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All dressed up and ready to ride: Touring motorcycles for long hauls in comfort

Spring is around the corner, which means it’s time to plan vacations. In the northern United States, spring marks the start of reasonable riding weather, so if your thoughts of vacation and bike riding morph into long-haul or cross-country rides, this guide is for you.

There are loads of bikes that are great for corner-to-corner rides, running errands, styling around town, commuting, or weekend trips of no more than a couple hundred miles. But if you’re going to pile on 300 or 500 miles a day, you won’t want to do so on most street bikes or cruisers — and certainly not multiple days in a row. Long rides call for touring bikes with sufficient weight, wheelbase, suspension, and seating to keep you stable and comfortable. You’ll need plenty of power with truck-dodging reserves. And you can never have too much storage space.

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We checked out major motorcycle companies that sell touring bikes in the U.S. If they have more than one touring model or trim, we chose the biggest, most fully dressed bike in the lineup. The starting prices range from just under $13,000 to more than $40,000. Most brands also have long personalization sheets, which can boost the price by thousands if you so choose. Below, you’ll find the top models from a host of two-wheel manufacturers. We even added three-wheelers, just to make things more interesting.

Touring two-wheelers

BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive (2016: $30,395+)

The top-of-the-line BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive adds the most popular equipment options for the base K 1600 GTL, which starts at $6,000 less. The inline-six powerplant provides ample power. BMW’s ABS Pro cornering-optimized braking system is also included, as well as Hill Start Control, central locking with an alarm system, and a heatable seat with a backrest. The lighting includes LED auxiliary lights, an adaptive xenon headlight, a second brake light, and ground lighting. The bike’s Keyless Ride automatically releases the steering lock, ignition, fuel tank lid, and alarm system when the key is within two meters. BMW has four additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $12,095 to $24,395.

Harley-Davidson 2017 CVO Limited (2017: $41,000+)

The top of Harley-Davidson’s rich touring lineup, the CVO Unlimited also has the highest starting price at $41,000. Powered by Harley’s Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin engine, it has liquid-cooled cylinder heads and radiators. The bike also has new front and rear suspensions with hand-adjustable pre-load. Other features include a color-matched split stream air vent, a touring pack carrier with a LED bezel, LED turn signals, an integrated security system with a power locking fob, and a tire pressure monitoring system. While it’s arguable that almost any Harley-Davidson can be used for cross-country trips, the company has 10 additional models in its touring group, with starting prices ranging from $19,000 to $26,900.

Honda Gold Wing Audio Comfort Navi XM ABS (2017: $28,979+)

Honda’s Gold Wing has enjoyed a major touring presence for more than four decades. The Gold Wings’ horizontally-opposed engine and its shaft final drive has power and smoothness, which, combined with a special chassis, provides all-day comfort. Standard Gold Wing features include a full-coverage windshield and bodywork, integrated luggage, heated grips, a seat warmer, cruise control, and electric reverse. This model Gold Wing also adds a navigation system and anti-lock brakes. Honda has seven additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $8,300 to $24,700.

Indian Roadmaster Classic (2017: $27,000+)

Indian has another Roadmaster touring model that more closely resembles the big Hondas and Harleys (and costs another $2,000). We didn’t choose the most expensive model, however, because the Roadmaster Classic is unique in combining new technology and comfort with a vintage look that tells you immediately it’s an Indian. The Classic is fully decked with leather saddlebags and a leather trunk, too, not to mention a host of other leather-fringed accessories if you’re so inclined. Beneath and behind all that fringe, you’ll find a cast aluminum frame, LED headlight and driving lights, a power windshield, ABS brakes, heated seats and hand grips, cruise control, an infotainment system, and a chrome headdress on the front fender.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS (2017: $17,500+)

The Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS delivers high amounts of torque with a powerful V-twin feel, one complimented perfectly by an advanced ABS system. It gives riders distributed brake force control in a manner that stops effectively and confidently. Cruise control can be activated while in third gear, or at any speed between that falls between 30 and 85 miles per hour. The frame-mounted fairing also helps keep the steering light by directing aerodynamic forces into the chassis. The Vulcan 1700 Voyager includes touring amenities as well, such as integrated luggage and an intercom headset that’s compatible with the built-in audio system. Kawasaki has four additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $9,000 to $16,800.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress (2017: $21,990+)

If “Flying Fortress” sounds like an airplane name, you’re correct. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a four-engine bomber introduced in 1938 and retired in 1968. The Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress doesn’t carry bombs, but its massive size and batwing fairing certainly give the look of a bike capable of handling a heavy load on strategic missions. The bike’s short flyscreen and lack of a trunk raise questions about long-haul comfort, but, the sidebag design still provides significant cargo space without compromising style. The wide handlebar and large seat also balance control and comfort. The Flying Fortress comes with a dedicated infotainment system, cruise control, ABS, and traction control. Moto Guzzi has three additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $15,990 to $18,490.

Motus Motorcycles Motus MSTR (2017: $37,975+)

Motus Motorcycles is a new-ish manufacturer that set out to build sport touring bikes. The MSTR gets its prodigious power from a liquid-cooled, 101-cubic-inch 90-degree V-4 pushrod engine, which produces 180 hp and 126 ft-lb of torque at 5,000 rpm. The Motus MSTR, which comes with detachable 35-liter side cases, adjustable handlebars, and a windscreen, is priced in accordance with its attention to structural and performance detail. In 2014, a production version of the MSTR set the official land speed record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, becoming the world’s fastest pushrod-engine production motorcycle with a top speed of 168.69 mph. Motus makes one other sport tourer, the MST, with a starting price of $30,975.

Suzuki Boulevard C90T (2017: $12,900+)

Suzuki fields one touring bike, the Suzuki Boulevard C90T, with a model name that raises questions about its suitability for cross-country trips. With its 90-cubic-inch V-twin engine though — the smallest of the motorcycles covered here — the Suzuki also has the lowest starting price of the lot. The bike also has shaft drive, along with ample torque and acceleration. In addition, the C90T has a large windshield, rigid side cases, and leather-look seating that showcases classic V-twin styling. Suzuki has one additional touring model with a starting price of $9,400

Triumph TROPHY SE ABS (2017: $19,500+)

Triumph’s Trophy SE ABS has a 1215cc, three-cylinder engine. The maker says the motor chews up miles effortlessly, while passengers enjoy “armchair ergonomics” for all-day rides. The list of features includes electronic suspension adjustment, an on-board audio system, ABS, traction control, adjustable seats, cruise control, an adjustable screen, electronic headlight adjustment, an immobilizer, ride-by-wire, a SatNav mounting bracket, power sockets, and under-seat storage. Triumph has two additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $11,700 to $16,200.

Yamaha FJR1300ES (2017: $18,000+)

Yamaha’s FJR1300ES is the company’s flagship touring bike. It has a 1298cc, liquid-cooled inline four and ride-by-wire throttle response. The chip-controlled throttle also enables traction and cruise control, while lean angle-sensitive lighting helps to “see through” corners. Other features include plush rider and passenger seating, an adjustable windscreen, heated grips, a fairing-mounted glove box with a 12V outlet, integrated hard luggage, and a 6.6-gallon fuel tank. Yamaha has four additional touring models with starting prices ranging from $10,000 to $16,390.

Three-wheelers

So what happens if you’re aching to take a long bike trip but you want a larger — but still open — ride with more comfort, stability, and storage? Well, maybe it’s time to consider a three-wheeler. More motorcycles than cars, three-wheelers don’t have the same look as traditional touring bikes, even if the Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra comes close. You’ll definitely cause necks to strain on the highway, especially with the Can-Am Spyder RT Limited and the Polaris Slingshot SLR.

Can-Am Spyder RT Limited ($31,049+)

Can Am’s Spyder RT Limited is the top line of several trims that start at $23,450. Major mechanicals include a 1330cc engine, semi-automatic or manual six-speed transmission with reverse, and an adjustable rear air suspension. Comfort features include lumbar support and a passenger backrest, heated handgrips for both, and rider floorboards. The RT Limited has 41 gallons of cargo space, too, and a Garmin GPS. Can Am has three additional models with starting prices ranging from $17,000 to $24,100.

Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra ($34,339+)

The Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra is powered by the company’s Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine with radiator and cylinder head cooling, which is a smaller version of the 114 engine in the aforementioned CVO Limited two-wheeler. Other touring features include a four-speaker infotainment system with a GPS and color touchscreen, along with electronic cruise control and 6.8 cubic feet of storage space. Harley-Davidson has one additional three-wheeler, the FreeWheeler, with a starting price of $26,339.

Polaris Slingshot SLR (2017: $28,500+)

Standard Slingshots start at $22,000 and include a 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower engine with a five-speed manual transmission, power steering, ABS, stability and traction control, tilt steering, adjustable waterproof seats with three-point seat belts, and lockable storage bins. The SLR also comes with a front wind deflector, premium wheels, a media console with a 4.3-inch LCD screen, a backup camera, upgraded seats and speakers, and interior lighting. Polaris has two additional Slingshot models with starting prices ranging from $22,000 to $25,500.