Why Are Touring Bikes So Damn Big?

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff

Ask MO Anything: Is it time for motorcycles to go on a diet?

Dear MOby,

I just read John Burns’ review of the new 2018 Venture. It struck a chord with me. I’ve owned three different Ventures – an ’83, a ’93, and a ’99. Loved all of them. I currently own a Victory Cross Country Tour (among other ponies) and love it too. I was very intrigued with the new Venture cuz I’ve always been such a fan.

I think I’ll “get by” with my Victory a couple years until Yamaha irons out the kinks. But I did have a question: Why oh why are motorcycles so damn heavy? BMW has a great ride with all the bells and whistles at about 600 pounds or so with the RT. I think I would love the new Venture, but why does it have to weigh half a ton? BTW, I’ve also owned a couple Gold Wings, which were also half a ton, and moved into the XC cuz it was sub-900 lbs.

It just seems to me that, with today’s technology, someone could build a “big” V-Twin tourer that weighed in at 600 lbs or so and did everything. Smaller engine, one liter or so, 50+ mpg, “engine-transmission-stressed member-frame” (unibody?) construction, etc. Doesn’t anyone besides BMW make “efficiency” part of the solution? I guess the American buyer just wants BIGGER, BIGGER, BIGGER. Anyway, I’m a Motorcycle.com fan and appreciate John’s write up.


Dear Jeff,

Maybe because the American buyer doesn’t just want BIGGER BIGGER BIGGER, they’re getting BIGGER BIGGER BIGGER, and need more room. Yamaha said they wanted plenty of room for two on the new Venture, so they stretched it out and widened the seats to make room – basically the opposite of American Airlines. As the bike gets bigger, so does the load it can carry.

Let’s also not forget all the luxury accoutrements that touring riders now expect from their rigs. An audio systems with four speakers adds pounds, as does a CB radio, electrically adjustable windscreen and even an electrically assisted reverse drive system.

Sure they could make it lighter, but it’s like Kaz Yoshima used to say: lightness is the most expensive thing. A Venture made mostly of carbon fiber would weigh, ahhh, well if they were able to make it 82% as heavy as the new Venture, like BMW did with its S1000RR HP4 Race compared to the standard S1000RR, then, well, the Venture Carbon would still weigh 790 pounds instead of 963. But it would cost even more than the $95,000 HP4.


And once you’re bumping up against 800 pounds, what’s another 160? Just more of you to love, dear. The new Venture is definitely a heavyweight, but not so radical a departure as the number “963” at first seems. It’s just continuing a theme. By the way, your Cross Country Tour scales in somewhere around 880 pounds with its tank full (according to Victory).

MotorcycleWet weightWheelbase
1983 Yamaha Venture Royale (1198cc)752 pounds ( venturerider.org/history.htm) citing Cycle magazine test, June 198363.4 inches (ibid)
2018 Star Venture957/ 963 lbs (claimed, wet)67.6 in.
2017 Indian Roadmaster944 lbs (claimed, wet)65.7 in.
1980 Honda GL1100 Interstate764 lbs ( world.honda.com/GoldWing/history/index.html)63.2 in.
2017 Honda Gold Wing904 – 933 lbs (claimed, wet)66.5 in.
2017 BMW K1600 Exclusive794 lbs

( BMW claimed curb weight)

66.1 in.
2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra931 lbs (measured, wet)64.0 in.

Anyway you answered your own question, speaking of the BMW R1200RT (MO’s Sport-Tourer of 2014). The beauty of the thing is, if you don’t want a 900-lb touring bike, there’s now also a shedload of sport-touring choices that offer almost as much comfort (especially if you don’t often carry a passenger). We haven’t managed to tear ourselves away for a nice luxo sport-touring shootout since 2014, but that’s a fantastic bunch of bikes, most of them in the 650-pound range. Here’s another S/T shootout from later in 2014 when we got our hands on the new BMW RT.

The Triumph Trophy SE didn’t win our last sport-touring comparison – mostly because it leans more toward tourer than sport. The SE comes with a torquey 1215cc Triple, tail trunk, tire-pressure monitors, Bluetooth sound system, cruise control, electronic suspension, heated seats, 12v outlets front and rear, USB port… it’s a great choice if you want a “small” (664 lb wet) touring bike.

Maybe what it comes down to is a point Yamaha made during the new Star Venture’s coming-out party. Many times when it comes to big touring bikes, it’s the passenger who makes the buying decision (or at least heavily influences it). If Mama likes the Star Venture better than Brand B or C, well, many of us do what we have to do to maintain domestic bliss, don’t we? When it comes to long-distance happiness for two, the 900-lb biggies are hard to beat, except maybe with a car. And that’s no fun at all.

Send your moto-related questions to AskMOAnything@motorcycle.com. If we can’t answer them, we’ll at least make you feel temporarily better by thinking you’re talking to somebody who knows what they’re talking about even if we don’t. It’s the thought that counts.

Recent Ask MOs:
Ask MO Anything: Is New Or Used Better?
What’s The Best Way To Ride Safe On Busy Freeways?
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Motorcycle.com Staff
Motorcycle.com Staff

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2 of 103 comments
  • YourDogmaBites YourDogmaBites on Aug 03, 2017

    People should ride whatever works for them. I'd never criticize someone whose idea of what constitutes a good bike differs from mine. I've ridden a 99 Valkyrie since it was new, about 700 lbs., and it works great for me, long distance or local. I'm thinking of getting a K1600 GTL, cause I do more two-up touring now... https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

  • Tom Rhodes Tom Rhodes on Aug 20, 2017

    Own a '02 Royal Star Venture, reason was mama was most comfortable on it's seat, it beat out a '15 Gold Wing and '14 Road Glide. Traded in a great sport tourer the GSX1250FA that I miss but she could only do about an hour on the back of that, and 10 hr rides are not a problem with the Venture.