Motorcycles are a lot like horses, there are many breeds all with their own unique characteristics.
You wouldn’t use an Arabian horse to pull a heavy cart, just as you wouldn’t enter a Shire horse into a race.
So what kind of motorcycle is best-suited for the job of chomping thousands of miles without leaving you stranded far from home?
In the end, it all comes down to the rider and what they need the motorcycle to be.
You’d think that a comfortable riding position would be a good start.
How about a long fuel range to save you money on the trip?
Good handling is surely another important consideration, especially if you have to ride through difficult, dangerous terrain.
So why is it that when you search for ‘best touring motorcycles’, they all seem to be brand new machines with high-tech gadgetry costing upwards of £10,000?
Truth is, there are still so many great motorcycles you can buy used from yesteryear for a fraction of the price and they will still get the job done.
Here are some great motorcycles that have shown they can gobble up the miles without a problem and are now attainable for a reasonable budget.
The virtual budget I will set is £2,500 and I will be searching for motorcycles in the UK that are fully road-legal and in good condition.
Off I go then to browse some auction sites and classifieds!
Let's See What I Dug Up
Budget Motorcycles for Long Distance Riding
Honda CBR1100 Super Blackbird | 1996-2007
Sport Tourer | 4-cylinders inline | 164hp | 91ft/lb | 223/254kg
Starting with a real rocketship from the 90’s, the Honda Blackbird may seem a bit OTT for the application, but in truth, it’s well suited for long-distance adventures.
Once the ‘World’s Fastest Production Motorcycle’ – Honda really engineered a masterpiece with the Super Blackbird. It’s a super-reliable sport-tourer that’s at home on winding roads or long motorway journeys.
There is a nice cockpit to keep the wind and rain out of your eyes and the factory mirrors which are surprisingly good-looking work a treat.
The suspension works well and the brakes are more than capable of saving you in the event of any wild animals stepping out in front of you.
It’s possible to fit various kinds of luggage options and perhaps a “comfort seat” would help your backside a little on the longer road trips.
Reliability will never be a concern, nor will capability, and for under £2,500 you won’t find more bike for your money.
Used Price: £1900-2500
Ducati Multistrada 1000DS | 2005-2006
Naked/Dual-Sport | 2-cylinders L-twin | 92hp | 64ft/lb | 188/214kg
Let’s be honest, the Multistrada didn’t exactly receive a warm reception when it was first released by Ducati around the turn of 2002.
Looking like the lovechild of a Monster, ST and supermotard, it was hard for many bikers to understand what the bike was really designed for.
It’s beautifully Italian name – ‘Multistrada’, translates as ‘many roads’, which of course added to the confusion as it hardly seemed equipped for off-road riding.
It has an upright seating position which is rather comfortable, and although the seats were improved in 2005, they still weren’t too friendly after a long time in the saddle.
The 992cc L-twin engine provides good power and torque, albeit a bit under-powered considering the engine size. There is a meaty growl sort of like an angry pitbull and throttle response is very good making riding hard a really enjoyable experience.
Whether the styling is your cup of tea or not, you can’t deny it’s unique and definitely forces you to take a second, more meticulous look at it.
Used Price: £2100-2500
Look for optional extras fitted like luggage or improved screen.
It was surprisingly difficult to find many bikes within budget. I thought it would be much easier considering it was never popular, mainly due to its ‘unique’ look.
£2,500 gets you a very tidy example, however for optional extras expect to pay closer to £3,000.
Yamaha FZS600 Fazer | 1998-2003
Naked | 4-cylinders inline | 95hp | 45ft/lb | 189/210kg
I do own this motorcycle, but that’s not the reason why this trusty bike made the list.
The Fazer had to be mentioned here because it’s such a capable, yet underrated bit of kit for the money.
Often the steed of choice for most motorcycle mechanics due to it’s untouchable reliability, the Fazer 600 was long seen as ‘just a commuter’ – good for nothing more than piling up essential miles and harvesting every ounce of road grime.
But when you look past the conservative styling and rather squidgy suspension you will find a very well engineered machine with a heart taken straight from the iconic Thundercat, which gives it plenty of character and a highly distinctive exhaust note.
The engine has been re-tuned and slightly sedated for longevity and a more street-able application. The result? A helluva’ lot of fun!
The front end gives the rider a lot of confidence through the turns making it easy to ride, even for novices. Braking up-front is fantastic thanks to the blue-spot calipers pinched from the R1.
This capable, lightweight sports-tourer can handle anything you can throw at it, it will stand the test of time and while it might not be exceptional in any particular area – it does everything pretty well.
Used Price: £1300-2200
It’s not hard to find box-eye models with under 40k miles on the clock for less than £1,600.
Look for out for hairline cracks in the carburettor inlet rubbers, pitting around the fork bottoms and swing arms.
Honda Goldwing GL1100 | 1980-1983
Cruiser | 4-cylinders flat | 81hp | 65ft/lb | 308/331kg
The longest continuous motorcycle road trip in history was completed by Emilio Scotto from Argentina.
Why am I telling you about Emilio?
Because the GL1100 was his bike of choice!
His goliath 457,000 mile journey around the world only reinforced what everybody already knew – that the Honda Goldwing is capable of anything you can dream, without letting you down.
The Goldwing is a motorcycle that is widely respected across the international motorcycle community because it does one thing better than any other motorcycle, and that’s bulletproof luxury touring.
While these GL1100 models are not as snazzy or perhaps well-equipped as later models, these were the machines that really started the revolution against Harley-Davidson and formed the foundations on which later models could be developed further.
Used Price: £2500
BMW K75 | 1987-1996
Sport Tourer | 3-cylinders inline | 75hp | 50ft/lb | Fuel-injected | 235kg
There’s a lot of good things that can be said about this motorbike. In the 1980’s the blocky appearance of this BMW became iconic with it’s fans, the oversized chunkiness of it’s engine gave the motorcycle an instantly recognisable characteristic, later being dubbed the ‘flying brick’.
Beyond the elegance of it’s design, is a distinct sense of simplicity, with the instrumentation and hand controls arranged in an intuitive way. Overall, the whole bike looks and feels very well built.
The handling is really quite a surprising factor on the K75, it gets going nicely and handles any corner you bring its way without being physical or cumbersome.
The engine is also a interesting part of the whole deal. A strong engine with characteristics that perhaps nod towards it’s car heritage, nonetheless it makes long-distance riding a dream.
Used Price: £1100-2200
Yamaha TDM 900 | 2002-2011
Naked/Dual-Sport | 2-cylinders parallel | 86hp | 65ft/lb | 210kg
The Yamaha TDM 900 is an interesting street/trail hybrid with a twin-cylinder engine capable enough for almost any kind of adventure.
Much in the same vein as the Ducati Multistrada, the TDM was a largely misinterpreted machine in the UK and never really took off.
In Europe on the other hand, they seem to be everywhere, being used as the tough workhorses they are.
Scurrying through mountain passes, tackling forest roads and bombing through towns and villages fully-laden with cargo, these bikes are very versatile and practical, with ample performance to back it up.
Sure, the TDM’s unique looks might not be everyone’s cuppa tea, but it sure is a bulletproof motorcycle that offers a lot of freedom, just don’t be too hopeful of it’s offroad capabilities.
Used Price: £1500-2400
The Last Word
There we have it, 6 very capable motorcycles that are ready-to-go and affordable for under £2,500.
I’ve proved that you don’t need a big budget to find some really fun motorcycles that will impress you on long-distance journeys.
Of course, they were always going to be an odd bunch, but a well-maintained example of any of these bikes on the list will stay with the new bikes all-day long and machines like the Multistrada, Goldwing and Blackbird will only increase in popularity and value over time as they become harder to find.
Take your time, inspect any bike you wish to buy very well and never, I repeat never, buy a motorcycle in the dark!
Buy with your head and not your heart and you’ll end up with a solid machine that will take you anywhere you wish.
See you on the road.