1976 GL1000

Back from the brink. Jeff, who leans more towards BMW’s, decided that an early Gold Wing might be fun. He enjoys the hunt, and this one took him to Upstate New York, where this one-owner bike was hiding in an old warehouse, behind a boat on a trailer with 2 flat tires. Just getting the bike into the daylight was a challenge. The bike was covered with Farkels, including crash bars, a Windjammer, radio, saddlebags, luggage racks, a light rail, etc. This was common back in the day, but it is ironic in a way, for Honda never intended the GL1000 to be a dresser. It was more of an answer to the Kawasaki Z1: a smoother, more comfortable, and more sophisticated superbike. It was only after American riders festooned their Gold Wings with touring accessories, spawning a lucrative new market, that Honda decided to go after the decked-out touring-bike market.

The bike had sat idle in unprepared storage for over 30 years; a real time capsule. After stripping off the accessories, a box stock, low mileage, second year Gold Wing was revealed. Of course, it needed a wee bit of work to get it back on the road. The carbs were corroded beyond salvage: the aluminum carb bodies were actually rotted through. The under-seat fuel tank was heavily coated with rust and solidified fuel remnants. The hydraulics were 100% clogged and seized up. The tires were cracked down to the carcass. This was going to be one tough resurrection. Jeff paid me a lot of money to sort some of these things out and did quite a bit of the work himself. Once we had it running, we agreed that it would be prudent to replace the cam belts; they had been sitting in one position for over 30 years. The heads came off for a clean-up valve job and to replace the head gaskets, which had hardened, allowing coolant to enter the combustion chambers. The water pump seal leaked so a new pump was installed as well. New tires, tubes, and brakes were added to the mix. Finally, the 8,000-mile Honda was fit for use again, looking rather fine in canary yellow.

Apparently, once the hunt is over, the prey loses its appeal. Once the bike was brought back to life, Jeff was ready to move onto the next project. After all that work, I gave Jeff back the money he had paid me for repairs, plus some. I had come to love this bike and had to have it in the RetroTours fleet, so it could be shared. Riding this bike is like taking a magic carpet ride: it defines smoothness. We literally balanced a nickel on edge on the crankcase and revved the engine. The nickel never moved. The suspension is comfortable and competent enough for all but the most spirited street riding. The triple disc brakes are excellent for 20th century hardware-- more than up to the task. The bike weighs in at 600 pounds wet, but never feels heavy. Compared to today’s machines (for example, a 2018 Yamaha Venture) this is a light weight. The ride is enjoyable in the extreme; Honda quality has a way of doing that. It may not be a “big twin of the 70’s” but it has loads of character and is sure to be a riders’  favorite. “Variety is the spice of life”. This horizontally opposed 4-cylinder GL1000 represents a departure for the RetroTours fleet. No longer limited to twin cylinder bikes, our fleet will continue to evolve to include interesting machines from the past, in a variety of configurations. Things have come a long way since the original Gold Wing. Ride this bike to discover the bare essential roots of the modern touring motorcycle.