There’s no easy way to catalog the best touring motorcycles ever made. There’s simply too much difference of opinion about what a true touring motorcycle is.
The problem is that touring motorcycles come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Today, it’s a broad genre, and what classifies as a tourer can vary from one rider to the next.
For traditionalists, a real touring motorcycle has an engine with plenty of low-end horsepower, a relaxed riding position, and practical accessories such as large fairings and saddlebags. In the US, the touring segment has its own subgenres, including baggers, dressers, full baggers, full dressers, and more.
However, there are plenty of riders who would class a modern adventure motorcycle as a touring machine. While adventure bikes lean towards rugged riding that asphalt cruising, they do feature comfortable upright riding positions, luggage options, and enormous capability for continent-crossing touring.
Of course, you can also tour on any motorcycle, from a moped to a sports bike, providing that you’re equipped with enough enthusiasm!
For the purpose of this list, we’re going to mention some of the best touring motorcycles ever made but without committing to any clear-cut definitions of what a touring motorcycle truly is. We’re going to look at highlights from across the whole spectrum.
Naturally, the best touring motorcycle is the one that you can afford, but without further ado, let’s look at some of these iconic and crowd-pleasing fan favorites.
Sports Touring Motorcycles
Kawasaki Concourse 14
Kawasaki knows a thing or two about headlining grabbing sports touring machines. There are plenty that we could’ve picked, from the attention-seeking supercharged H2 SX SE+ to the no-less intimidating Ninja ZX-14R. However, we’ve settled on the Concourse 14: a motorcycle that truly offers the perfect balance of sports performance and touring-friendly comfort.
Unlike a lot of larger motorcycles, the Concourse is surprisingly nimble and handles like a real sports bike. It also features an absolute beast of an engine, with a 1,352cc liquid-cooled inline-four delivering 158 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque. It’s got plenty of sport. But—and this is a big problem—especially if you’re comparing it with other large sports-tourers: it doesn’t have cruise control.
The lack of cruise control is a deal-breaker for many touring aficionados. And quite rightly so. However, for those who are more concerned about the performance side of things, with plans to tour every now and again, it’s not such an issue. Even so, the Concourse 14 is a legend. Even without cruise control.
The BMW R1200RT is a fantastic touring motorcycle. It has been a staple of the BMW touring range since it was first introduced in 2005, but it has roots that go back all the way to the late 70s when BMW launched its first Reise-Tourer (travel touring) model.
From 2005 to 2018, the R1200RT was equipped with a powerful 1,170 cc boxer-twin engine with a six-speed transmission and a shaft drive. The result was a potent 109 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque, wrapped in a competent and nimble chassis. What made it such a great touring machine was the addition of semi-active suspension, shift assistant pro technology, and of course, remote locking luggage.
Today, the BMW R1200RT has evolved into the BMW R1250RT, a touring machine with almost the same DNA as the older model, but with extra displacement and the addition of variable valve timing.
The Yamaha FJR1300 is a legendary sports touring motorcycle. Ever since it rolled onto the scene in 2001, it has received universal praise almost immediately. When the model made its way to the US a year later, it was met with an even more positive reaction. Over the years, it has developed and evolved into one of the most formidable machines in the Yamaha line-up.
The most advanced iteration of the FJR is the FJR1300ES. It uses a powerful 1,298cc inline-four engine that produces a hearty 142 horsepower and a muscular 101.7 lb-ft of torque. That power is delivered to the rear wheel by a practical shaft drive and kept under control using selectable traction control, chip-controlled throttle, cruise control, and dual-zone ABS.
What makes this one of the best touring motorcycles ever is the fact that it offers comfortable, hassle-free touring but with easily removable bags and plenty of sports performance for days when practical mile-munching isn’t your main priority.
Adventure Touring Motorcycles
While we’ve opted for the R1250GS, it could just as well be any of the big R/GS models of the past 20 years. These bikes are what this subgenre is all about: they’re essentially big dirt bikes with comfortable ergonomics, designed to tour the globe. The most famous GS model would be the R1150GS, the very same model that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman rode from London to New York in Long Way Round.
The success of Long Way Round ignited a global interest in motorcycle touring, resulting in the R1150GS and its subsequent successors becoming the brands best selling bikes year after year. Touring wouldn’t be the same without them.
The current flagship touring from BMW is the R1250GS. It features a 1,250cc boxer-twin engine that delivers an impressive 136 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. It’s a versatile motorcycle that can take you through narrow city streets, into uncharted off-road territory, and across entire continents. That’s why it’s one of the greatest touring motorcycles ever made.
Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin
The all-new Africa Twin takes everything that we loved about the original and turns it up to eleven. When the reborn Africa Twin first appeared in 2016, we were instantly smitten, and each year has seen the model improve upon the last. The latest Africa Twin now features a 1,084cc parallel-twin engine that offers 92 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque. Ideal for traveling anywhere.
Previously, we wouldn’t have considered the legendary Africa Twin for a list like this. Sure, it’s a great adventure motorcycle, but it was lacking one key feature. However, Honda righted that wrong in 2020: they added cruise control. In fact, it’s the very same cruise control that you’d find on the Gold Wing.
Add in convenient features such as Apple CarPlay, taller handlebars, optional dual-clutch transmission, selectable ABS, selectable ride modes, and Honda’s very own selectable torque control, and you have a formidable touring machine.
Yamaha Super Tenere 1200
There are plenty of good choices out there to round off this sports touring section, but we feel that the Super Tenere is the best of the rest. It’s rugged, tough, durable, and race-proven. If it’s good enough to compete in the Dakar Rally, it’s good enough for the casual tourer, either on or off-road.
The current Super Tenere uses a 1,119cc parallel-twin engine that produces 110 horses and 84 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the wheel via a rock-steady shaft drive. The power is accessible in the low and mid-range, making it ideal for heavy-duty off-roading or more relaxed highway cruising.
It’s more than just a big dirt bike. Super Tenere riders can enjoy everything you’d expect from a road-focused cruiser too. It’s got heated-grips, additional luggage options, adjustable suspension, and of course, cruise control. Granted, the luggage options aren’t included, but there are plenty of factory add-ons to help riders transform this ride into whatever they need it to be. All for an affordable price too.
Traditional Touring Motorcycles
Harley-Davidson Road Glide
Now that we’re focusing on traditional bags and front-faired touring motorcycles, it would be an injustice not to include the Harley-Davidson Road Glide. The old-school Tour Glide was first introduced in 1979, evolving over the years into the current Road Glide that we have today. It’s an American icon.
The most recent iteration of the Road Glide uses Harley’s relatively new Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine. It’s a 1,753cc air-cooled V-twin engine that produces approximately 76 horsepower and 111 lb-ft of torque. This engine has that classic Harley sound and delivers power right where you need it, whether you’re riding in congested city traffic, or stretching your legs on the open road.
It ticks all of the traditional touring motorcycle boxes: it has a large front fairing, an upright riding position, floorboards, a passenger seat, saddlebags, and a comprehensive infotainment system. It’s got cruise control, ABS, fancy electronics, and plenty of storage space.
For some riders, this is the best touring motorcycle there is.
The Indian Roadmaster is another iconic heritage machine designed specifically for touring. Over the years, the Roadmaster has evolved into an instantly recognizable American classic that does exactly what its name suggests: it masters the road.
The modern Indian Roadmaster uses Indian’s beastly Thunderstroke 116 engine. That’s 1,890cc of pure joy or 116 cubic inches in old money. In terms of power, the Roadmaster produces 92 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. We can all agree that the figure is more than enough for solid highway cruising.
Naturally, the Roadmaster features everything a real touring motorcycle needs. It’s got heated seats, heated grips, highway bars, ABS, cruise control, an electronically adjustable rear shock, LED lighting, and an advanced infotainment system. The infotainment system has a 7-inch display and a powerful 200 Watt four-speaker sound system. If that wasn’t enough, the bags and top box can hold up to 37 gallons of storage.
Those are just a few of the highlights of this beautiful touring motorcycle.
The BMW K 1600 GTL is one of the most formidable touring motorcycles currently on the market. If luxurious two-up touring is your thing, then this is a motorcycle worth considering. Not only does it pack a powerful punch in the engine department, but it also features bucket loads of comfortable options to make your next long-distance adventure an absolute breeze.
The GTL is the top model in the K1600 range. Every model uses the same 1,649cc flat-six liquid-cooled engine, which is capable of producing an eye-watering 160 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. It’s a heavyweight motorcycle, but surprisingly nimble when you take it out in the canyons.
The engine alone would be enough to make anyone fall in love with this tourer, but it’s the level of luxury that sets it apart from the crowd. It has all the bells and whistles. These include heated seats, Dynamic ESA, Xenon headlights, ABS Pro, clutchless shifting, reverse-assist maneuvering, and more.
If that wasn’t enough, it comes with plenty of storage space, which is a must for any serious touring motorcycle.
Honda Gold Wing
No list focusing on the best touring motorcycles ever made would be complete without listing the most important: the Honda Gold Wing. The legendary Gold Wing has been the ultimate touring motorcycle ever since it first rolled onto the scene back in 1974. Over the years, its overall styling has changed, but its mission has remained the same. It was put here by Honda to be the benchmark standard for all touring motorcycles.
The very first Gold Wing used a 999cc flat-four engine with a shaft-driven power train. Back then, it was a very standard looking roadster, without any kind of fairing. Today, it’s an entirely different beast that comes equipped with every bit of equipment that a motorcycle could need. And quite a lot of extra equipment that most motorcycle really don’t need, too.
Today’s Gold Wing uses a gigantic 1,833cc liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed, six-cylinder engine. It’s a heavy engine that keeps the bike’s center of gravity low, making it ideal for slow-speed maneuvering and stable, speedy highway riding. In terms of power, the Gold Wing produces a maximum of 118 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque.
Couple that power with a shopping list of top-shelf features including a premium infotainment system, a slipper clutch, walking mode, cruise control, ABS, Dual-combined braking, and optional DCT, it’s not hard to see why the Honda Gold Wing has remained on top for all of these years.