“What’s a Decent Highway Motorcycle?”

“I NEED A MOTORCYCLE THAT CAN HANDLE BIG-ROAD TRAFFIC.”

A reader asked me the above question (in the subject line). She has already been riding two other bikes, so this wouldn’t be her first. My answer comprises the rest of this post, but I’d be more interested in your views of how to select a “highway motorcycle.” (Please add to comments below where it says “Leave a Reply”).

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You ask an apt question and I believe there are many decent highway motorcycles. And in fact, your own personal interpretation of what best represents a highway motorcycle would be the primary determining factor since many modern midsize (and above) motorcycles operate quite well on highways.

Some folks might want a big bike with lots of luggage space, such as a Honda Goldwing, BMW GTL or one of Harley’s bigger touring bikes. However, for others, those machines are way too big, heavy and expensive.

A lighter and more agile type of machine would be a sports-tourer. These bikes take riders long-distances with luggage, quite comfortably. They also weigh less and cost less than the biggest touring machines. However, sport tourers are still big bikes, compared to most.

Some folks like the look and experience of cruisers, which have a tremendous variety of ways they can be customized, and they come in many different weights and engine sizes. They also generally sit lower to the ground, which, especially for shorter riders, is an important consideration.

If you ride a lot in all kinds of weather, you might want to consider a bike with a windshield, or adding a windshield to an existing motorcycle.

If you don’t mind a little extra weight and spending a little extra money, you might want to consider a motorcycle with a shaft drive, which is low maintenance.

Frankly, the above comments are merely a generalized overview, since every motorcycle represents a compromise of many factors, including:

  • Price
  • Weight
  • Design (tourer, sport-tourer, cruiser, adventure-tourer, standard….)
  • Seat height
  • Suspension
  • Ergonomics
  • Engine size
  • Performance
  • Drive train (chain, belt, shaft)
  • Available accessories (windshield, luggage, etc)
  • And more

That’s a lot of stuff to contemplate and the reality is, any person might need to gain some years of experience riding on different bikes to develop enough personal perspective to determine what’s best for him/her.

Having said all that, if I were to answer your question as briefly as possible, I would boil it down to the following:

  • Weight
  • Ergonomics
  • Price

I would not suggest getting a bike that you, personally, consider too big or heavy, which can lower your confidence if you don’t feel you are always fully in control of it.

Any bike should be comfortable for you. Whether you prefer leaning forward, or leaning backward or sitting upright, there are different bikes that accommodate such positions. How easily it is to place your feet on the ground is important. You need to get on the bikes and experience them. Ideally, you should ride any specific bike before you pay for it, but that’s not easy to arrange with many dealers (at least in the United States), particularly if you are purchasing a new bike.

Finally, for many persons, price is as important a factor as any and you’re the only person who can evaluate that. Of course, buying a used motorcycle can save money and there are many great opportunities in buying a used bike, but other riders are comforted by a brand-new machine which, in most cases, shouldn’t have many hidden problems. (New bikes also have a warranty to handle certain problems that might present themselves, and in my experience, I’ve saved a lot of money with warranties).

Wishing you safe riding!

113 thoughts on ““What’s a Decent Highway Motorcycle?”

  • I agree with “Nut Job”as I also have 2003 FJR 1300 . 66K miles on the clock and only one repair, as such. Replaced the cam chain tensioner when it started to get noisy. Just regular maintenance. The bike is very user-friendly and 26k between valve checks, but doesn’t need it that often.
    I rode a Honda ST1100 for nine years and it was a “bullet-proof” bike, but too heavy and awkward at slow speed and in campgrounds. Waited for the upgrade but was disappointed in the ST1300, but when I sat on the FJR for the first time, I immediately put a deposit on it.
    I have a custom seat –reworked Mayer__ that is about as good as the Russell I had on the ST. Thirty plus add-ons for comfort and convenience including electronic cruise.
    This bike handles well and is not unduly affected by gusty winds or trucks.
    I have had three BMW’s and last year had an R1200RT and rode one bike or the other for comparison, and decided the FJR is the better bike. Everyone knows the maintenance expense for the Bmw’s. I found the bike a bit top-heavy and short of performance as compared to the Yam. The Yam is also more user-friendly and easier to maintain I do not have to add oil between changes which may be 7K miles or more. But the RT I had was a low mileage and good looking bike with the two-tone paint job, which I also have on my Yam. It did have some nice features and a very good cruise control.

  • That is a very subjective question that really does not have a definitive answer because there are too many variables. If a person is a new rider starting out on the smaller lighter bikes maybe even used to see if you really are going to enjoy the sport. Taking riding lessons should also be on your agenda. Do not consider riding with a passenger until you have some experience under your belt & have gained the confidence to have a passenger. As you gain experience what you want from the sport will start to become clearer. As we age what we want from motorcycling will be an ever changing thing. Once you come to this understand what bike you want to ride that will meet your needs and fill your expectations will become clearer. Motorcycling is a sport that you can find enjoyment in whether you enjoy solo riding, riding two up, riding in large groups, or smaller close friend groups. It is also a sport you can enjoy in your later years. It’s 90% mental & 10% physcial. Any day your not mentially focused your not prepared to ride. Using your car is a much better choice for that day, your mind must be totally in the game to ride a bike and be as safe as you can. I have owned and rode most every kind of bike there is. During each period of my life I enjoyed each of them as they served their purpose at that time. I’m over 70 now and have zeroed in on Sport Touring bikes. Currently I’ve had a number of Yamaha FJR’s and always find them fun and exciting to ride, Sport Touring bikes will probably be my choice of bikes until I my days of riding come to there end. Of course I might have to consider a trike bike at that point. Giving up riding will be very difficult to handle.

  • I’d have to say, get what fits and feels best. I have ridden both a Yamaha V-star 650 and an 1100. I take long trips every summer (2000+ miles). Both bikes managed, but the 650 always felt like I needed more on the hwy. I also got beat up a bit by the big trucks and wind on the 650. The 1100 has been great. I have stuck with the V-stars, because at 5’1″ I can reach the ground. For me, it’s all about comfort. Reaching the ground flat footed, a low center of gravity, MPG, backrest, throttle rockers, cruise control. I just strap the duffel bag over the rear rack and off we go.

    Honestly, I think the best hwy bike is going to be person choice. Everyone is different.

  • My favorite is my BMW1150RT for it’s ability to do most of what you want well. Itr’s not a sport bike but does very well in the twisties yet cruises all day long at 70 plus mph without breaking a sweat on the slab. With stock side and top case, holds all I need, though my wife will disagree. Reasonable fuel economy and a 6.5 gal tank give it a decent 250 mile range. 500 plus mile days are a snap. Comfort, stability and great handling! Plenty of power too, though don’t we all wish for more?

  • I am female, five feet two inches and just rolled over 70,000 miles on my HD Fatboy. I rode it from San Jose, CA to Macon, GA last summer. It was a GREAT ride and I would do it again on the same bike. stock seat too. Summer before rode it from GA to New England, New Brunswick, Canada, and then on to Ontario. Couldn’t ask for a better ride! Goes 150 miles between gas stops, and cruises best at 85 mph. Just replaced chain for the first time and the cam tensioners too. I love my motorcycle! (Have a Triumph sport bike too – and have ridden long distance on it as well, but not enough packing space.)

  • For highway riding the bike has be able to handle 85 + MPH. After that its
    1. How far are you going
    2. For safety get ABS brakes
    3. Maintenance, as little as possible
    4. Comfort…….start back at # 1

  • This is an excellent question. In fact, I recently asked myself the same question. I live in a rural area that is frequently windy. So, I needed a bike that would travel reasonable distances, which also means a decent sized gas tank and MPG. I purchased a Kawasaki 1200 ZZR Sport Tourer. The bike is great. It handles better than bikes much smaller and it accelerates better than any other bike I have ridden especially cruisers. It has hard mounted luggage and a nice windscreen. Everything about the bike is exactly what I wanted. I am not a big guy (5’8″ at 165lbs.) and the bike’s height is perfect. If you can get yourself one of these, I highly recommend it.

  • I just got back from a 3,000 mile trip on my Wee-Strom and met a lot of riders in the North west. Bike of choice by far is the new Triumph 800 XC. This is for solo. Go for whatever floats your boat if you have to pack your mate.

  • bmw fan you did not tell em about the non working abs, dealer recall , not offered on some models anymore , trouble with electrics dead battys…on and on and on …..all makes have ups and downs.. and from year to year …all everyday bikes are built down to a cost level, to sell some higher some lower …whats the best bike ..the one your on going down the road at any given time ….

  • Every on e will say what they own, that said Ride every thing you can get your hands on, then ride A BMW R1200RT the rest will feel like junk. Lighter, faster,more dependable,more of every thing, including, bags, Heated grips, seat, electric wind shield, and most of all The only Bike with stability control and ABS! Just a better bike period!

  • I am a bit of an old codger, and haven’t been riding long, but I picked up a used Goldwing GL1500 a couple of year ago and it was an education. I love the old girl, but small mistakes become big mistakes with that much weight. Yes, I do feel pretty comfortable riding in almost all situations, but if you are the least bit uncomfortable about giving a big bike a try, don’t do it!

  • The wife and I have a ’06 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 that started out as a Limited but is now wearing a full set of Corbin, straight pipes, KY\Hyper intake and DJ Commander V. This is NOT a starter bike and if you’ve never ridden a heavy tour bike on a regular basis I’d avoid something this heavy and powerful for safety reasons. This is a beast and NOT an easy bike to ride in town. On the highway the only crowd you’re going to be in is the ones you chose to be in. Just a slight twist of the throttle and they are a long ways back in the rear view while the wife barely takes notice because it’s so smooth on the big roads. With over 5 gallons of gas I can make 200 miles, two up and loaded before needing to look for gas. Now if I were to pick up a second bike it would be for an in town commuter\day tripper that the wife could also hop on and drive… maybe a Suzi Burgman….

  • I really love my 2003 Yamaha FJR 1300 for touring. It has 45k trouble free miles on her. I have ridden various bikes through the years and tried multiple types of bikes out before I fell in love with the FJR.

  • Stable at highway speeds with highway wind and truck traffic; comfortable and some storage. Everything else is personal taste. The BMW boxer twin bikes are great for this because the low center of gravity gives the bike an enormous feeling of tracking stability.

  • I know they are getting a bit long in the tooth for some, but the VFR800 vtec/Interceptor is a good one to consider. It will do most things without any surprises and very competently. Another superb machine if you can get one there is the Honda CBF1000. Very stable and very capable. Read the reviews. Try for a test ride. At the end of the day the choice is up to the rider. What suits one may be a long way from what suits another

  • The author forgot to mention adventure bikes like the BMW GS and even cheaper versions like the Suzuki WeeStrom and Kawasaki Versys. All are comfortable enough for a long haul on the highway and have enough power to cruise all day at illegal speeds. Another advantage of bikes of this type is nimble handling for city riding and back roads plus many can easily handle a dirt or gravel road. Only issue is they are not for the short of inseam.

  • Which is the best road bike? The one that physically fits you. All else is secondary. You do not need a jillion cc’s or pounds. I would suggest a ride between 500 and 1200 ccs so one has a bit of reserve power should the need arise and still get respectable fuel mileage. It should be comfortable for the majority of your rides. I would suggest one of the popular manufacturers because of their dealer networks should the need rear it’s ugly head.
    Do not concern yourself with chain, shaft or belt drives. I run chains over 20,000 miles and am still not near the chain manufacturers service limit. I do run premium chain and sprocket sets. I like the versatility of being able to change sprockets to fit the ride, usually reducing the number of teeth on the rear sprocket to reduce engine speed or to find that sweet spot for the highway ride.
    My personal rides are an 05 Suz DL 650, 43,000+ miles, an 09 H-D XR1200, 15,000+ miles and a 78 BMW R-100/7at 80,000+miles . All three have taken this 240 lb senior all over the country and through the cities.

  • PS: Regarding my comments on the BMW GS. I DID own an 04 GS 1200. Loved it – would own another if I could find a comparable deal like I got on the last one (not likely). But if I were going for a brand new machine I would likely go Triumph. Triumph has put a lot of effort into the Explorers and the results are pretty darned good.
    Like some others have mentioned here however – it’s a very personal / subjective decision. I also rode a Buell Thunderbolt (2000) for a few years and even did an Iron Butt run with it. Loved it too for a whole bunch of reasons. Reliability was NOT one of them. Bikes are not like other vehicles. They have character and personality. You have to have a little “chemistry” along with all the other more practical stuff to love whatever bike you finally end up with. This is all the more important if you can only afford to support one.

  • Go down to a Triumph dealer and look at the new Tiger 1200 (used to be the 1050) Dual Sport if you want to start at the top. If your going to be going solo check out the 800 version.
    Seems to combine good price point, plenty of power/torque, utility, comfort (high and low seat options), heated grips and seats, integrated break systems that can be turned on or off. Triumph has come a long way and now employs a number of excellent designers and engineers who are motorcycle enthusiats of the highest order. They offer a large selection of factory made options too.
    My son just got the 1200 and feature for feature it was the very best buy between it, the Yamaha big dual sport bike and the possibly over rated and definitely over priced BMW GS.
    I live in a remote village on the coast of Kodiak Island so I don’t own a large street or dual purpose bike. I’m happy with my 03 Kawasaki KLR 650 and would confidently take it anywhere. It also satisfies the itch to ride even here in our village with all of its 7 miles of dirt roads!

  • Lots of good wisdom in the article and the remarks, Weight and ergos are huge and economy and price go without saying. Everyone’s perspective is differet. Taft’s comments are valid. I ride and FZ6 and live in Oklahoma, so, I spent a lot of effort fighting crosswinds and wake turbulance from semis. But the article points out, correctly, that riding a bigger bike than you can confidently control in all situations (including low-speed and tight quarters) is a huge mistake. Size also has an inverse relationship to economics of acquisition operation and maintenance. Ergos and design are closely related. Touring bikes (and sport tourers) tilt toward the “standard” (or upright) riding position which has huge advantages for long-distance comfort. They also come with wind protection built in. Bikes like my FZ6, including the Kawasaki Ninja 650, the SV650S the, GSXF 650, offer light weight, some wind protection, upright, seating and more than enough power to choose your spot on the road vis-a-vis the surrounding traffic. With the upgraded seat, and windshield (both OEM) plus handle-bar risers and soft luggage, I can give my Fazer sufficient carying capacity and comfort for a long trip. However the operative word here is “decent” none of this will make it truly comparable to a tourer. To have that you have to give up on nimble handling for sport riding and lane-splitting, practical economy for commuting and a lot of dough.

  • The question was rather vague….do a LOT of research before you buy anything. I have bought and sold exotic motorcycles more than once. In every case I regretted buying them, not selling them. I currently have a 2007 GSX-R 1000 that I take for blasting in and out of the city on in addition to attempting to stay out of trouble on… I am 6’2″ and aside from the atrocious seat (custom saddle will be built soon!) it is really quite comfy. I have a taller sport shield on it, and in a blasting downpour it’s not bad at all! The GSX-R has quite a bit of power, though it pales with this year’s offerings…I also have a 2010 Harley Road Glide, aka ‘The Barca-Lounger’ (hyphen added) The HD makes very little power, but is really comfortable (thanks to the $1000. custom driver/passenger seat!) and is OK in the big city. If wind is an issue go heavy, very heavy. The GSX-R is not the best bike in sidewinds and gales. If I had to sell one it would be the Harley. HP and handling rules at the end of the day in my book. Another commenter said the HD dealer network is good. This is true! They are all over. Parts are readily available. Buy a 2009 or newer HD if you are looking at Harleys, they are much better than the older ones in many ways. I will have to sort of agree with Phil (only because I haven’t yet ridden one) the Triumph Tiger Explorer could be the bike. Power is way up on the BMW GS, it has a cruise control, and it’s a triple. I have owned 3 BMW’s over the years, the last one being a 1994 BMW R1100RS. Ride Safe!

  • Only one answer – Goldwing.
    Specifically designed for the highway and long distance touring.
    Surprisingly nimble in the hands of an experienced rider. Once you get used to the length and weight it is remarkably easy to ride.
    Of course BMW and HD have similar style bikes that will perform as well – but the Goldwing is the one that sets the standard for others – so why not ride the leader in this category?
    Bigger – Longer – Heavier is the answer for highway touring in my opinion. And any experienced rider can learn to ride a big bike.

  • I ride a 750 shadow which i commute to work with, assuming the weather cooperates. This includes a bit of I-95 here in NE. This bike is not nearly big enough to go long distances on highways. Tractor trailers bounce me around quite a bit and at 65-70 mph, just not very stable. Even riding off highway, after 150 miles my butt has had enough. I’m sure some of it is the bike itself. Not the most comfortable bike i’ve been on.
    My opinion, my next bike will weigh more, more stable, and at least a 1200 or larger. If you’re looking to do lots of highway or long trips, bigger is better!

  • I ride in Montana where wind is always a factor. If your ride the interstate you combine big trucks with wind and you need a bike that is heavy enough to handle the pounding of both a crosswind and the turbulance following truck trailers. The difference between my old Honda 750 and the newer Yam V-Star 1100 is night and day. Of course knowing how to dirstibute your weight load for long distance riding is also critical for handeling. We recently had a young man on a powerful but light bike, get blown into a guard rail causing him to wreck and and lose a leg. Never buy a tricked out bike with windshield, and luggage racks with out test driving it in extreme turbulance. Just saying.

  • I rode a KTM 950 sm from here in Doha to Dubai. Its only 600 km but I was really surprised at how well the bike handled it. Great power, cruising at 140 kmph I could feel the bike wanted to go faster if that makes sense, meaning that I would have to dial back to stop the speed from creeping up so that was the sweet spot for cruising.

    Based on this and comments recommending the GS1200 I think perhaps the KTM 990 Adventure would have to be a bike to consider for highway touring which would also handle gravel roads and even a little bit of offroad. (I have ridden my 950 in desert sand)..

    Just something else to consider.. 🙂

  • I just bought a 1200 Goldwing Interstate, and have to admit that it is very well named, as it is an excellent bike on the highway. Seems to have a real low center of gravity, and the tires are so wide that it seem difficult to tip over without trying. 39mph at 75mph, although I had a tailwind. All that being said, I’m going to sell it and probably buy a Concourse, for the light weight and generally a bit smaller, as I can handle the bit of top heaviness.

  • While there are many great bikes out there, it has been my experience throughout the years that the 750/1200 cc. BMW’s of the 70’s-90’s have been the most reliable, smoothest running, and able to keep up with highway traffic. I have used a R75/5 for a daily commuter for years, even outfitted it for a pole to pole excursion over a series of years back in the 70’s… Solid, steady, dependable and not overly expensive to buy, run or have repaired.

    The Ural Patrol that I have now is still part of the ‘old school’ that makes my daily ride to work so much fun. Based on the 1939 wartime Beemers, it has everything that I need…except for that highway speed!..lol…

  • I ride a 2006 Burgman 400. With a bigger engine than the 250 Rebel, the bike can easily handle interstate speeds as well as NC’s mountain roads and curves. An automatic transmission makes gear changing a cinch in heavy traffic. With two cubbies, a dash, and under seat storage that can handle 2 full face modular helmets or a ground sheet, 3 man tent and sleeping bag, the storage is generous for work or trip commute. I strap on a large bag similiar to a GoldWing’s outside trunk bag (clothing) and add a soft beverage cooler on top of the passenger seat. A good sized RoadGear round bag holds a comprehensive first aid kit. Bought in 2006 my Burgman has been ridden over 42,000 miles and I love it.
    A low center of gravity and the bike’s low 3 gallon tank in an under 500 pound bike helps to minimize fatigue. Yes, you could call my bike a scooter, however his name is the “Silver Hulk.” Documented at 66 mpg in the city & 77 mpg in the mountains, Burgie is now my work commute vehicle. You do have to watch crossing bridges whenever a tractor trailer is parallel because of windshear. However, when you have take a BRC, 3 ERCs, NC’s motorcycle “BikeSafe” courses in addition to Road Captain and Team Riding classes riding skills can be improved.
    No matter which bike you choose, ride your own ride, take riding safety classes and Practice, practice, practice–especially swerves, panic stops. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these skills; however, ride as if you are invisible, studies show that (to other drivers) you (sometimes) are. In conclusion, S.E.E (Search, Evalluate, Execute) when you ride and I how to see you on our nation’s highways. I’ll be the biker on my Silver Hulk in ATGATT. Enjoy your ride, make it your own, and above all return safely home.

  • I live & commute in LA on my bike, so I wouldn’t trade my little Ninja 250 for anything! Being small for easy lane splitting and maneuverability in traffic are my key needs.

    I took a 9 day trip on it from LA to San Fran area for New Years (ie. cold and rainy the whole time), and my little guy did better than I expected. I had plenty of storage with a huge tank bag, saddle bags & big tail bag. The bike is vibrat-y and loud at high speeds, but ear plugs, gel pads in my gloves, & bicycle shorts under my gear took care of that. Even with the 250 engine, I had no problem going as fast as I wanted to for long periods of time.

    Key complaints for touring on my 250:
    1) having to deal with the chain – I would love a shaft drive for touring.
    2) being light-weight in heavy coastal winds. I really struggled through one stretch. My husband was leaned over too on his BMW 650GS, but not nearly as far as I was and he didn’t have to react as severely to wind shifts.
    3) tight suspension infamous on these bikes makes ridged freeways VERY uncomfortable. I get terrible cramps in my gut & back! I learned that leaning heavily onto my tank bag and taking weight off my butt helps a lot, though.
    4) I had to carry ALL 4 my bike bags into hotels every night because they’re soft bags and don’t lock onto the bike. I was super envious of my husbands hard cases – he could just grab what he needed and leave the rest secure on the bike.

  • As a highway bike, several factors are important beyond the obvious ergonomics of seat comfort and height, handlebars and footpeg position.

    For me, a big gas tank is a given, but that adds weight to slow speed maneuvering.
    I ride a BMW K1200LT, which has a highway cruising range of 450-520 km (280-325 miles). On my recent trip of 3750 km to the Dragon in mid-June, the mileage was 4.7 L/100km (60 mpg Imperial, 50 mpg US). It is a benefit to not require as many fill-up stops if traveling long distances. Cruising at 120 km all day, with enough power on hand to quickly pass/accelerate when needed, and the range to pass most gas stations complements traveling, though stopping at least every two hours for a break is a good guide to follow.

    A windshield is a must. I once rode 801 miles non-stop on a naked 650 Triumph, and had to be helped from the bike as my upper body was locked rigid from fighting the wind. In wet conditions, especially hard pelting rain, it makes a huge difference to be able to tuck in behind the plexiglass. My windshield is adjustable at the touch of a button, and I’m always surprised how much quieter wind/road noise is when I raise the screen four inches. Listening to music is easier, and I try to use earplugs to reduce much of the windnoise, which studies show has detrimental effects on longterm hearing loss.

    Phil mentioned cruise control. Though I usually don’t engage mine, it is very convenient to be able to drop your right arm now and then to give your arm a rest. And in certain parts of the country, setting it just a bit over the limit will substantially reduce your opportunities to contribute to the local economy, especially in southern states that prey on Canadians.

    Regardless of your highway destination, you will inevitably be riding in traffic- construction, road closures, detours, accidents, rush hours, and cites/towns with no bypasses. Creeping along in stop-and-go traffic with a big heavy bike in 100˚F is not my idea of a good time. A smooth clutch, low seat and low centre of gravity are key- not my LT’s strong points. Add a passenger, or 100 lbs of gear and a full tank of gas and your bike’s handling in traffic may bring out the Hyde from Dr. Jeckyl’s shadow. Certainly, experience and practice make crawling along easier to accomplish.

    Strong brakes are also imperative, preferably with ABS. Some new bikes offer several braking settings, dependent on riding conditions, as with adjustable shocks and and computerized road performance settings. I have ABS, but because it is an older BMW, the front and rear brakes are not linked- the ABS is independent for each wheel, which for me is an advantage.

    As a highway bike, assuming long distance riding, there should be luggage storage- either bags, or a substantial rack. The sport tourers, in my mind, offer the best flexibility. Many have lift off bags which can be removed at the twist of a key and carried into the motel like suitcases, or left off to reduce weight when not needed. I have top and sidecases, which hold lots of gear, but unfortunately are not removable, as on an RT.

    Our recent trip was a group of four: 3 BMW’s and a Harley. Though it was the Harley that twice required repairs on the trip, the dealer network in the US for Harleys is extensive. We shuddered to think what would happen if we had to go looking for a BMW dealer, which are few and far between. Finding parts for your bike if needed will be much easier on a Harley or a Honda or a Suzuki, than if you ride a Moto Guzzi.

    As to bike weight, it does sometimes amaze me to see a tiny woman smoothly handling a 900 lb bike in traffic, as I’m focussing on keeping my handlebars dead straight as I come to a stop, lest I do a dreaded tipover. Practice, practice and more practice is key.

    I realize that my focus here has been on highway riding as part of touring. Others may see it as just a 200 mile ride on a day trip, and bike size can vary considerably. On our trip, my bike and luggage (I took far too much!) and I weighed about 1300+ lbs. Though the LT is renowned for handling the twisties, the tension of riding through mountain switchbacks in the rain with all that weight left me exhausted at times.
    I’ll make adjustments next time.

    Always wear your gear. Ride safe.

  • The question seems to assume that it’s the machine that is able to “handle traffic.” Handling traffic is a matter of what’s between your ears, not the size or shape of your machine.

    If you don’t have the right stuff between your ears, it won’t make any difference what motorcycle you’re riding. And if you are skilled and knowledgeable, you can ride just about anything in any situation.

    Ride Like A Pro is a great course for practicing control of even heavyweight bikes, but riding in traffic requires much more than accurate control. A great deal of your risk is a matter of situational awareness, or comprehending what’s happening around you in time to do something about it.

    I suggest she study the book “Proficient Motorcycling”, and see if improving knowledge and skill helps her answer her own question.

  • The advice given is a perfect starting point but the next thing to consider is what we don’t know–how does she intend to use it. There are many different reasons why and how people ride on highways and the different bikes mentioned fit better or worse into each category. For instance, several times a year I ride on 3000 to 9000 mile trips that always include a few hundred miles on dirt or gravel so I ride a BMW 1200 GS. But if she’s not looking to be able to travel on really back roads there are numerous other touring bikes she could choose that may be more comfortable and lower to the ground. If she’s not looking at really long stretches of road then a smaller (600 to1000cc) bike would make sense. If it’s just weekend riding then still another type of bike may be appropriate.

    So, she needs to define her intended use with more specificity as the next step.

  • interesting stuff this…the parameter statement is a bit vague but i get the drift.. when i think of the “big” road, im thinking highway blasts and interstate voyages when six hundred miles a day is not only ok but part of what we are doing.. as you mature in both age and ability to “handle” a real motorcycle, your needs change. as you no longer have to be home by ten o’clock.. this is real world, big boy, ride it like you own it time… for me.. that equals a rather large, and heavy machine that requires knowing exactly what you are doing at all times.. the road refered to is not a place to learn handling skills. someone mentioned RIDE LIKE A PRO.. i have been to that class three times.. and that comes after being on the back of a harley since returning from nam..so at least a moderate amount of seat time before my RLAP training.. and where i actually learned how to ride a bike properly.. now im planning a school in Michigan in late summer.. the weight of a bike should be proportional to the skill and the mental preparation of the rider.. big bikes have an automatic effect of instant enjoyment.. when im on my RR.. my mind set is totally different than on the ultra limited.. find a school.. a good tough school..and practice your skills. practice does not make perfect. practice makes permenant.. perfect practice makes perfect. technique is knowledge and that will keep you safe.. i watch people come in like a duck on a pond when they stop, leaving only the front brake to stop the bike, making the bike seriously heavy and unstable. and that is not just new riders, i know some old guys that think they know all they need to know.. wrong.. never stop learning.. read everything..practice as often as possible with low speed heavy handling proceedures.. and the weight of the bike will become a non factor..my wife is 130 and her bike is 901 dry.. and she can ride parade speed till the clutch goes away if she needs to.. thats four to six miles per hour.. there is nothing that replaces knowledge, understanding, and application of proper technique at any speed and all conditions..

  • Don’t forget the Suzuki Burgman 650. Exec. Adjustable windshield, plenty of storage, able to run at 80 mph all day long, rides great, able to do the twisties with the best of them, great weather protection, low maintenance, gears if you want them, or automatic if you don’t. I know, I know, it’s a scooter! Wouldn’t be caught dead on one, it’s not a “real” motorcycle.

  • The Idea of a heavy cruiser might be a bad thing is wrong. If you know how to ride it does not matter how big or heavy the bike is. Have you ever watched The Ride Like a Pro DVD’s? Their are Women who weigh 90 pounds riding the heaviest Bikes made with no problem at all. These Bikes are Full Dresser Harley Davidson with every added accessory available. My Point is a heavy bike is great if you know how to ride.
    I would recommend contacting all your local Dealers and find out when they are having their next test drive. I have been to all of my local Dealer Test Drives and it’s awesome to Ride all the different makes and models. You will find the perfect Bike for you that way. Then you can add accessories to make it your own.
    Good Luck and happy Riding.
    P.S. Watch the Ride Like a Pro DVDs and you will learn how to handle your Bike with confidence.

  • Too little info. My bike of choice is the Honda 1800 VTX. I agree that the Wing is the best touring bike around, I like the 750 lb cruiser under my butt. Only complaints are gas tank capacity and lack of warning gages i.e. battery, gas etc.

  • if price can be handled, nothing better than the top of the motorcycle food chain: BMW GS 1200 with a low saddle, it will safely take you anywhere, at any time.

  • All good comments above – and they all result in the conclusion it is up to the rider’s personal taste. I would recommend, as Frank did above, that she go and sit on as many as possible and find the most comfortable with the options she is looking for. She should then ask for a test ride or find the models she’s interested in for sale used and take them for a test ride.

    The way I arrived at my decision was through test rides at Americade – a large touring rally in Lake George, NY. At the large rallies, major manufacturers often will bring in their line-up for attendees to try out. I’ve since switched from a heavy cruiser to a sport tourer and absolutely love it.

    Lastly, no one bike does everything perfectly. So, having multiple bikes for different needs and desires is the ultimate answer!

  • BMW LT , Goldwing.are by far the best hiway bikes on the planet earth,
    Fast and light sport touring=Yamaha FJR- Kawaski Concourse-BMW GS
    .Next to last is Harley for old design crappy handling underpowerd..albeit comfortable.

  • Hi,

    I go minimalist. Here’s the list:
    1. Able to outrun the traffic, which means able to do more than 140km/hr all day long.
    2. Comfortable, which means 8 hours per day in the saddle for a few days.
    3. As light as possible; I do not ‘get’ heavy bikes.
    4. Reliable; able to do a 5,000 km trip with just a daily chain oil and fluid check.

    P

  • NULL question….. or at least what is printed here

    “She has already been riding two other bikes, so this wouldn’t be her first”

    Means absolutely nothing…..years…. miles… experience, on what sort of bikes riding over what sort of roads????
    As “Jeff” said, “too little information” for an answer….. just a begining, of a conversation.

    One could outfit ANY bike to handle a cross country tour. I’ve read reports of folks who tour with old Honda “Pacfic Coast” and I’ve read about folks who tour on a Kawasaki Ninja 250.

    I’ve toured on a Honda VT-1100 Spirit, as well as my current H-D Road Glide. Each of them, were modified for MY comfort…. seat, pegs,handlebar location etc.

    Best thing is for her, to go to every dealership she can…. sit on every bike they have. Find the bike for her.

    Good lord….. I can think of a few dozen bikes from every brand that will “do the trick”

  • I am a believer in “anytime anywhere” bikes, not in specialized tools that will be excellent in that particular situation and a pain in every other. Said that, get a bike that can go that little faster than car traffic: you won’t get run over from behind, it’s safest! And tons of torque! Of course torque is also related to power, but I prefer a 1000 cc to a 600 cc having double the HP. At any given speed the engine will be more relaxed on the large bike, it will not condition you to live in an angry buzz. Learn to use the bike’s power to handle the weight and enjoy the ride, you’re not likely to become next Rossi or Stoner…

  • I have two things to say about this post:

    First, there is FAR too little information in the question to have any shot of giving any sort of reasoned response. A motorcycle purchase is a personal decision. Much needs to be know personally to make a good fit. How is it to be used, what type of riding the rider likes, and a whole lot more. So the proper answer to the question really is a list of questions.

    Second, MCg states, “I would not suggest getting a bike that you, personally, consider too big or heavy…” Even that is an out of place assumption. For ANYONE upgrading, a new bike is uncomfortably heavy, or powerful, or… So with that statement, nobody should ever upgrade. Let’s all just go back to the Honda 90… You need to know where the buyer has been. What jumps they have taken in the past. How they felt, and adapted to those. I recently got a Harley Road Glide, about a month and a half ago. At first, it was a big and cumbersome ride. Now, most of the time, I am comfortable behind the handle bars. But even now, I still have my moments. But in time, I won’t. Similarly, I have a 5′ 2″ tall female friend that rides a Harley Fat Boy. From a Sportster, that was a huge jump in weight, control, etc. It was really uncomfortable at first. Now it is so comfortable, she barely rides the Sporty any more. But that is not to say in all cases you should go bigger. I am just saying it is far from universal that you should not get what you are not comfortable on. Again, it goes back to what I said in my first comment. We have far too little information to give any real advise.

  • “Handle” big road traffic?? Define ‘handle’. Speed to keep up or outrun them or agility to dodge them? How much comfort do you need or want? And for how long between rest stops? Survivability may be a better word than handle. Increasingly texters are smashing head – on into everything from 18 wheelers to pedestrians. SA… Situation Awareness, reaction time and agility are essential. Next is to ride where traffic is less dense. So an alert 14 yr old on a motocross bike might well out survive a senior citizen on a Gold Wing, Hog and even the sacred beemer. Think courier in Manhattan and go from there. Don’t forget the texters. Talkers are next with coffee drinkers and GPS watchers close behind.

    You gotta ride to live or you won’t live to ride.

  • If it would be me, I’d want a bike with enough gas to give me close to 150 miles between fill ups. It would have to be comfortable to sit for at least two hours at a stretch. I would need storage space to carry about a weeks worth of clothing. I would prefer to have either a CB or GPS or both. With a CB I could talk with the truckers to know what’s ahead. With GPS I could find motels and places to eat. I would ride curves and straights prior to my trip to be comfortable with the bikes’ steering and control. I ride relaxed, but vigilent to my suroundings. Oh, add a windshield.

  • If weight is the issue I suggest the Vstrom 650. If weight is not an issue then the Yamaha fjr is the ticket for wind

  • I have two touring bikes, A Yamaha Royal Star Touring Deluxe and a Triumph Tiger Explorer. Why would I have two touring bikes you ask? Well the Big Yamaha (850 lbs) is my choice for the highway. If I want to get somewhere fast and in comfort I’ll take the Yammy, 8 hours in the saddle at 75 mph with the Factory cruise control and I can cover a good piece of pavement and still feel rested at the end of the day. Then do it all over the next day. . It is also the bike of choice for when the wife wants to ride along. OTOH, while the Royal Star is like a Cadillac, the Triumph Explorer is more like a Range Rover and will take me places I would never attempt on the big bike. I’m lucky to have both bikes but if I just had to have one of them I would sell the Yamaha.

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