Digital Radio on the move

Sony DAB*

Digital radio has been around for a while and it’s very clever – providing crystal clear sound and a much wider range of stations than you can receive with ordinary FM.  It’s now also available for use in vehicles in UK, i.e. for use on the move.

There are other systems around the world but DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is the digital radio format used in UK.  It allows far more stations to be squeezed in and the inclusion of additional digital information, including for example the name of the tune currently being played on a music station.  The sound is crystal clear and cross country reception is seamless.

Ordinary FM radio still works well enough on the move for many of us and thanks to clever old RDS (radio data system) which Honda introduced with the GL1800 as it came to Europe in 2001, provides traffic alerts and seamless access to national radio channels as we cross the Country.  Together with MP3 players and the like to play recorded music through the bike’s powerful stereo system,  those Wingers who like sound while they ride are well provided for.  And installing a replacement radio in a GoldWing isn’t exactly straightforward anyway, as is the case in many modern cars, where the manufacturer has deterred theft by building the radio into the dashboard rather than using a standard sized rectangular slot.

DAB is better but there isn’t really enough improvement for many people to want to continues………

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………

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………

Wrong Fuel? Try the Fuel Doctor
Quick and efficient

Quick and efficient

I’ve managed to put the wrong fuel in a vehicle twice so far and hopefully it won’t happen again.  Recently I had to help my daughter recover from doing so and I ended up using a service I hadn’t come across before called Fuel Doctor.  They were very good and information  about them is worth passing on.

My daughter had put some petrol into her diesel car, which is the commonest way wrong fuel happens these days because the petrol nozzle at the pumps is the smaller of the two so will go into a diesel filler pipe.  Modern petrol cars make it difficult to put diesel in at the pumps because their petrol hole is smaller than a diesel nozzle.

Not true of GoldWings of course, which can be fuelled with diesel if you pick the wrong nozzle.  I know at least one Winger who put diesel in his tank by mistake.  I know another Winger who would like to put diesel in too (he’s convinced a diesel engine would be ideal for a GoldWing) but that’s another story.

My own first wrong-fuelling episode happened when we took our brand new diesel motorhome to France for the first time a few years ago when, the very first time I had fuelled abroad, I put petrol in by mistake.  I realised the mistake as I was doing so (or to be truthful my wife did) but nearly 20 litres of petrol had gone into the tank by then.  It’s all too easily done.  Maybe the colour of the nozzle was different as they are sometimes abroad, I can’t now remember.

I was mortified.  You read these stories about people ruining engines doing this and about the engine probably needing elaborate attention, to rescue it from internal self-destruction.   I’d just spent a fortune on this motorhome.  At least I hadn’t started the engine, which from the little I knew of the consequences of wrong-fuelling, seemed to be a bit of a mercy.  Petrol can ruin a diesel engine’s high precision injector pump, you have to go to enormous lengths to flush through and replace components – this was real nightmare territory.  I was towing a big box trailer with my GL1800 inside too, so this was not a nice situation to find myself in.  Abroad too – how would I cope with French breakdown services and garages?


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………

GL1800 Brake Recall Reminder – has your bike been checked?
Brake Recall

Secondary master cylinder mounted behind the LH fork with the special inspection tool in place for the recall check

HondaUK haven’t had the response they were hoping for to the Safety Recall affecting GL1800 brakes, so they are asking for support from owners clubs (and from this Blog) to get the recall message repeated.

The recall concerns a risk of the compensator port of the braking system’s secondary master cylinder, which is fitted to the left fork of GL1800s, becoming blocked, which can cause the bike’s rear brake to drag which can affect handling as well as cause overheating of the rear brake assembly.  A more detailed of the potential fault and the procedure which Honda Dealers would follow to test for it is described in earlier articles on this Blog, which are listed below.

Doubtless Honda would want to make a safety recall effective anyway but in UK they have to account to VOSA for reasonable success in the level of notification and owner compliance.  On this occasion, perhaps because they haven’t noticed relevant symptoms while riding so assume there is no fault on their bike, UK GL1800 owners don’t seem to have responded well to this recall.

It makes no sense to ignore it and failure to have your bike checked could result in difficulties when it comes time to sell your bike.  Honda will do the test and any necessary repairs free of charge.  This recall applies to all GL1800s manufactured in America, including some which may have been sold in UK as 2009, 2010 and even 2011 bikes.

If you are in any way uncertain about whether your bike has been checked for this fault, please contact HondaUK on 0845 200 8000.

Related Articles

Update on the GL1800 Brake Recall

HondaUK Statement

Recall Announcement


GoldWings emerging from Hibernation
Gloria and Edward uncovered in their winter lair

Gloria and Edward uncovered in their warm winter lair

It’s been time to get my bikes out of hibernation and I thought it might be useful to run through the process and its risks and pitfalls.

I used to keep my bike taxed and therefore available for riding throughout the year, so in theory there was no hibernation and no emergence from it.  But I only rode regularly during late season and not really much at all in January/February, even when I was learning advanced riding (my course was in late season) and subsequently doing observing for the IAM for a few years.  Always during January and February I rode almost not at all.

After that fairly active late season phase I certainly didn’t ride when there was salt on the roads, so I only ever got in a small number of riding days between late September and early March.  I had all the kit to stay warm, even before heated seats came in, so that was never a poblem – but there’s no fun in riding in poor weather just for the sake of staying in practice at it, so the few nice days I had over winter each year were really very few.  Even just counting the cost of the continuing road tax over winter, these were expensive days out.  You can’t usually arrange a part-year insurance policy to save money but you can at least save the cost of road tax while the bike is off the road and that’s what I now do.  A sign of parsimony and old age perhaps, but that’s what I do.

It’s a burdensome process getting old and last Summer I was unable to ride a solo bike all year continues………

Batteries for GoldWings – lithium iron or good old lead acid?
Lithium Iron - offered for $349 by Shorai

Lithium Iron for a GoldWing – offered for $349 in the USA by Shorai

Lead acid batteries have been used on motor vehicles for a very long time and they do the job pretty well.  But lead acid batteries are not without limitations and battery technology is developing rapidly these days.

Is it now time to consider changing from lead acid to something different and if so what?  Lithium batteries are in widespread use and are now being sold for use on motorcycles – do they offer real advantages, are they any good – do they catch fire in service, like those on Dreamliner aeroplanes have been threatening to do recently?

Lithium ion batteries have been around for some time but not as substitutes for conventional vehicle batteries, an application which had to wait until a special type was developed, called a litium iron battery.  These are now on sale, although maybe not yet in UK, so you can try them if you wish.

A lithium iron battery for a GoldWing is smaller and lighter than a lead acid battery and it can maintain its charge level in storage over  a much longer period so it has significant advantages.

There are however limitations and/or risks to every technology and you might recall reading about Sony laptop batteries having to be recalled a few years ago because of a fire risk and more recently the lithium ion batteries in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner threatening to catch fire in flight.

Lithium (the metal) is used for non-rechargeable batteries but lithium chemical compounds are used in rechargable ones.  The commonest, which widely used in hand-held electronic quipment, is lithium cobalt oxide, because it offers very high “energy density” – i.e. you get a lot of battery capacity in a relatively small and lightweight unit.  Lithium iron batteries have a lower energy density but they have a higher power density (they can deliver a higher maximum current) and they have a potentially longer service life than other lithium types.

You may remember from school physics that lead acid battery cells develop a voltage of 2.1, so you place six of them in series to form a nominally 12 volt vehicle battery and to charge the battery you aim for a maximum of 14.3 volts, to avoid “gassing” and loss of electrolyte fluid.  That’s the voltage which your GoldWing’s charging system is designed to deliver.

Lithium iron battery cells have a working voltage range of 3.0 – 3.3, so you only need 4 of them to make up a vehicle battery.  The maximum  safe cell voltage is 3.6, so a continues………

A Hybrid GoldWing?
Drawing from a Honda Patent Application - click on the image to enlarge

Drawing from a Honda Patent Application – click on the image to enlarge

You might not think that a motorcycle offered much potential for hybrid power, but Honda does – or at least is covering the options.

I came across this US Patent Application recently in which Honda has used the GL1800 as the basis for an outline design which incorporates hybrid power.  You need a lawyerish eye to be able to see through the gobbledegook language in order to understand what this is about, so I can’t promise that I’ve understood it all that well, but in essence Honda has tried to patent a way of installing an electric motor in combination with an internal combustion engine which would allow hybrid power to be applied to a two wheeled vehicle.

The essence of the patent application was that adding an electric motor to the crankshaft of a GoldWing-type engine inevitably adds unwanted length to the power unit, so the motor design has to take up as little fore-and-aft room as possible and Honda has thought up a couple of useful ways of addressing that challenge.

You may remember that the original M1 GoldWing prototype had a six cyliner engine and this continues………

Laying up your GoldWing for Winter

Edward and Gloria tucked up together - storing under covers in a dry garage is a good start but there's more to do before you leave them to it for the winter

It’s the time of year, now that the last rallies and light parades are over – and not least because of the exceptionally wet weather we’ve been having here in UK – when many Wingers will be losing interest in doing much riding for a while, perhaps not even turning a wheel until next spring.

Once upon a time, when I was a committed adanced rider and involved in rider training, it was almost an act of faith to keep riding throughout the year but even then I would be extremely reluctant to take the bike out when there was salt on the roads.  And, as the years have gone by, although I’ve got good wet weather riding gear and it’s relatively easy to keep warm on a GoldWing, I’m less and less exited at the prospect of riding in poor weather just for the sake of keeping my hand in at doing so.  Many is the time over the years when I’ve kept my bike available for riding over winter in the hope of grabbing the opportunity of a decent day to get out on two wheels, in practice the bike has either stayed in the garage throughout winter or I’ve done only the very occasional short ride – which as far as keeping in riding practice was concerned was of no real value at all.

And call me a meanie but I do resent pay road tax for several months to keep the bikes on the road when in practice I’m unlikely to use them.  While I was paying nearly £400 per year to cover my GL1800 the extra cost of raod tax to keep the options open to keep riding throughout the year seemed small but now that I’ve got two classic bikes covered on one policy for the year for under £100 wasting £70-£80 to keep them both taxed over winter seems wasteful.

The risk (to the bike) of hopeful, keeping-it-ready-to-ride (but actually never doing so) storage in the garage is that the bike never gets properly prepared for storage and therefore suffers more deterioration than would otherwise be the case.

So nowadays I take a positive decision to lay my bikes up for the winter and give them due continues………

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