Traveling cross-country on two wheels has been around ever since someone decided to shove a motor into a bicycle frame back in the late 1800s. The roads were much crummier back than. As was the rest of the traveling infrastructure. We got it easy, now-a-days, with restaurants, gas and charging stations around every corner, as well as smooth, paved roads to get us there. And so has the motorcycle gone through a metamorphosis of sorts, splintering into many different styles and levels of comfort for the cross-country going crowd.
And here you are, an ambitious rider looking to take your passion for motorcycles to the next level. For many, this means planning a trip that’s longer than a few hours. Though you could experience your new adventure on any bike, a motorcycle that is comfortable enough to ride for hours on end would be the prudent choice. It also needs to have an engine powerful enough to carry the weight of you, your gear and possibly a passenger, while also withstanding many punishing miles of pavement.
Updated May 2023: No matter what country you live in, chances are, if you're a rider, you'd love nothing more than to explore it on two wheels. And you could do it on just about any bike. But some motorcycles are better for longer trips than others, and to keep our readers up to speed on all the latest models, we'll be updating this article periodically.
14 BMW R 1250 RT
When shopping for a touring bike, you can’t go wrong with a BMW motorcycle. The BMW R 1250 RT is a perfect example of this. Nicknamed the king of touring, this bike has every bell and whistle you could ever want. It features classic sport-touring styling, innovative technology, and a smooth engine.
The result is a motorcycle that feels like a luxury cruise. Twist the throttle and feel the smooth and consistent acceleration of the 1,254cc Twin with BMW ShiftCam. The elegant styling does more than just look pretty too, for example, the gently curved windshield arches back to guide the wind over and around the rider.
13 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX
The track-ready H2 gets all the attention. However, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX is the unsung hero, its 988cc engine delivers plenty of power, but note that it is controlled power. Instead of the hair-raising, face-melting experience of the H2, you have a more mature riding experience on the SX.
Instead of an aggressive leaned forward and tucked riding position, the H2 SX has a more neutral riding position. Kawasaki has a reputation for reliability, making it a smart bike for cross-country rides. The adjustable suspension and built-in technology make it perfect for customizing your ride to have an enjoyable experience.
12 Honda Gold Wing
The Honda Gold Wing has a well deserved reputation, what started as a large naked bike, evolved into a velvet smooth, feature rich SUV of a motorcycle we know and love today. Of course that doesn't come without a catch. The bike weighs a ton at 848 pounds. However, Honda engineers considered this, so the bike comes with a reverse mode to make maneuvering the bike a breeze. The large cushioned seats for both the rider and their passenger make this bike incredibly popular among couples who want to travel together.
11 Kawasaki Concours 14
The Kawasaki Concours is the cousin of the Kawasaki ZX14. Both bikes have similar styling and the same 1,352cc inline four-cylinder engine. The difference between the bikes is that the Concours 14 has a more neutral riding position and different engine tuning. As a result, riders have a lot more low and mid-range power, which makes the bike ideal for riding long distances at highway speeds.
The bike also comes standard with hard saddlebags to be trip-ready off the showroom floor. Kawasaki engineered them to easily install, remove, and lock with the ignition key. Despite being a sport touring bike, it doesn’t lose its agile handling thanks to the rigid monocoque frame.
10 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT
The Yamaha Tracer 9 GT appears, at first glance, to have an identity crisis. It looks like an adventure bike, though it is at its happiest on pavement, as a sport tourer. And that connection to adventure riding is no accident. Yamaha built it for riders who love the rugged looks of ADV bikes, but don't feel compelled to take these large machines into the nearest forest.
They're just as happy to pack on mile after mile on highways and local roads. And with its 890-cc in-line triple engine smoothly beating away at its core, the Tracer 9 GT will be one of the most comfortable, yet sporty options out there. Add the fairly low seat height of roughly 32 inches and a five gallon tank, and you're good to go for hundreds of miles.
9 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
There's more than one kind of motorcycle to take on a cross-country trip. You could take a sport touring bike, a naked standard or even an adventure bike. But let's not forget that cruisers and baggers is where all the modern touring really started, as they existed way before many of the other styles of bikes came to be.
The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse is one such bike, harking back to the old days of laid back riding. It has a tough appeal to it that gives off more attitude than the typical touring motorcycle. The low seat and cruiser body positioning make this bike incredibly comfortable. The powerful 1,890cc engine and hefty weight of 823 pounds make this bike better for cruising the highway than conquering the corners though. It also comes with all the hallmark cruiser features, and large saddlebags for plenty of storage for all your personal belongings.
8 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso
Most people don't know that MV Agusta makes a touring motorcycle. However, this lesser-known Italian motorcycle manufacturer produces the Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso. Unlike other touring motorcycles that focus on practicality and functionality, MV Agusta made a bike that is also beautiful to look at. Even with the saddlebags installed, it doesn’t scream tourist. The 798cc three-cylinder engine is lightweight and nimble, making for a smooth yet responsive riding experience. In addition, the bike's over-stylized design and bright red coloring grab attention everywhere you go.
7 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT
This heavyweight adventure sport touring bike is built for anything. Its rugged build and design make it perfect for the rider who wants to do more than stay on the perfectly manicured U.S. highways. Although with the GT moniker, which stands for Grand Tour, there's no mistaking what Triumph really made it for. The engineers at the British manufacturer continually work to make the Tiger better with each model. The powerful 1200cc engine in the Triumph Tiger 1200 GT delivers plenty of power to move you, your passenger, and all of your gear. The engine is actually a repurposed Speed Triple 1200 RS engine. It is then paired with performance-minded components like a Showa semi-active suspension, a Tri-Link swingarm with a shaft final drive, and a lightweight trellis frame.
6 Suzuki GSX-S1000GT
Of all the touring motorcycles on this list, the Suzuki GSX-S1000GT looks and rides the most like a true sport bike. While the riding position isn’t as aggressively forward as other sport bikes, it is more leaned forward than many other tourers. It comes with a 999cc engine that, while smaller than other touring bikes, packs more punch and acceleration. This lightweight bike comes with hard saddlebags for secure packing. Staying true to the Suzuki lineup, the GSX-S1000GT is reliable for logging miles on long rides.
5 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Highway King
You better believe that Harley was going to be a huge part of the touring market. Along with Indian, back in the day, they may as well have invented the whole idea of how to do it right. Plush, comfortable seats, large windshields and plenty of open roads ahead, and nothing screams 'touring' louder than the HD Electra Glide Highway King.
If you're looking for a throwback machine, without all the unreliable components that come with vintage bikes, then this Harley is a true beaut. And other than its looks, there's also plenty of that Harley torque and horsepower to pull you along at a steady clip, and not much else to get in the way of having the scenery wash over your senses.
4 Ducati Multistrada V4 S
Ducati are known to be the kings of premium motorcycles with amazing technology and gorgeous looks. And though they're known mostly for their sport bikes and their scrambler offshoots, they've also dipped their toes into touring. As such, the Ducati Multistrada comes in many forms, but the V4 S seems ideally placed to be the premier cross-country motorcycle of everyone's dreams.
It's meant to do everything from highway stretches, to local roads to even some light off-roading. But it mostly feels at home on pavement. That's where its 170hp V4 Granturismo engine comes alive, its extensive suite of electronics feels most helpful and its over-engineered aerodynamics come into play. There's simply no beating its comfort, style and performance.
3 BMW R 18 Transcontinental
You could take just about any BMW motorcycle on a long trip, depending on how far forward you are willing to lean. The aforementioned R 1250 RT is one such option, but the German bike maker has another weapon up its sleeve, and it's aimed directly at American tourers. The R 18 Transcontinental is a massive yet striking bike, with its gorgeous boxer engine protruding from its sides like a hammerhead shark's head. And though its big and heavy, the weight is all down low, making it extremely balanced. It comes with all prerequisite touring features as well, like hard bags, and a front fairing.
2 CFMoto 650 Adventura
If you're on a modest budget, however, then the CFMoto 650 Adventure may be the perfect bike to take on the road. It's parallel twin engine outputs 60 hp which is perfect for steady riding on highways and byways of any country. And what's more, it comes with hard cases and an adjustable windshield pre-installed. Not bad for a motorcycle that's priced just shy of $7,000. The only downside of owning a CFMoto is a somewhat limited dealer network in the US, which could cause some delays in getting parts and getting maintenance or repairs done.
1 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello
Much has been written about the thoroughly modern and surprising Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello. The stylish, well-received bike is poised to be the breakout star of the touring market, with the likes of Ewan McGregor giving it a publicity push on behalf of Moto Guzzi. But the Italian machine is more than just looks. It's smooth, balanced and fast. It's also super comfortable for longer journeys and comes with a multitude of rider aides such as an electronically adjustable windshield and automatic wind deflectors. So if you're planning on tackling the Rockies any time soon, why not do it with some Italian style.