Top 10 Touring Motorcycles

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Ever since man bolted a motor to a bicycle, touring has been one of the true joys of motorcycling. Sure, bouncing around town from errand to errand is easy, and commuting to work is practical – but travel by motorcycle expands the mind, relaxes the spirit and enriches the soul. There’s nothing quite like it.

Experiencing a place you’ve never been by breathing its air deeply and engaging its characters freely is a sensation you just don’t get in a car. But if you’re reading this, you likely already knew that.

Submitted for your approval: The Top 10 Touring Motorcycles.

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  • clasqm

    Nice list, thanks. How about a follow-up? Something like “10 Touring bikes that dont weigh and/or cost as much as a small car?” The BMW F800 range comes to mind immediately. Or get a Suzuki V-Strom 650 with panniers and try to find a place it won’t take you.

    Seriously, there’s still a recession out there.

    • Piglet2010

      I would take the Wee-Strom or mid-size Beemer over any bike on this list. Bigger is usually *not* better, and if I wanted to see where a gravel or dirt road lead to, 800+ pounds of weight or 120+ HP at the rear wheel are not beneficial.

      If I was starting from scratch and did not own a Honda Dullsville, the Wee-Strom and NC700X would be high on the list. Or maybe even a Honda CB500F with aftermarket hard bags and windscreen.

      • Errol Smith

        Touring one up on the smaller bikes would be just fine but see how far you get on a wee-storm with your wife on the back and enough luggage for two for a couple day trip. These bikes a big because they’re designed to handle a lot of weight and to be ridden by riders who want a plush ride to eat up a ton of miles effortlessly.

        You made some good suggestions, though. Those bikes would be perfect for someone who’s still new to riding and wants to tour, or someone more experienced who wants a bike that can easily be used for both touring and commuting. I just feel that in the context of this article (purpose built tourers) the bikes listed are spot on.

        • Piglet2010

          I thought the point of motorcycle touring was to get away from your wife? ;)

          And if the list includes a trike, it should have also included at least one middle-weight bike.

          Of course, if I have to time to ride to Deadhorse some day, I might just find a old Super Cub (aka Passport) to use. :)

          • rudedog4

            I finally got my wife to ride on the back of my bike. I rode off with a wife, I came back with an old lady. She’s taking the motorcycle class this week, and her new Street 750 should be delivered to the dealership soon. I think I created a monster.

        • Vrooom

          I’ve taken 10 day trips with my wife on my V-Strom 1000, no issue whatsoever. In fact stints in triple digits are all too easy.

          • Errol Smith

            I’m not saying it isn’t possible to eat up miles on other bikes. You can drive 1000 miles in a Chevy Aveo without issue but you’d probably be more comfortable in a big, plush Cadillac.

            All I’m trying to say is that as a list of bikes built specifically for touring, this is pretty comprehensive.

        • James Boyles

          Better check the payload on the monster tourers. They may weigh more but that doesn’t mean they can carry more payload. Most are less then the wee’s 490#. Payload is manufacturers GVW minus wet or curb weight.

      • james lagnese

        I don’t know of any 800lbs dirt bikes or Adventure bikes for that matter. Where bigger (heavier) is better is when: The rider is big, when there are strong cross winds, when you need something to carry a lot of gear. The R1200′s are very good at that as they are under 600lbs and have capacities of over 500lbs. For me, the bikes you mention would be like a Shriner riding a minibike.

        • Piglet2010

          Say you are on a Gold Wing or full dresser cruiser that weighs 900+ pounds, and there is something you might want to see on few mile long side trip on a gravel road – do you ride there or not? On a Wee-Strom or NC700X you ride the gravel with no real concerns.

          • james lagnese

            And I have ridden the apache trail with my RT. So what. Plenty of GWs and Ultras have ridden to Deadhorse.

  • lilbear68

    what appears here seems to be a commentary on gadgets and crap that can break and leave you stranded. pre-programmed ride mode?? W T F is that? and how would the ride be if it wasnt there? i think many have lost track of the picture, its the ride not the destination and if your totally wrapped up in your stereo, cb and intercom with your passenger IMHO youve lost the flavor of the ride itself and you might as well be in a car. Charles Kurralt once said of the countrys freeway system ‘you can travel for thousands of miles and never see a thing’. riding since 62 ive kept the spirit ’4 wheels move the body, 2 wheels move the soul’ try it some time without all the expensive crap.

  • HB

    Stopped reading at Can Am.

    • Richard Oswalt

      Yep, I think whey you buy one of those, you get a free helmet and mouth guard.

  • james lagnese

    No R1200RT? Surprised. Surprised the HD was placed ahead of the beemer too. One caveat I think should be mentioned though: Most test riders here and at other pubs are jockey sized people. For even average sized people, I wonder what their choices would be? Some of the bikes listed here are cramped for those much over 6′ tall, SO, like most reviews, take them with a huge grain of salt if you are sized at the ends of the bell curve.

    • Jon Langston

      We didn’t want to overload it w/ Sport-tourers, James — felt the need to spread the love a bit. And for what it’s worth, Editor Duke was disappointed I placed the H-D ahead of the Beemer too – but you’re absolutely right, it’s all a matter of P.O.V. For him, it’s a no-brainer — he’d pick the BMW in a heartbeat. But I’m not ‘jockey-sized,” so I’d much rather take the Ultra on my long-haul tour.

      • james lagnese

        Even the Ultra is tight for me. I’m 6’5 and not a stick figure either. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a review with test riders in my size class. It would be good to read reviews with riders of all shapes and sizes to get a broader range of opinions. Until then, I take reviews with a grain of salt when it comes to ergonomics.

        • Jerry Powers

          I have a 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Classic LT. I’m 6’4, 225lbs and I wouldn’t trade my bike for any of these! I love it on short and long trips! Granted it could use a little more storage space but nothing some aftermarket stuff can’t fix.

          • james lagnese

            Before my RT, I owned only Kawasaki’s, 4 of them. My last bike was a 2007 Nomad. I looked at the V2K when I bought the Nomad and I liked the way it looked, but the Nomad had a little more storage and a better history of reliability. It’s cool bike, but at this point it’s a pre-owned option as Kawasaki discontinued it and went another way with the Vulcans. More plastichrome, cheaper and flimsy luggage and ergonomics more like a HD. Your V2K is a lot more roomy that what Kawasaki offers now. I belonged to what was Kawanow and now is the VBA and a lot of people went with Victory. What was Kawasaki thinking?

          • Jerry Powers

            I agree! They should have stuck with what was good!

          • Eeyore

            How in the world could you be comfortable on a RT being 6’5″? I am 6’1″ 200 and test rode a RT. Could not wait to ge the bike back to the dealer as I felt bunched up and very uncomfortable. Not to mention the trans was not smooth and felt clunky during shift changes.

          • Bear Dalrymple

            I’m 6′ 5″ / 305 lbs. The best bike I’ve ever owned was my ’99 R1100RT. I went from that to the K1200LT, but thr RT was so much lighter and sportier. 350 mile days were easy. 500 mile days after the Corbin

  • Piglet2010

    How could you not include a single maxi-scooter on the list???

    • Jon Langston

      It was btwn the Can-Am & a Burgman, Piglet. Sorry to disappoint you ;)

  • George Erhard

    These big bikes are nice… if you’ve the credit or disposable cash to pay for one.

    I’m still in the midsize section – just recently graduated from a ’92 BMW K75RT ( which if it were still made should have made your list) to a Triumph Sprint ST 1050, another bike that puts the sport in sport-touring.

  • Run_Forest_Run

    I am surprised the Honda ST 1300 didn’t make the list. I have the Multistrada S-Touring, which is a fantastic touring, sport touring, and sport bike. You can even take it off road, if desired. Expensive no doubt, but worth every penny.

    A buddy has the Wee-Strom and an ST. The Wee-Strom is a nice little bike for short hops or out by yourself, but please, for high speed long hauls, it has no legs and is gasping for breath against the Multi or the ST, or any other bike on this list for that matter. Nothing against the Wee-Strom, I have just been out all day on a Saturday with it, and it just can’t keep up.

    • james lagnese

      The ST and GW are very long in the tooth. I mean the ST doesn’t have cruise control and some of the controls that are in the dash should be on the switch gear. With the gold wing, it reminds of a remote control with 100 buttons. The problem is that it isn’t user friendly. They should take a cue from Apple on usability. May be with the next versions they will correct the shortcomings.

  • Ted Menard

    I went through this about 4 times looking for a Yamaha Venture….. Is it not in this list, The GW and another 1947 Harley are there. Oh, I get it now … this is not a real top 10 list is it? Why is the Venture always seeming to get a bypass??? For a ton of money less, you get more than the H-D, but niot quite the GW still at a bunch more money. The Venture will easily carry two up as long as you wish to ride, carry in the bags and trunk more than enough for 2-3 day trips, with or without the cruise on, or the intercom lit, or the super clean stereo singing away. It will without effort pass any H_D tourer on the road, keep up with the GW, better mileage than the Kaw or the Vision, and do all of that reliably! If one needs the toys…. then the GW is of course your baby. If you want to ride the same thing your dad delivered mail to the GI’s with, then the H-D is still there for you . If one is concerned with a great ride, economy, reliable, and touring seriously, then the Kaw, Victory Starship, or the Venture has to be right there…… unless of course you are still bias towards the GW and the payments from H-D are still coming.
    Tourers are changing their styles and needs , and that’s why you are seeing the Can-Ams, and “Touring” Scooters, and dual purpose machines such as the “Adventurer” making big strides in the market. I will continue to ride 2 up with 45 mpg, the radio and intercom working and the Venture taking us on all those 2 lane roads we can find. If we need more than 2/3/4 days of road work, there is always the trailer which we seem to fill to the brim before we return. When I can’t hold my Venture upright, then we will no doubt be Spyder customers. My take on the “List”

    • james lagnese

      Must be the cassette player.

      • Ted Menard

        No, it’s the 10 disc cd changer in the right saddlebag where we keep the raingear, tools, odds and ends. It might also be the simple fact that I paid 15k and change for it brand new out of the box , and it has everything the wing has + and more than any under 26k H-D will have. I get an honest 45 mpg with normal roads and weather. drops to 41/42 with the trailer, (Shoei). It has hero cam/gps/radar as well, and I still don’t have as much in it as a GW or the other one. But, here is the best part….. I can ride with them all day, anywhere, rain or shine, and get off at the end of the day and still be able to walk upright. Good friend bought the Victory Vision Mega tour, (we call it theStarship) and 2 others own the newest Kawasaki’s. All 3 traded FLTHCUI’s for their bikes and are verrry happy with the trade. None of us feel that we would gain 1 thing by going to a new GW or an H-D.

  • Ryan Urlacher

    My opinion; I just can’t see the justification to put a “Touring” bike with mid controls anywhere near #1 on this list. All true “touring” bikes should have floor boards & forward controls. A guy has got to stretch out on long rides. You can’t be comfy w/ your knees locked up? I can’t believe these manufacturers even build them w/ mid controls? That’s just my 2 cents……..

    I will be discussing this list in an upcoming Law Abiding Biker (LAB) Podcast! http://www.LawAbidingBiker.com

    Great article though!

    • PreachJohn

      That all depends on the proportions of the Rider’s frame to the proportions of the Bike. I am tall in the torso, but relatively short in the legs; sailor’s build.
      For example I rode 3 Yam XS 1000s over 11 years. Very many miles. My feet automatically went to the hwy crash bar Pegs. Even on short hauls around the Hood.
      But on my 1200cc Goldwings, I am very comfortable on the rubber Pegs.
      The crash bar Pads are only used occasionally to change position for blood flow long distance.
      Just a tho’t to throw into the mix.

  • James Boyles

    Ride what makes you feel good not what others or the media thinks is the best. To paraphrase the author Louis L’Lamour: “Remember the ride is the thing, not the end of the ride. Travel to fast and you miss all you are riding for.”

  • Picaboca

    I would never class a Gold Wing as a Touring bike. Even Honda has it classified as a Cruiser.