Designers Talk#9
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GL1800

A One and Only Motorcycle Design Brings the Ideal Ride to Life

The GL Series is Honda's flagship, embodying our motorcycle manufacturing ethic and bringing together long years of accumulated technological expertise in a never-ending quest to bring joy to seasoned riders.

Preserving the feel of liberation and exhilaration intrinsic to a motorcycle's appeal, the GL1800 is enveloped in an oversized fairing that protects rider and passenger from the wind on the road. The luxuriously thick, generously sized seat imparts the feel of a fine-quality sofa, delivering the comfort one expects from a premium motorcycle.

At the same time, the GL1800 provides full-on riding pleasure, with natural, stable handling on winding roads and the kick of a powerful, horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine. It's truly one of a kind.

The design of the new GL1800 aims to express the 'distinctive world of GL', as developed and refined in the GL Series over successive generations.

GL: Born as the King of Motorcycles

A King of Motorcycles that stands above all others—tourers, cruisers, or sports bikes. That was the concept behind the GL1000 that debuted in 1975, the bike to which the new GL1800 traces its roots. The bike was equipped with an all-new horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine, designed to offer a combination of powerful output and low-vibration, low-noise operation for outstanding comfort on long cruises.

The horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine was also the first water-cooled engine to be developed by Honda. While it lacked the cooling fins of conventional, air-cooled engines, it featured reinforcing ribs, quality chrome-plated head covers, and other refined attributes to create a premium appearance. It was a design deeply expressive of the Honda belief that the engine must be an object of beauty that serves as a focal point for the rider's affection—a concept common to all of Honda's motorcycles to this day.

Fitting the fuel tank under the seat further lowered the center of gravity. A shelter containing the air cleaner and other components was installed in the fuel tank's usual location. This design contributed towards increased ease of maintenance while the lower center of gravity ensured the outstanding ride stability so important on long trips.

Thus, along with the latest mechanical innovations, the GL1000 featured a distinctive, majestic styling in keeping with its position as king of motorcycles.

The GL Series traces its roots back to the GL1000, which debuted in 1975. It was equipped with a newly developed, horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine.

A sketch of the GL1000 engine—Its richly expressive design featured reinforcing ribs and quality chrome-plated head covers.

The appeal of a well-designed super sport bike

Since the debut of the GL Series, the direction of its development has been determined by American riders like the ones shown here riding the 1st-generation GL1000.

Many owners, enamored with the GL1000's level of performance that made them feel as if they could ride forever, sought to further enhance ride comfort by adding aftermarket fairings and saddlebags, then set out with their friends to enjoy carefree travel across North America.

To be sure, these aftermarket parts were a less than an optimum match for the GL1000's original design as the sporty-performing and yet highly refined king of motorcycles.

The fairings and saddlebags added weight that hampered the sporty performance the bike was originally designed to offer and detracted from the well-balanced styling that had been central to the motorcycle's design.

However, believing that the true path to creating the King of Motorcycles lay in responding to the high ideals of seasoned riders, Honda addressed touring customer desires with the GL1100 Interstate.

The GL1100 Interstate debuted in 1980. It featured a larger engine displacement along with a concept and styling that placed a premium on comfort.

In 1984, the GL1200 offered a further increase in engine displacement along with further refinements and increased sportiness.

The design, featuring epoch-making air flow management strategies that included an oversized fairing to protect both rider and passenger and shield them almost completely from wind pressure, while saddlebags and a trunk secured enough storage space to accommodate the luggage of two travelers. This packaging completed the majestic, one and only styling that expressed the image of an all-new lifestyle.

Of course, as a Honda bike, it also offer the sportiness, quality, and grace required to satisfy experienced riders.

The GL Series, a motorcycle created by Honda and its customers working together—clearly expressed in the era that witnessed the transition from the GL1100 to the GL1200.

Data gleened from owners events like this in the U.S. on how the bikes are enjoyed played a role in future designs.

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