What Are The Lightest Touring Motorcycles In 2021?

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What’s the first thing you look at when you check out the specs of a bike?

I was in Ducati the other day. And as I wandered over to the new Multistrada, I noticed two well-to-do chaps looking at the specs-sheet in front of the bike.

One of them was chatting on about horsepower and torque.

The other had his phone out and was Googling 0-60 times and top speed.

Which I found a bit odd. But whatever.

So off I trotted to Triumph, where I stumbled across two more gents in the used bikes section.

I can’t remember which bike they were looking at, but money was the basis of their conversation.

Something akin to “That’s a lot of bike for the money!”

And that’s understandable. There are very few people in the world who go shopping for bikes without needing to look at the (often over-inflated) price tag.

But here’s what I look at:

motorcycle spec sheet - lightest touring motorcycles
Where most look at horsepower, I look at weight. The Lightest touring motorcycles have the biggest impact on everyday riding

The Lightest Touring Motorcycles!

Of course, I consider the power output. And I also like to know the tank range, the miles per gallon, and the price.

Just like everybody else.

But what affects me on a day-to-day basis is the weight. Because the weight deems the bike to be manageable or unmanageable.

Toeing The Line For The Right Bike

I’m prepared to spend a little extra on a bike if the one I want is a bit more expensive than the budget I had in mind.

And I can accommodate a bike that only does 180 miles to a tank rather than an ideal 200 miles.

But if a bike is 50kg heavier than what I’d like it to be, it’s an out-and-out no.

In fact, 50kg is being generous!

I simply won’t even consider it; I move on to the next bike.

So why is this important?

bmw r 1250 gs adventure - not one of the lightest touring motorcycles
The GS looks great. But it’s far from the lightest of touring motorcycles! (Image via Bahnstormer)

The Lightest Touring Motorcycles: Less Is More

When it comes to weight, less is undoubtedly more.

Have you ever seen a 300kg race bike?

No?

There’s a reason for that!

From a perspective of speed, a lighter bike will have better acceleration because the power-to-weight ratio is greater.

A reduction in weight also adds to the handling and manoeuvrability of the bike.

And less heft means more efficient braking, too.

So Why Are Touring Bikes Getting Heavier?

Manufacturers keep chucking all this crap on that we don’t need, and all it does is serve to ramp up the weight. And this is on top of performance issues brought about by complying with euro emissions.

And as you’d expect, this increase in weight correlates to a decrease in performance.

So how do manufacturers make up the performance deficit?

They add a bigger capacity engine! And this drives up the weight even more.

It’s a vicious circle.

The Lightest Touring Motorcycles (In The Real-World)

It’s all well and good looking at performance figures. Horsepower and torque are wonderful things.

But a lot of horsepower and torque usually means the manufacturers have had to increase the capacity of the engine.

And therefore the weight of the bike.

For many riders, this now means that performance plays second fiddle to real-world usability. People don’t want the extra horses if it means carrying around extra weight as a consequence.

Especially when most people can see that 200bhp on standard roads is unusable anyway.

As mentioned earlier, increased engine capacities mean more weight. And more weight takes extra skill, experience, and effort to control.

And this is why beginner bikes are light and nimble!

The Lightest Touring Motorcycles: Machine Control

In conditions around town or where low-speed riding requires greater machine control, we need bikes that are light and mobile. Not heavy and cumbersome.

And the need for the lightest touring motorcycles is extrapolated in touring situations.

Dropping (and breaking) your bike on the Road of Bones could leave you stranded in the arse-end of Russia where you might not see anybody for weeks.

Even in the off-road world, many adventure enthusiasts have adopted the belief that ‘Light is Right.’

And there’s a reason for that.

The lightest touring motorcycles are easier to manhandle through the muddy stuff. They’re more forgiving when you make a mistake, and they’re a damn-sight easier to pick up when you drop them.

Yet we still live in an age where 250+kg adventure bikes are the standard issue.

Or do we?

yamaha tenere 700 on sand
Whilst lighter than it’s bigger counterparts, the Ténéré 700 still doesn’t make it on our list of lightest touring motorcycles. (Image via Yamaha)

Lightest Touring Motorcycles: The Stipulations

First off, I’ve had this conversation in the past and it turned to bat shit by the time we were on the second pint.

People have different opinions on what is a ‘light’ bike. And people have different opinions on what is considered to be a ‘touring’ bike.

So what I call the lightest touring motorcycles, someone else might call heavy off-road bikes.

But this post isn’t about semantics!

So for the purpose of this post, we’ve put together a varied list of motorcycles that can be used for touring.

Whether you are a road-based tourer or an adventure enthusiast, these bikes cover the whole spectrum.

Weight Limits

It would be easy to fill this post with 125cc dirt bikes that barely outweigh a BMX.

But we’re talking about the lightest touring motorcycles here.

And that means we have to include bikes that have bigger engines and bigger frames to accommodate mileage and luggage parameters.

With this in mind, we decided that any bike that is 200kg or under (fully fuelled) is light.

So without further ado, here are our top six lightest touring motorcycles (from heaviest to lightest.)

Royal Enfield Himalayan (199kg)

royal enfield himalayan - lightest touring motorcycles
The Royal Enfield Himalayan scraping into our list of lightest touring motorcycles at just under 200kg (Image via Royal Enfield)

A few years ago, big brands told us we needed 1200cc engines to power our adventure (read ‘touring’) bikes.

Now we’re onto 1250cc, 12600cc, 1290cc and growing.

If you want one of the lightest touring motorcycles that’s back-to-basics and throws a middle finger up at the motorcycle manufacturer giants, you’ll love the Royal Enfield!

There is no electronic suspension or TFT dash. And it lacks all the technological goodies that come with other, small adventure-style bikes.

But there’s a lot to like about the characterful Himalayan.

It’s a back-to-basics underdog that you smile at when you open the garage door. You root for it.

Remember, this bike comes with a 411cc engine and a price tag in the region of £4,000. So you need to have realistic expectations when you ride it.

Useable Power

With its 24.5bhp, you won’t be blitzing sports bikes at the lights.

Nor will you be ripping up WRF250’s on the trails.

But learn to use the torque and the Himalayan will provide you with usable power in all settings.

On the motorway, it will sit comfortably at 70mph. Although it’s happier on the slower roads, chunnering along at 55mph.

If there’s somewhere you need to be in a hurry, this probably isn’t the bike for you.

But if you enjoy exploring the back roads or simply want a light, go-anywhere bike for a bit of fun and adventure, then the personable Himalayan might just be the bike for you.

Honda CB500X (197kg)

honda cb500x
The Honda CB500X is a great little bike that makes it onto our list of the lightest touring motorcycles (image via Honda)

We rate the CB500X over here at Motorcycle Tourer!

Its little 47bhp engine has plenty of useable power on the B-roads, but not so much that it spins out on the gravel.

And although the numbers don’t sound impressive, the valve timing on the newer machines makes it feel much quicker than it is.

Off-road, it’s never going to perform as well as dedicated, off-road bikes in the deep, sticky mud.

But for gravel tracks and some exploration off the beaten track, the CB500X is more than capable and will happily cruise at motorway speeds, too.

Yet at 196kg, it’s easier (and less intimidating) to throw around off-road than its heavier counterparts.

Quality & Economy

The quality far outweighs the price. And this gives it a feeling of confidence, agility, and character.

One of the things we love the most about this bike is the economy! From the outset, buying a brand new one will set you back around £6,100.

And then with its frugal use of fuel, you can expect to bag 250 miles from its 17.7-litre tank.

The best thing about the CB500X is that pretty much anyone can use it. It’s a learner-legal bike that can be enjoyed by experienced riders alike.

It’s content to sit on motorways or B-roads, and it will happily cruise along the trails.

All-in-all, this little Honda is a safe, reliable choice that packs a lot of punch for the price.

2021 Yamaha Tracer 7 GT (196kg)

yamaha tracer 7 gt - lightest touring motorcycles
The Yamaha Tracer 7 GT offers the best power-weight ratio in its class, and makes it onto our list of the lightest touring motorcycles (image via Yamaha)

Another bike we revere is the current Yamaha Tracer 700 GT.

So we’re excited for the release of the newly named Yamaha Tracer 7 GT in 2021.

From what we can see, Yamaha has taken this exceptional all-rounder and beefed up the specs.

The new bike will arrive with a punchy 72.4bhp engine which Yamaha says delivers “strong and linear torque.”

Lightest In Class & Accessories

Moreover, Yamaha flags the 7 GT as being the lightest in its class.

And with a power-to-weight ratio that outweighs its competitors, this Yammy is sure to have plenty of power in whatever setting you choose to take it.

The new bike comes with 20-litre panniers and a higher, wider touring screen as part of the GT package.

Not only this, but the 7 GT comes with a specifically-designed, upgraded touring seat.

KTM 390 Adventure (172kg)

ktm 390 adventure r
KTM 390 Adventure Rone of two baby adventure bikes that makes it onto our list of the lightest touring motorcycles (image via KTM)

If you’re after one of the lightest touring motorcycles that’s cheap and yet comes from a lineage of adventure tourers, then the KTM is for you.

For a small bike, it doesn’t look ‘small.’ In fact, with an 855mm seat height, anyone under 5’9” will struggle to get their tippy-toes down!

And even next to its bigger brothers, the little 390 still looks sizeable, balanced, and purposeful.

The riding position allows for a natural flow between you and the bike. And on tarmac, it’s both agile and sporty.

Usability & Function

You will, however, have to work through the gears a little more than you would with the bigger offerings from KTM. But get it right and it’s a joy on the twisties.

On the motorway, the 390 sits comfortably at 70mph with only the smallest amount of vibrations radiating through the pegs.

And off-road, the bike dances along gravel tracks, lapping up bumps for fun.

That said, the 390 isn’t a dirt bike so care is needed if you don’t want to bottom out the suspension.

Like the Honda CB500X above, the KTM is excellent value for money at £5,499. Add to this the 85mpg fuel economy and you have a 172kg (wet) bike that is both capable on and off road.

BMW G 310 GS (169.5kg)

bmw gs 310 r - lightest touring motorcycles
BMW G 310 GSthe second baby adventure bike on our list of the lightest touring motorcycles (image via BMW)

If you like the luxury that comes with BMW’s, then this 310 could be the perfect option.

As you would expect, the bike is lightweight, easy to handle, and nothing about it is intimidating. Team this with ABS as standard and a TFT display, and the GS makes for a great, lightweight touring bike.

Its little 310cc engine doesn’t exactly make it the prime choice of touring bike. So if you enjoy the motorway, you might need something a little bigger.

But if you enjoy making your way to your destination via gravel tracks and back lanes, this little GS is perfectly capable.

The Less Intimating GS

It’s nothing like the big GS! But it’s also a fraction of the size, too.

This means you’ll get a very economical 85mpg and around 180-200 miles to the tank.

Off-road, you’ll have to give it a few more revs than you’re used to. But the aluminium wheels cope with potholes adequately.

The G 310 GS is no natural off-roader. But if you’re new to taking the paths less traveled, the prospect is certainly a lot more inviting on this bike over its bigger, 250kg brother!

Husqvarna 701 Enduro (156kg)

husqvarna 701 enduro
Husqvarna 701 Endurothe wildcard on our list of the lightest touring motorcycles! (Image via Husqvarna)

You probably think I’m mad.

But that’s okay.

Because if the thought of touring on this bike entered your head as well, then you’re just as mad as I am.

On the outset, this single isn’t meant for touring.

The seat is rock hard and you’ll probably only get about 120 miles to the tank.

But for sheer unbridled fun, it’s incredibly hard to beat this bike.

Aftermarket Accessories

Unlike most bikes on this list, you’ll need to do a little aftermarket work to get the bike tour-ready.

Which is expensive!

You will, without a doubt, need to change the seat. And you’ll have to swap out the screen.

But if you have the extra cash, head over to Nomad-adv. They’ll turn your unruly 701 Husky into an adventurer that is as happy on the motorways as it is on the trails.

I’ve never ridden one that’s had the Nomad-adv treatment.

But it looks like an absolute weapon!

Lightest Touring Motorcycles: Conclusion

So there we have it!

Six of the lightest touring motorcycles available; from standard tourers to adventure bikes, and from off-roaders to all-rounders.

As with everything that is touring related, the choice is endless as you find what works for you.

If you’re an out-and-out road rider, your needs will be different from someone who wants to ride through Spain entirely off-road.

Most of us dislike motorways. But if you know you’ll be using them a lot on your travels, then maybe the smaller capacity bikes (or dedicated off-road bikes) aren’t for you.

Or if you like a bit of both (and enjoy taming a nut-job-of-a-bike in the process), maybe the Husky will tickle your fancy.

I know which one I’ll be looking at in a few months.

What about you??

Top image via Yamaha


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