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You wouldn’t want to do it daily

Published: 15 April 2001

It’s a hell of a long way from Barcelona to London. About 700 miles, in fact – as the crow flies. It’s a little farther by road.

For those of you who haven’t ridden the latest generation of large-capacity super scooters like Yamaha’s Tmax and Piaggio’s X9, the thought of continent crossing on a twist ‘n’ go probably seems as inviting as plucking nose hair.

But the Silver Wing – the latest machine to enter the sector –is as happy touring two-up as it is dealing with the brake, swerve, squirt of urban riding in Europe’s busiest cities.

The engine is new. It’s a four-stroke parallel twin with dual primary balancers for minimum vibration.

Despite being the same capacity as a CBR600, the Wing still employs an automatic transmission. Just twist the throttle and the Wing surges smoothly forward. But when nailed from the lights, the take-up of the fuel-injected engine is rapid and seamless. It’s only when you’re attempting very slow-speed, feet-up manoeuvres that require gentle throttle control that there’s a disconcerting hesitation as the auto clutch releases. You’d probably get used to it, but it’s mildly annoying.

The ride back from northern Spain took in a couple of French cities, one being Paris. Trying to exit the barely regulated chaos that is the French capital from dead centre to Peripherique at rush-hour is the ultimate urban test.

The Wing is one big scooter with rear end girth to make it proud of its Wing family name. It’s also got a wheelbase that’s longer than a BMW R1150GS.And while we’re talking dimensions, its dry weight of 204kg (448lb) is 21kg (46.2lb) more than a Kawasaki ZX-9R. So it’s hardly surprising the Honda can’t keep up with smaller, more traditional scooters when filtering through heavy traffic.

But the Wing has a great steering lock, good balance and the linked single front and rear disc brakes are good and sharp.

Other everyday commuter tasks like the kerb mount and helmet swallow are completed with ease.

The Wing’s legshields will also keep the slickest of city slicker’s shoes and trousers dry in a shower.

The size and weight of the Wing may be a hindrance in town, but they give the scooter an extra dimension of usability. Honda describes it as a Gran Turismo scooter, and the continental jaunt certainly tested this claim. On the ride across Spain and France, the Wing encountered just about every type of road and would cruise at an indicated 100mph without complaint until it needed fuelling up.

The screen is set low for maximum visibility, and at 70mph the rider is well protected from wind blast. Above that speed the buffeting starts.

But when travelling solo you can adopt a bizarre reclining posture that lowers your head below the top of the screen.

With your feet high and pushed forward on the hard, unpainted, plastic floorboards, you’ve got to stick your backside on the very front of the huge, comfortable seat and lie back. It’s a bizarre, but surprisingly comfy position.

The Wing also deals well with the smooth hairpins and 60mph sweepers thrown at it by the mountains I encountered on my way out of Spain.

The 41mm front forks work well with the adjustable twin rear shocks to offer a decent ride. But as the speeds rise and the road surface ripples, the Wing turns on me.

The power of the engine encourages you to go faster. Fine, because this is a 600cc scooter after all. But after a day’s fairly rapid riding with no problems, the bike sprang a surprise on me. Rounding a sweeping corner at 70mph, I hit a gentle dip. The suspension compresses and the bike goes into a weave, the bars waving in my hands. Holding on tighter doesn’t help. Backing off the throttle doesn’t help either and, eventually, I’m on the other side of the road staring disconcertingly at oncoming traffic.

Misjudging reasonably high-speed corners by closing the throttle or moving your body weight to help you around the bend can also cause the Honda to do the lambada.

But I have to admit that though it does get a bit weavy at high speed, this was the only real moment I had on the bike. The rest of the time, the easy, smooth power delivery, car-like layout of the instruments and the clean lines all say safety and familiarity. It’s just a shame the handling isn’t as sharp.

The Wing’s styling is a hit on mainland Europe, which is Honda’s biggest potential market. The sharp, modern lines, clear indicators and multi-reflector headlight look like they were penned by a ’60s scooter designer who was told: " Sketch the scooter of the next century " .

On the whole the quality is typical Honda, but one of the pair of the useful gloveboxes set into the inside of the legshields became a lot less useful when the flimsy catch broke and the lid flew open like a jack-in-the-box. It had to be secured with sticky tape.

The Silver Wing has been designed for countries like France and Italy, and even though I have a soft spot for it, I find it difficult to see who would buy it in Britain.

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