10 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.

Triumph Sprint GT

You can look at the Triumph Sprint GT as an upgraded version of the already excellent Triumph Sprint ST. It combines performance, storage, and stability to give a rider everything he or she needs on a long trip. It's also an incredibly comfortable bike to ride, allowing its occupant to go further before soreness and fatigue put a halt to proceedings. Its huge 1050 cc engine is powerful enough to perform, even while under heavy load. According to Triumph, it can churn out 124 horsepower. Enough to take the bike up to 160 mph under the correct circumstances.

The Triumph Sprint GT also excels in terms of fuel capacity. Its 20-liter (5.3-gallon) tank should get you around 200 miles between fuel stops. However, this does vary depending on the combined weight of both luggage and occupants, along with the driving style of said occupant. Features like the aluminum dual beam frame mitigate that somewhat, with the bike itself weighing a little over 500 pounds.

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.

Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour

Historically, Ducati hasn't been the most reliable brand of bike on the market. In fact, it's fair to say the company is a little hit-and-miss when it comes to quality control. This in itself is pretty detrimental when it comes to touring bikes. You want something that can theoretically go from one side of the world to the other, and back again, without leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere.

However, the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour has bucked the trend of highly unreliable Ducatis, and instead will just treat its rider to an array of minor annoyances. These are totally worth it, as the bike is highly customizable, packed with driver aids, and will treat you to more fun than you have any right to have on a touring bike. According to several of its riders, it's near-impossible to have a bad time on one. It's also pretty good-looking, as far as touring bikes go. So if you want something that functions as a touring bike, but can be slapped into "Sport Mode" when you see a beautiful bit of road open up in front of you, roll the dice on a Multistrada.

Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT

Touring bikes are traditionally far more comfortable and practical than pure sports motorcycles. This often comes at a cost of performance. They aren't going to be as quick or agile as a light sports bike. However, you can still get a long-distance ride with a lot of punch. The Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT is a great choice in that department, offering a lightweight frame, powerful engine, and an almost unbelievable amount of nimbleness for a touring bike. Expect a whole bunch of driving aids in addition to the bike's natural capabilities. 

These center around "The Suzuki Intelligent Ride System," and can give you traction control, quick shifting, quick start, and low RPM assistance systems. The 999cc, GSX-R-based engine features increased torque and higher peak power than previous renditions of the motor. The side cases are also optional, should you want to shift the balance between touring and sport riding a little further. All in all, the Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT is a perfect option for sports riders who want to dip their toes into the long-distance waters. You can tailor the bike to fit your needs and are unlikely to be bored by what it offers.

BMW R 1250 RT

Powered by the German automaker's ShiftCam boxer engine, the BMW R 1250 RT is capable of tackling a variety of terrain without issue. So this could be the ideal bike to choose if you love long trips through the mountains. As it's a BMW, you can also expect a good amount of technology to help make your ride even more comfortable. A display coupled with BMW's navigation and technology software helps take some of the burden off the rider and ensure they have an easier time on their trips. 

The bike itself, coupled with standard equipment, can handle close to 500 pounds of load. This can be spread amongst the 18.4 gallons of storage space attached to the basic version of the bike. You can also splash out and stretch beyond this if needed. If you're on a budget, you should also be aware of BMW's 1250 RS. It's not only cheaper than the RT but ranks as one of the most affordable BMW bikes you can find overall.

Harley Davidson Road King

If you ask a random person on the street to name a long-distance motorcycle, they'll probably say "Harley Davidson." What they'll actually mean is a Harley Davidson Road King which has arguably been the standard for American touring bikes since the early 1990s. Firstly, it's obviously a Harley. It features the sort of size and styling you would expect from one of the most iconic motorcycle manufacturers in history. Then there's the fact it just does everything well. 

Yes, it will be outperformed in other departments by specific bikes, but if you just want a solid all-rounder that does what you need it to do and comes with a healthy heaping of prestige — then this is the one you'll need to pick. It's large, stable, obnoxiously loud, and leaves you plenty of places to strap your saddle bags. As it's been on the market for 30 years, there are also plenty of second-hand options out there, parts are easy to come by, and customization should be easy if you really want to make the ride your own.

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.