The Journey is the Destination
The Best Touring Motorcycles for the Long Haul
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While anything on two wheels works for an extended journey, there are certain motorcycles that are better equipped for the long haul. These touring motorcycles often feature an upright seating position, panniers, a tall windshield and a large fuel tank. But we wouldn’t exactly call a 945-pound bike sporty. Nor would we tackle any technical dirt roads on one either. That’s why the touring category is subdivided, and these days, riders can quickly narrow their focus to find a steed to suit their wandering ways.
Quickly Covering Ground
The concept behind the sport touring motorcycle boils down to farkling your favorite superbike. Designed as a high-speed hybrid of sorts, sport touring motorcycles feature side-mounted hard bags for stowage and have a bias towards carving canyons and other technical tarmac. Rider positioning is partially tucked, placing more weight on the wrists to execute transitions as quick as the wind. The best sport tourers blur the line between track bikes and cruisers to an imperceptible level.
BMW R1200 RT
Any BMW boxer engine is a beauty to behold, and all new in 2014, the air-to-water-cooled unit lying low and exposed in the new R1200 RT is BMW’s finest yet. Its omnipresent power band — controlled via wire — is both smooth and linear. Combined with the fully active suspension setup, BMW has created a quickness and agility rarely found on bikes of this size. Optioned up with advanced rider aids like Dynamic ESA and a host of creature comforts including heated seating and grips, the R1200 RT is the perfect reason to disappear for extended stints.
Engine: 1,170cc, air/water-cooled, flat twin
Torque: 92 lb-ft
Top Speed: 125 mph
Weight (wet): 604 pounds
Rider Modes: Rain, Road
Luggage Capacity: 16 gallons
Necessary Options: Shift Assist Pro (for clutch-less shifting), Cruise Control, Dynamic Riding Mode
Yamaha FJR1300 ES
Tracing its roots from the world of superbikes, the Yamaha FJR1300 ES excels at showing knee-draggers how to carve canyons while lugging enough gear to keep you away for weeks at a time. A MotoGP-derived traction control system modulates each of the 145 available horses to keep you shiny side-up, and the electronic, rider-adjustable suspension settings maintain chassis balance under aggressive maneuvers. A unified, ABS braking system links two of the eight front-caliper pistons to reign you in evenly, so you can let the guy in the kangaroo onesie by, just to chase him down again.
Engine: 1,298cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Torque: 89 lb-ft
Weight (wet): 644 pounds
Rider Modes: Soft, Standard and Hard (suspension), Sport, Touring (engine)
Luggage Capacity: 16 gallons
Necessary Options: Hand Guards, Touring Windshield
Let’s Take This Off-Road
The adventure motorcycle is the fastest growing segment on two wheels. With its ability to ride nearly everywhere, this dual-sport tourer is an essential tool for riders looking to escape predictable roads in favor of overlanding through more exotic routes. Long travel suspension, crash protection, torquey engines and the ability to serve as a pack mule typify these incredible machines. In 2014, potential overlanders made up 24 percent of all bikes sold, and with the two bikes below now in the mix, expect that number to rise.
KTM 1290 Super Adventure
Combining the mind-blowing engine from the Super Duke R with the formidable chassis from KTM’s already best-in-class Adventure R, the 1290 Super Adventure is easily the most capable adventure bike on the market today. A semi-active suspension system, sourced from WP, devours terrain regardless of texture. KTM also integrated four switchable rider modes that work in conjunction with strategically placed sensors and accelerometers to take rider safety to new levels. Active lean-angle modulation, hill-hold control and motor slip regulation are just a few of the added e-features that the Super Adventure flaunts to stymie any excuses you may have.
Engine: 1,301cc 75-degree V-twin
Torque: 103 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 505 pounds
Rider Modes: Sport, Street, Rain, Off-Road
Ground Clearance: 8.6 inches
Necessary Options: Aluminum Panniers
Triumph Tiger 800 XCx
If stump-pulling power isn’t a prerequisite for your long way ‘round, the Triumph Tiger 800 XCx is the best middleweight adventure bike you can buy. The 800cc inline triple delivers enough torque to get slideways in the dirt and the all-new ride-by-wire technology unleashes everything in a smooth and predictable fashion. Four rider modes are standard, as is rider-controlled ABS and a WP suspension setup that is similar to the KTM’s sublime unit (minus the semi-active control). The Tiger 800, in XCx trim, is Triumph’s most adept adventure bike to date — which is saying a lot.
Engine: 800cc inline triple
Horsepower: 93 hp
Torque: 58 lbs-ft
Weight (dry): 432 lbs
Rider Modes: Sport, Road, Rain, Off-Road
Ground Clearance: ~8”
Necessary Options: Aluminum Panniers, LED Foglights
Adventure Sport Touring
Versatility on Two Wheels
With the look and feel of an overlander but a bias towards tearing up tarmac, the adventure sport bike is a relative new breed. The upright seating positioning and longer travel suspension separates these bikes from the focused “sport” tourers, while sticky street tires and a smaller front hoop limit off-road abilities. These bikes are an ideal escape machine for riders looking only to flirt with the odd fire-road or logging route while dive-bombing mountain passes and scraping pegs in apexes. Expect this segment to expand exponentially in the coming years.
We were entirely smitten with Ducati’s last-generation Multistrada, and their mid-cycle refresh is even better. With the introduction of variable valve timing, the big Duc is both more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor, and it still delivers fully customizable, rider-controlled delivery options. Wheelie control, cornering-specific ABS and integrated cruise control find their way onto the features list while Ducati’s adaptive Skyhook suspension carries over for the S models. The new Multistrada is available in multiple trims, with each one tweaked for specific rider desires, making it a true Swiss army knife for Ducatisti everywhere.
Engine: 1,198cc 90-degree V-Twin
Torque: 100 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 511 pounds
Rider Modes: Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro
Necessary Options: Urban Pack (includes top-case, lockable tank bag and USB port)
Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS
The Suzuki V-Strom has perpetually offered the biggest bang for your buck in the Adventure Sport class. (Think 85 percent of the Multistrada’s capabilities at only 75 percent of its price.) With its first-ever full redesign, the new (2014) V-Strom 1000 is an impeccably balanced corner-carver that isn’t afraid to get a little dirty. That’s thanks in part to its fully adjustable suspension — a rarity at this price point — as well as its strong and torquey V-twin engine. The seating position is upright, placing riders high in the saddle, but the V-Strom maintains relatively low ground clearance with its low slung motor. While that limits off-road capabilities, it also enhances the bike’s flick-ability on tarmac; plus with the cash you have left over, you could easily pick up a dedicated dirt bike.
Engine: 1,037cc 90-degree V-Twin
Torque: 76 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 511 pounds
Rider Modes: TC1 (low sensitivity), TC2 (high sensitivity), Off
Necessary Options: Adventure Model (engine guard, panniers, hand guards, accessory bars)
The Whole Hog
They’ve been referred to as rolling couches and pirate ships, but make no mistake: if devouring mile after mile of interstate is your goal, a Bagger is your best choice. Fully festooned with saddlebags, a beer box, backrests, wide front fairings and footboards (no pegs here pal), comfort is rarely a reason to halt your ride. Harley Davidson may epitomize the genre, but Honda’s Gold Wing has enjoyed 40 years of success. That being said, when it comes to the best baggers, our picks are still the home-grown breeds.
Harley Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra
The Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra is an exercise in sheer excess. It’s big (102 inches tip to tail), powerful (115 lb-ft of torque) and comes equipped with more creature features than most mid-size sedans. A 6.5-inch touchscreen display controls the stereo/MP3 player as well as the two-way radio, text-to-speech Bluetooth interface and Sirius Satellite Radio. It’s water-cooled and employs linked ABS brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers, while still looking every bit the Hog it is.
Engine: 1,800cc 90-degree V-Twin
Torque: 115 lb-ft
Weight (wet): 944 pounds
Necessary Options: Beard, Old Lady, Leather Chaps
With heated grips, heated seats (front and rear), a powered windshield and 114 years of heritage held between its contact patches, the Indian Roadmaster is poised to give Milwaukee a run for
Engine: 1,811cc V-Twin
Torque: 119 lb-ft
Weight (wet): 930 pounds
Necessary Options: Shorter Beard, Younger Old Lady