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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
3 BMW K 1600 GTL: Like the Gold Wing, this bike has all the luxuries.
4 Indian Chief: The entire range of Chief models ride on plush suspension and high-profile tyres.
5 KTM 1290 Super Adventure: Four damping settings make this suitable for the roughest terrain.
6 Triumph Tiger 800XCx: Seat and suspenders are plush enough to cope with the toughest off-road terrain.
7 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 1000: Always a great adventure favourite it now rides even better with more padding in the seat.
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.
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.
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!