2001-2004 Honda Gold Wing

Smart Money

Four Seasons accommodations on a Motel 6 budget is no oxymoron. It's a clean, used Honda GL1800. More fun to ride than ever before, an all-new 1832cc flat-six meant it wasn't for the Metamucil set anymore. A revelation (even for a company accustomed to producing such things), the aluminum-framed Wing made building luxury tourers so expensive that no other manufacturer--with the theoretical exception of BMW--wanted to play.

Despite mashing the scales with 898 pounds of wet weight, masterful centralization of said mass, a stiff chassis and 110 pound-feet of torque--80 percent of which comes online at 2250 rpm --create an implausible amalgam of Coupe de Ville and Corvette. From getting more wind protection out of a smaller fairing to a single-sided aluminum swingarm that makes rear tire changes somewhat less painful, the third-generation GL made anything less including its predecessors obsolete overnight. Still, the first motorcycle with a dozen fewer parts than an '01 Honda Civic wasn't perfect.

The first thing you'll notice is a low seat that fits short riders better than tall ones. Hide-bound Wingers weren't happy about the switch from no-maintenance hydraulic adjusters to shims and buckets, and they didn't like cam chains replacing cam belts, either. There were teething troubles. Early 1800s would overheat in low gear on hot days, partially because of the side-mounted radiators that made them slim. Revised ECU modules from Honda remedied that. Imprecise temperature gauges on some '01 models--also replaced under warranty--didn't help either. And though few bikes were actually affected, Honda checked the lower cross-member welds on every Wing that might not be quite right.

There were some bad kill switches in '01, and bank-angle sensors that might have come loose in '02 and '03. But any conscientious owner should have exterminated all the bugs. Doubts? A quick check of the VIN number in question at any cooperative Honda dealership will put aspiring new owners at ease.

Caveats? Heavyweight comfort takes its toll in tires and gasoline. The six can get indigestion on regular unleaded, which it can digest at the rate of 30 miles to the gallon if you're in haste. And don't expect a rear tire to live longer than 5000 miles. Still, a nice, pre-owned '01 for $8000 less than a new '05 is smart money well spent.

Transcontinental opulence that's startlingly sporty
898 pounds of fun is 102 pounds short of a half-ton
Scrupulous maintenance, proof of adherence to applicable recalls and service bulletins, sloppy steering head bearings, damaged driveshaft boot on early models
The sultan of sumptuous two-wheel travel, plus enough muscle and moves to tell the world you haven't gone soft in the gums
'01 - $11,030 $11,730 w/ABS
'04 - $13,375 $14,040 w/ABS

Honda GL1500'88-'00
$5875 ('88), $9520 ('99)
Bigger and plusher--though decidedly less athletic than its successor--the 1520cc six evolved into an increasingly roadworthy land yacht over its eleven-year tenure.

BMW K1200LT'99-'04
$8910 ('99), $10,450 ('03)
Literally overpowered by the '01 Wing, the LT is down more than 20 horses and 40 pound-feet of torque vs. Honda's 1832cc six. The BMW is a twinge top-heavy, but still an eminently viable long-distance carrier.

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide'65-'04
$7590 ('65), $14,560 ('04)
The 1965 Electra-Glide was the last of the Panheads and the first Harley you didn't kick to start. Though dramatically improved in every practical sense, the spirit of the original Dresser lives on.