There is nothing quite like the feeling of barreling down the highway on your motorized steed. You’re not encased in a metal cage like those in a car. Nothing comes between you and the environment, providing a more intimate experience of the world. This makes riding a motorcycle a more adventurous and engaging way of touring the country.
If you’re planning on touring for a few days or even a few weeks, then you need to get the right motorcycle for the job. Technically, any type of motorcycle can be used for touring – albeit in a not so comfortable way. Motorcycle manufacturers have designed many different bikes with specific features for use in many different ways. Sport bikes are ideal for going fast on tracks. Scooters and mopeds are mostly for slow, leisurely rides on smooth paved roads. Off-road bikes, on the other hand, ride best on dirt roads. Cruisers are designed for maximum rideability on paved roads, while adventure motorcycles are designed to be both at home either off road or on concrete and asphalt.
Since you have to be bold and adventurous to begin with to become a motorcycle rider, the culture naturally gravitated toward longer distance rides. Bike makers addressed this new activity by manufacturing the best touring motorcycles with functional features to make your long ride better.
The BMW brand got its start as a manufacturer of airplane engines in 1916. This aviation heritage is still apparent in the design of its logo. The BMW logo represents a spinning propeller blade as seen from the front. Today, the company no longer produces engines for aircrafts but is now considered as one of the best manufacturers of both cars and motorcycles. The story of the BMW Motorcycle, or “Motorrad,” in German, started in 1921 when they were contracted by other companies to build motorcycle engines. In 1923, BMW founded their own motorcycle brand under the name BMW Motorrad. Today, the BMW Motorrad brand is known for manufacturing durable and comfortable motorcycles you can ride for long distances.
The K 1600 GTL seems to have it all. It runs on a powerful 1,600 cc 6-cylinder in line engine that produces 160 horses. The roomy seats on the K 1600 GTL are ergonomically designed for two and have a heating feature perfect for long cold rides. This motorrad features keyless ignition, beautiful Xenon headlamps, an adjustable electric windshield, and computerized, electronic suspensions and ABS brakes. The Dynamic ESA or Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment regulates suspension damping automatically in relation to real-time road conditions. This ensures that your settings are optimized for the best ride.
The Honda brand is a well-known Japanese brand that was established in 1946. Honda first started out as a manufacturer of piston rings for Toyota, the company that would eventually become one of their biggest rivals in the car industry. After their successful contracts with Toyota, Honda ventured into motorcycle production in 1949 with the “Dream,” the first clutchless motorcycle ever produced. Their innovations didn’t stop there. They also introduced the first ever four-stroke motorcycle to the world in 1951. Today, Honda is known as the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles, a title they’ve held on to since 1959.
Honda’s entry onto this list is with an all-time American touring favorite, the Honda Gold Wing. It’s a classic that has undergone many revisions throughout the years but has still remained true to its roots. The Gold Wing is a big bike that comfortably seats two in a neutral spine position. The pillion seat features a backrest as well as an arm rest for added comfort. Behind it is the 50-liter top luggage compartment, and underneath this are the two 30-liter luggage compartments. The Gold Wing has a 1,833 cc 6 cylinder engine that generates 125 horsepower. It comes with a 6-speed manual or an automatic 7-speed DCT (dual clutch transmission).
The Yamaha Motor Company is the second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world in terms of sales. It has been around since the 1950s and has a long history of producing high-performance motorcycles that are track worthy. In fact, its first production motorcycle was a race winner. This racing excellence continued with a 10-year victory streak in the Daytona 200 starting in 1972 and a three-year MotoGP win streak that culminated in 2010. Today, Yamaha produces motorcycles that benefit from advancements perfected in the racing circuit.
In North America, Yamaha established the Star brand to produce long-distance cruisers specifically built to address the cruising and touring culture. The Yamaha Star Venture Transcontinental is one of Star’s best successes. It’s a high-performance machine that comes with a large air-cooled 1854 cc, 8-valve, V-twin engine. It has a 6-speed transmission that’s equipped with Yamaha’s assist and slipper clutch system. For added warmth, this Yamaha Star offering has heated seats and grip warmers. The luggage capacity is at 141 liters but can be boosted with the Transcontinental package. You’ll be happy to know that the Venture Transcontinental also comes with an advanced park assist system as well as a mounted, touch infotainment system that’s also used for navigation.
Triumph is recognized as the largest British motorcycle brand. It was founded in 1885 by a German immigrant. The company started out as an importer and exporter of bicycles. After 4 years, the company decided to produce its own bicycles. In 1902, the company manufactured its first ever motorcycle, a bike retrofitted with an engine made by the Belgian company, Minerva. Later, in 1905 Triumph started producing motorcycles of their own design. Triumph gained popularity in the States with the introduction of the Thunderbird, a motorcycle with a 650 cc engine built for long-distance riding. This same engine held the land speed record for motorcycles starting from 1955 up to 1970. The Thunderbird became their most popular motorcycle in those days, having been used by Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Triumph went bankrupt in 1983 but was soon bought by John Bloor, a wealthy British businessman who revamped the brand in 1990.
The Triumph Tiger Explorer XRt is an adventure touring beast. It comes with a powerful 1200 cc, 12-valve, in-line, 3-cylinder DOHC engine that puts out 139 horses at 9,350 rpm. It also comes equipped with heated seats for both rider and pillion. This state-of-the-art British machine features 4 preset riding modes and 1 rider programmable mode for a better custom riding experience.
The Kawasaki brand is well-known as one of the giants in motorcycle manufacturing. It hails from Japan and is a subsidiary of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries zaibatsu. Aside from commercial motorcycles, the Kawasaki brand is also active in producing military defense products, aerospace machinery, industrial robots, airplanes, trains, and heavy equipment. Kawasaki began motorcycle production with their “Meguro” brand in 1962, which became Kawasaki Motorcycle in 1963. Kawasaki’s introduction to the American market was with the infamous H1 or Mach III. It was powered by a 500 cc two-stroke, three-cylinder, fire-breathing engine. All throughout its history, the Kawasaki brand has always been a disruptor, introducing ever more powerful motorcycles every chance it gets.
The Kawasaki ride that makes it on this list is the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS. This is the brand’s flagship touring motorcycle. With its 1,700 cc V-twin engine, you’ll have enough power to dominate the road with confidence. The design is perfect for touring. It’s large, it has frame-mounted fairings, and it comes with integrated luggage compartments. For added comfort for long-distance rides, it also comes equipped with an electronic cruise control system.
This motorcycle giant started life as a loom manufacturing company in 1909. They soon experimented with building small cars, but this was discontinued because of the war. After the war, like many other Japanese motorcycle companies, Suzuki began manufacturing and distributing clip-on engines for bicycles. From then on, Suzuki has been at the forefront of motorcycle manufacturing innovations.
The V-Strom 1000 ABS is adventure touring at its finest. This bike comes equipped with a 1037 cc, 2-cylinder V-twin capable of 99 horses. It performs well on and off road. The windshield is designed to maintain ideal airflow to the rider. It comes with a smart traction control system that constantly monitors road conditions as well as bike performance and makes adjustments accordingly. It also comes with a 35-liter top case, a 26-liter right case, and a 29-liter left case for your luggage. You can also attach a 15-liter tank bag as an additional gear compartment.
There is probably no other motorcycle brand in the world that is as iconic as the Harley Davidson. This famous and sometimes infamous brand is recognized as having been the originator of the chopper-style motorcycle. Harley-Davidson is a beloved American icon that has gained a massive loyal following all over the world. It was founded in 1903 in Milwaukee and still continues to operate its factories there today as well as in other places across the US and the world.
Harley-Davidson has a few touring options for riders, but the one that makes it on this list of the best touring bikes is the Electra Glide. The Electra Glide is powered by a 1746 cc V-twin engine. It’s built for touring comfort. The seat is designed to provide back support to both rider and passenger and an additional arm rest for the passenger. It comes standard with front and rear ABS equipped Brembo brakes as well as adjustable shocks for more precise adjustments to your riding comfort and safety.
The Indian Motorcycle brand is America’s first motorcycle manufacturing company. It was first established in 1897 as a bicycle company. It was in 1901 that the company first created a motorized bicycle to pace cycling races. Because of the success of this motorized bike, Indian opened its first motorcycle company. The company changed hands a few times, and at one time, it was even owned by DuPont Automobile. Even after having been bankrupt and having been resurrected as a new brand, the Indian Motorcycle brand has always operated under the spirit of adventure. Indian held land speed records in the 1960s and was sponsor to Travis Pastrana’s recreation of the death-defying stunts of Evel Knievel in 2018.
Just one look at the Indian Roadmaster. and you know that its name isn’t an empty boast. The form and function of this ultimate touring motorcycle come together to create a masterpiece of a machine. The Roadmaster is propelled by an imposing 1811 cc V-twin that has no trouble moving the motorcycle even when fully loaded. Ride in maximum comfort with its premium heated seat and pillion. It comes equipped with a cumulative 140-liter cargo space. The Roadmaster features keyless ignition, an adjustable windshield, cruise control, and an interactive infotainment system with navigation features.
The KTM brand is a well-known Austrian maker that’s popular for its reliable off-road bikes. The brand was founded in 1934 and has maintained active motorcycle production up to this day. KTM is an undeniable leader in the exciting world of motorsports, with many championships under its belt. Throughout the years, KTM has refined their motorcycles to be high-performing, highly maneuverable machines on or off the road.
The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is a sports touring wonder. It’s powered by a 1,301 cc V-twin that gallops with 173 horses. This is great for those who like the feel of sport bike but like the functionality of a touring bike. The Super Duke GT’s ergonomic seat is highly padded for added comfort while on long rides. This bike also comes with stock and optional software and electronic features to help you get more out of your machine, like a cruise control system, a quick shift assist, automatic traction control, and much more. You also have your choice of case attachments for your gear.
The Ducati brand is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer that is owned by the German luxury car brand, Audi, which itself is under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group. Ducati is known in motorcycle circles to produce high-powered street racers. The brand itself had its start as a manufacturer of vacuum tubes for radios in 1926. In 1944, the company started marketing engine mounts for bicycles. In 1950, after the wide success of their small engine bike mounts, Ducati decided to go into the manufacturing of motorcycles.
The Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro is Ducati’s entry on this list. This beautiful motorcycle is not shy about its hybrid nature. It comes with a 1,262 cc engine that generates 158 horsepower. It is built to perform excellently under all road conditions. This is assisted with its multiple riding mode settings that include Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro. For safety and comfort, the Multistrada 1260 Enduro has cruise control, ABS, and Ducati traction and wheelie control.