In the move, it is not the size
of the Aspencade that is the most obvious thing. It is the smooth and fluid
engine; its capability of running at well over the ton for mile after mile,
never straining, always comfortable, and never, ever, feeling short of
Honda's Gold Wing of the
mid-1970s started big and kept getting bigger. In its original form it was
an un-faired machine, and the liquid-cooled flat four engine displaced
1000cc. At that time, nobody had seen anything quite so enormous.
It was not long before the luxury
touring riders of the USA started fitting out their Gold Wings for the long
haul down Easy Street. Their requirements gave birth to an accessory
industry supplying everything from super-soft 'King and Queen' seats to
gigantic fairings with matching three-piece luggage equipment, as well as
air suspension to smooth the ride to the standards of a family car.
The Aspencade (named after the
biggest gathering of touring riders in the USA) was Honda's answer. It was
as if to say: 'Anything you can, we can do better.' They meant it. The
Aspencade comes equipped with everything. With panniers and a
gigantic top box, you can carry luggage enough for three. Want to take the
barbecue? Load it right on.
The massive fairing not only
offers complete weather protection, it is also built to the very highest
standards, with plenty of lock-up storage compartments, and a ventilation
system. It is possible to order a stereophonic radio and tape player as
well, to add music to the passing zephyr. The engine certainly makes no
noise loud enough to drown it, though you should not use the Aspencade's
considerable speed potential if you want to hear the high notes.
To cope with the sort of loads an
Aspencade rider might wish to carry, Honda installed their own air suspension -
with an extra refinement. An on-board compressor is built into the bike, and the
springing can be made harder or softer without even stopping; firming the ride
up for more stability when swinging through the mountain bends, and then
softening it to a lulling wallow on the long straights through the deserts. Of
course, the gross tonnage of the Aspencade is not to everybody's taste. This
tourer supreme is a specialist vehicle, just as much as a race-replica Ducati,
but in a different way.
Honda overcame the weight by
expanding the engine to 1200cc, broadening the spread of the power as well
as adding to peak performance. The Aspencade retains a healthy acceleration
from low to high speeds, as well as an ability to cruise relatively
economically in a tall top gear. With shaft drive and that big, lazy engine,
maintenance is an infrequent chore. The Aspencade was developed with long
distances as well as high speeds in mind. It will keep on running as long as
its pampered and cossetted rider wants it to.
It was designed for the US roads
and is as American as a Japanese bike can be. Honda get round proposed or
actual import restrictions by assembling the Aspencade in their US factory.
Honda's new machine has spawned imitators from the Japanese rivals. But
Honda did it first, and the bike is still the definitive heavyweight luxury