Which motorcycles have the most comfortable ride?

Honda Goldwing GL1800 airbag radical Goldwings incentive

A combination of stiffly sprung modern motorcycles and old war wounds have many mature-aged riders searching for motorcycles with the most comfortable ride.

I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes over the years and what stands out is how soft old bikes were and how stiff modern bikes are.

This trend is to improve handling and cope with larger and heavier riders. However, it presents problems for riders who suffer from old motorcycle injuries or arthritis.

You could buy an old bike with sagging springs for a softer ride, but they handle poorly. The soft springs also mean you hit the bump stops which pounds your body every time you clout a reasonably sized bump or pothole. And isn’t that a too-frequent occurrence!

If you want a bike that handles yet still has a plush ride, there are some modern motorcycles that offer both.

And that could include electric motorcycles which have different weight distribution.

But first let’s rule out bikes that are uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable bikes

 comfortable
Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali with a Panigale V4 R

That means just about every over-sprung, under-damped Ducati and most sports bikes, except those special editions with uprated suspension from experts such as Ohlins, Sachs, Kayaba, etc.

It also means ruling out “slammed” cruisers such as many of Harley’s line-up, especially anything with the word “Lo/Low” in the model name.

In fact, many cruisers that are considered comfortable have short rear springs that won’t save your spine if you hit a big bump.

Making a bike more comfortable

If you can’t find a comfy bike, get one with decent-length springs and fit better suspension with decent damping.

You can also buy aftermarket comfort seats or get the seat reupholstered.

Ducati GT1000 carbon wheels farkle project tall used comfortable
Ergo Seats added more padding to my hard Ducati GT1000 seat

Some people swear by seat cushions such as Airhawks and sheepskins. However, I find they slip and move around which tends to divorce you from what the bike is doing.

That’s fine if comfort is your only consideration, but I like to be able to feel the bike so I can control it.

It’s not just the rear suspension that causes problems. Harsh forks can have a jackhammer effect on your hands.

You can overcome this with thicker aftermarket grips or “Grip Puppies” which are thick coverings for the existing grips.

Soft Grip for chronic pain comfortable
Soft Grip

Comfortable bikes

So which bikes are comfortable straight off the showroom floor?

You can’t tell from just pushing down on the forks or jumping on the bike in the shop. You need to go for a long test ride over bumpy stretches of road.

Look for bikes that have suspension adjustment and then get it professionally set up for your weight.

There are also many models that come with electronic suspension that you can adjust on the fly from “sport” mode to “touring” or “comfort”.

Electronic suspension comfortable
Electronic suspension

Obviously, touring bikes often come with plusher suspension, more adjustment and well-padded seats.

Adventure motorbikes also have a good ride on bad roads with their extended suspension, although that makes them very tall in the saddle.

Top 10 comfy bikes

Comfort can be a very subjective thing, but here is our list of the top 10 most comfortable bikes.

1 BMW R 1250 GS: The telelever front suspension sets this apart from other adventure models. It also has wide-ranging electronic suspension adjustment.

BMW R 1250 GS Ballina Motorcycles comfortable
BMW R 1250 GS

2 Honda Gold Wing: This has long been known as a lounge chair for the open road. Not only does it soak up the bumps, but cossets the rider in a bubble of luxury.

2018 GL1800 Goldwing Tour - Grand America comfortable
Honda GL1800 Goldwing

3 BMW K 1600 GTL: Like the Gold Wing, this bike has all the luxuries.

BMW K 1600 GTL Motorrad comfortable
BMW K 1600 GTL

4 Indian Chief: The entire range of Chief models ride on plush suspension and high-profile tyres.

Indian Chiefs comfortable
Indian Chief Classic, Vintage and Chieftain

5 KTM 1290 Super Adventure: Four damping settings make this suitable for the roughest terrain.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure comfortable
KTM 1290 Super Adventure

6 Triumph Tiger 800XCx: Seat and suspenders are plush enough to cope with the toughest off-road terrain.

Triumph Tiger 800 XCx comfortable
Triumph Tiger 800 XCx

7 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 1000: Always a great adventure favourite it now rides even better with more padding in the seat.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000 comfortable
Suzuki V-Strom 1000

8 Yamaha FJR1300A: Rider and pillion will enjoy the ride and thermal comforts, although it’s best for tall riders. Cops love ’em! Seat could be better.

Riding the Yamaha FJR1300Aat launch comfortable
Yamaha FJR1300A

9 Kawasaki GTR1400: There are good reasons why many Iron Butt riders choose this highway mile-muncher. Ergos and ride are great for long distances at high speeds.

Malcolm Milne has more than 300,000km on the odo on his 2007 Kawasaki 1400GTR
Malcolm Milne has more than 300,000km on the odo on his 2007 Kawasaki GTR1400

10 Moto Guzzi California: The Italians are not known for comfy riding positions, but this is a rare exception. Big-dish saddle, wide and bent bars, floorboards and a plush ride with plenty of cornering clearance!

Moto Guzzi California comfortable
Moto Guzzi California

What’s the most comfortable motorcycle in your view? Leave your comments below.

29 Comments

  1. I’ve had many road bikes but my 2002
    Kawasaki nomad 1500 was one comfy ride and now I’m on a Honda ctx 1300 and it’s all day comfortable.

  2. I have been riding motorcycles since I was 8 years old and now I am 57 years old. I started out on old road trail bike which were stripped of all the road gear just to learn on before moving onto road bikes when I turned 17 years old. Since then I have owned mostly Japanese bikes Yamahas, Suzukis and Hondas with a couple of BMWs and a Aprilia. Of the most comfortable motorcycles I have owned I would have to say my 1995 20th Anniversary Honda GL1500 Goldwing which I still own today which has now 291,080 kms on it and still going strong mostly because it fits my 6 feet 6 inch tall body better than the new 2019 Honda Goldwing which is made for more shorter riders. As for my Aprilia Mana 850 GT which I also own today it’s not the most comfortable bike to ride long distance on but it is a great fun bike to ride around the city on mostly due to the 7 speed automatic gearbox makes it a lot quicker off the line than any normal motorcycle on the market and it makes lane filtering a lot easier than my Goldwing

  3. Pretty clear the writer of this column never rode a Yamaha transcontinental.. the gold wing is a good ride for those with short legs on a cool day. Just no leg room on most bikes. I test rode an Indian. Took it about a mile. Turned around took it back. We had a victory vision before the Yamaha.

  4. In 2005 in South Africa, BMW launched their R1200 RT. I bought it new and covered 120,000 Km, mostly open road travelling with my wife as pillion. Nothing, in our opinion, beats this bike for comfort, weather protection and fuel economy. It has all the electronics one could possibly require.

  5. …you should include the Aprilia Caponord 1200 ABS Travel Pack . I upgraded from a TIger 800XC , which was really comfy, and surprisingly caponord is even more comfy! electronic suspension works great!

  6. I think I have had over 50 bikes all for a respective purpose. There is definitely a compromise no matter what you choose. I have had bikes from BMW, Ducati, KTM, all of the Japanese makers and a few quirky ones in between. I remember when I owned a 2002 BMW LT thinking I looked like an old man but I did not care because I was comfortable. Got rid of it and others for a move. When I decided to get another bike a friend of mine who owned a Harley dealer said try the Road Glide Special before you fully decide, so I did. I test drove the 2017 RGS with the Milwaukee 8. I am no Harley fan boy, in fact the ones I had in the past did nothing for me. This 2017 RGS is without a doubt the most comfortable (With Russell Seat), fun to ride motorcycle I have owned. I can absolutely fly through corners if I want to. This is the first bike where I feel like it could be the only bike I own. I never see the RGS in the discussions of long distance tourer but I can tell you from experience that it kicks the crap out of the new BMW large touring bikes in every way aside from gadgetry. Although the Harley has a pretty great system it is nowhere near as tech filled as the BMW. The soul of this bike and the flat out torque is addicting but it is so smooth and comfortable I am amazed ever time I ride it. Do yourself a favor and take one out for a day to get used to it. I still have a KTM 1290 ADV-R, Vmax, Husky and KTM Super Duke GT….I rarely ride any of them anymore unless for offload.

  7. I started riding motorcycles when I was around 16years old 56 years ago and back then comfort didn’t really matter ,just as well as there were no comfortable motorcycles ,how every now at the age of 72 my 6 feet frame does appreciate a bit of comfort and is quite spoiled by modern motorcycle technology.
    Over the 56 years that I have been involved with two wheeled transport I have owned many motorcycles from BSA Bantams to Honda gold wings and have come to the conclusion that all motorcycles have to compromise in one way or another ,for example if one is sitting on an arm chair at the lights then chances are you are going to get burned off when the lights change, and do you know what that still pisses me off, oh yes the body maybe in its 73 year but thanks to motorcycling the computer is still 16 .
    My current motorcycle is a 2009 BMW k1200 with cruise/heated seats and grips / reverse gear / and even an electric centre stand,all the ingredients for an old fart to dwell on!

    1. I would sooo love a reverse gear!! When you are tippy toeing around on an adventure tourer backing up is so difficult if you are of average height

  8. Seats are becoming unsuitable for taller riders due to manufacturers fixation of narrowing the front to allow shorter riders to reach the ground flat footed.
    Well, in time I hope they work out that it is a better option to offer a lower seat height by other means, as ‘one solution for all’ is them losing sales, in one direction at least.

  9. Although I’ve been riding for decades, I’ve only had the one bike I’ve taken on several interstate trips and which I still own, a 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan VN800 Classic. Seat is awful for long rides, but vastly improved with a properly fitted lambswool seat cover. For me, comfort whilst riding can also be a matter of proper planning for breaks as much as expecting the bike alone to provide a ‘comfortable’ ride. I have to admit, though, that due to owing a trike tour business, it’s a Boom trike I ride now and have the Kwakka under canvas in the garage. Of course, the Boom trumps the Kwakka on comfort! Can’t beat being able to rest the back on long trips and having lots of spots to change leg position.

  10. In the real world of motorcycle riding for most people – daily commute – weekend fang/cruise. I bought a Honda 500FA (naked) as an interim bike while waiting for my Triumph Street Twin. For comfort and all round value – $7,000 R/A the Honda wins hands down IMHO. Excellent ergonomics, comfortable seat, softish front but still retaining a good balance for cornering. Add in approximately $220 registration; $220 insurance; $220 yearly servicing; 0 – 60mph in 4.8 seconds; running on standard 91 octane; averaging 4:3 litres/100kms makes a compelling case for a good all rounder. At double the price can you get double the comfort and versatility? Sorry I had to trade that one, but the wife: “You’re not having 3 bikes!” Err…

  11. Yamaha XJR I’ve got a 1996 1200….
    Plush comfy bike. Kind of in the middle of everything performance and handling wise… but I can sit in the saddle all day on my old girl

  12. My 2013 Triumph Trophy is the most comfortable bike I’ve owned mainly due to the excellent weather protection along with an electronically controlled suspension (damping and preload). It also has good power and great handling – much better than the Gold Wing that I tested 2 years ago.

  13. This is a tough one, comfortable for what?? Sticking to or under the speed limit and taking in the scenery, or giving it a spanking and and having a joust with your mates. You could pick two very different bikes that would be miles apart depending on the circumstances. Each would be out of its comfort zone in the wrong role. I am going on 68, started riding at 14 and have only owned road bikes, 19 of them over the years. I stick to the “black stuff”. As a young guy there was only “naked’s”, that’s all they made. My first bike with a fairing was a new FJ 1100 Yamaha in 1984. It was a revelation at the time. Smooth, comfortable and fast.
    Fast forward to 2015, I purchased a new BMW R1200R (the latest series) and I would have to say it is the best bike I have ever owned. For our roads and conditions it is brilliant. Comfortable, quick and fast. Remarkably light on its feet and with all the electronic trickery to make riding fun. Take heated grips for example, this is my first bike with them, I always thought they were for “softcocks”. Well I qualify on all counts now, ditto cruise control, ABS, traction control, etc, etc.

  14. I believe the most important component of the comfort facilities of a motorcycle is the seat. I have owned a lot of bikes over the years and the seat has always been the key to enjoying the ride. You can tolerate harder suspension if the seat is comfortable. A comfortable seat will have a good shape to cup your backside, enough padding to spread the load a little and reduce the occurrence of pressure points , and finally is mounted so as not to through your torso forward that can cause crunching of the crouch. Having said that, it is not necessarily the big plush seats the get the nod hear, I have had to replace a gold wing seat because it was too high in the center, even though it was about 100mm thick. Just to prove a point, if you can recall the old metal tractor seats made of steel, but in the exact shape of your backside and you could sit in them for hours over terrible rough country.

  15. This is a wide ranging subject, wide or scrawny butts, solo or two up comfort, vertically challenged or knees under your chin, skinny or heavyweight, strong or weak, throws up more options than this article can cover.
    A few years ago I built a café racer for myself forgetting that the Ace Café and my Triton were many moons ago. Could get astride the thing but couldn’t get off it, only 50 years too late. Today I prefer the comfort of one of the best touring bikes ever made, the XVZ13TF Venture. You sit in it not on it, cushion upholstered seats, air adjustable suspension back and front, electronic cruise control, V4 shaft drive, and keep you dry in any weather fairings. Wife says pillion seating and position is second to none. They can be a handful in the carpark if you are a bit short in the legs. Someone mentioned the “Iron Butt” touring group…that’s 1000 miles per day sometimes for a couple of weeks. I read that one popular machines with this group is the first generation Yamaha XVZ 13 Venture Royale first sold in 1986.
    JMB

      1. Yes, they’ve been there for a while, a couple of generation II Ventures as well. Without going into details, there is a problem with the year models stated but you get the picture. It is not uncommon for these Yamaha V4 powered bikes to cover between 200 and 300 thousand miles without overhauls. It’s a pity that the V4 liquid cooled, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder shaft drive package ( restricted to just under 100 HP) was not popular in Australia. The Gen I Vmax engine is basically a 1983 1200cc Venture engine….Yamaha Aust imported the first Vmax ten years after it was available everywhere else on the planet and then discontinued imports after three or so years. Got me beat.
        To stay on topic….the Vmax is definitely not the most comfortable bike !!
        JMB

  16. Well I have ridden many bikes over the years and I must say that we have come a long way since the old days. But now I have progressed to a 3 wheeler can am f3 spyder and it is the most comfortable machine I have ever rode. Long k’s in the saddle no problem.

  17. My Triumph Tiger 800 xrt is the most comfortable bike I’ve ridden- albeit a little tall…. ride comfort compared to my Bonneville T100 is vastly superior due to longer suspension travel and smooth as silk triple cylinder engine….

  18. If you put the Triumph Tiger on that list you should also have put the BMW F800GS.
    I tried both before settling on the BMW and have spent 9 hours straight in the saddle with no problems, I’m 68.
    Some of the older bikes I’ve had were reasonably comfortable in the bush, like the Yamaha TT350, but it really needed a more comfortable seat. It’s suspension was variable from nice and soft to full enduro once you worked out the settings.

  19. Comfort is one of the must important factors of ownership. Even if I’m not going on multi day trips I want a bike that is plushly suspended. But that doesn’t mean I want one of the leviathans that dominate this article.
    I actually want a lightweight, clickable bike that will whip down bumpy lanes and not shake all the fillings out of my teeth and smash my spine.
    I have owned a long line of ktm’s because they mostly get this right and now have a 1290gt. Which is great for the bigger roads and journeys. But what about really horrible tarmac lanes with masses of bumps on them? These are the roads with no one else on them so you can have lots of fun and nobody gets upset!
    Which is the bike for these roads is my question. I’m ready to buy it!

  20. I started riding 40+ years ago and found that the salesperson on each of my bike purchases failed to ask the question regarding ‘rider comfort’.
    Stating the obvious, we’re all different sizes, yet one bike model is supposed to ‘suit’ the entire height/weight spectrum of riders.
    At 6ft my ideal riding position set up would be quite different compared to someone who’s 5ft nothing.
    It’s not difficult to alter suspension or seating but surely as an after sales service it would be commonsense to actually ask their buyer if they’re actually comfortable: handlebar size is width and position, risers required?, foot control positions, clutch and brake leaver positioning?… just basic stuff for both comfort and safety.

  21. This is a great topic and one which most motorcycle reviews give scant regard to.
    I have been searching for this sort of information for some time and it is very difficult to find.
    Thanks Motorbikewriter !!

  22. PS. I love your choice of photo to headline a story on luxurious rides. The airbag might be soft to lean against but it does limit your forward visibility a bit.

  23. At the risk of being looked down upon for riding a scooter, a big Burgman 650 has a luxurious ride while still being able to handle the twisties.

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