5 Of The Best Motorcycles For Long-Distance Riding

Embarking on a long-distance motorcycle adventure is one of the most freeing experiences that a person can have. The wind in your face and the open road laid out in front of you is simply spectacular, and something that driving in a car can't compete with. The ride itself makes up a significant portion of the experience on a motorcycle. The physicality involved in riding for hours at a time and traversing new and interesting roadways and terrains demands stamina, concentration, and a love of the road.

As well, when setting off with your trusty steed (and perhaps with other riders as a group), it's important to consider the gear you're relying on to engage in the experience. The motorcycle itself can drastically improve the ride as you set out for days (or even weeks) of long-distance driving. 

Within the motorcycle marketplace, there are a variety of different bike styles. Some are built as speed demons that can tear up the road and provide a burst of adrenaline to even the most hardened thrill-seeker. Others are touring bikes engineered specifically for long-distance riding, with larger and more comfortable seats, compartments for luggage, and often sport large engines and gas tanks.

Honda Gold Wing

The Honda Gold Wing is a staple in the world of touring motorcycles. The chopper provides significant storage capacity with a combined storage area of 121 liters, including both the top box and the space between panniers. The model also includes an electric-operated wind screen adjustment. You can change the angle and height of this shielding feature to suit the exact way you sit in the seat. The control for this adjustment can also be programmed, allowing you to set multiple alignments for different riders or a few comfortable riding body positions.

The bike — along with many others in the touring category — provides for the comfort of an additional rider as a standard, rather than an afterthought. The Gold Wing offers a 23-degree angle on the pillion's back support, as well as an enhanced suede and synthetic blend that's comfortable and durable for the long haul across both seats on the bike.

When it comes to safety features, the Gold Wing is a winner. The motorcycle includes an airbag that can help prevent major injury in the event of a crash. The front panel is also decked out with full LED lighting across the face, as well as LED fog lights and stereoscopic high beams. The Honda Gold Wing can also be purchased with an automatic transmission (noted as DCT), which can dramatically change the way you think of long hours of riding.

BMW K 1600 GTL

No list of touring motorcycles would be complete without the addition of a BMW. The German automaker has been producing high quality bikes for decades, and the K 1600 GTL is just one in a long history of fantastic motorcycles that are perfect for touring. This motorcycle offers a six cylinder, four-stroke inline engine with a hybrid oil and water cooling system. The engine has a 1,649cc capacity producing 132.7 foot-pounds of torque, and makes 160 horsepower. 

The BMW K 1600 GTL includes heated seats and grips, making driving at night, in colder conditions, and on lengthy drives far easier. The bike includes a dedicated USB-C charging compartment, offers dynamic traction control (DTC), as well as three ride modes; including a performance enhancement for rainy roadway conditions.

The K 1600 GTL adds electronically adjustable suspension to the mix, making the motorcycle an adept navigator on rough terrain or remote roadways that may have seen better days. These are some of the hardest places to drive on for basic motorcycle suspension builds, but they often bring some of the most prized vistas to the rider. There's a reason some of the most iconic riding can only be found far off the beaten path.

With the suspension and added control touches that only a BMW can bring to a motorist, the K 1600 GTL is a fantastic piece of precision machinery and will make any long-distance adventure something to talk about for years to come.

Yamaha Venture Transcontinental

The Yamaha Venture Transcontinental is a perennial favorite among long-distance riders. The bikes include heated seats for both the rider and the pillion seating addition, and heated grips to keep the hands going strong, no matter what the roadway might throw at you. 

The Transcontinental offers a 90 horsepower eight valve V-Twin engine rated at 1,854cc and 126 foot-pounds of torque. The bike uses a 6-speed transmission and offers a 46mm telescopic front-fork suspension and a single-shock rear system with a remote preload adjustment. Riders also enjoy the luxury of a large, 6.6 gallon tank to support long-distance travel.

In the more recent models (2021 and later), Yamaha has included a feature called the "Sure-Park." This leverages the power of a small electric motor to assist in low-speed parking situations. Instead of revving the engine and potentially losing contact between the tires and ground on a tricky incline or slick roadway, this feature removes the need to finesse the engine at all. Operating in forward and reverse, the electric motor takes over parking mobility requirements and allows a rider to expertly glide into a spot.

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

Harley-Davidson makes some of the most iconic motorcycles on the road. The Harley-Davidson Electra Glide is the brand's flagship touring model: Newer varieties come in 107 and 114 cubic inch layouts, and incorporate a Milwaukee-Eight Big Twin engine. On the 107 cubic inch model, the bike achieves 111 foot-pounds of torque and a 43 city/highway combined MPG.

The motorcycle is a sight to behold. The Electra Glide offers rear shock absorbers that utilize emulsion technology and incorporate a pre-load adjuster that allows you to customize your drive experience. As well, the front panel and windscreen follow in the design methodology of the brand's iconic Batwing look. 

The screen has been configured as a medium height installation to push airflow naturally around you, while offering a minimized visibility intrusion. The chopper makes use of the well-worn saddlebag layout for storage and a classic upright positioning with floorboards for the rider. These provide a platform for enjoyable driving and a classically comfortable seat.

Indian Roadmaster

Lastly, the Indian Roadmaster is a staple in the touring category of motorcycles. The chopper utilizes a 6-speed Thunderstroke air cooled V-Twin rated at 116 cubic inches and 1,890cc. Indian has returned to the market under the brand ownership of Polaris, and in 2014, began adding their weight to the motorcycle world once more. The result is a lineup of touring bikes that perform at a fantastic level.

The bike includes ABS brakes and has been lengthened from previous models. This makes the handling somewhat slow, but the required steering effort is buttery smooth and allows for a calm and enjoyable ride unlike just about any other motorcycle can accommodate.

The Roadmaster also adds 142 liters of storage space in the saddleback, rear compartment, and elsewhere. It also includes a small luggage rack on top of the compartment, adding the potential to strap down additional gear with ease if the need arises. 

One thing that sets the Roadmaster apart is its infotainment system. While other motorcycle manufacturers have opted for stripped down command electronics (including touring models), Indian has leaned into the systems that enhance rider enjoyment. The 7-inch touchscreen adds what Indian calls "Ride Command" to your console, offering a central system for information and connectivity needs.