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4 Sale / 1984 Honda GL1200 Standard: The Bike That Honda Shouldn't Have Killed

Oct 30, 2023

Photo: Williams Vintage Cycle

Welcome our 4 Sale series about interesting, unique or weird bikes for sale online. Note: This is not an advertisement. ADVrider is not affiliated in any way with either the seller or marketplace. Do you know of any unique bikes for sale? Let us know by filling in this form.

The Honda Gold Wing is like the Kawasaki Ninja: Most of the non-riding rubes recognize it as a pattern, not as an individual model. Just as any motorcycle with a racy riding stance and a full fairing is a “Ninja,” so every Japanese bike with a full touring package is often stereotyped as a “Gold Wing,” even if it’s actually a Suzuki Cavalcade or something else. Because Gold Wings always came with big Windjammer-style fairings and side bags, right?

The GL1000 started the series as more of a muscle bike/roadster, and Honda sold an awful lot of non-faired GLs until the mid-1980s when they went all-in on the touring bike format. And it’s too bad, because the GL1200 Standard (as the unfaired model is often known) from 1984 might be one of the best ’80s Japanese bikes you can buy, if you want comfort, usable power and long-term reliability.

A heavy bike, even without the bodywork and bags, at 599 lb dry. Photo: Williams Vintage Cycle

The GL1200 line came out in 1984 as a big upgrade over the GL1100. It wasn’t a complete re-think; it was still a flat four with an eight-valve head, like the 1100 and the 1000 before it. The 1200 had 1182cc capacity, up from 1085cc. Along with the big-bore job, Honda also up-sized the carburetors. Put it all together, and the update resulted in a decent power boost, to 94 hp at 7,000 rpm and 77.4 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm; the 1100 made 81 hp at 7000 rpm and 64.9 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm.

That might not sound like so much today, but it was notable at the time—especially notable when you’re looking to push a heavy touring bike. The 1100 would run at 70 mph just above the 5,000 rpm mark, while the 1200 would run at 70 mph just above 3,000 rpm (some driveline gearing changes made a big difference here).

The 1200 also got hydraulically-adjusted valve lash, which meant minimal maintenance. While the 1100 engine was easy to work on, it’s even better to not have to work on it at all. For this reason alone, the 1200 is the most desirable flat four GL engine, except for one problem: The updated engine also has a reputation for blowing its charging systems. Lots of owners have already fixed these in the past 35 years with aftermarket solutions, but it’s something any potential buyer needs to keep an eye on.

Aside from that, the 1200 engine was considered a good upgrade. It was the only major upgrade on the ’84 model (more were to come). Of course the bodywork changed a bit, and the new GL had a wheelbase about an inch longer than the 1100, but handling was supposed to be better despite the stretch job.

The ’83-edition GL1100 Aspencade had linked braking, and Honda made it standard on the GL1200 lineup in 1984. With this system, the rear brake caliper is activated along with the front right brake caliper when you press the rear brake pedal. In the pre-ABS days, this was a way of trying to even out braking weight bias (and possibly a reaction to a “just stomp on the rear brakes so you don’t go over the handlebars” idea, which cruiser riders seemed to struggle with in the past).

This is the best of the flat four engines; after 1987, Honda went to the six-cylinder GL1500 platform. Photo: Williams Vintage Cycle

The GL1000 debuted as only a non-faired standard model. The GL1100 came in Interstate and Aspencade trim, but was also available in an unfaired standard edition. And then, in 1984, we again saw both fully-faired and naked versions of the GL1200.

Why would you want the GL platform without the windshield and bags? Some riders wanted to build their own tourer with a fork-mounted windshield and soft bags, like a cruiser. Some riders didn’t want to spend the money on a full tourer. Some wanted the GL’s muscle and torque, but not the weight of the touring bikes (although, the naked version had a claimed 599 lb dry weight, much less than the 699 lb Interstate model, but not light!).

And, a lot of people just wanted a standard-looking bike, with no bodywork. That’s the best reason to buy a standard GL today—the plastics on the Interstate and Aspencade models are old and brittle now, and easy to damage. But the standard model is just as solid as it ever was, and is rightly considered a classic on its own.

Unfortunately, in the mid-1980s, sales of the touring bikes greatly outstripped the standards. Honda decided to axe the naked bike for that reason, and from 1985-on, all the GL series came with touring fairings until the six-cylinder Valkyrie debuted in 1997. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

The machine pictured is for sale at Williams Classic Cycle, the same dealer that sold the BMW K1200 Sport we showed you last week. Nothing nefarious or shilly or underhanded going on here—we just thought this was a cool machine, just like that Beemer (and they have plenty of other interesting vintage bikes for sale; check out their site, or call them).

This GL1200 is listed at $3,999 on CycleTrader. That’s a lot for a used GL, but seeing that this is a one-year-only model, and the best of the pre-Valkyrie naked models, chances are they’ll get it. Or maybe they’ll make a deal? Call ’em and find out.