What is The Best Touring Motorcycle? While it is true that you can tour on any bike, indeed, any vehicle, touring motorcycles offer a unique blend of exhilaration and comfort. You could take your trip in a car, but you would be missing out on the experience of riding a motorcycle through the open countryside. And you could choose any old bike, but over long trips, you will soon come to appreciate why touring motorcycles are a thing. So, what makes a good touring bike? As you might expect, comfort is a significant factor. You will typically sacrifice some of the maneuverability that a more agile bike grants you, but in doing so you gain a more stable ride, perfectly engineered to chew up the long miles with much less effort. Touring bikes have had a bad rep in this area in the past, but modern touring bikes are surprisingly nimble. Storage is another critical component. If you are embarking on a long journey, you will need somewhere to put your gear, and covering the miles with a heavy rucksack on your back is nobody’s idea of a fun time. Other features you would expect to find on a touring bike include higher windscreens, larger fuel tanks, and more pillion comfort. Indeed, it is not uncommon for touring bikes to have a backrest for passengers.
The Best Touring Motorcycle for Your Money
Choosing the best touring motorcycle is something of a subjective task. For one thing, your budget will significantly affect what you consider “the best”, as the best motorcycle in the world is no use to you if you can’t afford it. To that end, we have broken our best bike pick into two; a budget option and a money-is-no-object option. Of course, we’re dealing with the best touring motorcycle for your money, so the budget option is by no means cheap, but if you’re looking for the best, there will always be a premium to pay.
Yamaha Tracer 700
Clocking in at a little under £8,000, you will be hard-pressed to find a touring motorcycle as good as the Tracer 700 for as small a price.
The 700 is a mean looking bike that wouldn’t seem out of place on a race track, but don’t let the sleek exterior fool you—this bike is in it for the long haul. If you have seen reviews of the Tracer 700 that spoke of little niggles here and there, fear not. 2020 saw Yamaha revamp the bike and address a lot of the issues that riders had with the model, including soft suspension and emissions that didn’t meet the Euro 5 standard. The Tracer 700 puts out a respectable 74bhp, which won’t set any land speed records but has plenty of go to get you where you need to be. As is often the case with budget products, the Tracer 700 is something of a “bare-bones” offering. While the price tag is attractive (particularly when compared to our next pick), you will need to factor in the cost of the various accessories that you will almost certainly want if you intend to go touring on this bike—things like tank pads, USB sockets, high windscreens, and more, all cost extra.
Honda GL1800 Gold Wing
Unlike the Yamaha Tracer 700, the GL1800 Gold Wing comes fully kitted out and ready to hit the touring trail.
This bike looks every part the touring motorcycle, with a cohesive look that is brought together by full-body trim, matching storage compartments, and a backrest for pillion passengers. The latest iteration of the GL1800 puts out an impressive 125bhp and has the option of a semi-automatic transmission to make those long journeys even more effortless. Have a look at some motorcycle tour ideas here. A great deal of effort has gone into keeping the weight down on what is undeniably a big bike, while at the same time sparing no luxury. The dash wouldn’t look out of place in a fully-featured car, and displays a great deal of information on its large colour screen, including which of the current riding modes you are currently using because, yes, there are different modes to suit your current situation. All things considered, owning the GL1800 is a lot like having a fully-featured car, just without the roof. Unfortunately, the price does reflect that. At around £30,000, it is over three times the cost of the Tracer 700, but believe us when we tell you that you are getting your money’s worth. There is also a more basic version available for closer to £20,000.
The Best New Touring Motorcycle for Two People
Touring, like many things in life, can be better with a friend. While passenger comfort is a consideration in any touring motorcycle, some models prioritise it more than others, so we thought we’d pick out a great bike for those of you who like to head out with a friend or partner. Now, if we’re being honest, we would probably have picked the Honda GL1800 Gold Wing for this if we hadn’t already anointed it as the best touring motorcycle for your money. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other great bikes to choose from.
Harley-Davidson Electra Glide with Tour-Pak
When looking at the touring motorcycle world through a pure pillion perspective, it is difficult to recommend any bike more than the Electra Glide with the Tour-Pak accessories.
Now, we’re not saying the Glide is not a great bike in general—it is a powerful, attractive bit of kit with all the heritage and prestige you would expect from a Harley-Davidson. But when it comes to pillion comfort, there are few bikes around that can match the extreme comfort the Tour-Pak offers. With a wrap-around backrest, you will feel not only comfortable but also secure. We can’t overstate how much that extra security improves long journeys riding pillion.
The Best Touring Motorcycle for Short and Tall People
Being taller or shorter than average can often be frustrating. Whether it’s buying clothing or riding motorcycles, it can often feel like the world wasn’t made for you. Fortunately, there are bikes out there that suit all shapes and sizes.
With that distinctive Honda styling, exceptional comfort, and a seat height of just 28.3 inches, the CTX700 is an excellent bike for the shorter rider. This is a very versatile bike with a comfortable pillion position and plenty of power. It is a little light on storage, however, so factor that in before you buy.
Yamaha XSR 900
With a seat height of 32.7 inches, the XSR 900 is definitely better suited to the longer-legged riders among us. It sports something of a retro style, though there is nothing retro about the 847cc engine, helped along by cutting edge electronics. The XSR 900 is a little light on luxuries, however, so you may find yourself shelling out for plenty of accessories before you hit the road.
When answering the question, “what is the best touring motorcycle?”, it is essential to remember that the best bike for you is the one you can afford. It’s natural to want the very best, but if the very best is not realistically attainable, don’t deny yourself the experience of touring on two wheels. Motorcycles—touring motorcycles in particular—have come a long way in recent years, and even the bikes at the lower end of the price spectrum are small marvels of engineering, offering levels of comfort that even high-end motorcycles couldn’t have pulled off a few decades ago.Touring is all about the experience, and, while a Honda GL1800 Gold Wing will undoubtedly offer you a better ride than a Yamaha Tracer 700, that Tracer is still considerably better than nothing.