Buying things you didn't get in USA/Canada. Online I had chanced upon a good reasonably priced GoldWing accessory supplier near Manchester: Derek Cumbers, Priced Right Ltd.
We bought a few very useful things from Derek I did not find at home, he was a good resource. While we were doing our RTW, Derek sold his business to a Honda dealer, about which I know absolutely nothing [link] but perhaps they'll be useful to you ...

Ordering accessories online from Wingstuff: [link] in USA is my normal accessory supplier; it's big and has good prices. However two issues were encountered:
. (A) Their shipping department screws up occasionally. One set of
. . .exhaust pipes was lost or was never shipped, orders came in several
. . .shipments a couple days apart, etc. That meant considerable extra
. . .costs in Customs clearance into Canada (UPS charges $50 just for
. . .clearance, per shipment!) When ordering, be specific about
. . .collecting it for one shipment.
. (B) My main caution to online shoppers however, is the Wingstuff
. . .reps' product knowledge is not helpful, they are not likely serious
. . .Wing riders. You should know exactly what specific brand/model
. . .you want, before getting on the phone; several times I was led astray
. . .by their sales reps, including some things I ordered in Tunisia
. . .costing me a huge FedEx bill. Plus I gave away the useless items
. . .I'd bought.

. . .That having been said, they do carry almost everything;
. . .at good prices. And eventually they deliver what you order.

Refining/fixing your Wing in UK + Superb tour guide: Ian Cardwell [website link; contact:] in Rotherham, close to Sheffield [map link] is not just another mere bike 'wrench'. He's a successful, retired, low-key businessman-manufacturer who happens to own and love, and I do mean "love", GoldWings; always has the latest-greatest and puts a lot of miles on them annually.

He's a bone fide wiz with the bike and does repairs in the very-well-equipped garage of his lovely suburban home – just because he enjoys working on bikes and happens to be brilliant at it. On GoldWing GPS issues, Ian's your best resource I have encountered after a lot of digging (see GPS section below.) So lucky I found him, thanks to Derek above.

Ian did a full day's tweaking on Black Bike, adding a few highly useful things I had not even thought of previously, at a very reasonable price. Including new powder-coates wheels, tires, trunk-opening remote, alarm LED and numerous other items. And Europe maps, hallelujah.

Nicest people imaginable. Just real folks in a low-key Brit way. And so good at his chosen bike niche. We do so respect Ian and wife Denise for their chosen bike-oriented lifestyle. We stayed in touch as biking buddies on our RTW ride; they even came to our home for dinner in Toronto in summer 2010 – two years later on one of their annual North America pilgrimages.

Ian is also an officially-licensed riding instructor and a seriously good rider – I watched him ride briefly; he throws the Wing around skilfully as if it were a 300-pound crotch rocket.

Very noteworthy item for bike travellers: Cardwells and a group do frequent Europe and UK trips – Ian is the leader and knows the best routes unlike anyone else I have met. He does it for pure riding fun and companionship, not for profit; pre-programming each GPS with itineraries so you can break away and travel on your own schedule. Brilliant group-riding concept, even for soloists like us. He also knows the best bike-friendly places to stay and because its a group, you likely save money on hotels.

Ian gave us itinerary trips for Scotland and UK that simply made our trip there. I'd like to follow him in other areas of Europe, he researches and finds the best stuff.

If going to the UK with a Goldwing, Ian's a must-visit for any sort of tweaking/adding. And if riding in groups – well, it's on our future to-do list, even though as stated above, we are seasoned soloists. It's the kind of flexible group riding we would likely enjoy. And given the nature of the folks, any friends of theirs we'd likely enjoy as well ...

One fond hope/dream is that we might tour north Europe with the same Black Bike next summer – hopefully Ian/Denise plus maybe a few others might do a leg or two with us?

Recommended Toronto-area Bike shop: Burlington Cycle [link] just outside Toronto had sold me my first and second GL1800's among other things. A good and highly recommended shop. Rick Start who does sales there was an enthusiastic follower-supporter of our RTW ride. Tom and Neil Moore the brother-owners also really know their stuff in parts and service and bent over backwards to help. In Ontario, I recommend you buy from them with no risk of regret and good prices.

GPS Maps problems courtesy Honda: Obtaining/installing Honda GPS/Navi Europe Maps on a North American bike should be a simple no-brainer, but is definitely NOT! It was a huge time-consuming headache and out-of-proportion costly, my biggest technical getting-started pain.

Until I found Ian Cardwell that is.

I had even bought a DVD with Europe maps from Garmin USA for around $150; after much phone run-around I found a sales-tech at Garmin who was helpful. He sold me the right DVD. But ultimately I could not install the map onto my bike via a flash card burner, in spite of hours of effort, even with the generous and very kind help of my local dealer, Burlington Cycle. We both tried, we both failed. I do not blame Burlington Cycle in the slightest; to the contrary hats off to them for trying for hours (literally) as they did – it's just not easy for the inexperienced, even for a GoldWing dealer who is computer-skilled as one of the owners is. On-line forums did not help me, even though I'm usually pretty good with computer-related stuff. (I was Canada's biggest Mac dealer for a while, which suggests I'm computer-literate.)

Ian Cardwell was a major find in this regard among others; he solved the GPS map problem with no fuss, in which I had invested way too much time/money/research. You just need to know how to burn the card properly; after that, swapping map cards on the bike is a snap.

It takes a few hours to burn that little flash card, you cannot do it on a Mac it turns out (alas I'm a Mac guy), it must be on a PC and you need to know how.

Skip the steep learning curve I implore you – just let Ian do it; even by email and FedEx. Via him it's a fast easy process.

There is also a fellow I contacted who is very experienced with Honda GPS maps in north Germany: Wolfgang Irlbacher [link] in case that’s better for your itinerary. He speaks English, does several electronic-only modifications and was kind in his correspondence.
. . .Disadvantages of going with Wolfgang are:
. . . .(A) He is in north Germany, near Hamburg;
. . . .(B) His price was about double Ian’s;
. . . .(C) He wants your Navi unit removed and sent to him in advance – why?;
. . . .(D) You need to spend some time in a local hotel while he does the fix.

Honda Customer Non-Support: Honda Canada-USA-Europe were of no help whatsoever, after weeks of asking and seeking. In fact they did not help once in the entire trip, even though I asked a few times and was happy to pay them.

The corporate strategy is obviously that Honda discourages North American bikes from going to Europe where they cost much more, it tries hard to discourage the grey market. They have even launched, and won, grey market lawsuits in the UK. They'd have lost in USA or Canada where grey marketing has been proven as both perfectly legal and moral – but that's a whole other topic.

Honda Canada could care less about the first round-world trip on a GL1800. Not before. Not during. And not after we actually made it. That was rather amazing to us and others. Of course senior execs knew about the trip from Day One; we informed them, as did reputable third parties they know well.

Even when a Canadian couple made it RTW through 37 countries with Ontario plates, Honda Canada could not bother to send a 'thank you for the free worldwide publicity' note. Nor a 'PS, thanks for giving us a considerable amount of your money to do it.'

If nothing else we're mixed-age; mixed-race; two-up; iron-butt; semi-offroad; first-ever on the model – a great product endorsement, already reported herein, for free. And we have a decent worldwide following/friends, many motorcyclists among them.

So it would seem to be enlightened self-interest to at least advise us a tad technically.

Then there's just plain good manners when good customers seek basic help in purchasing things. Call it Customer Support.

But beforehand, zero help on the map problem, not even five minutes of research for a special-case customer who was begging for help. Truthfully, no one cared (or cares) less.

When I asked for a recommended service shop listing in various countries, I was told a few times by various Honda employees to look at their web site on-line. On-line in fact, their dealer listings are most unhelpful and often incorrect. Some listed dealers are out of business, others have never handled any big bikes – many do not answer repeated emails and have incorrect phone numbers. I found service shops only by asking around, with no help from Honda. In the 2nd and 3rd world places, I only found non-Honda shops for service.

One must assume Honda does not want the publicity or the extra business – i.e. taking a piece of the exploration-riding market niche for their GoldWing, away from BMW. The latter owns the niche almost completely.

The bike itself is superb and extremely capable of serious world travel, as this website states repeatedly; the bike's engineers are brilliant. However the marketing/support people are evidently not interested in the niche we pioneered for them – admittedly of our own choice.

It's not about money – we didn't want to be paid, didn't do this trip for income. But just a little basic support and info might have been nice; like service and parts info/contacts, and Honda-compatible maps. It would have taken Honda a couple hours and cost them nothing.

But back to the current GPS issue, Honda finally had no GL1800 Europe map cards in UK/Europe, when I was anxious to pay a preposterous $450 to get one. (You can buy a whole new GPS for less than $450, with Europe maps installed!)

However for very reasonable cost ($150 I believe) Ian solved the problem with no wait time. We pre-arranged it by phone. See Bike Tech blog. Of course I had already purchased the $150 Garmin map DVD ... so it ultimately ended up at $300. But it worked.

The built-in Honda/Garmin GPS is excellent by the way (see Bike Tech blog). It's far better and easier to use than the one that came with my recent-model Mercedes E. But globally, the map-availability situation for it, starting with Europe – well, just sucks. Why is that the case?

Digitized maps are otherwise available on normal GPS's for many/most regions of the globe ... but for example I was unable to get one even for Australia, after writing to Oz Honda dealers in advance. (We used paper maps after Turkey, including Oz.)

Repeat: We love the bike technically in almost every aspect. Beautifully designed and made. But not even slightly in love with Honda "Customer support." (Is there any? I lack so much as a gram of positive evidence, even while being one of their 'pioneering edge' riders.)

By way of comparison, both VW and BMW were extremely supportive and helpful on my previous Africa crossings; I got significant support from experts with these companies. BMW Germany even built me a custom bike for my trans-Sahara!

Recommended authorized Honda dealer in UK: If it’s an authorized top-notch Honda bike dealer you seek, I cannot speak too highly of Colin Appleyard Ltd. [link] in West Yorkshire not too far from Manchester. They were recommended to me by the superb Utopia backrests [link] in Ohio (see Bike Tech blog.) Barry Walton and Stuart Feeny are great guys who saved my bacon on a couple things – too long a story but beyond-the-call, kindest service at no charge(!) And superb miscellaneous advice.

These are real bikers here, not just white shirt sales guys. Enthusiasts who know their stuff first-hand, not just from reading up. If I were buying genuine Honda bits or whole bikes in UK, it would be from them. Barry also conducts riding tours in Austria and other parts of Europe on his GL1800 – he seems to be a very skilled and experienced rider. High marks to these people and their company – Honda should be proud of them.

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