The 5 Best Touring Motorcycles — Bikes For Doing Distance

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You’ve bought all of the riding gear, got the maps, worked out a route and you now want to ride as far and as long as you can. So which type of motorcycle should you take touring?

There’s a huge selection to choose from. Big tourers, mid-size sport tourers, cruiser/tourers, but here’s five bikes that are RideApart’s choice for doing distance. All five of these will all eat up the miles, plus get you, a passenger and your luggage to wherever you’re going quickly and in a fair degree of comfort.

BMW K 1600 GTL

BMW K 1600 GTL

Back in August, we reviewed BMW’s fully-faired, long distance tourer, the K 1600 GTL (and its sibling the K 1600 GT) and gave them both a thumbs up with the GTL getting a 9/10 rating as we felt it redefined what a big modern touring bike should be. Very fast, extremely comfortable and very capable. Although it’s a big motorcycle at 703 lbs, it just doesn’t ride like a big, heavy bike. We felt the K 1600 GTL represents everything that BMW knows about making great motorcycles.

As a cross-country tourer the GTL comes fully loaded but, despite all of the kit, we were hard-pressed to categorize this BMW as, out on the road, it’s almost as involving as a superbike. So instead we opted for the new term “Supertourer.”

Not only can you ride it for miles and miles, you can get off it feeling you’ve just ridden around the block. This is in part down to its powerful 1,649cc engine and its claimed 160 hp and 129 lb.-ft. of torque. Being an inline-six, it’s super smooth and it delivers that torque at very low revs.

The GTL shares quite a lot (frame, engine, brakes etc) with its slightly less expensive sibling, the K 1600 GT ($21,500), but the seating position on the GTL is different (you sit more in the GTL rather than on the bike like the GT), the foot pegs are lower and further forward and the bars are higher and closer to the rider.

At $23,950 (including ABS as standard) it’s not cheap. But the GTL comes with an impressive standard equipment list that includes hard bags and a sophisticated media system that allows you to pair sat nav, phones and MP3 players. If you want to ride great distances, with a passenger and in great comfort look no further than BMW’s K 1600 GTL.

Honda Gold Wing F6B

Honda gold wing f6b

You may remember in March we sent RideApart staffer, Sean McDonald off on a long distance trip to test out Honda’s F6B Gold Wing from his home in SoCal to Seattle and back. He racked up over 2500 miles during 10 days of riding on various roads and in varying weather conditions along the way.

Sean liked what he found on the F6B and describes it as “a bike that is many things.” Even Honda calls the F6B part boulevard and part tourer.

It shares the same 1,832cc flat-six engine, frame and transmission — minus electric reverse gear — of the regular Gold Wing but, to put it simply, it just has less equipment. Major visual differences are a lower screen and the deleted top box. All that knocks 60 lbs off the all-up weight.

Sometimes compromises aren’t good, but in the case of the F6B (Flat Six Bagger) we think that Honda had got this motorcycle bang on. It can be ridden hard like a sport bike, yet when you want to cruise or tour you can settle back and enjoy one of the most comfortable motorcycles out there.

Part of that is due to the F6B’s seating position, which we think is better than the regular Gold Wing because it offers more space for the rider to move about, particularly if you’re covering a lot of miles. The lower screen, too, drops out of the rider’s field of vision while still managing to direct wind blast over their shoulders. However, F6B passengers may not be that impressed as even with the optional back rest, it’s not as good back there as the plusher, more expensive Gold Wing.

At 842 lbs (wet), the F6B is somewhat portly and, for low speed maneuvering and lane-splitting you really need to keep a careful eye out. On the move though it’s an engaging bike to ride and, with it’s blacked-out fairing and aluminum frame, this version of the Gold Wing looks terrific.

At $19,999, the F6B is also $3,391 cheaper than the regular Gold Wing. That price difference means that on the F6B you miss out on cruise control, electric reverse, full screen, heated grips, seat and foot warmers and a Premium Package audio system. If you can live without all of that, then we would say go for the F6B. It works as a long-distance tourer or an around town cruiser. You won’t be disappointed.

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited

2014 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited

To big fanfare, Harley-Davidson pulled the wraps off its Project Rushmore 2014 touring bikes in August, which included the Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic and the Ultra Limited. On first glance, you’d think nothing had changed but in fact there were a whole host of subtle and important developments that has brought “Milwaukee’s Finest” back into the big tourer sector, perhaps in better shape than it has been for a long time.

H-D’s Ultra Limited is probably the pick of the bunch as it now comes equipped as standard with what H-D calls a “Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103.” It’s fancy terminology for what regular folks call “a water-cooled V-twin.” The regular 103ci motor is good enough air-cooled, but this new Twin-Cooled version ups the game for H-D.

Because it now has radiators (which Harley-Davidson has done a decent job integrating onto the bike) it can run a higher compression ratio of 10.1:1 and, consequently, produces 105.5 ft.-lb. of torque around, 10.7 percent more than the standard 103 engine.

It’s the attention to detail that Harley-Davidson gets full marks from us for 2014. There’s a new airflow vent on the front fairing that reduces helmet buffeting to the rider. Simple, but it works.

ABS is now available across the entire 2014 H-D range – but is standard on the big tourers like the Ultra Limited. As too is the Reflex Linked Brake system that’s operated by the front brake lever and determines how much pressure is applied to either brakes over 25 mph.

The biggest change is the huge technological leap forward on the H-D tourers that the company says was customer led. On the Ultra Limited you get a “6.5 Boom!” infotainment system that has voice recognition technology, color touch screen (motorcycle glove friendly) for music, GPS and cell phone. Bluetooth connectivity is standard for your MP3 player and phone, plus text to speech technology, rider to passenger intercom and CB communication. All of this is included in one module. It sounds super complicated on paper, but in reality it’s all a doddle to use and operate via thumb controls on the bike’s handlebars.

For all tourers, hard bags have been re-designed with clever, one-touch locking latches and, for the Ultra, a redesigned, larger “Tour-Pak.”

There’s some suspension and larger fork tweaks as well, that have improved handling and steering response, plus bigger and better seats, too.

Starting at $25,899 the Ultra Limited is definitely on the upper edge of being pretty expensive. But considering the effort that has gone into the recent changes both in technology and engineering, this touring version means that H-D is back on its game and the Ultra Limited is worthy of consideration if you’re planning that cross-country ride.

Suzuki Hayabusa

2013 Suzuki Hayabusa

For more than $10,000 less than the big Harley, there is Suzuki’s perennial Hayabusa. Or, to give its correct title, the Suzuki GSX1300-R. At $14,399 it’s a lot of bike for the money. You can splash out a further $200 and get the all-yellow Limited Edition version, but we wouldn’t bother.

Here in America, we tend to think drag racing and boulevard posing when we think of the bike, but in actual fact, the ‘Busa is intended to be sort of the (ugly) Aston Martin of motorcycles. It’s made to cross continents (like Europe) at high speeds, not accessorize denim shorts and white tube socks.

The Hayabusa has been around since 1999 and remained relatively unchanged until 2008 when it got a series of limited updates. For 2013 it finally got ABS as standard along with better Brembo brake calipers (but no radial master cylinder).

This, though, is a bike that has become something of a legend. In terms of looks there is no sitting on the fence with the Hayabusa, you either love it or hate it.

But, what you get for your money is astonishing performance from a 194 bhp, 1,340cc, liquid-cooled, four-cylinder engine. A bike that handles far better than you would expect for something that is nigh on 15 years old. Trust us, the Hayabusa can still cut it with the big boys.

It’s well laid out and has a good sport rider position and the ergonomics are roomy enough and the ride smooth enough (thanks to plush, high quality suspension) the Hayabusa can work really well for what we would call a long-distance sports grand tourer. You’ll get wherever you’re going very quickly, have a lot of fun riding there and arrive in good shape, too.

BMW R 1200 GS

2013 BMW R 1200 GS

For the last in our line up, we’re back to BMW and its R 1200 GS. With its roots in the famous Paris-Dakar races, the GS badge is now 30-years-old. It may have made its name in the deserts of Africa, but these days it’s better to think of it as a very capable long distance road tourer, with a dash of dirt-road ability.

At this point you could opt for the more hardcore R 1200 GS Adventure ($18,350), but although you get a more robust bike you also have the older air/oil-cooled boxer twin. This GS will eat the miles, has great ride quality and you can fiddle around with two off-road modes that alter the amount of traction control to the back wheel.

But our choice would be the 2013 BMW R 1200 GS ($16,100). It’s a little cheaper, perhaps a little less rugged than the Adventure, but has the new, water-cooled, 1,170cc boxer twin that puts out 125 bhp (15 hp more than the Adventure, which is based on the last-gen GS). This engine update was the biggest makeover to the GS in 10 years.

You also now get electronically adjustable suspension, integrated controls for SatNav and riding modes. As an off road bike it’s limited. As a long distance tourer, with that 33.5-inch seat height and the subsequent leg room that delivers, it’s terrific. It handles brilliantly and is a blast to ride over short or long distances while putting its rider in comfortable control with tall, wide handlebars and an upright seating position. Passenger accommodation is excellent, too, thanks to a large, flat seat. Fit the optional top box if you want to give that passenger something to lean against.

Compare These Motorcycles

Related Links:
Sore butt? 10 Bikes That Are Actually ComfortableReview: 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring ModelsA Super-Affordable Tourer: Honda CB500X
  • luxlamf

    Nice variety in this article, excellent info and someday when I grow up I will buy a bike such as these. ( Now the “Pro’s” can come in and complain about 1 or all the bikes you featured)

  • akvamme

    i believe the hayabusa. my favorite long distance bike is my old 93 cbr 900rr. nobody believes me.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I loved my old 900RR. Super comfy.

      • akvamme

        it’s fantastic all-rounder that also happens to be a sport bike. i can’t complain.

        • Bill White

          Agreed. Bought mine 3 years ago from the 2nd owner who bought it in ’94. Dude added Ohlins rear shock, Race Tech internals on the front, braided lines, Sargent seat, Kosman billet risers, and a full set of Eclipse luggage and proceeded to charge N. America on it for 16 years. I took it off his hands (fly & ride from Vegas to LA!) and have been racking up the miles on it ever since. Such a find… …LOVE this thing!

          • akvamme

            and super reliable, too. i put mine on a dyno last year with 50,000 miles on it. it still pulled stock numbers. the guys in the shop didn’t believe it. they ran it again, then shook their heads and said “you’ve got a good one, there”. i don’t think i’m ever gonna sell it.

            • Bill White

              Hahaha! Awesome– mine is at 55K and rising. Definitely a keeper.

      • Bill White

        My ’93 900RR is a blast to tour on. Heading out on it tomorrow for a four day trip to parts unknown…

        • akvamme

          jealous. i gotta do that again. it’s been too long.

    • Lourens Smak

      This guy will believe you: http://www.r1goesextreme.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=190&Itemid=239&lang=en round-the-world on a Fireblade… quite amazing! Today he uses an R1 for his (long-distance) adventures.

  • Konstantin Chachanidze

    what I miss is how much fuel these bikes use up?

    • akvamme

      less than a car? :)

      • Blu E Milew

        Doubtful. My buddy and his dad both got new vehicles last year, 1 car and 1 bike. One cost $8k less, gets better gas mileage, is more comfortable for covering distance, has more storage capacity, and is more reliable. The other is on the list above.

        • akvamme

          one could argue that comparing a base model ford focus with a decked out electra glide is flawed from the start, and that if you’re looking for cargo capacity you should have gotten a container truck instead (i hear they have air shocks in the seats now, if you’re looking for comfort), but you know… to each their own.
          i mean come on, anyone who uses mpg as an excuse to get a motorcycle is really just practicing backup arguments for their significant other/parents.

          • engageit

            Have you been talking to my wife?

            • Davidabl2

              “Great minds think alike” :-)

          • Blu E Milew

            There comes a point of diminishing returns imho. When you keep throwing money at a bike to make it “more comfortable”, and “better for touring”, you end up with an overpriced climate controlled couch while saying you’re doing it for the love of riding motorcycles. This is something where I think the hipsters filming their road trips on bobbers got something right.

            (disclaimer: I haven’t yet ridden my buddy’s dad’s ultra glide electra glide classic modern street bob limited but I sat on it and it’s intimidating. Also feels like it weighs the better part of my miata.)

            • Justin McClintock

              Agreed. The only thing a Goldwing does better than a Civic is lean (barely) and accelerate, and most of their riders don’t do much of either of those. If I got to the point of “needing” more comfort than something like an FJR, I’ll just use a car.

      • Konstantin Chachanidze

        bet there are cars out there, that consume a lot less fuel than these bikes? :)))))

  • FrVentura

    Very nice review. Personally, I would go for the K1600GT (not the GTL). F6B is also very nice, but touring very long distances without a cruise control is a bit nuts.

    • PracticalBatman

      Have you ever used a go-cruise? It’s awesome and only like 20 bucks. I know it’s not real cruise control, but its good enough to rest the right hand when it starts falling asleep around mile 800 :P
      Gocruise + a flip up helmet = eat a burrito while rolling down the highway?

      • FrVentura

        Aha, you’re right, I’ve never used one. The thing is, here in Europe, roads are always up and down, so, only a real cruise control can maintain speed. At least, it’s how I think ;)

        • PracticalBatman

          ah – here, we have to cross lots of flat freeway to get to the up and down :P
          the gocruise works well for that. I have one on every bike.

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    Any thoughts on the (newer) Ninja 1000s with hard bags? I’ve been considering one since it’s not quite as big or heavy as a dedicated tourer, and it’d be suitable for commuting. I’m not so sure if it’d be comfortable enough for long-distance or multi-day trips though.

    • Chris McAlevy

      Riding position would be pretty punishing for long distances. Not that you couldn’t do it (there was a guy who’s kind of my personal hero who rode a panigale across the US for 7 months), but it wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable as these bikes.

      • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

        Even though it’s more upright, like the 650R? The position is more like a “standard” bike than the ZX-series Ninjas.

        • Scott Otte

          You can put up with anything for a couple of days. These bikes are really for week plus 600+ mile days. I’ve done several long weekend 1200 mile trips on my Ducati Monster. It’s not ideal but it works fine. I looked at the Ninja 1000, and it looks like a good bike, I worry about gas mileage and how wide it is with bags.

          • Piglet2010

            I would not mind riding long distances on a super-sport if we had no speed limits – anything less than about 90 mph would kill my neck.

            Play around with this site to see how the riding position on a given moto compares to what you are used to: http://cycle-ergo.com/

      • UrbanMoto

        Have you sat on a Ninja? It’s nothing like a GSX-R, R1 or other sport bikes, even though it has a similar ‘image.’ I haven’t ridden one, but when I hopped in the saddle on a Ninja, I was surprised how comfortable and relatively neutral the riding position was. Not an expert here, but I guess I’m talking about the non-ZX models, as alpha_geek noted below. Cycle Ego puts the forward lean on a 650R at 14 degrees, and the Concours 14 at 13. Not much difference.

        • Chris McAlevy

          Ah, that makes sense. I hear “ninja 1000″ and what I’m actually thinking of is the ZX-10R. I had no idea a non-RR big bore ninja even existed.

          • Piglet2010

            Except for racing, track days, and posing at the squid meetup, the Ninja 1000 is a much better choice than the ZX-10R. The 2014 with the optional hard bags would be tempting if we had reasonable speed limits on rural highways.

        • Shaw1960

          Right, exactly, I looked at the Ninja 1000s, too, and I really think, you throw a set of bags on the back, and you could comfortable tour with it. But you can imagine…on Needles Highway, the Million Dollar Highway, and Deal’s Gap Tail of the Dragon, you’d be lovin’ it more than the bikes listed above. But on the way home, it would still be good sitting on that 25-30k Ultra playing with the boomboom radio and all those gadgets in the big barcalounger seat.

    • Shaw1960

      I think the Ninja 1000 will work for you. Great bike, great engine, and I think it is a pretty upright seating position for long distance comfort. I like all the bikes mentioned.+ as some have mentioned, the FJR and V-Stroms. I had a KLR for a few years, have an F6B now. Have had a Triumph (the Tiger 800s were well represented in my 2200 mile 3 Flags Tour this summer), and I’ve owned an Ultra that I also liked, and a big ’04 1800 Goldwing. I just like motorcycles.

      • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

        How’s the F6B? I really like the looks of it, but coming from a Ninja 650R I can’t help but feel like it’d be a bit like riding a whale.

        • Shaw1960

          No dizoubt, AG; from a Ninja, it would be like a whale. But I rode a full on Goldwing (’04) on Tail of the Dragon, with my wife on the back in ’06. Those 1800 engines can do whatever you want them to do, anywhere! If you read that old Honda story about the sport bike engineer who designed the post-2001 1800 ‘Wing, it is awesome. My new F6B, well, you can read about it in Wing World October issue, I love it. 62 pounds lighter than a Wing, with all the power! I live in California. I just rode it from Mexico to Winnipeg Canada and back, about 5,000 miles. B*stards! in Wyoming gave me a ticket on the way home. I try to make it 10 years between speeding tickets. If that was in CA, it would have been 266 dollars + traffic school + if you get one twice in 3 years a 60 day suspension of your license. In Wyoming, I went a mile down the road to the courthouse and paid 45 dollars cash. I don’t know how fast the F6B goes, and I doubt I will find out. I’m not willing to go over 100 very much, maybe 110, 115, and I’m about done testing the speed. The throttle is not pinned open yet, not close. If you’ve ever been in a Goldwing rider club, there are some very fast riders, you know, lifetime motorcycle riders scraping pegs on the twisty roads trying to outdo themselves. It’s pretty exciting, and you won’t be expecting it when you just look at some of the old men and women riders at a Wing Ding rally. :-) Our 3 Flags ride, 2200 miles one way, was 1/2 Goldwings, 1/2 a mix of BMW and Harley, and one each of every other kind of bike. The F6B is pretty nice. I put a dark grey 11″ Cee Bailey windscreen to replace the cool-looking/do-nothing 3″ screen, and Mick-O-Pegs highway pegs, where you get to press down instead of spread your legs around a six cyclinder engine. As Micks say, riding is wonderful, when you’re comfortable.

    • Piglet2010

      I have heard some complaints about excessive engine vibration on the Ninja 1000 – has this been improved in the latest model?

      • Stuki

        It’s objectively smoother than any BMW Boxer ever made. And both RTs and GSs are Iron Butt stalwarts.

        • Piglet2010

          Vibration frequency matters too. My Dullsville is not the smoothest (Honda really should have given it a 6th gear), but I do not find it bothersome as quasi-legal speeds. On the other hand, 10 minutes at the speed limit on the freeway* on my TW200 gives me numb fingers.

          *Only did it once to see what the bike could do.

    • Stuki

      Last years, and I’m sure this years as well, is quite a bit more comfortable ergonomically than the ‘busa. The engine ain’t ‘busa smooth, but plenty good enough.

  • CruisingTroll

    Gotta disagree, unless you’re going to put an emphasis on the “passenger” being included.

    Take a look at the Iron Butt rosters. The ‘Busa rarely ever makes it into an IB. The Glide is usually represented by a couple of bikes. BMW’s outnumber Harley’s by 10-1.

    The K1600GTL, the F6B’s father bike the GL1800, and the R1200GS on your list are heavily represented (or in the case of the K1600, will be based on the presence of it’s predecessors BMWs). Rounding out the list would be the FJR1300 and the ST1300. Comfort and reliability are the hallmarks of a great touring bike, which is why the H-D are underrepresented.

    That said, the bikes you’ve mentioned ARE very good bikes (within their design parameters). They simply aren’t the best TOURING bikes for racking up lots of miles. For what I would term “dawdle” touring, the K1600GTL and ‘Busa are positively outshined by the Wingabagger (aka F6B) and ‘Glide, and I would add the Victory Vision in as well. For Two Up slabbing, go with the K16, ‘Wing, Glide, or Vision.

    It comes down to “where YOU gonna ride, how far YOU gonna go each day and over the course of YOUR trip, and how fast are YOU gonna do it.” Each purpose built luxury/sport/adventure touring bike is designed to satisfy slightly different answers to those questions.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Looking at the 2013 results of the IBR, I’d have to pick the FJR as the top tourer. Five of the top ten finishers were riding one. The other half consisted of BMW with three, and Honda with two. As for the least reliable bike, it looks like the Goldwing would get that prize, being by far the most common bike to not finish.

      • Stuki

        Picking a common use touring rig based on IBR results, is a bit like picking a sporty street bike based on World Superbike standings.

        • CruisingTroll

          I don’t suggest looking at IBR RESULTS, I suggest looking at IBR entries. The results, like in WSB, are highly dependent on rider skill and luck. The bikes riders (as opposed to deep pocket manufacturers) choose to spend their own money on in their pursuit of long distance touring accomplishments can be very informative. Especially when we’re talking ’bout the returning IBR veteran riders.

          Informative, not dispositive.

          • Stuki

            That actually makes a lot of sense.

          • HardLookAtReality

            ….yes because just like WSB, IBR is a race LOL

        • HardLookAtReality

          I love it when you say thing like “a bit like” and then still expect people to take you seriously.

    • CEYLON

      2005 04/2008 10/2008 Increase Manufacturer

      6,650 11,631 12,838 10.3% H-D
      5,917 9,065 9,752 7.5% Honda
      4,878 7,148 7,672 7.3% BMW
      1,491 2,684 2,982 11.1% Yamaha
      1,472 2,140 2,275 6.3% Kawasaki
      655 1,210 1,349 11.4% Suzuki
      288 417 441 5.7% Triumph
      74 202 235 16.3% Victory
      119 154 169 9.7% Moto Guzzi
      82 136 141 3.6% Ducati
      43 91 103 13.1% Buell
      37 62 67 8.0% Aprilia
      17 38 46 21.0% KTM
      18 25 28 12.0% Indian
      12 14 16 14.2% Boss Hoss
      10 11 11 0.0% Cagiva

      • CruisingTroll

        The Iron Butt Rally, not simply every mook who tossed a bottle of Aleve into his tankbag, threw his leg over the saddle and set out on a Saddle Sore 1000 just to score an IBA license plate frame. (Note: I will someday be one of those mooks. Will I go for any of the longer rides? Don’t know….)

        Setting that aside, look at the #s above more closely. H-D’s make up roughly 50% of the US streetbike market. They only have 33% of the IBA numbers. BMW is massively overrepresented relative to their market share, and if we we’re actually able to break it down by model, Honda (most of ‘em are probably Goldwings of various vintages, ST1100 and ST1300s) would also be overrepresented. Suzuki, on the other hand, is woefully shy…

        The REAL Ironbutts of that crew though have got to be the 46 KTM nutters. 1,000 miles a day on a KTM? Just proves that with enough determination and/or nerve damage, ANY bike can be toured on….

        • MichaelEhrgott

          KTM 950/990. Super comfy

          • CruisingTroll

            Probably, with aftermarket seats. However, since there are masochists on motorcycles, it’s not too far fetched that some of them would take Krautish Torture Machines out for a “delightful” 24-264 hour session.

        • eric

          True. I did a 10,000 mile tour on a Ducati Monster.

        • Piglet2010

          I want to see someone do a 1000 mile day on a stock TW200. :)

  • Nordin Mounes

    et la fjr 1300 on en fait quoi ???

  • Peter

    I’ve spent the last two riding seasons since April 2012 riding my 2012 Suzuki DL650 Vstrom. I’ve successfully ridden an Iron Butt 50CC (50 hours coast to coast in 46 hours) so I could take a 12 ride back to NY thru Mohave, Sequoia, Yosemite, Tioga Pass, Mono Lake, Lake Tahoe, America’s Loneliest Road, some dirt road short cuts thru Nevada to Zion NP, Grand Canyon, Monument valley, Mesa Verde, San Juan Skyway, Million Dollar Highway, Wolf Creek pass, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Dodge City, Ozarks, Memphis, Nashville, Cherohala, Tail of the Dragon, Foothills Parkway, Newfound gap, Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge parkway, Skyline drive back to NY – That was a ride I took in 9/12. My friend on the Valkarie spent $300 more on gas than I did, and the guy on the fully dressed Kawi stopped counting when he was $400 over on gas. Everyday I enjoyed the ride, Kawi guy’s backside bled while on his cushy touring seat on the IBA 50CC day 2, he dropped his bike once, Honda bud dropped his twice. What is nice about my little 650 is it’s 4 valve 90 degree vtwin runs at 90MPH for hours on end just fine, yet allows me to get sideways when taking a dirt road short cut for fun. The BMW 1600 is awesome, but the required maintenance is expensive – With the mileage I have on my Vstrom now, the BMW Required Maintenance costs alone would pay for half the next VStrom!. When that BMW front wheel hits a pothole and bends, that is the better of another $1000 bill (a friend has one and tells me of his maintenance cost woes.) Sure, the bikes mentioned are all awesome, but there is not 5 bikes that are the best at touring. I can say the Vstrom i am riding now has been great from 4/12 to 9/13 for the 34,000 miles I’ve ridden it, I don’t have a complaint, I also don’t have expensive regular maintenance bills. I own the 4 year unlimited mileage all labor ad parts warranty for $400 but don’t have to have my dealer service my bike in order to maintain the warranty as BMW and Harley require – I cahnge my own oil, filters and plugs, as well as install all accessories. I think each rider needs to look at how they ride, what they can afford, and how often they ride. Last year I rode to work, day trips, and a 6500 mile tour (with inclusive IBA 50CC) across this great country. This year I rode an IBA Saddlesore 1000 all within NYS, a 2300 mile tour to the end of the road on CA 138 along the North (West) shore of the St Lawrence Seaway in Quebec, including the last 18KM which is dirt, and another 10,000 miles so far – but the season isn’t over by a long shot. It ends Dec 31 in upstate NY here. I don’t subscribe to Get the biggest damn bike you can get, rather, find what meets your needs financially so you can spend more money on gas, oil, filters and tires, then ride the wheels off it. I think if more folks bought affordable bikes, there would be less bikes parked at Taverns with folks talking about what they are going to do when they can afford the gas, or because they ‘can’t put the miles on it because it will depreciate.” <y Vstrom will never Depreciate, because I appreciate it every time the tires spin around. When it is worn out I'll strip it down and use it on trails with my now 3 year old daughter who will be on her little dirt bike – and I'll most likely buy another Vstrom – 650 or 1000 depends on how the wind blows my skirt up at the time – both are affordable.

    • CruisingTroll

      ” don’t have to have my dealer service my bike in order to maintain the warranty as BMW and Harley require -”

      Legally, the manufacturer can not require that the service be done at a dealership, merely that the service be done using suitable pieces-parts at the designated frequencies. You can use whatever oil you want, as long as it meets or exceeds the spec’d API, you can put it in yourself, using an appropriate filter, etc, etc.

      While under warranty, it’s generally less hassle if you need to make a warranty claim and all your service was done at dealerships, but the Feds (here in the US) have long ago settled that you do not have to use manufacturer parts and dealership maintenance to maintain your warranty.

      • Peter

        Actually I have a great dealer who gets me in immediately if I need anything, inspect the bike while I wait, and change tires while I wait. I have no complaints about them.

  • Charlie

    I’m surprised the V-Stroms aren’t on here! Both the 650 and 1000 are completely awesome for long trips and they are half the price of a R1200GS. Oh, and it was water-cooled a decade ago.

    • Tim Watson

      Yeah both good bikes and if we made the list longer maybe we’d include them too. This was just our ‘suggested’ top 5 to cover all touring disciplines. no wrong or right answer here. Thanks for the input.

      • Charlie

        Roger that. Your comments on the new offerings from H/D are right on. It’s great to see the world’s largest antique manufacturer getting back in the game.

    • Tiberiuswise

      Aside from a beauty or snob appeal contest, the V-Strom is at least a strong contender in almost every category.

  • Nick Wride

    I just did a 1,000 mile/24 hour Ironbutt on my ’03 Road King and had a great ride on it. The seat is comfortable, I have highway pegs on the crash bar and an electric cruise control. I have no need for a newer bike for quite a while. BTW, it was 1,023 miles in 19 1/2 hours of easy cruising.

  • Dan Kearney

    My first long distance bike? A 1983 Yamaha RD350LC 2 stroke that I rode all over Europe. Including a 2 week 6,000 km camping tour. I later stepped up to an ’86 Honda VF500F Interceptor. Equipped with soft bags, a tank bag, and a few bungies, it carried me all over the Western U.S. for 6 or 7 years.

    Last Summer I did a 4,500 mile ride on my 40hp Ural Gear Up. Colorado to New York to Ottawa and back across Canada to Colorado. Last weekend, I put 700 miles on my latest tourer, a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 thumper. 27 pure horsepower. . .

    My point is: What’s the best tourer? The answer is also a question: What’s in your garage!

    • Tim Watson

      You’re a brave man Dan to ride a Yamaha RD350 all over Europe. Love those bikes and still have a real soft spot for them today. Pretty darned quick too but not exactly designed for log distance touring. Good on ya!

      • UrbanMoto

        Rode the RD400 on multi-day tours with Retro Tours, and oh man is that little thing a blast. Draws lots of attention from older riders who love to check it out and reminisce. Survivors in great shape draw some major bucks these days.

        • Tim Watson

          You’re as mad as Dan! RD400 is as you say is an absolute blast but how you managed to do long distance riding on it is beyond me.

          • UrbanMoto

            Well, the thing about Retro Tours is that you switch bikes every 50 miles or so, so I might have ridden the RD a while and then hopped on the HD XLCR, or the Laverda 750SF, or the Rickman Enfield, or RS/90, the BSA, the Guzzi V50, etc. “Which side is the brake on? First is where?” Mixing it up like that really keeps it interesting.

    • CEYLON

      Rode TZR 250 from Tokyo to Hiroshima in early 90′s. May be about 560 miles one way. Not fun..

  • devillock

    You can tour on anything you want, all you need is the motivation. Personally, I wouldn’t tour on any of those bikes coz well, they all suck, (imo). (don’t get your panties in a bunch.) They’re all too heavy. Ill take my KTM 990SMT thanks. If not, gimme a Multistrada or Tiger 1050. I have long legs. If my legs were shorter I’d take a VFR800, F800GT or Sprint 1050. Maybe a Ninja 1000, but not a fan of L4 engines.

  • Piglet2010

    Either the Honda Silverwing or the Suzuki Burgman 650 should have been on the list.

  • San Jose Cars Examiner

    Ridiculous article for blatantly obvious reasons. Does the author ride?

  • UrbanMoto

    All of these bikes are so….big. I’d love either of the BMW’s or the Wing, of course. But how about the next feature on long distance touring options for smaller riders or those who just don’t want such a heavy bike? I’m also curious why the Councours didn’t make the list, as I’m interested in one as my next ride. Are there some negatives with that one?

    • Stuki

      As far as I’m concerned, the only real reason to go as big as the Wing, Ultra or GTL, is for twoup. With a cranky pillion that accepts no less comfort than the passenger seat of a car. Noting wrong per se with solo riding them, but why?

  • Paolo

    Wow, an article in RideApart that recommends a Harley-Davidson…THE END IS NIGH!

  • Mark Hodson

    Norge 1200 GT. Magic for long distance, 400+ km range.

    • Stuki

      Is that 400km between fillups, or between major repairs…… :)

      • Mark Hodson

        Even crappy chinese scooters do more than 400k mate. Seriously though, since Aprilia then Piaggio took over (5 years ago) the build quality has been superb. Just the usual silly Italian design features like it’s impossible to get to the dip stick :-(

  • Rowan

    I did 4000 kiometres on a CBR500R and a Kreiga on the back. Travelled the country for 2 weeks and saw the sights and carved up the roads. I’m all for big tourers and they have their place on the showroom floor but I reckon just buy what you lust after and make it work.

  • Justin McClintock

    No FJR or Concours 14? Kinda surprised by that.

  • Master

    BMW makes the best bikes. No surprise they have two on the list. The R1200GT should be in there too not the Busa.

  • Mark Vizcarra

    I like the Gym Tan Laundry edition of the BMW… great name

  • Dave C

    I think I’ll stick with my 20 year-old KLR 250……….No ABS/computer/ etc. …..just 70+ mpg, roadside fixable, and and an initial $500 purchase. Point is, you can do “distance” on anything…..I recently returned from Thailand and did 2500kms on a CBR 250 over a 5 day period, enjoying every moment…..I certainly agree that the “top” 5 bikes listed are fine…just not for me – if I drop the KLR, then…whatever….usually nothing breaks or falls off…and I can pick it up again!

  • Phip Nosiw

    Cruising Troll.. please source the information in the response to Ceylon. ‘roughly’ ‘relative to market share’ and ‘probably’ smack of guesswork and bias. Ceylon provided hard numbers and a track-able source. Thank you for future accuracy in your posts.

  • Chris F

    Should have maybe been the top 10, since you also forgot the Kawasaki Concours and Concours 14. It’s a very popular sport-touring mount and arguably better at long distance runs than the Hayabusa. It’s also cheaper than the K1600 or the F6B, and is smack dab in the middle of the sport-touring spectrum.

  • SneakyJimmy

    How about best distance bikes that weigh less than 500 lbs. That id be interested in.