Six Questions With the Men Responsible for the 2018 Gold Wing

Honda engineers discuss challenges, successes, and the concept of running a car tire on a Gold Wing

Kazuho Nakai and Yutaka Nakanishi interview
Kazuho Nakai (left) and Yutaka Nakanishi (right) are the Sub Large Project Leader and Large Project Leader, respectively, of the GL1800 program.Kevin Wing

Redesigning a flagship model is no small task, and the brunt of the responsibility for the updated Gold Wing models fell on the shoulders of Large Project Leader Yutaka Nakanishi and Sub Large Project Leader Kazuho Nakai. These men have a combined 57 years of experience at Honda and their résumés include the VFR800, ST1300, and Valkyrie, among many others. We connected with them for a few questions before heading out on a test ride of the new Gold Wing Tour so we could get some additional background on the bike before riding it.

Q: A lot of effort was put into shifting weight forward on this new Wing. The engine, rider, and passenger all sit closer to the front wheel, and repositioning those elements took some doing. Why was a more forward weight balance so important?

A: The goal was to improve the bike's handling, to make it more sporty. Reducing the motorcycle's overall dimensions and weight make it handle better, and so does moving weight forward toward the front wheel. The Gold Wing is a long bike, but we're able to make it steer better by repositioning mass. Also, moving the rider and passenger forward helps with aerodynamics and comfort. —Yutaka Nakanishi

Q: Honda says this latest generation of GL1800 engine is 20 percent more efficient. What does it take to squeeze more miles per gallon out of an 1,833cc powerplant?

A: Ah, there were many changes! The motor now has four valves per cylinder instead of just two, and that helps with airflow and power. The compression ratio is also higher [up from 9.8:1 to 10.5:1] and we've changed the combustion-chamber shape. There is also a lot of technology to reduce friction, including new coatings on the piston skirts. These things reduce drag and improve efficiency. —Kazuho Nakai

Q: What aspect of this new bike are you most proud of?

A: [Laughter] The reduction in weight, and the increase in performance. But really, everything. —Yutaka Nakanishi
A: I would have to say the four ride modes. With EFI tuning we were able to put four bikes into one bike, into the characteristics of the throttle. Its very hard to do, so I'm happy with the results. —Kazuho Nakai

Q: What aspect of this new bike was the most challenging to design and perfect?

A: The front suspension. The company didn't order the [double-wishbone] system, we chose it based on what it offered, allowing us to move the engine forward and get better suspension compliance. We knew nothing about the design, so we had to learn. We developed and tested four of five versions before we arrived at this design. —Yutaka Nakanishi

Q: If you had to compare the new Gold Wing Tour to a car in Honda’s automobile lineup, which would it be?

A: It would have to be a top-model Acura, because this is our flagship model and it has a premium feel. —Yutaka Nakanishi

Q: Speaking of cars, what’s your take on so-called “Dark Siders,” people who put a car tire on the back of a Gold Wing because they say it’s cheaper and lasts longer?

A: I'm not sure that's a good idea. We've never tested for that, and I wouldn't want to! A car tire isn't made to lean, so there would be problems with handling and stability. —Kazuho Nakai