2001-2012 Honda GL1800 | Smart Money

By Jerry Smith, Photography by Honda

Honda didn’t invent motorcycle touring, but its Gold Wing series probably introduced more American riders to the joys of crossing several state lines between breakfast and dinner than any other make or model. The latest iteration of motorcycling’s flagship land yacht, the GL1800, has been around since 2001. With its stellar acceleration, physics-defying handling, and long list of amenities and options, the big Wing is one of the most opulent ways to smear bugs on a windscreen.

The engine is the jewel in the GL1800’s crown. The 1800cc, fuel-injected, two-valve-per-cylinder flat-six is the textbook definition of smooth, with a torque curve that starts practically from the moment you take the ignition key out of your pocket, and enough horsepower—more than 100—to make you forget the bike weighs nearly 900 pounds. Linked brakes and a reverse gear are standard, and ABS is optional—and also adds to the asking price. A single-sided swingarm incorporates the driveshaft and makes tire changes easier than on previous Wings.

Where the GL1800 departs most radically from its ancestors is in the handling department. At any speed above a walking pace it seems to shed 300 pounds, thanks in part to a low center of gravity and a bridge-abutment-grade perimeter frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. More than a few early models were flung down the road by veteran Wingers caught out by the GL1800’s tendency to deck hard parts without first sending pucker alerts to the rider.

Mechanically, the GL1800 hasn’t changed significantly since its introduction, with the exception of larger radiators and fans, and a higher-output alternator (1300 watts, up from 1100) in 2006. That same year a navigation system and an airbag (really) were added to the options list. Unimpressed by the dizzying selection of distraction modules, some riders question the GL1800’s two-up credentials, citing limited luggage capacity compared to the GL1500, and a seat that places the passenger too far rearward to benefit from the fairing and the barn-door windscreen.

When it comes to reliability, the word that best describes the GL1800 is “automotive.” That’s not to say the Wing hasn’t had its share of service issues, including a recall for crack-prone frames in 2002. Honda is very conscientious about recalls, but not all owners take them seriously. Ask for service records, and have a Honda dealer run the VIN to see if the bike was brought in for all applicable recalls and service campaigns.

Some Wings are ridden only a few times a year and don’t get regular service. Check the condition of the brake and clutch fluid, and look for signs of leaking fork seals. Try every function of the stereo, intercom, and navigation system, since problems with these can be hard to diagnose and expensive to repair. Also function-check the rear-shock preload adjuster, ABS, auxiliary lighting, and any other optional feature. Heavily modified models deserve extremely close inspection.

Finally, the values listed here are for the base model GL1800 of each year. The actual street value varies widely by equipment level and included options.

Cheers
Born to run. Lunch on the opposite coast? Let’s roll.

Jeers
Sacrifices character for competence. Stuffed animal for trunk lid not included.

Watch For
Unwanted accessories, spotty service history, contaminated brake and clutch fluid, worn tires and brake pads.

Verdict
The love child of a VFR800 and a Civic. Don’t laugh at the reverse gear—you’ll grow to love it.

Value
2001 | $9955
2003 | $11,440
2005 | $12,930
2007 | $17,285
2009 | $17,605
2010 | $18,560
2012 | $19,085


Buying Smart

The GL1800 aftermarket is expansive, and many Gold Wings look like they were magnetized and dragged through an accessory warehouse. Like motorcycles themselves, accessories depreciate, but some sellers try to get back every dollar they spent when they sell the bike. Unless it’s something you were going to get anyway, don’t factor accessories into your negotiations. Ask the owner to take them off, and if that’s a deal breaker, look for a stock bike you can accessorize.

By Jerry Smith
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