Take the Long Way Home with the very best Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles
You can quite literally throw a bag on the back of any bike and head for the horizon. But, and it’s a huge but, if you want to do the grand tour in comfort, two up, with plenty of luggage, and your soundtrack playing, why shouldn’t you?
Personally speaking, I’ve done 1100 miles on a Honda SL125 with only a piece of foam over the seat and a rucksack to lean back on. But I also recall the first time I road tested a Harley Electra Glide. It was winter, I had warm hands, and Guns n Roses serenaded me all the way home. I recall thinking at the time, why did I wait so long?
So what’s the difference between a good touring bike and a great one? Well, comfort, not just for rider and passenger, but an unstressed, smooth engine, eases fatigue. Electronic rider aids are also important, especially things like traction control for gnarly weather.
Entertainment systems are pretty much a given, and built in satnav is a plus. All of the big mile munchers will have luggage or at the very least a factory option. And a decent mile per gallon figure and good fuel capacity are also a prerequisite.
Let’s also not forget handling. The bike will invariably be big and heavy. You may also have a passenger and luggage, so it needs to be able to cope with the twisties and be nimble enough to nudge through traffic.
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: Groundbreaking BMW
I know everyone’s go to grand tourer is usually the Goldwing 1800. However, merely adding anti-lock brakes to their top of the range 2017 model, just smacks of taking things for granted.
On the other hand, the BMW K1600GT, with its groundbreaking straight six engine and cast magnesium frame, has been winning fans and awards since its launch in 2010.
The silky smooth six is capable of propelling you to over 150mph and still return around 45mpg. As standard, it already comes with a host of amazing technology, such as headlights that sense lean angle and adjust to the bend.
But for 2017, they’ve also added Dynamic ESA, an automatic self-leveling suspension system, and a reverse gear. The former will definitely be effective on the move, but the latter is long overdue, as the GT is a seriously big motorcycle.
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: A legendary dogfight.
In 1901, Indian motorcycles of Springfield MA launched their very first bike; it beat Harley to the punch by three years. The dogfighting between the two companies over the following 50 years was legendary.
And although H-D won on a technical knockout when Indian went down the pan in 1954, Indian are back, and this time they’re packing a punch.
Some may say the Springfield isn’t a full on grand tourer, that accolade is probably more suited to its stable mate, the Roadmaster. But for me, the 1811cc, six-speed Indian Springfield is just the right mix of nostalgia, practicality and drop-dead good looks.
There’s also just enough technology to make the miles easier, such as ABS, voltmeter, temp and fuel gauge. The panniers have one-touch locking, and there’s a power port, tire pressure monitor, cruise control and a removable screen
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: Yamaha FJR1300 is superbike fast
If you like your road trips fast and full of bends, then the big Yam could be the one for you. The silky smooth, four-cylinder, 146bhp engine is superbike fast.
And as the 2017 model comes with electronically adjustable suspension, you’re getting near superbike handling too.
The big news for 2017 was also the addition of sixth gear, something that is making FJR fans crazy. Dropping the cruising revs down and with almost perfect injection mapping, the six-gallon tank is going to give you 200 plus miles.
The ABS brakes are also linked, there is an assist and slipper clutch, a two-mode traction control, heated grips, adjustable handlebars and color-matched panniers.
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: The Kawasaki Versys 1000 gets a makeover
When it first hit the streets, the Versys 1000, seemed like Kawasaki had rushed to jump on the whole adventure bike bandwagon. As a result, it didn’t quite have its own fully developed character.
The fairing is boxy, and because it looks like it had gravel pretentions, comparisons to the GS’s and Tigers of this world were made, which left it looking inadequate.
The engine, however, was the bulletproof Z1000 unit; it came with the latest three-way traction control system, which is capable of being altered via a closed throttle on the move. The basics were there, and for 2017, it finally had the makeover it deserved.
The new model looks cool, is comfortable, comes with sport-touring tires and is finally the bike it always was capable of becoming. Namely, one of the best, fast touring bikes on the market.
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: Standing out from the crowd
The Triumph Thunderbird 1700 LT has plenty of poke in that massive 1699cc parallel twin engine. Official figures state 93bhp at the rear wheel, but it’s the lashings of bottom end torque (111ft-lb at 3400rpm) that make this bike stand out.
The LT is almost a different bike from the standard Thunderbird. The extra weight and design called for revised steering geometry and beefed up frame and cycle parts.
The panniers are genuine leather and come with waterproof inner bags, the screen is quickly detachable, and the sissy bar comes as standard.
Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles: Time to Choose a Favorite
Choosing a favorite motorcycle is a complicated business at the best of times. When it comes to picking one for a particular task, like touring, the job gets even trickier. Like every category of biking though, you have to make an honest assessment of what you want from your bike.
There’s another variable to this equation too, the older you get, the more you come to appreciate a bike that’s easy to ride. Not leave you feeling like you’ve competed in a triathlon at the end of a day in the saddle.
Choosing a favorite is the part that always drives me crazy, as I inevitably select a list of wicked bikes that all have their stand out features. The Beemer is the ultimate Cadillac. The Indian is style and function personified. The FJR will never let you down, while the Versys, is as much fun as it is flexible.
Which brings me to the True Brit, which pulls at my patriotic heartstrings not just because it’s British, but also because it’s a damn fine bike.
As always when it comes down to choosing a favorite out of the Top 5 Long Distance Motorcycles, it’s a tough gig. However, the Indian Springfield just makes me believe that the journey would be every bit as pleasurable as the destination.