The 5 Best Touring Motorcycles for Long Distance Travel

What rider doesn’t dream of touring the countryside on their motorcycle for days and weeks on end? The joy of riding a motorcycle is in the way it brings you closer to the world around you. Not every bike is well-suited to this particular task. Small sports bikes will struggle with the long distances, and travelers won’t be able to bring much with them. A cruiser is downright uncomfortable for such a long ride. No—for a long tour of the country, one would need a touring motorcycle.

There are literally countless options on the market, of course. Rather than slogging through all those options, however, we’ve put together a list of our favorite choices for you. This list covers a nice span of bikes that are well-suited for touring. We’ve updated this list over the years since it was first published. Learn more about some of the best touring bikes the current market has to offer. We sort them by price, so you can decide if you want to splurge or save.

Tourer—Expensive: Honda Gold Wing Tour

The Honda Gold Wing series is a classic with a major following for a reason. The original Gold Wing is basically the mold for all touring bikes on the road today. It is the gold standard that other touring bikes are compared against, and many of them fall short. If you want to get a good touring bike, a Gold Wing Tour is a classic choice. The 2019 Gold Wing Tour has a hefty 1,833cc liquid-cooled, six-cylinder engine that makes it a powerful ride. You can get massive speed out of this vehicle, even with its weight exceeding 800 pounds. Additionally, it’s comfortable, with plenty of plush seating and lots of leg space.
With an air bag system, a semi-automatic seven-speed DCT trans, and a fully modernized infotainment system, this bike has all the whistles and gears. It has an MSRP of $31,800 so you can expect to shell out a pretty penny for this cycle. However, it’s an absolute beauty and would certainly make your cross-country experience enjoyable. This bike is zippy, powerful and reliable.

Tourer—Less Expensive: Honda CTX1300

The Honda CTX1300 is just about two-thirds of the price of its big brother, the Gold Wing. That makes the CTX1300 far more affordable and accessible to the average biker. This bike has a bit of a cult following for its unique features. It’s difficult to categorize the bike. Honda tried to call it a bagger, but that description never took off. Most people consider it to be a sort of crossover. Nevertheless, this bag has some positive qualities: it’s comfortable to sit in for shorter periods of time, although it can be a bit stiff for a long tour. There’s a decent stereo to let you enjoy your ride, and Honda is known for producing reliable motorcycles. If you are so inclined, you can keep this bike going for several decades. It’s got ample space for storage, and it feels surprisingly light. It has some drawbacks—the plastic finish is a bit unappealing, the horsepower is limited compared to other options and you will have to get over the cruise position. However, overall the CTX1300 makes a reliable and solid choice.

V Twin Tourer—Expensive: Indian Roadmaster

There are some upsides to opting for twin engines instead of a single cylinder bike. Along with a more classic look, it can decrease the vibrations you feel from your engine to go for a twin. Additionally, the low-end torque can be stronger on a V twin. If you lean towards bikes like this, the 2019 Indian Roadmaster is a solid choice for long-distance touring. This hefty and solid bike can handle two riders over long stretches of road without a problem. It comes equipped with padded leather seats, heavy chrome accessories and an overall slick and luxurious look. It comes in black, burgundy, bronze, white and grey, with the black looking particularly intimidating. The seat is slung low enough for a comfortable ride, and it includes three Ride Modes for a more customized experience. It’s got an integrated infotainment system with built in GPS to navigate you over your long tours, and a powerful stereo to play your soundtrack as you go. With a weight of 920 pounds wet and a 1,811cc engine, this bike can reach just shy of 100 hp. Its starting price of $28,999 is nothing to sneeze at, but this powerful motorcycle is worth every penny.

V Twin Tourer—Less Expensive: Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager

At first glance, this Kawasaki bike rocks a lot of the same features that the Roadmaster does. This 895-pound vehicle is a sturdy bike with a powerful 1,700cc, water-cooled, fuel-injected V twin engine. Its seat is just a couple inches higher than the Roadmaster, but it still offers comfort for two on long rides. Upon closer inspection, it lacks some of the glamour, chrome and leather seen on the Roadmaster. But those luxury details don’t affect the performance of the bike, and this bike definitely has bells and whistles of its own. It includes ABS, a decent stereo, ample luggage space, electronic cruise control and more. With Kawasaki’s 36-month warranty, you will be suitable protected, and with Kawasaki’s reliability you probably won’t need it. The best part of the 2019 Vulcan? Its MSRP is $17,500—more than $11,000 cheaper than the Roadmaster. It’s almost no competition.

Sport Tourer—Expensive: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT is a powerful and speedy sports touring bike. Ultimately, it is designed to get you from point A to point B as fast as possible. The GT line’s seat isn’t the most padded motorcycle seat in the world, but it’s ergonomic and puts you in the right spot to ride. Additionally, both the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat have heating functions to keep you toasty in cooler weather. The multi adjustable handlebars are sensitive and easy to use, and the foot pegs are adjustable as well. Along with comfort, the bike offers a powerful 1,301cc v-twin engine that reaches up to 173 hp. This bike can ride. It’s also fully equipped with electronics and gadgetry like the decked-out infotainment system. It has a windshield that can protect you from some of the worst elements while you’re riding. However, it is chain-driven, which means you’ll have to think about maintaining the chains on long trips. Additionally, it does not come with a center stand by default—you would have to pay extra. Too bad, because the bike comes in at a rather pricey MSRP of $20,500.

Sport Tourer—Less Expensive: BMW F 800 GT

You can only get the BMW F 800 GT used from owners or resellers, as BMW doesn’t offer this bike in the United States. It is available for sale in the United Kingdom, however. And if you can find it, whether new or used, it’s worth snatching up. The BMW F 800 GT is currently sold for £8,640 in the UK, which converts to just under $11,000 in USD. BMW has earned a reputation in the past for producing anemic bikes, particularly in the sports tourer category. However, its 798cc parallel twin engine can put out around 90 hp, and for a leisurely cross-country ride that’s more than fast enough. In addition, this bike has all the cool stylish features expected of a sporty cycle. On the other hand, tall riders will probably feel restricted by the limited leg room. It’s not the best bike on the market—but it’s reliable and affordable, and it just looks cool too.

Adventure Tourer—Expensive: Triumph Tiger Explorer XRT

Triumph motorcycles rarely get much hype or attention in the world of cycling. It’s understandable, when there are so many name brands like Harley Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki and Indian to compete against. However, the Tiger Triumph Explorer XRT is an energetic, smooth ride worth taking a second look at. There are several models of Tiger Explorer available. The XRT has all the bells and whistles, equipped with plenty of features and accessories that make the bike a fun ride. This includes a fully loaded entertainment system, a shaft drive, reliable cruise control, an adjustable touring screen, heated seats and more. There’s very little missing on this car, except for the pannier and top box that it does not come with. In addition to all the features included, it also has a powerful engine that can send you rocketing down empty stretches of highway. The 1,215cc inline three-cylinder engine is plenty strong, providing up to 139 hp. Fully loaded, it comes in at just under 600 pounds. In addition, it also has five riding modes, including a fully customizable riding mode to operate at your personal maximum comfort.  This beauty doesn’t come cheap, though—for top-of-the-line everything, you’ll pay at least $19,800.

Adventure Tourer—Less Expensive: Suzuki V-Strom 650

Suzuki’s V-Strom bike has developed a reputation for traveling long distances. It is a solid and dependable bike that offers a comfortable ride for a comfortable price tag. The 2019 Suzuki V-Strom 650 has a 645cc four-stroke, liquid cooled V-twin engine that promises up to 71 hp. It comes with Low RPM Assist and traction control in case you decide to test out the bike’s limits. However, given the relatively simple design and specs, this is probably not a base for reckless racing. This is a touring bike, allowing you to drive through the country without worry. It may not be the fastest bike in the world, but it earns points for sturdiness and reliability. With a base MSRP of $8,800, you don’t have to fork over a whole lot to get a V-Strom 650. There are upgraded versions—the XT and the XT Touring model come in at $9,300 and $10,000 each. However, in our opinion, the standard 650 has all the valuable features, while the upgraded bikes have somewhat overpriced plastic accessories to justify the price increase. If you want additional accessories, you’ll probably have better look searching for options in the aftermarket.

Classic Touring—Expensive: Harley Davidson Road King

The 2019 Harley Davidson Road King is one of the motorcycle company’s more classic models. In production since the early 90’s, today’s Road King is a beautiful leather and chrome bike with the classic Harley Davidson look. Comfortable leather seats are available for a driver and a passenger. Best of all, it runs on the Milwaukee Eight 107 engine that the company announced in 2017. The Milwaukee engine is a real tour-de-force, a significant upgrade to the previous Twin Cam 103 engine. The MSRP for the bike is $19,289 for an all-black design. Other colors can cost as much as $20,289. Cruise control and a security system come standard with the motorcycle, while ABS is an additional $795. This bike has got a comfortable seat height of 26.3 inches laden and weighs 836 pounds on the ground. One thing it doesn’t have—all the bells and whistles. A stereo and infotainment system is not included with the Road King. This is a bike for the tourer dedicated to enjoying the trip, no distractions necessary.

Classic Touring—Less Expensive: Ural CT

We expect many motorcycling enthusiasts reading this might squint their eyes, scratch their heads and ask, “Really?” Yes, really. Hear us out. We know these Russian bikes are frequently considered a novelty rather than a serious contender for best bike of the year. They’re best known for their sidecars—but boy, are those sidecars a bonus. They’re roomy, comfortable and iconic. Plus, they provide ample trunk space for you to store supplies, bike gear and more. No other company has mastered storage and the sidecar the way the Ural has. This CT model is the cheapest in the sidecar bike options Ural has. Ural doesn’t make many of its own parts anymore, outsourcing them to companies like BMW to modernize their bikes. As a result, it comes at a relatively affordable starting point of $14,500. It operates on a 749cc engine which includes a four-speed trans. In addition, all Ural bikes come with a two-year warranty and 24/7 roadside assistance, which means you’re never stranded. These aren’t high-powered fast racing bikes, so they’re better for leisurely drives on winding backroads.

It might also interest you: