HONDA GL1000 GOLDWING
LONG, LONG, LONG TERM TEST BIKE
It all started 40 years ago, way back in 1979... when I fell in love. I was riding my CB550F Honda down Penzance street in Alberton, when I caught a glimpse of her standing there, all naked on the Redline (s'true) Honda showroom floor. My heart skipped a beat and I did a quick U-turn to check out if what I’d just seen was actually what I thought it was - the lady of my dreams? Yes, there she was... absolutely beautiful, my heart was pounding, I broke into a sweat and I knew, I just had to have this baby. She was exactly what I’d always dreamed of; beautiful body, great looks, and she would turn over anytime I wanted her to. That was back in 1979.
You’ve seen those “Just do it” bumper stickers, well about a week later I “just did it”, I slapped the bucks, all R4,500 of it, on the counter and said “I’ll have that blue Wing over there, thank you” and that was it... she was mine.
In ’79 the 1000cc GoldWing was like... WOW! The mother of all bikes. It was designed to tour, to ride on the long road, in comfort and in style, like none other. It was top of the pops. Since then I have clocked over 475,000 kilometres on her, I don’t know exactly because she’s gone through three speedos and as I write this, the speedo-cable she’s still broken.
The crankcase has never been opened. She's still running with the original clutch and internals. The only repairs have been to replace the water pump, head-gaskets, speedometers and accident damage when I came off on the way to the Trout Rally in Rhodesia (in the 'Good Old Days' when you went to Rhodesia to see the Zimbabwe ruins).
The 999cc motor is the heart of the GoldWing. It’s horizontally opposed four cylinder engine produces 78 horsepower at around 7000rpm, with plenty of torque. Water cooling means you can ride all day, without worries about heat. Fuel requirements are taken care of with a mechanical fuel pump drawing petrol from the under-seat fuel tank and feeding it into the four 31mm constant velocity carbs above the engine. Most longitudinally mounted engines produce ‘lean’ under hard acceleration, but not the GoldWing. A counter-rotating alternator ensures smooth, balanced power for fatigue-free riding. A large clutch feeds the power through a slick 5-speed box via the no maintenance, snatch and grab-free driveshaft, to the large (by 1979 standards) 4.50 by 17 inch rear tyre. Engine noise is kept even lower by using belt driven camshafts and primary chain guided by a quiet, low-maintenance floating type chain tensioner.
On top of the dummy fuel tank is an instrument cluster of fuel gauge, water temperature gauge and voltmeter, to give you the vitals at a glance. While opening the top exposes a very handy cubby-hole containing a comprehensive tool kit, spare fuses and enough space for a camera, wallet and cell phone. Lift out the storage compartment and the air filter and fuse box are easily accessible. The dummy tank side panels can be opened, to expose conveniently located electrics and a well used 12 volt accessory terminal (leadlight, into my tent and used for light when Kawas, Zooks and Yamis have broken down... Ag shame), while behind the other panel you’ll find the coolant tank for the radiator. The real fuel tank is under the seat, which, together with the flat, opposed motor, gives the Mother-of-all-tourers a low center of gravity.
By today’s standards, the suspension is very dated. Forks are non-adjustable telescopic jobs, while the rear FVQ shocks are 5-clicks adjustable. In my opinion the seat of the ’79 Wing was a big improvement since the first Wing was launched in 1984 (although mine had been recovered when the stitching came undone). Nevertheless, the GoldWing still offers a comfortable ride.
Wheels are Comstar with double discs up front and a single disc at the rear. All three 'solid' discs are stopped by single pot calipers. Hey, don’t laugh, this was all the rave in ’79.
Mudguards are steel on this bus, as are the radiator scoops, the indicators, mirrors, handlebars. Hey there was so much steel on the Wings those years, it was almost not Japanese. A standard Deluxe GL1000 will weigh in at about 290kg on the road.
The one thing I could never understand, is why, on a fantastic touring machine like this, they would see fit to install a 19-litre fuel tank, just three more litres would have been grand.
pic taken on top of the old mine dump - the Top Star Drive-in
Me and my old lady (the Wing that is), have been to Cape Town a good few times. We’ve been to Buffalo Rallies in Maseru, Oudtshoorn and Port Elizabeth, to Trouts and Dassies in Zims, we’ve been on Wing Dings, Wing Flings, Stags, Dragons, Dinosaurs, Rhinos, Impalas, Brahmans, Warthogs and Toy Runs. We’ve been around the old Goldfields Raceway (Top End Run, 177kph), dragged down Tarlton Strip (14 seconds flat). And of course we’ve been on many, great Redline Runs.
I’ve slept on top of this bike (not while riding) at Vic Falls, after our tent was invaded by large, man-eating ants. I’ve slept next to this bike, I’ve prayed on this bike, I've made love on this bike, I’ve fallen off this bike (not while making love), I’ve fixed this bike, I’ve serviced this bike, I’ve ridden this bike long and hard. I commuted to work and back for nine years on this bike, I've even ridden in the snow on my Wing... hey, I tell you, this bike is part of me.
How times have changed, back in ’79 riding bikes was dangerous and sex was fun. But... after all these years, not much has changed between my baby and me, she’s still my old faithful. Others have come and gone, from three other Wings, to a Bimota, a Laverda, a Kawasaki, a Yamaha, a Muz and two Harleys, there’s even been a couple of cheap one-night stands parked next to her in my garage at night. But nothing has stayed this long. And I still find her attractive, she still turns over any time I want her to, she still takes me wherever, and I still love my 40-year-old lady. Maybe some day I’ll trade her in for two twenty-year-olds (I'm talking about bikes of course).
"Hanging ten" at Midvaal International Raceway - photo by Steve Green
in the snow, Johannesburg 27 June 2007
parked outside Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.
Words and photos by Kenn Slater