Honda Goldwing's cool little brother

By Jacqui Madelin

The Bagger is a sweet-handling machine, writes Jacqui Madelin

Though still tipping the scales at a weighty 385kg, Honda's Bagger doesn't feel unwieldy to ride at all.
Though still tipping the scales at a weighty 385kg, Honda's Bagger doesn't feel unwieldy to ride at all.

Talk about attitude - Honda's Bagger is a long, low, black wedge of two-wheeled muscle designed to shake off the staid image sported by its Goldwing sibling.

Most obviously it does that via a more streamlined look, with that cut-down screen and the flowing tail revealed by removing the bigger-bike's bulky topbox and rear-passenger armchair. For the Bagger is effectively a Goldwing attacked by bean-counters and a chainsaw - the latter hacking off anything sticking above the handlebars, and the former gutting the expensive tech. But the result is better than it sounds.

If you pitted the two head-to-head in a drag race, the Bagger gets up and boogies. It fields Ford Focus levels of torque at less than a third the weight and easily shrugs off the touring bike, as it uses the same 1.8-litre 12-valve flat-six motor with 87kW at 5500rpm and 167Nm at 4000rpm, but has dropped over 40kg of heft. The better power-to-weight translates to speed off the line, and the lower centre of gravity to more agile handling, though with this extended wheelbase the Bagger remains a handful through any tight set of bends, and lots of torque and one-wheel-drive requires a steady hand on the throttle if life's not to get too interesting in wet winter conditions.

Not least because the Bagger still tips the scales at a weighty 385kg. The lost kilos were gained via binning items the tourer uses to cosset its passengers. So the heated seats have gone, and the electronically adjustable suspension. The satnav, cruise control, and airbag - there's a lockable tank-top cubby in its place. The top box, and rear back- and arm-rests. The heated seats and handgrips. The accessories charging socket, two sound-system speakers and the auto speed-adjusting volume. Oh yes, and the reverse gear which frankly would still come in useful on a bike like this. But there's still a lot of metal here, not least that motor, and you'll notice it while turning it round in the garage.

The Bagger feels wieldy enough on the road, though, ably assisted by efficient suspension with manual preload adjust at the rear, and excellent brakes, the 296mm dual front discs linked to the 316mm vented rear with its three-piston calliper and ABS - a battery of stoppers you'll appreciate when that corner comes up a little faster than expected. Which will happen, for though this is hardly a sports bike it's still pretty damn quick, and there's a lot of mass to haul up if you get it wrong.

It's also better than expected round corners, it'll eat anything with a 55km/h limit and above as ground clearance is reasonable, the widish bars tip it in with ease and you haul round and out on a wave of torque. You won't be trying left-right flicks or sudden changes of direction but by golly it's fun to hustle along.

I'd have a Bagger over a Goldwing any day - it's more agile, faster-accelerating and a lot cooler. But there is one problem. The cut-down screen directs air straight at your face, creating a noisy buffet that rapidly gets wearing, while the wind noise obscures the sound from those front speakers and makes them redundant at anything much above round town speeds.

Get the $412.51 accessory screen - still lower than the Goldwing's - and Honda's aftermarket heated grips ($577.55) to lift the $34,995 price to $35,985, a nine-grand saving on the tourer. Then ignore the other cost options - the press bike included a passenger backrest and luggage rack (the integrated panniers are capacious enough) - and enjoy most of the Goldwing's comfort benefits, in a sweeter-handling machine.

- NZ Herald

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