Motorhome, GoldWing, brake lights and a cruise control fault
Rainy Suffolk - awaiting unloading

Rainy Suffolk – awaiting unloading

Our motorhome hadn’t turned a wheel since we came back from France in early October last year; it hadn’t even had the flies cleaned off the windscreen.   That wasn’t the plan when it was parked in the garage but subsequently there was always either too much else to do or too little interest in getting it out again just to clean off some flies.

Owning a silver-coloured motorhome has its advantages when it comes to hiding the dirt if you are not fond of cleaning and polishing.  Keeping it in a garage makes life a lot easier.

As part of our de-cluttering at home, prior to migration to Suffolk, closer to grandchildren, I needed to move one of my GoldWings to Suffolk ahead off the main move.  My GoldWings are ageing classics and so am I these days, so riding it down there in January didn’t appeal.  So the box van trailer I bought some years ago for moving bikes around (to go touring in the Alps) was the way to do it.  I could pack all sorts of other stuff into the trailer too and because of this the towing job was going to be too much for our car, but the motorhome, with a much bigger towing capacity, could do the job.

Both motorhome and trailer would however need some work to ensure they could make continues………

The end of the Tax Disc – by Ian Duxbury

tax discMost of you will be, no doubt aware of the Government’s decision to scrap the humble vehicle tax disc, that small scrap of paper received in return for your hard-earned readies to enable you to use your vehicle on UK roads.

Advances in mobile communications and the interconnection of computer databases now means that your local friendly Traffic Officer can punch your vehicle registration into his phone or car computer and get an instant readout of the state of your tax, insurance, MOT, shoe size and what you had for lunch. Ok, so I exaggerated about the last two, but you get the idea….

And so, like many of motoring’s little quirks such as vacuum operated windscreen wipers, distributor points and grease nipples, the lowly disc is soon to be confined to the annals of motoring history after a remarkable ninety-three years.

“A good thing”, you may say. No more to be lost amongst the junk mail cascading through the letterbox each morning. No more trek to the Post Office, to stand at the end of the invariably long queue of people, all with the same idea as you, nor at the local DVLA office (although many of those have now gone the same way as the disc). For motorcyclists, no more deciding where on earth to put the thing, (especially on a GoldWing!), or wondering if some light-fingered scumbag will have relieved you of its ownership by the time you get back to your bike.

So, good news all round…………..or is it?

With the abolition of the disc come other changes which will affect all of us who buy and continues………

Fancy a GoldWing Light Parade?
BLP 2010 Warwick at Night

Photographed at the 2010 Blackpool Light Parade

GoldWing Light Parades can be great fun, for riders and spectators alike. If you’ve never been to one then 2014 could be the year to give it a whirl, with a choice of at least four Light Parades being organised for this year already.

A GoldWing in standard trim looks just as impressive at night as it does during the day, but add a few extra lights and the bikes soon start looking really special.  You don’t need to have extra lights to attand an event but Wingers who are into Light Parades mostly do get the bug and fit lots of extra lights, sometimes illuminating their riding clothng too.

GoldWing Light Parades began when a Winger in Lancashire suggested to his mates that a ride together through Blackpool Illuminations might be good fun, so they did, about half a dozen of them.

The following year a few more Wingers joined in, someone thought of sticking some extra colourful lights on the bikes and then things really took off.  Accommodation in a holiday camp was arranged to cater for Wingers from all over the Country who wanted to come and it grew like topsy.  The police were helpful, by shepherding the bikes through traffic (and traffic lights) as well as ignoring the illegal extra lights on the bikes, and the Town Council were very helpful too.  Within a few years the numbers had built up to over 300 bikes in the Parade and the public turned out in huge numbers to spectate.

Parades on this scale were too good to last and they didn’t – difficulties of various sorts continues………

Peace and Goodwill
The Near Tree House

The Near Tree House

2013 was a good year for motorcycling, at least in terms of weather; the sun shone and our Government has yet to impose the threatened 50 mph national speed limit.  Compared with the wet year before, it was quite a treat.

But I didn’t have a wonderful biking year personally because my first recreational ride of the year involved running my sidecar outfit off the road on the Yorkshire moors to hit an enormous rock half buried in the grass – nice long, springy grass which fortunately cushioned my fall.

Although I rode it home, the damage to the bike was extensive and the insurance company wanted to write it off.  But I wanted the bike repaired so we agreed a cash settlement, under which I could keep the bike and organise the repair myself.

I decided to bide my time about repairing it, partly because I wasn’t sure how to go about it and partly because I felt the bike might be better retired to a museum, in which case a more cosmetic approach to repairing might be acceptable.  The issue was how much damage had been done to the steering head as well as the forks and the bashed in lower frame section, so could the frame be repaired at all.

The way things turned out I never did ride again this year, even though I had another roadworthy GoldWing at my disposal.  Instead I did a lot more motorhoming, including two month-long holidays in France, so 2013 was a year in which the motorcycling/motorhoming balance in my life shifted quite a bit.

There were days when I got the urge to go riding while we were home but one way and continues………

Laying up for Winter – for the lazy Winger

MinimumThe easiest, and laziest, way to lay your bike up for the winter is to pretend to yourself that you will keep it on the road and ride it occasionally – so you just park it as usual.  Then you leave it, neglected and unprepared for winter without actually riding it at all.

If you have a warm dry garage and don’t mind buying a new battery come the start of your next riding season, that’s one way of doing it and your GoldWing, well built bike that it is, will probably survive, at least for one winter.

Apart, that is, from suffering a bit of unnecessary corrosion here and there, and for classic GoldWings, a risk that your timing belts will have been weakened by resting for a long period in one position on the tension rollers.  And as long as it’s only one winter you might even escape starting difficulties come Spring, because the stale fuel you left in the tank might still be capable of starting the engine.

GoldWings are remarkably durable resilient bikes but the plastic shroud inside which modern GoldWings exist can keep underlying problems out of mind as well as out of sight.  One Winger, not knowing any better, ran his GL1500 for eight years without any servicing at all and it was still going.  When his mates realised what he’d been doing and got him to have the bike properly serviced, which was of course quite a job, even he noticed it was running better!  That would still be a used bike to avoid buying yourself of course.

Simply parking your bike up as usual for the winter, even one Winter, is however a negligent way to treat a valuable bike like a GoldWing and taking even a little bit of trouble to lay the bike up more thoughtfully will reduce the risks of storing up problems considerably.

Even if you decide to keep the bike taxed so you can ride during Winter if the opportunity arises, preparing the bike for long term storage is a good idea at this time of year anyway, and it needn’t stop you riding if you want to.  If you do go riding on a nice Winter day you would ideally do some of the work of laying up again afterwards, but by no means all of it.

There’s an ideal way to lay your bike up – but there is the slightly less ideal way, which is probably almost as good. continues………

2014 GoldWing F6C Valkyrie

F6C2I predicted that this new GoldWing variant was on its way and here it is, a few weeks later than expected but welcome non the less.  The new bike is to be shown in the flesh for the first time in Tokyo next week.

A lot lighter than a GL1800 and lighter even than an F6B, it has a different ridng position, a different steering angle and a bigger front wheel, so it’s going to feel like a very different bike to ride.  New brakes on the front end too and unlike the GL1800 and F6B they are not linked brakes.  No ABS on the base model either but it will be surprising if the European version doesn’t have ABS.

It’s a cruiser, but a pretty butch-looking one compared to the 1996-2005 F6C, so to the traditionalist it’s crying out for quite a bit more chrome.  Doubtless the little grey cells of the shiny-bit manufacturers will be jerking into action because the black plastic mouldings around the headlamp and elsewhere look like they will take a chrome stick-on quite easily.  Maybe this F6C model will be ridden as manufactured however, with the tough-looking black image that Honda presumably feel is the way forwards.

This new GoldWing variant has the same main frame and engine as a GL1800 but clearly many of the plastic bits are new.  There is said to be a new aluminium sub-frame too.  No centre stand though, as of course with the F6B.

No price for Europe yet but the base model price in the USA is said to be around $17,000, so less than the F6B.

Don’t be disappointed if there isn’t one at Motorcycle Live this coming weekend.

For more pictures ……………………

continues………

The 2014 GL1800 model is on show
The ghostly image of a white GL1800 GoldWing, perhaps a mistake on the website

The ghostly image of a white GL1800 GoldWing, perhaps a mistake on the website

The 2014 Model of the GL1800 GoldWing has been released on to the US Honda website.

There are but three colours: red, black and blue and the Airbag is currently missing altogether, although it is promised for later.  The 360 rotation view of the bike is a white one, so either that’s another colour for the airbag model only or Honda haven’t got around to replacing that part of the website.  The F6B is offered in two colours, black and bright yellow.

The website lists lots of “innovations” for the 2014 GL1800 but they are just re-statements of the bike’s established characteristics and there do not appear to be any genuine changes for this new Model Year other than colours.  There are just three variants of the GL1800 in the US now, distinguished mainly by the audio systems, to which you can maybe add the promised airbag model again, although it’s never sold well in the USA.

Historically we’ve had three or occassionally four colours on offer in Europe each year, so maybe we now get the same colour choice as the US gets for 2014 – or putting it another way Honda America have scaled back GoldWing  sales expectations and now restrict themselves to three colours too.  The black version gets blackened valve covers, same as the F6B, the others continue to be silver.

Sadly the GL1800 has become a surviving model in the Honda range rather than a platform for continuing development.   My interview  in 2011 with the then Head of Motorcycles in UK, Steve Martindale, now retired, hinted as much.

The GL1800 still offers remarkable grand touring potential but the satnav doesn’t work continues………

The new GoldWing F6C – expected in September?
F6C Valkyrie - 1996-2003

F6C Valkyrie – 1996-2003

Earlier this Summer I was priviledged to be a VIP guest of Honda UK at Chomondley Pageant of Power, which got me not only a free ticket to get in but also looked after all day with a nice place to sit down every so often, some excellent food and opportunities to see or try out a range of Honda products in action.  I could take a companion along and since Management, as I call her, has more interest in flower shows that power pageants, I took one of my Federation Team colleagues, Bob Summers with me.

It was a big promotional effort by Honda UK with the full range of their products represented in a “Honda Village”  – a much bigger presence that at Goodwood last time I was there.  Although the VIP invitations for the main two days of the Event were presumably allocated to proper VIPs, Honda had kindly invited a range of owners club people along to enjoy the warm up day on the Friday.   We had a really great day despite awful wet weather, and we were both extremely appreciative of Honda’s kindness.

We were scheduled to meet Honda UK’s new Head of Motorcycling, Nick Campolucci, who replaced the (retiring) Steve Martindale in March this year, but unfortunately he got whipped away somewhere else that day at the last minute, but we were happy to settle for Tom Hobbs, our regular contact in Honda UK and Charlotte Dragge of KCS, among lots of others, to look after us.  The rain somehow discouraged us from riding on the lake in a Honda-powered RIB but I made Management jealous when I got home by telling her about taking a new CRV for a spin.  There was a chance to drive a small fleet of racy-looking new Civics on Cholmondley’s sprint track too which was a bit like a re-run of The Italian Job.

Honda UK's new Head of Motorcycles

Honda UK’s new Head of Motorcycles, Nick Campolucci

A couple from the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club were there as Honda’s guests so we fell in with them for some of the time – and managed to keep a straight face (for a while) as we reminised together ( in GWOCGB’s absence) about their efforts to hold a vote last year about whether to let UK Valkyrie owners join their club after rejecting them in 1996 because Valkyries weren’t “proper” GoldWings.  They are have been well established with their own Club for many years; the UK VRCC is a Chapter of the US Club and so they enjoy excellent techincal and logistic support from America, rather like the UK Chapters of GWRRA do for touring GoldWings.

In retrospect it was no coincidence that both we and the Valkyrie Club had been invited this time and at some point someone (I’d better not say who, it was probably an indiscretion) mentioned that there would be something of interest to GoldWing owners happening in September.   He or she wouldn’t be more specific despite sustained interogation and the best I could dream up at the time was that Honda would be launching a GL1800 trike.  But if you’ve read Motorcycle News this week you will have seen a little story about Honda registering some new trademark names – one of which is “GoldWing F6C”.    Now why on earth would they do that?

Suddenly the penny dropped when I read this story.  It looks very much like Honda are continues………

Edward may need a GoldWing Retirement Home
An undamaged GL1000 Frame - impact on Edward shown by the arrow

An undamaged GL1000 Frame – the impact point on Edward is shown by the arrow

Funny how you can’t necessarily see all the damage to the bike after an accident until you have a proper look some time later – and also of course unless you know what to look for.

An insurance assessor came to see Edward and between us we spotted that Edward was more seriously damaged than I had thought – the lower frame on the right hand side and the exhaust system nearby has taken some impact, as well as thebend in the leading link arm of the fork assembly.  The frame is dented quite a bit at the front right corner but it’s not yet clear whether the whole frame is deformed.  The front wheel is leaning quite a long way over to the offside in a way which suggests there has to be some serious deformity somewhere.

The trunk/saddlebag support sub-frame was also displaced; a mounting bolt parted and the sub-frame came over to the offside, throwing the RH saddlebag off but fortunately that landed on the grass rather than a rock like I did.   That sub-frame will need pulling back into position and re-mounting.  Not a big or precision job but it might indicate that the impact force was tranferred through the main frame in a waywhich has caused further underlying damage.

I wasn’t recording everything into my memory in slow motion as I left the seat and barged my way through the windscreen, possibly because of my aged and failing faculties but anyway it is still all a bit of the blurr.  I was a bit confused or shaken up as I came to rest, so I can’t remember the precise collision sequence at all, although I wasn’t knocked out even briefly as far as I can tell.  I genuinely don’t think my speed was above 15 mph at most as Edward hit the rock but you never know; there’s certainly quite a bit of damage.

And it was a big rock I hit;  four feet long and two or three feet diameter, like a giant rounded cylinder, half buried.  It was dislodged from its half-buried position by several inches by the impact, so I suppose it must have been quite a blow rather just glancing off it, as I’d originally assumed.

No wonder I broke the windscreen in half without noticing it as I went flying forwards.   I was very lucky to land on that grassy mattress-like covering, missing the other rocks completely.

But bikes are merely metal and plastic, so everything which was once manufactured can in continues………

Engine and Leisure Batteries – testing and buying
My gel-type leisure batteries have lasted seven years so far - and so did my engine start battery

My gel-type leisure batteries have lasted seven years so far – and so did my engine start battery

Even GoldWings don’t have separate leisure batteries, although I have occassionally explained light-heartedly to admiring members of the public that one saddlebag contains the dishwasher and the other one the generator necessary to power it.

But leisure batteries are common enough as part of a Winger’s camping kit to be worth a mention here – and I’ve recently had to replace an engine start battery on my motorhome when it failed suddenly (after seven years service, so no complaints really) and I’ve been doing the relevant homework about the life expectancy of the equally long-serving leisure batteries, so why not turn it into an article for this Blog?

Some Wingers will use a leisure battery as a source of power in a tent or more likely in a camping trailer but motorhomes are not uncommon either, and I’ve used a motorhome to tow my motorcycle to good riding areas like the French Alps as well as to camping events in UK.  Combining motorcycling with motorhoming has worked well for me so eat your hearts out you purist tent dwellers, it’s a matter of choice and I’ve chosen.

Batteries, and especially the duration of their service lives, have come on a long way during the past thirty years and the engineering is still developing – for example with the appearance recently of the new calcium-type lead acid batteries.  Decent batteries do a decent job these days; there’s no doubt about that.  Lead acid batteries of various sorts have been in use since 1859 and the clever ways in which the fundamental design has been refined and adapted to a variety of uses almost boggles the mind.  Providing you choose the right type and take the necessary care while using it, which isn’t all that much these days, a modern lead acid battery will do you very good service indeed.

But my motorhome, and therefore the leisure batteries which came with it,  are now seven years old, so they must therefore be getting somewhere near the end of their service life.  Currently they are still working well and they will be expensive to replace, so I’m not rushing into it in advance of a clearer indication of impending failure.  But the motorhome’s engine starting battery, also seven years old, failed suddenly on a recent holiday abroad – so could that happen to the leisure batteries too I wondered?  Time to do some homework.

There is a lot of fanciful guff written about batteries on the internet and maybe the experts will consider this amateur attempt to cover the subject to be another example.  At least I’ve done the reading and I’m not promoting any particular product, so hopefully this article will help at least some people.  There isn’t one correct answer to every battery scenario, so you do have to try to understand the subject to some extent – and then you make a personal choice. continues………

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