OK Im going to step out on a limb and guess that this article is going to be a bit controversial. But as an avid Harley Rider I know that this is a subject that is tenuous at best for most of the people who read our blog, none the less I think its a subject that deserves some attention.
Harley Doesn’t make the only motorcycle on the road and I wanted to know what else is out there and how it compares to my traditional riding style so lets compare.
There’s a huge selection to choose from. Big tourers, mid-size sport tourers, cruiser/tourers, but here’s five bikes that have been voted best for touring. All five of these will all eat up the miles, plus get you, a passenger and your luggage to wherever you’re going quickly and in a fair degree of comfort.
BMW K1600 GTL
Although it’s a big motorcycle at 703 lbs, it just doesn’t ride like a big, heavy bike. The K 1600 GTL represents everything that BMW knows about making great motorcycles. Not only can you ride it for miles and miles, you can get off it feeling you’ve just ridden around the block. This is in part down to its powerful 1,649cc engine and its claimed 160 hp and 129 lb.-ft. of torque. Being an inline-six, it’s super smooth and it delivers that torque at very low revs.
Honda Gold Wing F6B
The F6B shares the same 1,832cc flat-six engine, frame and transmission — minus electric reverse gear — of the regular Gold Wing but, to put it simply, it just has less equipment. Major visual differences are a lower screen and the deleted top box. All that knocks 60 lbs off the all-up weight.
Sometimes compromises aren’t good, but in the case of the F6B (Flat Six Bagger) Honda got this one correct. It can be ridden hard like a sport bike, yet when you want to cruise or tour you can settle back and enjoy one of the most comfortable motorcycles out there.
Part of that is due to the F6B’s seating position, which we think is better than the regular Gold Wing because it offers more space for the rider to move about, particularly if you’re covering a lot of miles. The lower screen, too, drops out of the rider's field of vision while still managing to direct wind blast over their shoulders.
Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited
OK HERE IS WHAT I RIDE NOW AND WHY I LOVE IT
To big fanfare, Harley-Davidson pulled the wraps off its Project Rushmore 2014 touring bikes in August, which included the Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic and the Ultra Limited. On first glance, you’d think nothing had changed but in fact there were a whole host of subtle and important developments that has brought "Milwaukee’s Finest" back into the big tourer sector, perhaps in better shape than it has been for a long time.
H-D’s Ultra Limited is probably the pick of the bunch as it now comes equipped as standard with what H-D calls a Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103. The regular 103ci motor is good enough air-cooled, but this new Twin-Cooled version ups the game for H-D.
There’s a new airflow vent on the front fairing that reduces helmet buffeting to the rider. Simple, but it works. For all tourers, hard bags have been re-designed with clever, one-touch locking latches and, for the Ultra, a redesigned, larger “Tour-Pak.” There’s some suspension and larger fork tweaks as well, that have improved handling and steering response, plus bigger and better seats, too.
What I love about this bike is the fusion of modern and classic, the lines haven't changed since the 80’s but the bike rides beautifully. Its the only kind of HYBRID I will ever drive!
THIS IS A BIKE THAT SCARES ME! I personally have never been a fan of the forward sitting rocket style bikes, but I have to give this one a fair shake.
For more than $10,000 less than the big Harley, there is Suzuki’s perennial Hayabusa. Or, to give its correct title, the Suzuki GSX1300-R. At $14,399 it’s a lot of bike for the money. You can splash out a further $200 and get the all-yellow Limited Edition version, but we wouldn’t bother.
The Hayabusa has been around since 1999 and remained relatively unchanged until 2008 when it got a series of limited updates. For 2013 it finally got ABS as standard along with better Brembo brake calipers.
But, what you get for your money is astonishing performance from a 194 bhp, 1,340cc, liquid-cooled, four-cylinder engine. A bike that handles far better than you would expect for something that is nigh on 15 years old. Trust, the Hayabusa can still cut it with the big boys.
It’s well laid out and has a good sport rider position and the ergonomics are roomy enough and the ride smooth enough the Hayabusa can work really well for what we would call a long-distance sports grand tourer. You’ll get wherever you’re going very quickly, have a lot of fun riding there and arrive in good shape, too.
BMW R 1200 GS
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE -
Finally, The BMW R 1200 GS. With its roots in the famous Paris-Dakar races, the GS badge is now 30-years-old. It may have made its name in the deserts of Africa, but these days it’s better to think of it as a very capable long distance road tourer, with a dash of dirt-road ability. This GS will eat the miles, has great ride quality and you can fiddle around with two off-road modes that alter the amount of traction control to the back wheel.
1,170cc boxer twin that puts out 125 bhp.This engine update was the biggest makeover to the GS in 10 years. You also now get electronically adjustable suspension, integrated controls for SatNav and riding modes. As an off road bike it’s limited. As a long distance tourer, with that 33.5-inch seat height and the subsequent leg room that delivers, it’s terrific. It handles brilliantly and is a blast to ride over short or long distances while putting its rider in comfortable control with tall, wide handlebars and an upright seating position. Passenger accommodation is excellent, too, thanks to a large, flat seat. Fit the optional top box if you want to give that passenger something to lean against.
THIS IS ONE SEXY BIKE !
Polaris threw its hat into the bagger arena right at the height of the bagger craze. Builders have been actively pushing the envelope with the platform, from front wheels big enough to hula hoop in to glass-shattering sound systems. The craze even made it to prime time on the History Channel’s series, Biker Battleground Phoenix, with talented builders like Brian Jenkins, John Shope and Len Edmonson showing to what extremes a bagger can be taken. The big baggers provide a lot of room to showcase fabrication skills while offering an open palette for show-stopping paint. Versatile enough to be bike show winners, daily riders, or touring machines, baggers are a hot commodity. While the consensus was Polaris would pay homage to the classic cruiser heritage of the Indian brand with the release of its first round of motorcycles, the company threw everyone for a curve ball when the 2014 three-bike lineup included a bagger, a first for the American manufacturer. The Indian Chieftain drew the biggest cheers by far from the crowd gathered on Main Street Sturgis last summer when Polaris pulled the covers off it.