First Impressions: 2002 Pearl Orange GoldWing


from the Educator


††††††††††† On Friday July 27th I rode my new 2002 Wing out of Des Plaines Hondaís parking lot and headed for home. The next twenty miles of riding told me how different the 1800 and the 1500 really are. As most of you already know, I can be fairly anal in my dissection of most things, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the 1800 over the next few months, as I get to know it better. I will add, that these are my impressions and I will give you the ups and the downs.

††††††††††† Many of you know that I had the chance to take Glennís bike for a good ride, with Kathy on the back, during our Memorial weekend ride in Indiana. I was able to exercise the bike over hills and curves and up to 90 mph. At that time my impression of the bike was: it seemed smaller than the 1500, certainly had more power and handled easily around turns and curves. Kathy really likes the passenger seat and its comfort. I didnít like the vibration in my hands transmitted by the handlebars. When I got back on my 1500 (í98), I felt that I could continue with the 1500 for another few years before I would be ready to buy the 1800. Reading between the lines, I didnít feel that I absolutely had to have a new 1800 right now. †††††††††††

††††††††††† So now lets advance to only two days after owning the new 1800. Just after two turns, leaving home, Kathy exclaims, ďwow, you really leaned way over, but it was very smoothĒ. I hadnít even begun to consider paying attention to that kind of thing, as I was just trying to get used to the bike. But after she said this, I started to pay attention, and she was very accurate in her description. Easy to lean and very smooth through the turns. The only riding I did that first night was some very low speed parking lot stuff and a short ride. But in that very short time I learned what the Honda engineers spent years trying to accomplish. I am a big fan or radial tires, and I was interested in putting them on my 1500, but they werenít reliable enough to consider that. So I was very excited to have them on the new bike and I suspected the improvement to handling, but it exceeded those expectations. Honda designed the frame and suspension to support using radial tires and giving us the handling that up to now, only sport bike riders could completely understand and experience. Even more than the power from the larger engine, or the change in the seat and seating position, or the more modern design of the plastic, the handling of this bike and your ability to drive it, not ride it, is for me the biggest and best part of the new 1800. Keep in mind, that I am telling you this, having only put 400 miles on the bike in less than the week that I have owned it. But it has made that big of an impression with me. To try and describe the difference between the 1500 and the 1800: when you take a curve or turn to the right on a 1500, consider a speed of 50 mph, as you lean over to push the bike into the turn, you apply pressure to the right handlebar and continue to push on the handlebar throughout the entire turn. Because if you donít, you know that the bike would want to straighten up. In addition, you should know that as you go through the turn, there is a feeling of the bike and yourself, wanting to drift to the outside of the turn as you go through it. This is one reason that you get the feeling you do, when you are going to fast in your approach of a curve or turn, the feeling of going to wide. With the 1800 and the radial tires, just throw that feeling out the window. When you set the bike over in a lean, it stays wherever you put it. You have the feeling that if you took your hands off the handlebars, the bike would continue just as you are. It doesnít require you to continue to lean on the handlebar, while you go thru the turn. That is one area that is instantly noticeable. The other thing about handling that really caught my minds eye, was very low speed parking lot maneuvering. With the 1500 for every move I make, I am constantly and instantly planning the next counter move. If you lean the bike to make a turn in the parking lot, as soon as the bike is rolling, I am already countering that move to compensate for the lean and weight of the bike. If you donít make that move, the bike will soon be on the ground. I donít know how you feel, but for me it is a constant mental process that I go through when making small maneuvers. Especially when I have a passenger and the bags are filled. How about, just coming to a stop at a light. If you arenít concerned with the weight and balance of the 1500 when you stop, you will be on the ground, over it goes. Well, all of these things I just mentioned, you can basically forget about them. The 1800 has none of those responses. When you lean it left, it goes left. It never feels like it is going to fall over while you are making that awful ďUĒ turn. It is very sure footed, and that does wonders for you confidence. The design of this bike not only promotes you riding it, it allow you to do it easier. If you are a person who has trouble with low speed control of the 1500, and you find that you struggle with the weight of the 1500 during low speed parking lot maneuvers and stopping, you will find virtually none of that with the 1800. Point Made.

††††††††††† Other improvements: lighting, the taillights are too car like for me, but I cannot argue with their ability to be visible and bright. The 1800 rear lighting makes the 1500 lighting,seem like they are from the 1800ís ( pun intended). How about night versus day, the 1800 is terrific. The front lights, two for low and another two for high, 4 on at once, and do they light up the road and the surrounding shoulders and ditches, excellent. Brakes, ABS or not, they have increased the effectiveness and they work very well. Seat: bigger, wider, thigh support, more passenger room, narrower at the front for the driver which makes it easier to support the bike when standing, however the thigh support makes it very difficult to put your feet straight down when you come to a stop, and plant your feet on the ground. You need to move forward in the seat to accomplish this, and that is not easy to do. If you are short legged, this is not a strong feature for the new seat design. Also, good or bad, both seats tend to shift your hips backward which is probably suppose to be more comfortable on the long trip, but like myself, I donít find it helps me at all, it puts pressure in the wrong places. I have a set of small beads that I place in the back portion of the seat and now it is quite comfortable. But as we know, no bottoms are created equal. The handlebars are placed lower than on the 1500, for lounging this isnít as good, but for riding, it is very good. The handlebars have weights in the ends to absorb vibrations, but Iím afraid for my liking, this is a big drawback. You get good road response, but I really donít like the transmitted vibrations, at all. This is one of my biggest complaints about the smoothness we expect from a luxury-touring bike, and the cross over to sport has affected this issue. Right now, if I could change something, this would be the first thing I would change. Saddlebags, under improvements I am including these, their design allows for a different approach to packing them, but I kind of like them, right now. I like the fact that the door mechanism is not in the space of the bag itself, to get caught on things. The money spent for those little shock absorbers on the lids, in my opinion is a total waste; I would have spent that money for other improvements. The seating position, when you are seated on the 1500, if you draw a line from your heel upward you will find the line passes through the middle of your thigh, on the 1800, the line is just behind your knee. The 1800 has your feet a little more forward than the 1500. This should be more comfortable on the longer trips. You should have better circulation in your legs because they are at a better angle. On my 1500 I used to always put my heel as far forward as I could on the driver foot peg, because it simply felt better, now the 1800 places it there to begin with. Windshield adjustment; much better design to stop the shield from sliding down, but, it should have been motorized. Headlamp adjustment, is motorized, Honda must have thought the old knob was too tough to rotate, but I think this is another absolute waste, the windshield should have gotten the motor, but it is an improvement. Mirrors; they are bigger and the turn signals in the housing are excellent changes. The bike appears wider with the lights providing the edges of the bike, making the bike more visible to oncoming traffic and side traffic. Horns, I repeat HORNS, finally a car like sound for the horns, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

††††††††††† Here are some non-tangible pros: the bike moves very easily, you flip up the side stand and the bike begins to roll on its own. This bike almost puts itself on the center stand. It is lower overall, and easier to get on and off and support. The windshield has a longer travel, which for me, allow me to put it all the way down during local riding and I can look over the windshield and still get good wind protection. The front end seems smaller and lighter, it may actually be but I have no way to really compare, but it handles smaller and lighter. It is easier to control when stopping and supporting.

††††††††††† I guess I should talk about the engine, but until I have completely broken it in and can really use it, I can only tell you that it sounds strong, very strong, and you can feel the power every time you let out the clutch (with its short action). As you accelerate in each gear the pull and sound are begging to have you open it up. Fuel injection; has improved performance and response. No choke on start up and when you twist the throttle the instant response of the engine is perfect, no lag. There is more general engine sound, which is from the larger engine and also a less shrouded engine. Right now the exhaust note is lower than the 1500 but not louder, yet, it needs to be broken in, too. Third gear 90 mph, say no more.

††††††††††† Radio and controls: I like the analog speedo and tach, I like the look of the dash and the lighting at night. The radio controls and the radio work well, the inclusion of the CD controls and the AUX controls with the hook-up cord are a good addition (see Cons for more), computerization has brought multi-menus to the operation of the Wing so the same buttons serve many purposes, two trip settings allow you an overall distance and gas stop to gas stop mileages, you can push a button and get the air temperature, car like horns are finally on this bike.

††††††††††† At high speeds the bike is more stable than the 1500. It is more aerodynamic and has less drag in the wind. The result is as you approach 80 Ė 90 the bike doesnít have the vibration or shakiness the 1500 has. The wind experienced by both rider and co-rider doesnít change very much between 55 and 90, within the envelope. I think this is why the fuel mileage is so good at the highway speeds for this larger engine, fuel injection and aerodynamics.

††††††††††† Cooling system, due to two very large radiators, the cooling system is very efficient, and the temp gauge remains very constant under different conditions, the 1500ís temp varied much. Under normal highway and stop and go traffic the gauge never moved from its normal spot. The technology to pull the radiator fans inward so the heat would stay away from the rider was a welcome touch on hot days.

††††††††††† Maintenance free battery, thank you, no more fluid checks, could not easily see the level on the 1500 without pulling it out.

††††††††††† Remote control, lock and unlock the rear boxes with a push of a button and even release the rear trunk with the same remote, nice convenience.

††††††††††† Around the forks they have covered the connectors and wiring with body panels, which was exposed to weather on the 1500.


††††††††††† CUDOS, CUDOS: When you consider that this bike is new from the ground up, you will have to agree how amazing it is, that the 1800 looks like a slightly redesigned 1500. More modern, but very similar. Another very clever design was the valve covers. Going back to the very first GoldWing, the valve covers have always been a very unmistakable icon for the opposed 4 and then 6-cylinder engine. This part has been chromed and we have put different logos on them. So even now with the new 1800 you still have the traditional look of those valve covers, but wait, the true fact of the matter is, that the lower half of those covers, are not part of the valve cover, they are in fact cosmetic covers over the spark plugs and the plug wires. You have to agree that you will not mistake this for any other style-touring bike. It is recognizable as a GoldWing. That alone was quite an engineering feat. The frame and suspensions design,the power of the engine and radial tires,have made this Wing a Sport/Touring Wing. Something many wingers had wanted. The braking system is top notch. For pure handling and drivability, this 1800 is not your 1500. Let me try a simple relationship between 1500 and 1800. The 1500 is like a 4 door sedan automobile, luxurious, roomy and smooth, the 1800 is the two-door sport coupe, a little smaller than the 4-door version, sportier appointments and suspension, with a little more engine under the hood.


††††††††††† Most of this is the good introduction to the 1800, I have already 3 more pages of things I donít like about the 1800, but you will have to wait till next month to read about those. And then I will have taken a long trip with the bike so I will be able to form some other opinions.