Honda Gold Wing Culture

10/25/2017 12:52:00 AM

From the beginning, Honda's Gold Wing has been more than a motorcycle. It has also inspired its own lifestyle, with dedicated followers engaging and spending time together, both on and off the bike, and both literally and virtually.

One of the main ways that Gold Wing owners have connected with one another is through clubs. Just two years after the original GL hit the market, the Gold Wind Road Riders Association was launched in 1977. Based in Phoenix, the GWRRA calls itself "the world's largest single-marque social organization for owners and riders of Honda Gold Wing/Valkyrie motorcycles," and members get together for meetings, activities, and rallies. Membership has grown to over 72,000, with over 800 chapters, with over 53 foreign countries represented. The GWRRA even publishes its own dedicated magazine, Wing World.

While the GWRRA is the granddaddy of Gold Wing clubs, it's not alone. The American Gold Wing Association (AGWA) joined the party in 1983, with the Gold Wing Touring Association (GWTA) getting started four years later. And while the Gold Wing predates the internet, there are currently numerous online forums and Facebook groups dedicated to the model.

Those who prefer the printed word have several Gold Wing-devoted books from which to choose. In 1994, American Honda celebrated the model's first two decades with the beautiful Gold Wing: The First 20 Years, published by Vreeke & Associates. In 2000, Whitehorse Press released the carefully researched Honda Gold Wing, written by prolific motorsports author Darwin Holmstrom. Sharing the same title and hitting shelves just a year later was an Ian Falloon-penned book that was a part of Haynes' "Great Bikes" series.

But Gold Wing owners aren't content to kick their heals up and merely read about their machine of choice. In fact, they're among the most social of motorcycle enthusiast groups, religiously getting together for local and national rallies, the largest being the GWRRA's annual Wing Ding. This event features social activities, a trade show, and several rides, and has moved around the U.S. over the course of its nearly four-decade life, with the 2018 edition scheduled for August 28-September 1 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not surprisingly, most attendees arrive by motorcycle.

While Wing Ding draws attendees from all over the globe, there's no denying that the Gold Wing has a special place in the U.S. market. Sales of the original GL model were dominated by Americans, who accounted for 80 percent of the 5,000 units sold in its first year, and while that number was lower than expected, it soon grew fivefold, with U.S. dealerships continuing to account for the majority of sales. Over more than four decades, the Gold Wing has been one of the most popular models in the U.S., where the vast expanses and highly developed highway network are ideally suited to covering long distances on two wheels.

That connection has extended beyond sales. U.S. features or events have served as inspiration for names of Gold Wing models, including the Interstate (named after the U.S. freeway system) and Aspencade (named after a popular New Mexico motorcycle rally). Over the years, Honda has periodically sent Japanese engineers to temporarily live in the U.S. in order to better understand the American culture before beginning development on important milestone GL models. For three decades, Gold Wings were even produced in the U.S., from Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant.

That said, GL enthusiasts are a diverse family, and what brings them together—their fondness for the venerable Gold Wing—is enough to easily overcome any differences.