Choosing a motorcycle for long rides can be a daunting task. We love Brando in The Wild One; but anyone who has tried to log some serious miles on a café racer knows that some bikes just aren’t designed for the long haul.
Motorcycle manufacturers have responded with a long-distance segment that has evolved far beyond the traditional road touring “baggers”—with models designed for adventure touring, sport touring and even adventure sport touring.
Adventure touring – not your dad’s touring bike
When most people think of touring bikes, behemoths like the Honda Gold Wing quickly come to mind. However, a new trend is emerging when it comes to selecting a motorcycle for long rides. No longer content with being relegated to the pavement, many motorcyclists are opting for “dual use” bikes that are equally at home on the highway and dirt trails. Think of these bikes as fully off-road-capable SUVs for bikers. Popular bikes in this class include the KTM Adventure R, Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and BMW R1200 GS Adventure. There’s also buzz about Honda’s soon-to-be-released VFR1200X, which hits U.S. showrooms in May 2016.
Blurring the line between superbikes and cruisers, sport touring motorcycles feature some traditional touring accessories, but with a twist. Long distance riders enjoy side-mounted hard bags without giving up superbike performance. As you would expect, sport touring motorcycles place riders in a partially tucked position, which puts more weight on the wrists. Check out the Yamaha FJ-09, BMW R1200 RT and Yamaha FJR1300 ES.
Adventure sport touring
Rather than claim a true dual-sport status, the adventure sport touring bikes embrace their sporty look, but were obviously designed to conquer the pavement. Equipped with street tires and a shorter travel suspension than true adventure bikes, adventure sport touring bikes are perfect for riders who enjoy an upright seating position and only deviate from the road to explore dirt roads or well-maintained trails. We like the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS, BMW S1000 RX ABS and the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S.
So, how do you choose?
At the end of the day, we recommend you make a list, ranking qualities that are important to you, including off-road capability, style, reliability, power, maneuverability and, of course, comfort. Because, what may look like a gorgeous bike in the showroom may come back to bite you in the end—literally.
“A Guide to Adventure Motorcycles” by Bryan Campbell, Gear Patrol Buying Guides, July, 13, 2015.
“The Best Touring Motorcycles for the Long Haul” by Matt Neundorf, Gear Patrol Buying Guides, March 18, 2015.