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A Weekend Away or the Grand Tour? Choose one of our Top 10 Motorcycles for Touring


Motorcycle touring is one of the last great travel adventures. Whether it’s a weekend away or the grand tour choose one of our Top 10 Motorcycles for Touring.

Bikers have different expectations and needs when they pack a bag and hit the road. Some travel solo and feel the need to go far and fast, while others like to share the journey and enjoy entertainment on the way.
Read on, and in no particular order of preference check out the best of the touring motorcycles.

BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive $30,395

The K1600 GTL Exclusive is the latest upgrade in BMW’s six cylinder range and launched in 2010 to instant acclaim and success.  If BMW had a bookshelf where they displayed all of this bikes awards, it would have given way under the weight a long time ago.

BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive 01


The 1649cc straight six – engine with its 55 degrees forward cant is silky smooth. The merest hint of throttle produces turbine- like acceleration, with an addictive rush from 6000 to the 8500rpm bloodline.
When BMW get it right, they produce outstandingly good engines, and the GTL’s is a gem. From walking pace to its 132mph top end, the fueling is never less than perfect.
Incidentally, if that top speed sounds a bit tame for a six cylinder 160bhp engine, that’s because it has restrictive mapping.  Apparently, BMW stressed about overloaded top boxes upsetting the handling, so they ended the party early. The identical engined, but unrestricted, no top box GT model, tops out at 150 plus!

BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive 02


In reality, though, top speed of the GTL is academic, as a two-wheeled armchair that can propel you from 0-100 mph in just over eight seconds, is hardly going to disappoint.
The GTL is a huge motorcycle, but it hides its vast bulk extremely well. The luxurious bucket seat is low, at just under 31 inches from terra firma.  With a towering top box and electronically adjustable screen up front, you certainly feel like you’re in the bike rather than on it.
As if the GTL weren’t opulent enough, the Luxury adds a significant amount of glamour to your two-wheeled limousine.  The back seat is wider and longer than its predecessor and has heated foldable armrests.
In addition to the industry leading electronics and rider aid package, the Exclusive gets keyless ignition, centrally locking luggage and a number of industry firsts.

BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive 03


These firsts include a radio antenna built into the top box, backlit gauges and the extremely useful, Hill Start Control. Not to mention, armchair- like comfort, more electronic gadgets than a millionaire bachelor’s apartment and the kind of handling and performance that wouldn’t put a sports bike to shame.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages:  Large, fast, and comfortable. Excellent rider aids and infotainment center.

Harley- Davidson CVO Limited – $42,949

Everyone, from Kawasaki with their VN1700 Voyage to the new Indian Roadmaster Elite has tried to kick Harley- Davidson off the top of the big bad bagger heap. So it was about time that the motor company answered back.

Harley- Davidson CVO Limited


Harley’s 2018 range has finally seen the type of heavy-duty re-design work to put them right back in the fight. Changing a paint job, or adding some shiny bits and calling them the ‘new range’ will only cut it for so long.
Thankfully, with HD’s new line-up and the Softail range, in particular, the laurels they’ve been resting on for the last few years have finally been thrown aside. And if you’re going to look at their premium touring range you might as well go straight to the head of the class with the CVO Limited.
As you will probably know, CVO is HD’s Custom Vehicle Operation. As well as lumping on an extra few grand for the privilege of joining that exclusive club, you also get extra bang and bling for your buck.
With the 2018 CVO Limited, you get a whole box of new toys thrown at you.  Out is the twin cam engine, and in comes the all new singing and dancing Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight power unit.

Harley- Davidson CVO Limited 02


The 1923cc engine pumps out 124ftlbs of torque and gives a noticeable amount of extra stomp compared to its predecessor. Harley has managed to slim down the width of the engine too, by designing a narrower primary drive cover on the left, and a low-profile air cleaner on the right.
In order to prevent heavy-footed down-changes locking up that handsome rear mag wheel, the engine gets an assist and slip clutch.  The clutch, says Harley has also been given a 7% lighter action at the lever, making connections to the six-speed box that much easier.
Calling a halt to the proceedings is also a revelation, thanks to the triple, linked Brembo brakes complete with ABS.
Now that the new Glides have a strong, smooth engine and brakes to cope, thankfully, they also come with the type of suspension they’ve always deserved.
Up front, a dual-bending valve controls compression and rebound on beefier Showa forks while the pre-load adjustable emulsion shocks handle things in the back.

Harley- Davidson CVO Limited 03


Adjustment is now easily done by hand instead of by air pump and offers 15% more pre-load adjustment. Both units bring a noticeable and much-needed improvement to the wallow happy, fork diving baggers of old.
From the comfort of your plush heated hammock seat, you can enjoy the CVO’s premium touch screen infotainment system. The system features the BOOM BOX 6.5GT, and kicks out 600 watts, while the CVO comes with two wireless headsets.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: All new engine.  Lots of bottom end torque, new suspension, and Brembo brakes.  Heated hammock seats and a 600-watt stereo.

Indian Roadmaster Elite – $36,999

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island for the last two years, you will have heard all about adventure vehicle makers Polaris, dumping their Victory range of V- twins in favor of reinventing the Indian brand.
Although it was sad to see the Victories go, to be fair to Polaris, they rigidly adhered to the style cues of the Indian marque’s heritage. However, when it came to the engine, they started with a blank piece of paper.

Indian Roadmaster Elite


The result being the Thunder Stroke engine, a 111ci fuel injected powerhouse that pumps out an impressive 119 ft-lbs of torque. Just for good measure though, the designers managed to get in some very eye catching cosmetic features too.
These mirror the original Chief cylinder heads and parallel pushrod tubes, just enough to get you all misty eyed. As for performance, if it hadn’t have been for the long awaited engine upgrade in the Harley bagger range, the Roadmaster would have left them for dead.
If you’re going to produce a premium range big inch V- twin tourer, there’s only one direction you look when it comes to checking out the opposition. It should come as no surprise therefore that the Elite, at least from the side, looks an awful lot like a certain Milwaukee bagger.
In saying that however, the Thunder Stroke engine is much more of a feature of the Roadmaster, its deep fins, and smooth edges are somehow familiar and welcoming. Harley’s headlong dash to go down the performance route does seem to have diminished its once classic engine lines.

Indian Roadmaster Elite 02


In the equipment department, the Elite’s panniers follow the kicked out curve of the rear fender. The top box doubles as a quilted leather backrest for the pillion, which also gets adjustable armrests and floorboards.
The heated leather seat is a deep double bucket type and the combined capacity of the remote locking panniers and top box, give a luggage swallowing 36.2 gallons of storage.

Indian Roadmaster Elite 03


When it comes to luxury tourers, the spec of the information and entertainment system always comes in for scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, the Indian Roadmaster Elite’s system passes with flying colors.
The seven-inch touch screen has over 30 basic readouts, which can be expanded and customized to reveal more detailed information. These cover everything from a Bluetooth ready sat-nav to tire pressure readout and fuel range remaining. To the left of it is an analog style speedo and to the right, a tacho.
Cruise control, keyless ignition, and a powered windscreen are just some of the standard extras on the Elite as well as 23K gold detailing on the gas tank and trim.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Beautiful and powerful engine. Adjustable passenger armrests and footboards, and 36.2 gallons of luggage space.

Triumph Trophy 1200 SE – $19,600

It’s hard to believe that the Triumph Trophy was the first offspring of the born again Hinckley Triumph brand way back in 1991. A solid, reliable chunk of a bike way back then and give or take a new engine, chassis, electronics package and design, it still is.
Back in the early 1990’s, it took on the might of the Japanese manufacturers in an attempt to break their stranglehold on the big-bore multi-cylinder market.  And with the 1200 Triumph Trophy SE, they’re trying to do exactly the same in the increasingly popular sports touring market.

Triumph Trophy 1200 SE


To be fair, however, the SE is not an all out Winnebago type grand tourer in the style of the HD Ltd and Indian Elite. Nor does it go toe to toe with the world shrinking opulence of the BMW GTL, but instead almost creates its own niche as a comfortable sports-tourer, who’s capabilities often surprise.
At the heart of the Trophy is the same 1215cc three-cylinder engine that debuted in the company’s Explorer. With a slightly different tune, the trophy drops to 132bhp but increases low range torque and flexibility throughout the rev range.
What you get with the Trophy is, therefore, something in the region of 100Nm of torque from 2500-9800 rpm range which means the beautifully crisp triple is never going to be caught wheezing when you give it a handful.
Naturally, the SE gets slightly different ratios, with sixth gear advertised as an overdrive. And it is this, coupled with the ironing out of slight glitches of the Explorer’s fuel injection that gives the Big Trumpet an impressive 50+ mpg at highway cruising speeds.
This capacity provides a tank range of well over 250 miles, and considering the comfort levels of the riding position and coverage of the fairing, that kind of mileage in one hit is easily doable.

Top 10 Motorcycles for Touring-Triumph Trophy 1200 SE


Like all good tourers, the SE gets a hassle free shaft drive. And with maintenance periods of 10,000 miles, you’re not going to waste much time away from the road.
Regarding electronics, the Triumph Trophy SE gets cruise control, electric screen, tire monitor, traction control, electronic suspension adjustment and a Bluetooth integrated audio system.
Super competent handling, a sporty engine with excellent tank range and superior levels of comfort and equipment, what more could you want?
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Smooth and fast three cylinder engine, shaft drive, and excellent fuel economy.

 Moto Guzzi MGX 21 – $21,990

I encountered my first Moto Guzzi in 1979. A friend of mine bought a Californian, which was quite a leap from the Triumph Bonnies and BSA A65’s we all rode at the time.
It looked exotic as hell with its cylinder heads poking out of the sides and black and white buddy seat.
Although we’d take the rise out of him for his odd choice of ride, I remember being so impressed with its ability to lope along all day long at highly illegal speeds. It could also take any bend you could throw at it and stop on a sixpence.

Moto Guzzi MGX 21


But that is typical of Moto Guzzi; they’ve always been somewhat of an acquired taste. And those in the know, who realize how good they are, tend to keep it to themselves.
Everything changed in 2014 when Moto Guzzi revealed the Audace at the EICMA show. A bobbed variant of the re-vamped 1400cc California, but with pull-back drag bars, short slash cut pipes and a black on black paint scheme. A bike, so subtle it screamed.
That wasn’t the only surprise at the show; Guzzi also used the occasion to showcase a concept bike, the MGX21 Flying Fortress.
The general census of opinion was that like the Suzuki Stratosphere and Yamaha XS V1 Sakura; the MGX21 was a concept bike destined not to make it to production.

Moto Guzzi MGX 21 - 02


Just over two years later however and Moto Guzzi surprised everyone by putting the MGX21 on the showroom floor. Better still; the production version retained all the best bits of the concept model, including the carbon body parts red accents and 21’’ front wheel.
If Batman wanted to get out of Gotham for the weekend, he’d be throwing a spare cape in the panniers of this bike and heading for the twisties.
Using the same 1390cc engine as the Californian, it produces around 95hp and 89ftlb of torque. While not giving arm wrenching acceleration, the spread of power and spot-on fuelling gives the bike a very nice and usable, real world performance.
Putting a 21” tire on the front end of a 752lb touring motorcycle may not seem altogether sensible, but the Guzzi handles impeccably. The suspension gives the best of both worlds regarding comfort and performance.
The Moto Guzzi MGX21 gets three level traction control, cruise control, Brembo equipped ABS brakes and a MP3/Smartphone ready, audio system.

Moto Guzzi MGX 21 - 05


Ok, the luggage capacity is on the low side, and the stereo needs another 100 watts to hear at cruising speed. But if you want to break out of the V twin bagger mold, this is the bike to do it on.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Unique styling, smooth engine, and carbon bodywork. Linked ABS.

 Kawasaki Concourse 14 ABS – $15,599

The words intercontinental ballistic missile comes to mind when talking about this bike. Definitely at the sports end of the sports touring world, the Conc 14, looks and feels like a bike on a mission.
A lot of this is due to the aggressively vented fairing and the racers crouch front beak that makes the bike look like it’s pulling at the lead.
Alternatively, it could also be because you know that tucked behind, is the variable-valve-timing, 1352cc 132hp, mega blaster of an engine borrowed from the Ninja ZX14R.
Either way, it looks fast, and it is fast. All the way up to an indicated 155mph, when thankfully the ECU kicks in to limit any further insanity.
Launched in 2008 and with a facelift and updates two years later, the most recent edition stays pretty much the same. Some may say that if it’s not broken don’t fix it.
A number of people contend that by not updating the Conc, it’s slipping behind its lavishly equipped, all singing and dancing competitors.  Kawasaki’s take, on the other hand, is slightly simpler.
Adding multiple traction modes, handlebar controlled suspension adjustment, satellite TV, wine cooler and a heated seat, all add to the cost say Kawasaki.
They do have a point, especially when you realize that the 2017 model is around $500 cheaper than it was two years ago!
Compared to its high-brow opposition, it may well seem on the basic side but don’t think that the Conc is in some way, a low budget parts bin special.
This bike provides sports touring in its purest form. With turbine like acceleration, sports bike level handling which belies its 690lbs, and the type of sophisticated features you need rather than desire.
Even though the motorcycle has no major new revisions, Kawasaki hasn’t been idle. The ratio for first gear has now been lowered to make pulling away fully laden, easier and the seat gets new contours and an anti slip surface.
Tweaks made to the suspension gives better stiffness when loaded. A reconfigured linked ABS and the screen has a new venting system aimed at reducing buffeting. Not bad for a bike that went down in price!
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Superbike speed and handling, upgraded suspension, and gearbox.

Honda Goldwing F6B Deluxe – $21,499

Can you believe that the very first Gold Wing made its debut in 1974? Only Harley- Davidson can lay claim to having a specific bagger model in continuous production for longer.
That very first version was a 999cc flat four, and its sheer size and bulk had scientists proclaiming that the age of the dinosaur had returned. Far from being a fossil, the Gold Wing, as you expect from Honda, was ahead of its time.
It was Honda’s first attempt at shaft drive and the first four-stroke motorcycle to feature water-cooling. When it hit the US in 1975, it instantly appealed to the long haul fans and sold an incredible 13,000 units in its first year.
Ironically for a model that will forever be associated with acres of fiberglass and enough luggage space to move house with, that very first Wing was completely naked.
Anyway, over the years life has been good to the Wing and has seen its waistline expand from 1000 to 1800cc and gain around 300lb in weight.
In its latest re-carnation, the GW comes with more bells and whistles than a Tibetan orchestra. But in 2013 some bright spark at Honda decided that the grandpa friendly condominium on wheels, needed a badass brother and so the F6B was born.
The F6B has the same torque rich 1832cc fuel injected, water cooled engine, but tips the scales an impressive 62lbs lighter. How did they achieve this?
Gone is the towering rear armchair and Cadillac sized trunk, along with the wall of Perspex that sat atop the fairing. The seat, although still opulent, is deeply contoured putting its rider just 28’’ above the ground.
Although the changes may seem purely cosmetic (which they in fact are) the reduced weight and altered center of gravity transform the bike’s characteristics remarkably.
The standard wing is no slouch, either off the line or around the bends, but the F6B can out scratch and out drag it noticeably.
Add to its newfound nimbleness with a cut-down styling, and it would appear that the F6B is attracting recruits from the more traditional V- twin bagger brigade.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Legendary flat six engine, surprisingly fast, and exceptional handling. Cut down bodywork and low seat height.

Yamaha Star Venture – $24,999

It is annoying when certain bikes get cut from one market, going on to being released in another which is precisely the case with the Yamaha VX1900.
The bike had one of the nicest looking Japanese V- twin engines and was very popular in Great Britain and Western Europe. Unfortunately, the big Yam fell foul of Euro 4 emission standards and resulted in the model’s cut from the lineup.
Europe’s loss would seem to be America’s gain, and Yamaha used the 1900cc lump to power the new Star Venture. The Star Venture is their full on cruise ship sized bagger, which currently comes with just about every mechanical and electronic touring accessory imaginable.
Obviously, Yamaha can imagine even more, as they offer a Transcontinental Kit, which ups the cheque, another $2000. For this, you do get sat nav, satellite radio, CB radio and dual zone audio. So both you and your passenger can listen to separate music or make separate Bluetooth phone calls.
This latter edition would be perfect for making a call to the rider and telling them that they’re riding too fast, instead of the more conventional banging on the back of their helmet.
The Venture has a host of more mundane, but equally as important additions to the engine and chassis department.
These include an all new intake system, ride-by-wire throttle with traction control, cruise control and dual riding modes. You can, therefore, choose between normal cruising mode and one with a sportier edge.
The eight-valve 113ci engine produces a very impressive 126ftlb of torque and transfers it to the pavement via a six-speed gearbox. According to Yamaha, top gear is an overdrive that drops the engine speed to a lazy 2750rpm at 75mph, and if you are worried that sounds like a recipe for a lumpy ride, don’t be. Yamaha has squeezed in two counter-balancers to stop any bad vibes.
On the subject of concerns, we are talking about a motorcycle that weighs in at a staggering 963lbs. So it should also have crossed your mind how to paddle it around in a busy car park.
Once again, however, Yam has it covered, using a separate electric motor for fore and aft maneuvering. It is this and the addition of a second alternator, which at least explains why the bike weighs so much.
A monster V- twin engine that’s both powerful and smooth, probably the most comfortable pillion accommodation in the category, and 38 gallons of storage space, this could be the bagger to beat.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Strong tractable engine, and luxurious passenger accommodation. Separate motor for forward and reverse parking maneuvers.

BMW R1200GS Exclusive – $20,156

The BMW GS series is a legend in its lifetime. A motorcycle that despite its shape and size, is as capable on the road as off it.
In reality, the majority of GS owners have never been on anything looser than their gravel driveway. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the BMW R1200GS is one of the most competent, grand motorcycles for touring out there.
Admittedly it would be a different type of tour, as the bike on paper is at the opposite end of the spectrum to the others on our list. For example, compare the 33” seat height of the BM to the Honda F6B’s 28, ” or its all- in weight of 537lb, compared to the Yamaha’s 963lb!
But if you want a commanding view of the road and a bike that’s deceptively quick, handles superbly and can be loaded like a chuck wagon then this may be for you.
In its most recent incarnation, the GS Exclusive’s list of updates and extras are exceptional especially for a bike that many believed couldn’t get any better.
For 2017, the Exclusive gets BMW’s next generation self-leveling electronic suspension adjustment. The old system was no slouch, allowing you to change suspension setting on the move, but the new system does it automatically.
The suspension’s electronic brain constantly adjusts itself to keep the bike level by gathering information from a range of senses from around the bike. Whether braking hard into a corner of fully loaded with a passenger, the auto suspension has it covered.
The partial water-cooled flat twin engine remains unchanged with 125bhp available and peak torque of 92ftlb at 6500rpm. Making it about the only thing that hasn’t had an upgrade.
The list of which, now includes; hand-guards on the heated grips, keyless ignition, tire pressure monitor, cruise control and LED indicators. BMW has also added hill start control, shift assist pro quick-shifter and an upgraded dynamic traction control.
For 2018, the GS series will also offer a 6.5’’ screen information and Bluetooth entertainment system. This system can also sense when you’ve crashed and make an emergency phone call on your behalf.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Deceptively fast, excellent handling, and big load capacity.  Cutting edge electronic rider aids.

Ducati Multistrada 1200S Touring – $20,845

All motorcycle manufacturers are guilty to some degree of building their own version of a competitor’s hot seller. In Ducati’s case they saw the runaway success of BMW’s big adventurer and thought, hmm; we’ll have some of that.
Their version turned out to be the Multistrada. Released in 2003 it featured a 1000cc desmo engine and the type of styling only a mother could love.
Although it was certainly versatile and good fun to ride, the gas tank range was short, the weird two-piece fairing caused annoying buffeting, and the seat would have made a penitent monk beg for a cushion. Suffice to say; it didn’t give BMW any sleepless nights.
Everything changed in 2010 when the Multistrada got the makeover to end all makeovers. The bike was virtually re-invented, getting a new 150hp engine, frame, suspension and fancy new bodywork to show it all off.
The power plant was a straight lift from their 1198cc superbike and the frame, a large bore trellis, also with a racing heritage.  On the S Touring spec model, top of the range Ohlins were fitted front and back and the range of electronic rider aids once again, adapted from their Testastretta Superbike.
All models featured ride by wire, which allowed the use of the Multistrada’s four riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro). By 2016 the bike was fitted with the second generation Tesi engine, more advanced Bosch ABS, and Ducati Traction Control.
Has Ducati’s desire to design a motorcycle that was four bikes in one come true? In Sports mode, it has the ability to embarrass one-liter super bike riders, one push of the button more and it’s happy to rack up the touring miles in tireless fashion.
Its wide bars, tall seat and Urban riding mode, also make it an excellent commuter, and Enduro calms everything down sufficiently enough to tackle something loose, but not too technical. So in answer to the 4-1 question, the answer would have to be, yes.
Motorcycle Touring Advantages: Fast, comfortable,  and top of the range suspension. Race proven electronic rider aids.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend break or a bucket list road trip, the motorcycle you choose to ride can make or break the journey. Whichever route you decide to follow, make sure you choose one of our Top 10 Motorcycles for Touring.

About the author


Hello everyone! I am a Mechanical Engineer and the founder of motorcyclecentral.net. I love motorcycles since my childhood, so I started this blog website to share this passion with you all.

Wade - January 12, 2018

If I was going to get a touring bike, I’d have to go Goldwing. I’ve never ridden one, but I’ve also never heard anyone who has say a bad thing about them.

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