succeeded. Most current 1800 owners were probably not buying a new bike anyway…and Honda recognized this. Thus, they elected to move away from the “old man’s, couch on wheels” design and look towards the future. The loss of luggage space is definitely a bummer…but there will likely be an aftermarket choice soon. Overall, Honda answer nearly all of the requests Goldwing riders have been making for years.

  8. Can’t wait to get my hands on the sport model. Dealers are telling me that 80% of buyers are going with the Tour DCT models.

  9. Realize you are a U.S. publication but wish you had made mention of the start stop feature on the new GoldWing
    You have a lot of followers in Canada who have enjoyed your magazine for many years.

  10. 200 miles? You really feel you can comment after a mere 200 miles on the new Goldwing? I consider 200 miles to be when my engine is fully warmed up. Come back to me after 2,000 miles or more and I’ll read it. But what I already know is that the new Wing is of no interest to me…smaller luggage, less comfortable seat, gizmo electronics that will fail and be hard & expensive to repair and smaller gas tank. Plus I understand that the RPM at 60mph on the new Wing is the same as the 5 speed model! LOL! I will continue to enjoy my bike and the range I get with 55mpg touring while I carry everything I need on board (no trailer). The money I save allows me to tour!

  11. Isn’t it funny how many people complain about little things when they haven’t even ridden it. As with other GoldWing’s, you buy extra stuff like custom seats, different windshields, lights or whatever to make it right for you. You can bet there are some pre-wired plugs for certain types of lights already on this bike. Every other model before it required putting in your own wiring harness is for a lot of the aftermarket accessories so nothing has changed there. As with any new model you adapt and get used to certain things. I for one am very interested in buying this new model!

  12. Hi Mark,
    I am glad you are still “in the game” of telling us about the new bikes. Often with humor (VanVan Without a Plan).

    I appreciate your experience and honest assessments. Hope you don’t get bored.

    Tom Slick

  13. I sold my 2013 GW 1800 ABS last fall and bought a CanAm RT Limited because the 1800 was becoming harder for my 69yo body to handle two up with low speed maneuvers. Just my luck Honda addressed my three main complaints. Standard ABS, bluetooth standard and electrically adjustable windshield. Plus shaving 91 pounds off. My two 1500’s and one 1800 always aggravated me with how clunky and hard to adjust the windshield was. I might have to sweet talk my wife into trading the new 3 wheeler for the updated Goldwing with the Tilting Motor Works conversion.

  14. Nice story….age here is 69…..so I am mostly interested in comfort…..hoping the reach is not to far for the handlebar….had to put the riser on the 1800 I now have to get it to feel more like the 1500…..I am going to try out a new goldwing next wèek…….we will see…..

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