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Motorcycle absurdity

The Gold Wing twins and the great chase for a piece of industrial art

(June 2024, Travels with Guido #376 by Guy 'Guido' Allen)

              wing manual

Spend enough time with a particular model and you end up going down the rabbit-hole of finding arcane bits to support your toy, which somehow morphs from being a mechanical mission to a lifestyle choice. Our most recent example is for 1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wings, two of which are now in our shed.

              gold wing

One is Red, our rolling museum piece.

honda gold wing

The other, Bluey, is our adventure edition, destined for a big trip next year in celebration of half a century of Gold Wing. It seems right to do it on a 50-year-old bike.

Both are running aftermarket solid-state ignition and we're struggling to get the timing right on the latter bike. You can kind of tune them by ear, which worked well for the first one I owned, just a few years ago. In a fit of stupidity (it happens) I sold it.

Of course I've since bought two. The first as a nice blue running project, and then I was offered an incredible red example which I'd rate as a near-museum piece.

Both are now registered on classic/club plates.

Bluey has been causing me some grief as I can't quite get the tuning right by ear and will have to resort to the actual instructions. With the points now replaced by a Dyna solid-state trigger system, that ideally means using dynamic timing. Fine – strobe gun hooked up to the appropriate ignition lead. How hard can it be?

Ah, well. In the case of the Gold Wing, which was weird cattle when launched and remains so – that means sighting the timing marks on the flywheel, through a porthole up and behind the left cylinder bank. It can be left open if you're patiently turning the engine by hand and carefully watching for the points to open via a tell-tale light. Aka static timing.

Honda warns this won't work for dynamic timing, when the engine is running, as you'll get sprayed with hot oil. Interesting skin treatment, but not advised.

Here's where things have changed over the decades. I have three very different aftermarket 1975 GL1000 workshop manuals from three different publishers: Clymer, Haynes and Cycleserv (Australia). The first is my pick as a useful publication, while the last is interesting for its wholesale reproduction of original Honda factory info.


By way of contrast, somewhere in the shed is a 2024 Suzuki Hayabusa and I'm confident there won't be three different aftermarket workshop manuals in print any time soon. Or ever. That's okay as times have changed and the 'Busa is a spaceship in 1975 terms.

gold wing cap

Anyway, there is a factory eye-glass for dynamic timing on a 1975 GL1000, which screws into the sight hole on the top-left crankcase. And we're not talking cheap rubbish. It's made of delightfully light aluminium, with a knurled top rim so it can be screwed in by hand. There's a thread, an O-ring seal and two levels of glass (top and bottom) both of which have aiming marks so you can line it up accurately.

Aside from being useful, it's a delightful piece of industrial art.

I'll get to use it tomorrow, with a bit of luck. In the meantime, just hunting, unwrapping and examining it was worth the price.

Okay, what's your favourite bit of motorcycle absurdity?

More Travels with Guido columns


Ed's note: If you're looking for the part, the Honda number is:


hondas gold wing

See our 1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing profile

More features here

See the bikes in our shed


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