Long-distance touring on a motorcycle can be a pleasant experience or painful experience. What determines your experience will have a lot to do with the bike you are using for your trip. Some motorcycles are perfect for a road trip, while others don’t do so well.
The best types of motorcycles for long-distance touring are specialist touring motorcycles, adventure motorcycles, and sport-touring motorcycles. These motorcycles have features designed for rider comfort, long hours on the road, and the ability to pack luggage should you wish to do so.
If most of your motorcycle riding is recreational, much of your time will probably be spent on a highway or an open road. There is nothing better from a recreational motorcycling point of view than a road trip on a motorcycle. The pleasure that you will derive from long-distance riding will depend on your bike choice.
So what motorcycle types are best for this kind of riding and are made to make a road trip a pleasurable undertaking?
What Are The Best Motorcycles For Long-Distance Touring?
Long-distance touring on a motorcycle demands some design characteristics and features on the motorcycle to enhance the exhilarating experience of riding a bike for hours on a wide-open road!
Some motorcycles are purpose-built for this kind of riding, and, as such, they are perfect for taking on this challenge. In any field, something built for a particular purpose will always out-perform something that was not intended for that purpose. It is the same with motorcycles and the type of motorcycle you need.
The touring class of motorcycles is the type of bike that is purpose-built for riding over long distances, but they are not the exclusive choice for your road trip. There are crossover class bikes that can do the job equally well with the benefit of versatility to be used for other purposes.
- Touring motorcycles. These motorcycles are designed for the express purposes of long-distance riding, and some of them are more comfortable than the couch in your living room! Touring motorcycles contain tons of features included for no other reason than to improve the riding experience over the long-haul.
- Adventure motorcycles. This is one of the crossover classes that we mentioned. Adventure bikes are more accurately classified as dual-sport motorcycles because of their multi-discipline capability. However, the long-distance features included in these bikes make them a good choice for a long road trip.
- Sport touring motorcycles. Sport touring bikes come from the superbike or sportbike class of motorcycles that are generally designed for speed rather than long distance. The sport-tourers incorporate features that give the benefit of sportbike performance with some comfort features for long-distance touring.
Touring Motorcycle Features For Long-Distance Touring
Touring bikes are large machines that look quite intimidating, especially to smaller riders, and with good reason. The sheer size and weight of touring bikes make them difficult to maneuver in and out of parking spots or turn around in a tight spot.
Many smaller stature riders struggle to balance these monster-sized bikes and reach the ground with both feet simultaneously.
These inconveniences of the touring motorcycles are because they are not made for popping down to the local mall or negotiating traffic on a daily commute. Once you get these bikes out on the highway, the weight and size become perfectly balanced, and the ride feels effortless!
- Riding position. The riding position is probably the feature that makes these bikes most comfortable for long road trips. In a normal sitting position, the riding position is upright, with your back straight, in line with your hips. The thighs are normally in a horizontal position, shins in a vertical position, and knees at a 90-degree angle. Some tourers have multiple foot positions that allow you to extend your legs forward and straighten them out.
- Suspension. The suspension is softer to give a smooth ride and often gives the impression that the bike is gliding along the road. The softer suspension gives a smoother ride, but you will not get the same kind of response as you do on a sportbike if twisting the throttle.
- Performance. Tourers have a lot of low-end torque to overcome the inertia of the motorcycle’s weight but are capable of easily handling high speeds of highway riding. They take a little time to get up to top speed. Once you’re at highway speeds, the design of these bikes makes for a really comfortable ride. However, these bikes will not win any drag races!
- Luggage space. Touring bikes have places to store gear and pack stuff for your road trip, which removes the need to ride with a backpack or duffel bag on your back. There is also usually plenty of space to strap down luggage in extra bags if you need to.
- Comfort features. Many comfort features are built into these bikes, such as padded seats, seats that provide hip and back support, heated seats and grips, charging ports for your phone, and power sockets to plug in heated riding suits, built-in sound systems, sat-nav, and much more! The wide fairing and large windscreens on these bikes protect the rider from wind pressure and weather elements that could otherwise make the ride uncomfortable.
- Fuel tank capacity. Touring bikes have large fuel tanks that cater to long hours on the road without the need to worry about riding from gas station to gas station.
Adventure Motorcycle Features For Long-Distance Touring
Adventure motorcycles come from the off-road class of motorcycles but have been designed as a multi-purpose bike. They can handle off-road riding as well as on-road riding. The on-road purpose for these bikes can be for short or medium distances, but they work equally well for long-distance touring.
- Adventure bike riding position. The riding position on adventure bikes is upright but is more the traditional bike riding position than the more laid back position of touring bikes. It provides a comfortable enough riding position that makes long-distance riding no problems on these machines.
- Suspension. The suspension is the long travel variety to cater to these bikes’ dual on and off-road capability. This makes for a harder ride experience than that of a touring bike but not exceptionally tiring. However, most adventure bikes have the option to adjust the suspension setting from hard to soft. So finding a comfortable setting that is right for you shouldn’t be a problem.
- Performance. Adventure bikes come in all different engine sizes, from small to large. The bigger engines allow them to handle the high speeds associated with highway riding comfortably, so long-distance riding is no problem.
- Luggage space. Adventure bikes have some built-in packing space, but the packing space is sparse compared to touring bikes. Luckily these motorcycles are designed to add panniers and top boxes to them, so packing for long road trips is not a problem. Ensure you use waterproof bags when packing all your extra gear and use high-quality straps to secure everything down.
- Comfort features. Adventure bikes also have comfort features for long road trips, such as heated seats and grips, which usually come as an extra option when buying a new bike, but the seats do not have the same comfort level as the touring bikes. Many adventure bikes also have power ports for charging electronic devices such as mobile phones. There are plenty of third party accessories you can purchase to help make long-distance riding a breeze!
- Fuel tank capacity. Adventure bikes are built for enduro type riding, which covers large distances. They have large fuel tanks to allow for long-distance riding without the need to refuel very often.
Sport Touring Motorcycle Features For Long-Distance Touring
Some sportbikes incorporate features designed to make them more comfortable for long-distance riding compared to normal sportbikes. Still, these crossover sport-tourers do not provide the same level of rider comfort over long-distance riding as do the touring bikes.
Sport-tourers give the exhilaration and speed of a sportbike, but the riding position and front windshield have been tweaked to make them somewhat more suitable for long-distance riding.
Sport-touring bikes would be good for medium distance riding, but long road trips with extended distances between stops will still tire the rider out.
- Sport-touring riding position. The standard riding position on normal sportbikes is not conducive to long-distance riding. The position results in extreme rider fatigue. Crossover sport-tourers have a more upright riding position that is more suitable for longer trips, but it is still not comfortable for extended distances.
- Suspension. Sport-tourer suspensions have to be more sport than touring-oriented to cater to these machines’ speed and power and retain the road holding capability at high speeds. This results in a suspension that gives a harder ride than Adventure or Touring motorcycles.
- Performance. Sport tourers have the same performance engines that dedicate sports bikes have. Thus, they have fast pull-offs and can reach high speeds in a noticeably short time. They provide an exhilarating ride and road handling at speed unmatched by the other long-distance bike classes. However, the speed and power require a greater level of concentration, which can be tiring when long-distance touring.
- Luggage space. Sport-tourers usually do not include much packing space, so you would most likely need to carry your gear in a pack on your back. However, some come with panniers and the ability to add a top box, but all in all, the luggage capability is rather limited.
- Comfort features. While the riding position is slightly better on these bikes than standard sports bikes, there is usually no more comfort built-in to the seat design. The windshield is usually extended on these bikes to provide more wind protection to the rider in a more upright riding position.
- Fuel tank capacity. Sport-touring bikes usually have the same tank capacity as their dedicated sports cousins or slightly higher capacity. These tanks do not have the same long-distance capability as a touring bike, and the high revving engines on the sport style bikes tend to be more fuel-hungry.
If I had to choose a bike for a long-distance road trip, I would opt for a specialist touring motorcycle. This way, your comfort for the trip is guaranteed, and you will arrive at your destination with some energy in store to be able to enjoy doing some tourist-type activities instead of looking for a pillow and taking a day to recover from the ride.
The adventure bike is a good second choice, and if you have one of these bikes, you need to take it out on a long road trip to experience the joy of the open road on one of these bikes.
The adventure motorcycle would be my first choice if I needed a motorcycle for daily commuting as well.
The sport-tourer would be the last choice, and I would only recommend this bike for medium-distance riding.
If you only own a sportbike or another bike that is not conducive to long-distance riding, consider hiring a touring bike for your trip. If nothing else, you will get a different riding experience from what you are usually used to.
After all that I have discussed within this article, I am still a great believer that you can go long-distance touring on any motorcycle, and the best bike to use is the one you own.