Touring motorcycles are a special breed. They need to be strong and reliable, and able to accelerate to highway speeds whilst carrying heavy luggage, but they also need to be comfortable, and equipped with plenty of accessories to keep riders relaxed for mile after mile. Today, there are more touring motorcycles available than before, each geared towards different riders with different touring ambitions.
For this list, we’re looking at the 10 best touring motorcycles for 2021, and by “touring” we mean it in the traditional sense of the word. While you can tour on any motorcycle, we’re not including adventure touring motorcycles or sports touring motorcycles. That’s not strictly true, since one slipped through the net, but it’ll make sense when you get to it.
So, let’s take a look at the best touring motorcycles out there that you can go out and buy in 2020.
2021 Indian Challenger
The Indian Challenger is arguably one of the most formidable touring motorcycles on the market. It’s a dominating machine that draws power from Indian’s acclaimed 1,768cc PowerPlus V-twin engine. With a power output of 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of peak torque, the Challenger has plenty of guts for long distance riding. However, there’s more to his beast than a large front fairing and a powerful engine.
What makes the Challenger an ideal touring machine is the level of technology installed. For example, the 2021 model boasts a whole host of practical riding aids, including three useful riding modes, cruise control, and advanced ABS. Naturally, the remote-locking hard saddlebags also make it a useful tourer, but it’s the engine and electronics that we really rate.
What’s even more exciting is that the Indian Challenger is available in three different forms for 2021: in standard trim, Dark Horse trim, or in Indian’s range-topping Limited trim. No matter which model you choose, if road-focused trans-continental touring is your mission, then the Indian Challenger is one of the best tools for the job.
2021 BMW K1600 Grand America
The 2021 BMW K1600 range has plenty of models worthy of this list. The K1600B, for example, is a really nice bike. But when it comes to serious road touring, the Grand America would be our weapon of choice. It’s got the bags, it’s got the backrest, and it packs a powerful punch from an enormous engine: everything a good touring motorcycle needs.
The secret to the BMW’s success is its large 1,649cc inline-six engine. If you’re looking for power, it’s got plenty of it, with 160 horsepower on tap along with 129 lb-ft of peak torque. It’s a fast-mover, and despite its bulk it has a lot of sporting DNA. Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro, and cruise control are just some of the top features that come as standard.
There’s more though. What we really like about the K1600 Grand America are the other details, such as the reverse assistant function, electronic suspension adjustment system, advanced audio system, and touring practicalities like seat heating, hard luggage, and high windscreen. If only it was a little cheaper…
2020 Harley-Davidson Road King
This one is probably a bit of a cheat because there isn’t a dedicated 2021 Road King. However, it wouldn’t be right to exclude the legendary Road King from a list of thoroughbred touring motorcycles. So, here’s the 2020 model instead. This classically-styled tourer stays true to the image of a traditional tourer: a windscreen, comfortable ride position, bags, and a big engine.
Power is provided by Harley’s Milwaukee Eight 107 motor, which translates the V-twin’s 1,753cc displacement into an impressive 111 lb-ft of peak torque. Throw in a low seat height, LED lighting, and a silky-smooth transmission and you’ve got a heavyweight tourer that you can casually ride around town with ease too.
Compared to many other Harley-branded tourers, the Road King is actually quite reasonably priced, which makes it a more attractive purchase for those who want to buy a tried-and-tested touring machine, with enough change for gas afterwards.
2020 Honda Gold Wing Tour
While we’re on the subject of obvious choices, there’s no escaping the Gold Wing. This one is another cheat entry too, since there’s no specific 2021 model either. However, it was last updated in 2020 and that’s recent enough for us. It’s got a giant 1833cc liquid-cooled SOHC six-cylinder engine that makes 97.9 horses at the wheel, practical bags, and plenty of top-shelf tech. Ideal for touring.
Recent updates to the Tour-designated models include new fog lights, a redesigned rear seat, updated suspension, and more charging options. Unfortunately, the seat could do with being a touch more comfortable, especially if you’re into long slogs. It’s a negative point, sure, but one worth mentioning.
The Gold Wing—in any form—has long been considered the gold standard in the touring segment. It’s still one of the best, and probably always will be. However, other brands are developing more and more models that can confidently square-up to the legendary Gold Wing, which is why this is a list of top 10 best models, and not simply a list of touring motorcycles that simply exist.
2021 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS
Many riders rate Kawasaki’s Vulcan platform, and the Vaquero model in particular. However, if you want the ultimate touring experience, you need to try the Vulcan when it’s in its final form: the Vulcan 1700 Voyager. It’s the ultimate touring machine that offers huge power, a shopping list of impressive features, and a very respectable price tag.
Under the proverbial hood, the Vulcan 1700 Voyager boasts a 1700cc SOHC dual cooled (both liquid and air) 52-degree V-twin engine that produces 72.5 crank HP and 100 lbs-ft of crank torque. The outputs are smaller than some of the others on this list, but power isn’t everything. This isn’t a sports bike. But what it lacks in outright performance, it makes up for in features.
Aside from the impressive front fairing and large windscreen, the Vulcan 1700 Voyager also features advanced unified ABS brakes, electronic self-adjusting throttle valves, electronic cruise control, a comprehensive audio and radio system, integrated intercom compatibility, and of course, spacious integrated luggage and stowage compartments. If you’re going to tackle a transcontinental route, the 2021 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS won’t let you down.
2021 Yamaha Star Venture
Yamaha’s Star sub-brand has some seriously impressive tourers in its 2021 line-up. If we had to choose one, we’d easily opt for the Star Venture. It’s a heavy-duty transcontinental touring machine that has a sharp and contemporary look but in a traditional package. Don’t get us wrong, the Star Eluder is a fine motorcycle, but for real long-distance cruising, the Star Venture has the edge.
The 2021 Yamaha Star Venture uses a massive 1,854cc air cooled OHV V-twin engine. It’s high-tech and high-torque, with about 120 lb-ft available, along with a modest 85 horsepower too. Featuring Ride-by-Wire control, integrated cruise control, selectable ride modes, and an assist and slipper clutch, the Star Venture offers a smooth ride experience in an accessible format.
Other cool features include 37.3 gallons of luggage space, luggage locks, LED lights, an advanced infotainment system (with a serious communications suite), a smart key system, and plenty of charging ports. And if that wasn’t enough, owners can choose from Yamaha’s huge range of accessories to customize their Star Venture in hundreds of ways.
2021 Indian Roadmaster
If you want to buy a tourer on the strength of its looks alone, then the Roadmaster is a tough candidate to beat. It looks great, but it also performs even better. This legendary American cruiser offers big power, high-technology, and one of the most enjoyable ride experiences out there. If we were ranking the models in this list, there’s a high chance that this would be in first place. Possibly.
Drawing power from Indian’s famous 1,890cc liquid-cooled V-twin Thunderstroke 116 engine, the Roadmaster produces 92 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered via a smooth six-speed gearbox, and kept under control with selectable riding modes, cruise control, advanced ABS, and Indian’s cool rear-cylinder deactivation system. Add in RideCommand infotainment, a 22-watt audio system, heated seats, practical bags, and more, and you’ve got a serious touring machine.
Aside from the standard model mentioned here, the 2021 Indian Roadmaster is available in three other forms: the Roadmaster Dark Horse, the Roadmaster Limited, and the range-topping Indian Roadmaster Elite. They’re all seriously impressive touring machines…but they are also very expensive touring machines, so keep that in mind before you fall in love too deeply.
2018 Honda CTX700
It’s not new, and it’s in need of an update, but the 2018 Honda CTX700 is still available in dealerships and still offers excellent touring capabilities. It’s not a heavyweight touring machine by any stretch of the imagination, however, it offers easy entry-level thrills that both novices and experienced hands can enjoy for mile after mile. Though it doesn’t have luggage as standard trim, they’re an affordable extra that transforms the CTX into a usable long-distance cruiser.
This is a small bike in relative terms, but size isn’t everything. The CTX700’s 670cc parallel-twin engine delivers strong and reliable power—but we’re not here to talk about power. What sells this to us is Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) technology. For long distance touring, having the option to do away with conventional shifting is a very useful option indeed, and one that more than makes up for the “small” engine displacement.
So, you’ve got a reliable engine, an automatic six speed gearbox with two modes and a manual mode, a comfortable seat with a large front fairing, and the option to add hard luggage. It’s a lightweight tourer that you shouldn’t discount. It’s also incredibly cheap when compared with pretty much everything else on this list too.
2020 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
Harley’s Ultra Limited isn’t new for 2021. The 2020 model will carry over, but we still think it’s worthy of a mention. It’s one of the most advanced touring models in the Harley-Davidson stable, with plenty of bells and whistles, tour-ready accessories, tour-focused performance, and a price tag that reflects those qualities.
Under the hood, the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited features a big 1,868cc Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin engine. It’s a big engine that produces a serious 114 lb-ft of torque. The sophisticated engine is complemented by class-leading components, such as Brembo Reflex ABS brakes, electronic cruise control, responsive suspension, heated grips, and a Boom Box GTS infotainment system.
And if you really care about the way your motorcycle is styled, you’ll be pleased to learn that the 2021 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited is available in no less than 19 different color options. The paint scheme is hardly a deal breaker, but when you’re forking out just under $30k for a motorcycle, you want it to be in the right color.
2021 BMW R 1250 RT
Purists may disagree with this listing, and that’s fine. We’re in two minds about where to put this. The 2021 BMW R1250 RT is definitely a touring motorcycle, but it does have some sports touring DNA in there. Still, we’re including it because it has just been recently updated, and it’s a great choice for cross-country road riding. Whether you agree with its inclusion or not, there’s no denying that the 2021 BMW R1250 RT is more than up to the task.
Using BMW’s instantly recognizable boxer-twin engine, the R1250 RT’s 1,254cc motor produces a fantastic 136 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque, in what can only be described as a sporty looking touring package. Despite the impressive performance, we still say that this leans towards the touring segment rather than the sports touring segment, and our reasoning is based on the included extras.
Featuring cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, hill-start control, a tall windscreen and front fairing, plus integrated hard luggage, the BMW ticks all of the right boxes for relaxed long-distance riding. It just so happens that you can let loose in the corners too.