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Honda Goldwing 1500 Part 1
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David Towers was bored with modern hyperbikes. He wanted something more classic. An 18 year old 1500cc Goldwing isn't an obvious choice...

I blame it all on the council myself. Well, more accurately, the maintenance part of the housing department. Had this friend you see, who was a carpenter for them, and did all his calls, with tools, saws, drills, chisels etc, on a Honda C50! Don't get me wrong - it wasn't the C50 in itself that was the problem, it was the HUGE top box on the back of it!

The thing was, here was a motorcycle, that while still fun (I rode it a few times, a complete merry riot!) was also practical! This you see was an alien concept to me. Motorcycles were for fun, just fun, not lugging around half a ton of imponderables. Yes I know I was woefully narrow-minded when I were a nipper.

Swing through the years until late 1984. The venue? The Winter Gardens at Cleethorpes. The event? A motorcycle show. I attended with friends and girlfriends on my Kawasaki Z1R, the rest similarly mounted on Z1000s or 650s and the like. And there on a raised dais, was a Goldwing.

Not an Aspencade, but still raised on a dias. Sort of.

It wasn't quite an epiphany (it was more an Aspencade really), but it certainly rocked the status quo.

It must have been a 1200 Aspencade with all those goodies, and two-tone paint. While publicly I mocked its gigantic proportions and poured scorn upon the fool who would ride such a monstrous abhorrence, secretly I was struck! Here was a bike that, while still being quick, was totally practical, able to carry pretty much anything in its top box and pannier system. Also it came with music, and toys to play with. What more could a young man want?

Well, the young man turned into a middle-aged man and the Z1R turned into a couple of classics and the latest sporty thing (not too sporty, the back and wrists aren't quite as supple as once they were). And I was bored. Let me explain - all three bikes were the sportiest of their respective decades, and so, were similar in concept if not the design or realisation.

Ready for a change? You'll need to be...

At long last, I was finally ready for a change.

I swapped my latest bike, barely a year old, for an eighteen-year-old Goldwing. My they do hold their prices well! But it was a very pleasant thing, not a green and pleasant thing, but a grey and …

Actually, the model is known as a 'Grey', and allegedly there are only six of them in the country. This could however be duff gen' as the bloke who told me this was the self same bloke who was trying to sell me the thing. I am such a sucker for a good story! But it was the first of the new 1500/6 Goldwings and as such had all the toys. It also had 30,000 miles on the clock (barely run in for a Wing - Honda's first recommended service is later than that - I jest, but only a little!) and was in superb condition.

It was an import from Florida, and still had the multitude of warning, advisory and caution stickers everywhere and the original dealer's tag as well. It also had a leather-bound owner's handbook, a hard-cased toolkit, an air-line in the right pannier (so you can inflate not just your own tyres, but all your friends' as well, from the on-board compressor), and the fitted luggage (I kid you not!), and the original half cover it was supplied with. Phew! They don't mess about these Americans.

Passenger armrests ommitted for clarity.

Americans? Yup, they are made in the world of Donald and Ronald. It really is a surprise the first time you see a 'Made in America' cast into your ostensibly Japanese bike. For a long time (until the advent of the Victory brand) Gold-wingers T-shirts often spoke of 'The Other American Motorcycle!'

Random Goldwing stuff on eBay.co.uk

When I first contemplated this move, I canvassed the opinion of the friend I thought least likely to approve (and thereby talk me out of it) and, much to my surprise, he was totally for it. And what's more, his enthusiasm for it grew when he first saw it. He (a Harley owner) was fascinated by the radio, and the controls for it on the left handlebar, the cassette player, all the speakers everywhere, cruise control with all its controls on the right hand bar… and yes, it works really well, just a bit daunting the first few times you use it. Feeling the throttle move under your hand is wrong somehow, while seeing 'cruise on' lit on your bike's dashboard is a vaguely surreal experience.

He loved the reverse gear, and of course I had to demonstrate it - in neutral, lever raised, press the start button (the starter motor, a mammoth thing, is used for reversing) and back she goes. Gently, you understand, probably 1 or 2mph, but you can reverse the thing up kerbs, hills etc. It seems to know no limit, I've even reversed it uphill, into a parking space, two-up. Now that was just being flash! It also locks the transmission, so you can use it as a handbrake when leaving it on a slope - very handy!

The air adjustable suspension came in for comment too. At the press of a button you can raise or lower the air pressure, even while (though there are a multitude of warnings prohibiting this) riding along! Cool! Very handy when it starts to weave on a bare 70mph curve on the motorway cos' you're two-up and forgot to adjust the suspension. It's true: the more things there are to adjust, the greater the chance you can make your bike into an unrideable heap! In fact, you can make it into a marshmallow on wheels, or have the most stiffly sprung thing this side of Arkwrights' till…

Bike too big for picture....

In time-honoured tradition, we had to name our new (to us) bike. There was much sniggering and tomfoolery from our friends when asked for suggestions, most of which, of course, I can't repeat here! Titanic was one of the more printable, B52, Spud-u-like (don't ask!) Big Bertha, Brunhilde (that one actually stuck for a while, even had 'Flight of the Valkyries' playing through the MP3 player while battling through a huge snarl up on the M5. Yes, you can lane split on a Goldwing - you just need arms of iron and nerves of steel!). But finally we settled on… Nurse Gladys Emmanuelle. Cos she's big and blousy and mothers you. It just seemed to fit!

Strangely, few of our friends shared this enthusiasm for the old girl. One avowed that it was the ugliest, worst handling piece of **** he had ever been on. He's still a friend, but it was touch and go for a minute there. We accept that politics and religion are things that should not be discussed idly, but perhaps we should add calling your mate's bike a piece of defecation to that list. Others were kinder, but the message remained the same. Not to one and all's taste. But hey, isn't that what bikin' is all about?

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Next instalment; David makes the case for calling his Goldwing a classic…


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