Motorcycles are ridden every from dirt trails to paved roads. For the latter, standards and cruisers tend to be popular choices. Cruisers in particular offer an attractive combination of relaxed riding with casual speed. Quite a few cruisers can actually out-accelerate some high-end sports cars. However, over long stretches of road, touring bikes are the more typical ride of choice. Fortunately, getting on a touring motorcycle doesn’t mean giving up speed.
What is a touring motorcycle?
A touring motorcycle, according to Cycle World, is designed to eat up long miles on the road in maximum comfort. These motorcycles offer extensive wind protection and fairings and extensive storage space. Many also feature infotainment systems with navigation. There are also sport-touring motorcycles, which have firmer suspensions and more powerful engines designed for enhanced performance in tight bends, according to Gear Patrol.
Sport-tourers aside, many of these attributes sound similar to cruisers. And, in fact, Autotrader reports that some cruisers, like Harley-Davidson’s Road Glide, are also considered touring bikes. However, touring motorcycles offer more features and tend to have mid-mounted controls, rather than feet-forward ones like on cruisers. And although you can bags to a cruiser to get what’s called a ‘bagger’, touring bikes have still more cargo space.
Also, touring bikes aren’t quite on the same level as adventure bikes. They do share some similarities with touring motorcycles, like mid-mounted controls and long-distance comfort features. However, adventure bikes are designed to be more off-road-focused, with features like long-travel suspension and skid plates.
Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
We’ve previously featured the Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide in our ‘Fastest Cruisers’ list—again, shows how some cruisers make good touring bikes. However, that was a previous-gen model. Since then, Harley-Davidson revised its lineup, adding a more-powerful V-Twin engine. Cycle World reported a 5% decrease in 0-60 time with the 1.9-liter engine, bringing the Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide’s time down to 3.52 seconds. But with an MSRP of almost $41k, you’d expect it to be quick.
Honda Gold Wing
The Honda Gold Wing isn’t just a great Honda bike, it’s one of the best touring motorcycles available. In fact, in awarding it the 2018 Best Touring Motorcycle of the Year award, Cycle World said, “the very notion of high-tech luxury touring exists because of the Gold Wing.”
Since its 1975 debut, the Gold Wing has continuously evolved—in fact, the 2018 model was a complete redesign. It now offers features like a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and a factory airbag. However, it also has some serious speed. Cycle World measured the previous-gen’s 0-60 time as 3.3 seconds. Considering the Gold Wing lost some weight during its redesign, the latest model might be even faster. And with a starting price of $23.8k, it’s significantly cheaper than the Harley.
BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
The $20,195 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure is another category-blurring bike, this time between adventure and touring. In any case, it was good enough to win Cycle World’s 2019 Touring Bike of the Year, so it’s included here. The bike certainly has the features for both categories. It has long-travel suspension, multiple riding modes, a rev-matching transmission, and even hill start assist. And with 117 hp from a 1.3-liter flat-twin, the R 1250 GS Adventure can hit 60 mph in 3.16 seconds.
Little wonder its predecessors were the rides of choice for Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in their Long Way film series.
Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+
Smaller capacities of the Kawasaki Versys make for very reliable beginner bikes. But there’s also a version for experienced riders looking for more speed. That’s the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+. Firmly on the sport-touring side of things, the latest Versys offers a quick-shifter and electronically-controlled suspension, as well as stability and traction control. It also comes with a special app that lets riders log and review their trip data.
The Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ is also one of the most affordable touring motorcycles listed here; it starts at $17,999. Kawasaki updated the 1.0-liter four-cylinder for the 2019 model year. Still, the previous-gen model was quick enough to hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds in Cycle World’s testing.
Yamaha Tracer 900 GT
Yamaha offers several touring motorcycles. But if you’re going for speed, the one to buy is the Tracer 900 GT. It was formerly called the FJ-09, as it’s based on the FZ-09 (now called the MT-09) naked bike. The Tracer 900 GT keeps the MT-09 0.85-liter three-cylinder engine, which makes 115 hp, according to Revzilla. But it also adds fairings, a windscreen that can be adjusted with one hand, integrated luggage, cruise control, and a 12V power outlet.
The Tracer 900 GT isn’t quite as feature-laden as the BMW or Gold Wing. It doesn’t even have a full-range quick-shifter like the Versys (the Yamaha’s only works on upshifts). However, it’s the cheapest touring motorcycle here, with an MSRP of $12,999. It’s also one of the lightest, at 474 lbs without side cases. This also makes it one of the quickest: Cycle World ran the previous-gen FJ-09 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
Ducati Multistrada 1260 S
Ducati is usually associated with high-performance racing bikes or stripped-down Monsters. However, the brand also makes an adventure-touring bike, the Multistrada (Italian for ‘many roads’). And, just like its brethren, the Multistrada is a seasoned racer, winning its class at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb three times in a row (2010, 2011, 2012). Ducati even has a model that celebrates these victories, the Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak.
As usual for a Ducati, this touring motorcycle has a 90-degree V-twin, a 1.3-liter one making up to 158 hp, according to Cycle World. For those more into adventure-touring, there’s the 1260 S Grand Tour. Like other Multistradas, it has traction and stability control. The ‘S’ indicates it comes with semi-active suspension, as well. And as the ‘GT’ model, Cycle World reports it offers more luggage space, fog lights, and a Bluetooth-equipped infotainment system.
All these features do come at a price: the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Pikes Peak costs $25,495. But it’s also the quickest touring motorcycle on this list: ADVPulse recorded the previous-gen’s 0-60 time as 2.8 seconds.
The difficulty in measuring touring motorcycle 0-60 times
The reason why this list at times refers to ‘previous-gen’ bikes is because of how difficult it can be to measure 0-60 times. As Jason Cammisa explained on The Smoking Tire podcast (video below, warning: spicy language), to truly get the best times, reviewers basically have to destroy the bike’s transmission and clutch.
In addition, oftentimes the 0-60 time that’s reported is a ‘best-of’ that came after multiple destructive runs. 0-60 time reporting also requires reviewers to use specialized equipment to account for temperature, altitude, and even humidity effects. It’s highly possible that, in the face of the testing requirements, reviewers didn’t have the time and/or budget to properly measure 0-60 times. Hence, the ‘previous-gen’ notations.
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