Plenty of models define themselves as a sport touring motorcycle, but which ones really live up to the name? Which ones are competent sports machines that are comfortable enough to tour on? Or is the other way around: which touring machines have a sporty edge? Depending on who you’re talking to, the actual definition of what a sport touring motorcycle is or should be will change drastically. However, we’ve asked around and have put together a list of the best sport touring motorcycle models that manage to fuse together the best of both worlds without too much compromise.
That being said, be prepared to see some oddball choices. Some riders consider the likes of the Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-14 to be sport touring models thanks to their massive power and speed yet comfortable and easy nature. Other riders prefer their sport touring motorcycle to come equipped with longer travel suspension, a more upright riding stance, and a more versatile nature, like the BMW R1200RS or KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. No one is right or wrong, and all of those suggestions are fine choices for a sport touring motorcycle…
To be honest, any bike that puts a smile on your face on the track and that you also wouldn’t mind swinging your leg over and riding across the country without any modifications or extra padding on the seat counts as a sport touring motorcycle in our opinion. As long as you can ride it fast and ride it long. That makes for a broad criteria, but that’s what makes the sport touring segment so fun to look at. But before we get to our list…
Types Of Touring Motorcycles
While there’s a fierce debate about what counts as a sports touring motorcycle these days, there’s also a wider debate that discusses all kinds of touring motorcycles in general. To some, a touring motorcycle could be something like an adventure-seeking BMW R1200 GS, while to others, a touring motorcycle is a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. Two wildly different motorcycles, you’ll no doubt agree.
Generally, we put touring motorcycles into three distinct categories:
Road Touring Motorcycles
Road touring motorcycles are bikes with a relaxed and comfortable riding stance that can be ridden for miles upon miles without the rider tiring. Cruisers or sport cruiser motorcycle types generally fit this description. Many Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles fit this description, along with the likes of the Honda Gold Wing, and Yamaha touring bike models with the Star designation. Those that come equipped with bags as standard equipment make some of the best touring bikes for riding on sealed surfaces.
Adventure Touring Motorcycles
When most people think of adventure motorcycles, they conjure up a certain image in their mind and it’s of a very popular BMW touring bike. However, there’s more to adventure touring motorcycles than the R1200 GS. The latest Honda Africa Twin is an excellent example of what an adventure tourer should be: it has long travel suspension and off-road tires for tackling tough trails, but enough rider comfort for mile-munching on the highways.
Sports Touring Motorcycles
And then there’s sports touring motorcycles, which we’re covering in full here today. They take elements of the best touring motorcycle models and fuse them with the high-performance abilities of modern sports bikes to create a thrilling ride that you can ride and ride – but primarily (and almost exclusively, depending on the specifics) on sealed roads. It’s one of the most debated and contested motorcycle categories, and no two definitions seem to be the same. And that’s why we’re throwing our hats into the ring with our own opinions of the best touring motorcycles with sports DNA.
Why Should You Buy A Sport Touring Motorcycle?
For a start, a sport touring motorcycle offers more versatility than your average sport bike, and while riding fast is fun, it’s even better if you can do it over long distances without breaking your back or putting your ass to sleep. That should be reason enough, but if you need more than comfort and speed to satisfy you, then how about some financial incentives too? At the moment, big adventure bikes are drawing a lot of the old-school sport touring motorcycle crowd away, meaning there are plenty of great sport tourers selling for decent prices.
They might be cheap, but their damn good too. Since the sport touring motorcycle isn’t the weapon of choice for a fresh-faced rookie who aspires to Rossi-like greatness, they’re usually owned by mature riders who like to keep their ride in pristine condition. Decent sport tourers won’t have any scratches or dinks, and probably won’t come with any bolt-on aftermarket tat. If you do see one with anodized this, or unnecessary add-ons, move on – there are other bargains available.
That being said, if you can find something that already comes equipped with proper hard case luggage, consider it a plus point. Good storage is essential for a sport touring motorcycle. Similarly, if one turns up with upgraded suspension, try and squeeze some details out of the seller. Swapped suspension can often be a good thing on a sport tourer – heavy luggage often wears out the original suspension, so any seller that has taken the time and coin to upgrade theirs is worth looking twice at.
Don’t worry about high mileage either. Big numbers on the clock can be off-putting but if your seller has spent time in the saddle and clocked up some serious mileage, that’s a very good indication that they’ve taken care of their ride. These riders are often quick to replace their consumables, take care of their bearings, and keep everything running smoothly. High mileage can be a good thing, the prices are very attractive, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. But which models to we rate higher than the rest? Here are our top 10 sport touring motorcycle choices!
10 Best Sport Touring Motorcycle Models
#10. The Honda VFR800
Let’s start with the obvious choice: the Honda VFR800. It’s almost impossible to find fault with the VFR800, since it’s a legend in its own right. Boasting a powerful 782cc liquid-cooled V4 engine that’s capable of an impressive but not over-the-top 104 horsepower at 10,250 rpm and 55 lb-ft of peak torque at 8,500 rpm, the VRFR800 has plenty of grunt in all the right places. While it comes with a very sport aesthetic with aerodynamic bodywork, the truth is that the VFR800 is remarkably comfortable to ride over long distances too.
The body position is one thing, but thanks to its smart EFI fuel injection system, linked braking arrangement, and VTEC valve actuation, the VFR800 is a nice and economical, long distance tourer that is nice and smooth to ride. In an ideal world, the VFR would be in first place on this list…but sadly, it desperately needs a real update to be considered higher than tenth. Honda’s current ST1300 or VFR1200X aren’t nearly as good as what the VFR800 was.
#09. The Yamaha Tracer 900 GT
On paper, the new Yamaha Tracer 900 GT is a tough machine to beat. With modern, aggressive styling and a built on top of an already tried, tested, and loved platform, the latest member of the Tracer family is set to be a firm sport touring motorcycle favorite. Powered by an 847cc liquid-cooled, crossplane inline-3 engine that’s more commonly found on the FZ-09 (now MT-09 in the USA), the Tracer 900 GT offers quite a sporty ride, with a claimed 115 hp, 64.5 lb-ft of peak torque, and a top speed of 140 mph on offer.
Packed with a bevy of rider aids including Yamaha’s exclusive ride-by-wire throttle, throttle response adjustment technology, a multi-level traction control system, cruise control, and a quickshifter as standard, you can see why we like it. Oh, and then Yamaha went the extra mile to really make it into a sport touring motorcycle by adding an adjustable ride position, new uprated suspension, an adjustable windshield, a 12v electrical outlet, and integrated luggage mounts. It was a tough call to list the new Tracer 900 GT over the classic Yamaha sports tourer, the FJR1300, but we felt that the Tracer offered a new perspective. We all know the FJR and love it, but the Tracer looks like a more attractive prospect for the future. The Tracer 900 GT is expected to be released in the USA later on this year (2018), and we can’t wait.
#08. The Suzuki GSX-S1000F
Suzuki’s GSX-S1000F isn’t the most obvious choice for a sport touring motorcycle but it certainly does tick all the right boxes: specifically the “sports” one. Borrowing the mechanical DNA from the K5 era of Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, the GSX-S1000F is powered by a 999cc inline-four engine that produces more than enough power and torque for fast sport touring. It’s fast, as you’d expect, but what else does it have to offer? In its current iteration, the GSX-S1000F boasts a combination of Brembo and Nissin ABS equipped brakes, sophisticated KYB suspension, advanced traction control, Suzuki’s own clutch assist system, and a whole host of other little riding aids, all tucked behind the GSX-S1000F’s touring ready full fairing.
As you’ve probably guessed, this model is more of a sports bike that you can go touring on and doesn’t quite measure up to other sport touring motorcycles in the versatility department. However, what it lacks in versatility it more than makes up for in street-focused power and performance. If you want a sport touring machine that’s primarily for short trips, but with the option of going further afield should you want to, you can’t go wrong with this beauty. The MSRP is currently $11,299 for the ABS equipped base model.
#07. The Suzuki Hayabusa
This might be a controversial listing, but if you like even more sport in your sport tourer, then the Suzuki Hayabusa is a fantastic choice. Many people don’t consider the Hayabusa when they think of sport touring motorcycles but in reality it’s not a far out choice. You see, when Suzuki first designed the Busa, they weren’t trying to build a motorcycle that could dominate the drag strips – they were designing a motorcycle that could rack up a lot of miles, but in a hurry. In doing so, they just happened to build a motorcycle so ridiculously fast and powerful that it forced the bulk of the motorcycle industry to enter into a gentlemen’s agreement that would limit motorcycle top speeds to decent levels.
The Hayabusa boasts an incredible 172 hp at the wheel and 97.6 lb-ft of peak torque thanks to the raw power of its four stroke 1,340cc inline four engine. On paper, it’s a pure sports bike, but it’s actually more practical than it seems. Add a set of more comfortable bars, a touring windscreen, and a set of aftermarket luggage bags, and you’ve got yourself a convincing, but devastatingly fast, sport touring bike. The current Busa has an MSRP of $14,699 – but hold on, because rumor suggests that a newer, and perhaps turbocharged version may be coming in the near future.
#06. The Kawasaki 1400GTR Concours
Kawasaki countered the Suzuki Hayabusa with their bigger (and some believe better) Kawasaki ZX-14 machine, but to really dominate the big boy sport touring motorcycles segment, they went a step further and released the 1400GTR Concours in 2007. Essentially, the Concours 14 is a ZX-14 re-tuned for hardcore sport touring. Powered by a transverse-mounted, 1,352cc inline four engine that boasts around 153 hp at 8,800 rpm (or 157 hp with ram-air) and 136 lb-ft of torque at 6,200 rpm, it’s very sporty but it also comes with some excellent features like variable valve timing, a combined braking system, and a cool fuel economy assistance mode too.
What makes it a great touring machine is the addition of heated grips, an adjustable windscreen, easy ergonomics and a simple dash computer, and of course, hard luggage, an auto-locking glove box, and keyless ignition. It’s one of the best large-displacement sport touring motorcycles on the market, and there’s a good reason why magazines like Cycleworld and Motorcyclist gave it so many awards in the past but that was then, these days there are other great machines to choose from – still, the Concours 14 is a fantastic motorcycle. The current model retails for approximately $15,999.
#05. The BMW R1200RT
Compared to the likes of the Concours 14 or Hayabusa, the BMW R1200RT might not be as sporty, but it certainly has plenty of touring DNA. That being said, it’s no slow coach either. It actually straddles the line between sport bike and touring machine nicely, making it a worthy contender for the “king of the sport touring motorcycles” crown. Since it’s powered by the usual 1,170 cc BMW boxer-twin arrangement, it’s not going to be laying down S1000RR inspired numbers on the time sheet but the humble boxer is capable of producing around 113.5 horsepower and about 82.1 lb-ft of torque (though BMW claim more of both), and since that engine is partnered with a rather fine chassis the R1200RT is quite the light handling, nimble and competent machine.
The ride experience is obviously more comfortable and relaxed when compared with other machines listed here, and BMW make it even more luxurious with the addition of selectable ride modes, cruise control, semi-active suspension, a smart ride computer, saddlebags, an electronically operated windshield, heated grips, and a keyless ignition. It does lack a bit of “wow” factor, but it does the job, and does it well. You have to pay for that kind of comfort though, to the tune of $18,395 in fact.
#04. The BMW S1000XR
How about another BMW? This is the S1000XR, and it’s probably not an ideal candidate for the sport touring motorcycles category but it’s not a proper sports bike, it’s not a full on adventure bike either but it has the speed, the comfort, and the mile munching characteristics to make it a superb sport touring machine. It might not be the most obvious choice, but you should consider it. You see, the S1000XR is powered by the same 999cc inline four engine more commonly found on the S1000RR superbike, but with a different tune. Boasting 165 hp, 84 lb-ft of torque, and punchy acceleration it’s like a sports bike transplanted into an adventure-style frame, without any compromise from any side.
So it’s fast, but what else? Well, it’s comfortable too with plush USD suspension, an upright riding stance, and relaxed ride experience. On top of that, BMW have kitted it out with all kinds of goodies, including selectable riding modes, gear shift assist pro, ABS, and a whole host of other touring focused add-ons. Is it a dedicated sport tourer? No, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t do the job. If you want the performance of the S1000RR but with the comfort of the R1200RT, wrapped in a GS inspired package, then the S1000XR is your weapon of choice. All for an MSRP of $16,695.
#03. The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Anything with the words “KTM” and “Super Duke” in it should command your attention, and while the GT isn’t as headline grabbing as the more talked about “R” model, the GT is certainly more useful in the realm of sport touring motorcycles. At its heart, the GT is powered by a retuned version of the iconic LC8 KTM engine that produces a hearty 173 hp and around 106 lb-ft of peak torque, but rather than weigh it down in a cumbersome frame and with heavy extras, the KTM still feels light and lithe, and can perform exceptionally well on roads, over long distances, and can handle tough terrain with ease too.
Armed with semi-active suspension, Brembo brakes, selectable riding modes, cornering ABS, lean-angle sensitive electronics, and plenty of other extras that put the sports back into sport touring motorcycles, the KTM Super Duke GT is an absolute lunatic of a motorcycle that you can comfortably cross continents on, and embarrass sports bike riders on at the same time. We’ve got a lot of praise for this absurd motorcycle but you really need to test ride one to believe the hype. Seriously. Test ride one, and buy it if you’ve got a spare $20k to drop.
#02. The Ducati Multistrada
The Multistrada comes in a wide range of sizes and flavors these days, but since this is a hypothetical list and we’re playing with hypothetical money, let’s look at Ducati’s range topping machine, the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Touring S. It’s not a conventional sport touring choice, but it very well could be one of the best. Over the years, the Multistrada range has been many things, from an ugly attempt at an adventure bike to the current sophisticated models you see today, but no matter what model is put in front of you, we can all agree the ‘Strada offers plenty of sport, and enough touring to hold its own with other sport touring motorcycles.
The 1260 Touring S is powered by a punchy desmodromic V-twin engine that’s capable of producing 158 hp and 95.5 lb-ft of peak torque, which is more than enough to keep you cruising around happily, but to make things more interesting Ducati have added electronically adjustable suspension, selectable ride modes, traction control, cornering ABS, wheelie control, cruise control, full Bluetooth connectivity, and more. Yours for a mere $18,695. Is it the king of the sport touring motorcycles? It could be but we’ve got one more entry to look at…
#01. The Kawasaki H2 SX
Kawasaki added some serious fuel to the sport touring motorcycles fire when they unleashed their new H2 model on us. What we have here is a very sporty motorcycle tailored to dominate the sport touring market. Armed with the same supercharged 1000cc engine found in the H2 and H2R (slightly retuned for more torque) with a revised supercharge system and intake, revised pistons, a new cylinder head, a new cylinder, crankshaft and cam shafts, and a load of other new parts too, the H2 SX is still good for 200 hp, 101 lb-ft of peak torque, and a whole load of thrills. However, the revisions have actually made the H2 SX more street friendly than its siblings, and easier to ride too thanks to better mid-range torque, and a more sensible fuel economy.
To make things more touring-oriented, Kawasaki added a larger fuel tank, revised the aerodynamics, and added hard luggage. It might not seem like much, but it’s a big deal. For riding ease, Kawasaki gifted the H2 SX with the best electronics on offer, including a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit for the traction control, cruise control, intelligent ABS, three selectable power modes, a bi-directional quickshifter, and…launch control – which is exactly what you need on a touring machine, a supercharged one at least! You might not have wanted the H2 SX when it was first unveiled, but how about now? And what about that $19,000 price tag…tempting isn’t it?