How To Reverse Honda Goldwing GL1800

how to reverse goldwing

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Goldwing gl1800 owners have 99 problems but backing up their motorcycle ain’t one of them!

If you’re a new owner or you’ve never used your reverse gear, I give you a step by step guide so you can use this awesome feature.

How to reverse Honda Goldwing gl1800: 

  • While engine is running, place transmission in neutral.
  • Push the ‘RVS’ switch on the right handlebar.
  • An indicator on the dash will illuminate the letter “R”
  • Push the Starter switch to engage the reverse gear, release to stop
  • Push the ‘RVS’ switch again to disengage reverse gear
  • Indicator lamp will extinguish. You are ready to ride.

NOTE: This guide is specific to the Honda Goldwing gl1800. If you’re riding a gl1500 you’ll have a lever on the left side just below the gas tank and not a button on the handlebars.

One distinct advantage that Honda Goldwings have over other heavy cruisers, is the reverse gear.

Why have a reverse gear?

Sometimes when you’re parking your motorcycle, you just don’t have a choice and have to park front wheel first in a space that has a sharp incline towards the gutter.

If you’re riding a heavy bike, that of course can become a problem when you’re trying to back the motorcycle out of the space.

It also comes in handy when you’re unloading your gl1800 off of a trailer or pickup truck.

The reverse gear is a Goldwing feature that new wing riders and some long owners sometimes forget they have.

People that ride motorcycles know and understand this feature quite well.

But to casual riders or people ‘not in the know’, they’re always surprised when they look over and I’m effortlessly backing my wing out of an otherwise difficult parking spot to get out of.

The thing is;

The reverse feature is one of those little perks that often gets forgotten about even by the people who own the bike. At least that was the case with me.

I’ve started using this feature quite a bit more recently, but more in a parking brake capacity than anything else.

How to reverse Honda Goldwing; Let’s break it down

No doubt about it, Honda’s reverse feature is handy and simple to use. The motorcycles safety features won’t allow you to accidentally screw up your transmission when you’re using it.

When I first purchased my gl1800 I was a little confused myself so here’s the breakdown with some pics to get you started.

Step 1: Start the motorcycle, Put it in ‘Neutral’

I hate to be Capt. Obvious here, but to get the ball rolling you’ll want to start this whole process with your motorcycle already running.

I mention this, because when I first started using the reverse feature I didn’t know the motorcycle had to be running. I was driven crazy for the span of 10 minutes thinking their was a problem!

Either start the engine like normal or bring the motorcycle to a complete stop if you’ve been riding.

Let the engine idle at it’s normal RPM, and don’t rev the motor.

If you try to engage the reverse gear without the bike running, the motorcycle will not start – This is a Honda safety feature.

Put the motorcycle in neutral

As another safety feature that helps you to not hurt yourself or wreck the transmission in the Goldwing, you need to make sure that it’s in neutral.

gl1800 neutral indicator lamp
Neutral is located between first and second gear. To get to neutral, it’s easiest to go all the way to first gear then a half a click up.

There are 6 gears in a Goldwing transmission: first gear is down; the other five gears are up.

To find neutral in the gl1800 (I’m not 100% certain, but I believe the gl1500 is the same) pull the clutch in;

Next, shift down through all of the gears until the transmission will not shift down any further. It doesn’t matter what gear you start in.

This will put the Goldwing in first gear.

Neutral is a half a click up between first and second gear.

Once the motorcycle is in neutral, a green indicator lamp will illuminate on the dash letting you know that you’re in neutral.


Step 2: Push the RVS button

Next, you’ll need to locate the RVS button which is on the right handle bar.

As you’re looking at the handle bar button area for your gl1800, the RVS button is located in the bottom area to the left of your ‘Start’ button.

The button of course is labeled ‘RVS’ and you should see a small pictogram of how the button works;

Button pushed in reverse engaged, out means its disengaged. Pretty obvious.

gl1800 right handlebar buttons
You can see that the reverse button or ‘RVS’ is labeled clearly. The grey around the base of the button indicates that the button is out.

Push the button in to engage the reverse gear. You will feel the button click and the button will stay pushed in.

If you listen close, you will hear it engage and may even feel the motorcycle move a bit.

Reverse Indicator Lamp

Once reverse gear is engaged, you will see an orange indicator lamp light up on the dash with an ‘R’ just to the left of the neutral indicator lamp.

gl1800 reverse indicator lamp
The indicator lamp and the reverse gear itself are closely tied together. If the lamp doesn’t work, the reverse gear might not engage.

If for whatever reason you forgot to put the motorcycle in neutral (hey, it happens) and engage the reverse button, the safety feature will kick and the bike will shut down.

Don’t worry, you didn’t hurt anything;

Disengage the button, put the motorcycle into neutral and it’ll start right up.

Step 3:  Push the Start button

You’ve put the motorcycle in neutral, engaged the reverse button, now let’s back your Goldwing up!

To use the reverse gear, you won’t be using the throttle but pushing the start button.

gl1800 rvs switch pushed in
You can see that the reverse button is clearly labeled so there’s no confusion.

Once you push the Start button the motorcycle will begin back up at a low speed, roughly about a walking pace.

You only get one gear and one speed for reverse.

Make sure no one is behind you as you back up the motorcycle and if you have a passenger have them direct you.

Step 4:  Disengage the Reverse

You’ve safely backed the motorcycle up and you’re to hit the highway.

To take the Goldwing out of reverse gear locate the button with your thumb. Of course, it will feel pretty obvious since the button is pushed in.

Push the button in slightly and release it. The button should be in the ‘out’ position as indicated on the (ever so tiny) picture on the handlebar.

Reverse Indicator lamp

You should hear and feel the reverse gear disengage and the orange ‘R’ indicator lamp will go out. Now you’re back in neutral and ready to ride.

Gl1800 Reverse Problems

The reverse gear generally works like a champ, but of course motorcycles are machines and stuff happens.

Here are some common issues owners have dealt with. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but a place to help you get started;

  • The reverse light and gear are closely tied together. If the light doesn’t work, the gear may not either.
  • Make sure to keep both the RVS and Start switches clean. These buttons can be prone to malfunction if they are excessively dirty.
  • Ensure that your actuator cables that control reverse gear are properly lubricated. Once you’ve located the cables try spraying some lube on them and cycle the system several times to work the lube in.
  • Adjust the actuator cables. What may be required is an actual adjustment instead of just lubing the cables.
  • Electronic module that controls reverse has gone bad.

Having issues with your reverse system?

Before you pay top dollar at the Honda dealer, don’t forget to check places online like e-bay or look in your area for salvage yards.

One good online resource for used and salvage parts is cycles r us.

Situations where reverse is awesome

Bad back

Backing a motorcycle up with ‘human power’ can take a lot of effort.

If you’re trying to move your motorcycle backwards up an incline, not only will if take effort but leverage.

Leverage that can put stress on your back and If you’re healthy it’s not a problem.

Using the reverse gear takes the pressure off of your body and lets the machine do the work. The reverse gear allows a lot of older riders and riders with back issues to continue to enjoy riding longer.


Unloading a motorcycle from either a trailer or pickup truck can be a tricky operation. Having to muscle your bike makes getting it done that much harder.

Muscling the bike can throw your body off balance as your trying to maneuver the motorcycle. If you’re off balance, it raises your chances of dropping your motorcycle while unloading it, which means injury to you and damage to the bike.

Having the ability to simply place the motorcycle in reverse and simply steer it down the ramp helps you concentrate on the task at hand.

When you’re not depressing the button to reverse the bike, the reverse gear does a good job of holding the bike in position should you need to readjust anything during the unloading process.

As a parking gear

Another way to use the reverse gear that I find myself using more and more, is using as a ‘parking gear’ if I’ve had to park the motorcycle on any sort of incline.

I’ve had a couple of occasions that I’ve parked my wing on a bit of an incline and had the bike start to roll out from under me with the kickstand down.

Once due to my absent mindedness of parking on particularly steep parking space I nearly dropped the motorcycle as it rolled out from under me which is whole other story.

A friend pointed out to me to simply put the motorcycle in reverse to hold it into position.

I know what you’re thinking;

“Why not just leave it in gear?”

Yes, you can do that. In my opinion, using the bikes reverse gear is a bit safer due to the built-in safety features I’ve outlined earlier. In the end, it will boil down to personal preference and what works best for you.

Steep parking spaces

There’s a reason bikers back their bikes into parking spots; They don’t have to struggle to try and push them out backwards, specially if the parking space has a pretty good incline to it.

Due to traffic conditions or close quarter getting into positions for those parking spots can be difficult and if you can’t back your bike in, you’ll never get out.

In the past I would just avoid the parking spot.

Having the reverse option means not having to pass up a good spot whether I can back  my motorcycle in or not. I know I can just kick in my reverse gear and I’m all set.

Tips for using Goldwing’s reverse gear

  • Don’t be in a hurry. After you push the RVS button give the transmission a second or two to engage and settle. If you’re paying attention you hear it, feel it and see it (with the indicator lamp).
  • As your backing up, keep the handlebars straight. If you have the front wheel turned too far to the left or right you run the risk tipping the bike over.
  • Just like in a car, look behind you, don’t assume that there is nothing or no one to the rear of your bike. This is especially true if you’ve ridden to event in congested traffic area.
  • If you’re traveling with a passenger back the motorcycle up first, then let your passenger get on. You may have problems with your passenger shifting around while you’re back which throws the bike’s balance off.
  • Watch where you put your feet; as your backing up and trying to steady yourself, watch where you put your feet so they don’t slide out from under you. Loose sand and oil are the biggest culprits for this.

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