The 5 Best Touring Motorcycles
All five of these bikes eat up the miles, but which one is the best for you?
The tricky thing about the concept of touring is, it means a lot of things to a lot of riders. Do you want to take a pillion out with you, or would you rather ride by yourself? Are we talking about flawlessly planned and executed stops at predetermined hotels and restaurants along the way, or are we motocamping whenever and wherever we feel like it? Most of all, will this trip be on-road, off-road, or some combination?
There’s clearly a lot to consider, and all those factors mean your perfect workhorse may be the total antithesis of anyone else’s. For our purposes, we’re contemplating new bikes available for sale in 2019. If you’d rather grab a used Caponord for your upcoming trip through Canada on your way to ride the Denali Highway, we will a) not blame you in the slightest, and b) certainly not stop you.
The best touring bike for you, no matter who you are, is the bike you’ll actually tour on. It doesn’t have to cost as much or more than a car, either—although it also totally can, if that’s what you want. Finally, your perfect tourer may not be on this list—but you might want to check anyway, just in case it is.
Original article published October 7, 2013; updated December 3, 2019.
Honda Gold Wing
The Gold Wing has been around forever and has kept evolving over those years. It’s massive, it’s chunky, and it does the one job it has—touring, particularly two-up—very well indeed. A shiny new one has a base MSRP starting at $23,800, but of course, there are used options. Just a quick glance at Cycle Trader shows 2015 options ranging around $12,000 to $15,000.
I’m gonna be real honest with you. I hate riding pillion. That’s why I don’t do it. However, if you are a rider who likes to take a pillion, and you want them to be comfortable for hundreds and thousands of miles and days of riding in a row, this is a great option for both you and them. Every time I’ve ridden competitors in this segment, conversation inevitably turns to how yeah, that Gold Wing is pretty excellent in its niche.
Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
Classic cruiser styling filtered through Italian sensibilities is how you get the California 1400. Its 1380cc V-twin is loaded with both character and grunt. If you’re looking for timeless design, refracted through the kind of lens that only comes from a certain historical factory located in Mandello del Lario, Italy, this is it.
Base MSRP for a new one is $18,490, but a quick Cycle Trader check turns up a range of used options, with a 2017 that has just over 12K miles going for a mere $12,499. Older ones seem to hold their value about as well as most used Aprilias—which is to say, not well at all. Good for buyers, bad for sellers.
Yamaha FJR 1300
If you want a little more sportiness with your touring capabilities, you could certainly do worse than the venerable FJR1300. At a curb weight of 635 pounds, it’s still not exactly a featherweight—but it’s considerably more compact and lightweight than some other tourers. A brand new one has an MSRP starting at $16,399, but a used 2015 is around $11K. A 2007 with 10,500 miles is currently listed on Cycle Trader for $6K.
BMW R 1250 GS
Unlike some options on this list, you probably have an instant and visceral reaction to the inclusion of this bike. Chances are excellent that you already know whether this prototypical adventure tourer is the bike for you, and that’s totally fair. The basic fact is, no brand-new rider is instantly going to decide to go touring as their very first thing they do on a bike. Could a new rider theoretically choose to ride off into the sunset on any kind of tourer as their first bike? Sure, but it probably doesn’t happen very often.
That being said, the R 1250 GS is an almost endless fountain of possibilities, and that’s what makes it great. Starting at an MSRP of $17,895, a used one currently on Cycle Trader with just over 500 miles on it is already down to $15,500.
Triumph Tiger 800 XRx LRH
What’s that, you say? You like the idea of touring and tearing up some roads across the country, but you’d love to do it on a triple? Say no more, fam. Triumph’s got you. Heck, you can even get the regular XRx if you’re not vertically-challenged. That choice is ultimately between you and your pants, and far be it from me to get in your way.
However, if you’re petite of stature and want a capable tourer that doesn’t feel like it’s going to swallow you whole, this is a very valid option. That 30-inch seat height is a welcome change, and a dry weight of 439 pounds won’t totally suck to have to pick back up if you go down.
A new one starts at an MSRP of $13,800, and unfortunately there aren’t a lot of used options yet since it hasn’t been around as long as the other bikes on this list. Still, there’s a 2018 with just over 2,000 miles on CT for $11K right now.