By Lethbridge Herald on January 27, 2018.
Redesigned and new models give buyers plenty of choice
January may be the middle of winter but it’s also the start of motorcycle season for fans who make the trek to Calgary for the annual show of two-wheeled wonders.
The Cowtown event gives southern Albertans an early chance to see upcoming models that deserve a place in the family garage.
This year’s event seemed to take up less space than usual in the BMO Centre, but what it lacked in quantity, it made up for in spades with quality.
2018 could become known as the year of the tourer with Honda, Harley-Davidson and Yamaha all introducing redesigned or new models which will change the face of long-distance riding.
Honda, whose legendary Gold Wing has long arguably set the standard for touring, has given its top-line motorcycle a massive overhaul.
Gone for 2018 is the F6B bagger version of the Wing, replaced by a model simply called the Gold Wing. This motorcycle dispenses with the trunk behind the passenger seat, although one is optional. The Gold Wing Tour is the new standard bearer, featuring that removable box and now available with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that can be operated in manual or automatic modes. Yes, a six-cylinder touring cycle that can be piloted with the ease of a scooter. Just put the bike in Drive and let the Gold Wing Tour take care of the shifting. Initial reviews from various motorcycle publications suggest the DCT shifts quicker and smoother than humanly possible.
The biggest change, however, to the Gold Wing is size. Honda has shrunk substantially the bike’s massive weight, shedding a whopping 91 pounds off the Gold Wing Tour. The bike is leaner and more sporty but despite having a smaller gas tank, is still theoretically capable of the same long range the previous generation had. Luggage capacity has been reduced substantially as well, Honda’s reasoning being that the majority of riders tour for only a few days at a time.
For younger riders, or those intimidated by the previous heavy weight of the Gold Wing, the changes will be welcomed. With a full tank of fuel, the base Gold Wing only weighs 805 lbs. With its big six-cylinder engine carried low in the frame, the Wing is easy to get off its sidestand.
The Gold Wings still have Honda’s reverse mode to ease backing up while DCT models get a “walking mode” that lets the bike basically crawl forward, which could be helpful in certain tight spots.
The availability of a detachable trunk gives Gold Wing buyers some versatility, as well. It can be a commuter bike by week and getaway vehicle come vacation.
Honda has upgraded its technology suite on the Gold Wing substantially, making it more user-friendly for riders who are hooked on connectivity. Gone, though, is the CB radio, although a kit is optional for those who still want it.
Harley-Davidson has made a huge splash this year, eliminating its Dyna line and merging it with the Softail models. A couple of Dynas are now part of history while others like the Street Bob now bear a Softail name. All Softails get the new Milwaukee Eight V-twin in either 107-inch or in some models, 114-inch displacement.
A massive change is the redesign of the Heritage Classic light touring bike, which is avaialble with either the 107 or 114 engines.
The Heritage Classic is lighter and now comes with locking hard saddlebags, big enough to carry a few days worth of gear. The bike dispenses with the traditional heel-toe shifter which will provide more opportunity to move the shifter foot on long journeys. The bike, which now has keyless ignition, carries its 728 lb. weight low and is also a breeze to lift off its sidestand. For shorter riders, it’s also easy to lift a leg over the saddle.
For riders who want touring capability without the huge heft of a Road Glide or Ultra Glide, the Heritage Classic may be the ideal ride.
Motorcycle traditionalists, who love the look of wire rims, will appreciate the fact Harley-Davidson has maintained the heritage aspect of the bike while also welcoming it to the modern era.
Yamaha, which has been busy introducing sport and standard motorcycles to its lineup in recent years, has made a massive re-entry into the touring world with two new models.
The Star Venture TC is a fully-loaded touring rig aimed at buyers who might be looking at the Gold Wing or Harley-Davidson big rigs.
Powered by an air-cooled 1,854 cc V-twin mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the Star Venture TC is loaded with creature comforts and touring accommodations with loads of luggage space in its trunk and side cases. It also has an electric reverse gear to ease maneouvres in tight spots. It has a seven-inch infotainment system, electrically adjustable windshield and heated seats for both rider and passenger with a whopping 10 settings.
With a wet weight of 963 lbs., this Yamaha is among the heaviest offerings in the touring segment. Yamaha has also introduced a lighter bagger version called the Eluder, which dispenses with the trunk. Weighing in at a still substantial 875 lbs., the Eluder is easy to get off a sidestand and feels like a bike that would be fairly easy to move around even at slower speeds. The Eluder’s luggage space is limited to its side cases which will hold a combined 67 litres, well down from the Venture’s capacity but still enough for a solo rider.
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