Next, we tested Honda's big Forza Si scooter. I decided to leave the driving to Risa and enjoy the ride from the passenger seat. Both of her feet seemed to be firmly planted on the pavement when I climbed on back, and she said she had no trouble at all supporting the bike while I took up my position on the rear seat.
My first impression was that the Forza's rear seat offered a good, comfortable riding position and well-located foot steps. In fact, the positioning of the rear steps was particularly good. The size and shape of the rear seat was also good in all directions, and seemed to hold me firmly and securely in place. This positioning made it easy for me to keep my feet facing forward. And, of course, I never felt uneasy while cornering. From a rider's point of view, the impression was that of holding the bike with my lower body. Even the integrated grab rails provided a comfortable, easy grip that enhanced riding enjoyment by allowing me to just put my hands down next to the seat and wrap my fingers around their curved edges. It was clear that careful and deliberate consideration had also been given to the shape and positioning of the rear grab rails, as I felt was the case on the PCX.
Reevaluation performed this way enables me to more clearly understand things that I have taken for granted until now. First and foremost, I'm able to develop my own sense of security, which leads to a more relaxed feeling while travelling and enables me to better enjoy the scenery in comfort.
"My impression is that a big scooter's rear seat is more spacious and comfortable. However, what makes this comfort possible is the employment of technology directed at optimizing the riding positions of both the rider and passenger." While riding on the comfortable passenger seat and thinking up comments like this for my story, I completely forgot to change riding positions with Risa.
From her seat at the controls, Risa chimed in, "Of course, this scooter is more stable than I thought it would be. However, more so than that, it hardly feels as if anyone is riding behind me." This ability to ride naturally is also an important two-up performance feature. There must be a lot of demand for sophisticated, high-quality bikes that not only feature excellent designs, but also have ideally positioned seats and grab rails, and the Forza Si brilliantly satisfies these demanding requirements.
On this test day, we crossed a section of expressway that was exposed to a strong crosswind, yet both rider and passenger remained relaxed and comfortable. This was really remarkable. It meant that the Forza Si is not only good at short-distance hops, but also long-distance tours.
I've had similar experiences a number of times riding on the rear seats of big scooters other than Honda's. And while their spacious passenger seats appeared at first to be comfortable, when seated, I soon noticed that the positioning of the steps relative to the seat left a lot to be desired, and resulted in my body weight being carried entirely on my bottom, which soon made the ride uncomfortable. And while the seating area was pretty spacious, it made me feel as if I were sitting precariously on a tall stool, and I simply couldn't relax.
What's more, the bodywork that had been expanded to make room for a larger-capacity underseat carrying space rubbed against my lower legs when my feet were resting on the steps. Also, while riding, vibration and road surface bumps were transmitted directly to my legs, causing quite a bit of discomfort. If I rested my feet on the steps with toes splayed outward to avoid contact with the scooter's body panels, then I wasn't able to rest my feet firmly on the steps.
Whenever that scooter would start from a green light, showing off its excellent acceleration, I'd have to tighten up my abdominal muscles just to sit upright. And when the brakes were applied, I'd have to brace myself against the sudden deceleration. These were not especially great memories of riding that scooter. At the time, I knew that there were big differences in both experience and impressions between rider and passenger. Calling up those experiences again from memory enabled me to reassess how hard Honda has worked to improve rear seat riding conditions.
GL1800 Gold Wing
Last, we tested the Gold Wing, Honda's premier luxury touring bike. I've always thought that this bike's rear seat is the best in the business. This time, I was at last able to test out the rear seat that looks like a comfortable sofa.
Confronting the Gold Wing for the first time, Risa seemed a bit overwhelmed by its gargantuan size, and began her ride saying, "I'd like to take this out for a little bit by myself first." Despite this, she came to understand this motorcycle's inherent riding ease in her first five minutes on it, and soon smiled, "OK, no problem, let's go." I, who had initially ridden the bike to the photo location with Risa on back, felt as if the Wing's magic charms had been revealed. Yes, the Gold Wind is astoundingly easy to ride.
Risa started out riding with me sitting on the passenger seat. She remarked with a smile, "I was surprised to be able to ride so naturally that I hardly even noticed your presence when you were behind me. When I stopped and touched my feet to the ground to hold up the bike, I felt a little uneasy at first. But owing to its excellent balance, I didn't experience any unusual strain in my legs and feet."
The Wing's rear seat was more comfortable than I ever imagined. It felt as comfortable as when stopped, and it seemed to be a device that raises the mood once you start riding. Anyway you look at it, this seat's riding comfort is excellent. It also enabled me to experience the enjoyment of ridings together, in addition to a feeling of being held in the seat's embrace. One reason for this is the seat's ample room in all directions, and the superb riding position made possible by the optimal positioning of its steps. Moreover, since the steps are floorboards instead of pegs, the positioning of one's lower legs can be shifted around a bit more than usual.
With the bike leaned over through a corner, I was able to enhance my feeling of "oneness" with the machine by leaning myself back against the trunk-integrated back rest to feel the bike's movement through my back. This was also the first time I'd ever experienced this.
I'd heard from one of the Gold Wing's development engineers that he'd played a central role in developing the world's No. 1 rear seat. Perhaps, this was what I was experiencing.
The seat covering offered excellent "holding" characteristics, enhancing its overall feeling of quality and allowing me to relax more than possible in an ordinary passenger car by letting me rest my elbow on its arm rests. This experience made me feel as if the entire purpose of the Gold Wing was concentrated here. And as such, anybody could enjoy the Gold Wing, even without actually riding it!
Many Honda bikes share this feeling. A good positional relationship between the seat and steps, ample seating area that doesn't force one to sit in a single place, and leaves a bit of forward, back, left and right positioning freedom that not only enhances one's riding enjoyment, but also reduces the burden.
Thus passengers, too, can relax, which surely must directly affect the rider's feelings of security and confidence. The Wing's well-balanced aspects also become important, and are certainly one reason why Risa was able to ride this over 500kg bike with the total weight of two persons and not experience any anxiety about it.
What I was also simultaneously able to feel was reassuring riding comfort, barely noticing any engine vibration, although I could clearly hear the sound of the engine, which gives the strong impression of moving together with rider. Quite a few tourers feature both luxurious equipment and luxurious price tags, but there aren't many models that can make one comfortable while extending to passengers a special feeling of peace and riding ease. Free of unnecessary vibration, with a quiet exhaust note, and no exposure to any of the heat generated by the engine and its exhaust system.
The high degree of finish and refinement employed in this bike to satisfy both rider and passenger often surprises me. Incidentally, Risa tried out the Gold Wing's passenger seat and found it very much to her liking, saying "It's so spacious it makes me feel like I'm sitting on a sofa at home, giving me a strong sense of security even if I don't hold onto the grab rails. I had a great time riding it."
On this day, I took notes of my impressions riding tandem on the following Honda bikes: the PCX, the CB250F and Forza Si. Reading them again, I noticed that I wrote very much the same things for all models. The seat seems to hold one well, the step positions seem optimal, allowing me to more easily support my body, and the grab rails are designed, situated and shaped to facilitate the passenger's grip. Moreover, the positional relationship between the seat and steps is excellent, helping to prevent the upper part of the body from being shaken back and forth during acceleration and braking, even when not holding onto the grab rail with all one's might.
Since even I, standing 183cm tall, felt comfortable on these rear seats, it follows that those who are shorter than I am would have a greater range of comfort available to them on these seats. Optimal foot positioning is another important factor required of the rider's seat, but to passengers who can leave the solution of such problems to the rider, a wider range of available comfort is a top priority. Technologies that Honda has designed into its motorcycles to help make both riders and passengers comfortable do not appear in the spec sheets. However, hidden though they may be, they remain important.
And if all these conditions are satisfied, this makes the view and conversations from the rear seat, as well as the bike trips themselves, more enjoyable. In other words, the effort and technologies Honda has invested in the improvement of comfort can be experienced by merely climbing on the seat. Therefore, if you're interested in a particular motorcycle, be sure to check out its passenger seat as well as its riding position.
Of course, just as I asked Miss Risa Nishimura to help me out, I suggest that you have another person to sit on the bike with you. There you'll find an evolution that cannot be seen if only one person straddles the machine. Make sure to conduct road tests riding two-up as well. Check which maker best covers the fine details, such as seat dimensions, seat cover materials and seat cushioning. Since these details are never listed in the spec sheet, be sure to make on-the-spot inspections. By doing this, I'm sure you find yourself satisfied with Honda's hidden technologies even before taking a ride on the motorcycle.