So, you’re planning a RTW trip?
Me too. This is why I thought it would be a great idea to write a post on the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
Then as soon as I started planning it, I came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t such a good idea after all. Because it’s a minefield of opinions and personal preferences!
So with that said, I’d like to preface this post by saying that these are my opinions on the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
You may have different ideas – and that’s fine.
But the fact is there really is no obvious right or wrong answers. It’s horses for courses as they say.
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World Fit Your Needs
And this is why other people’s opinions don’t matter.
Don’t listen to folk who berate you for choosing a heavy bike over a light one. Or an off-road bike over a tourer.
You need to sit down and take a while to figure out your priorities. Think about what you want from your tour and what equipment you will need to fulfill these goals.
Write down the kit you need and look at the roads you intend to ride.
Only when you know what your priorities are will you be able to choose a bike.
But here are few things you might want to consider.
It’s worth mentioning here that you don’t have to buy a new bike for any specific tour. With a few changes to your current bike or route, you’ll be able to complete your trip on the bike you already have.
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Cost
For most people on RTW trips, money is king. You need to save where you can because money saved amounts to additional days of touring.
Unless you have money in the bank, every penny you save mounts up. And the more money you have mounted up in your fund, the more days you can tour.
And that’s how you have to look at it.
Buying a $5,000 bike over a $10,000 bike leaves you with an extra $5,000 in your pocket. And if you plan to tour on $50 a day (for example), $5,000 equates to an extra 100 days of traveling.
This is a biggy – because people generally fall into one of two camps.
There are those (like me) who maintain a belief that lighter is better.
And then there are those who prefer big, expensive adventure bikes.
Of course, there are situations when a larger capacity bike is better than a small capacity bike. And there are times when smaller, lighter bikes are better than larger, heavier ones.
Moreover, whichever one you choose, you’ll end up wishing you went for the other! For me, I generally feel that I could have gotten away with a larger capacity bike for 95% of my trip.
But for the remaining 5%, I’m really glad I opted for a smaller bike!
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Engine Size & Road Surface
These two often go hand in hand.
You can (if you want) do a round-the-world tour completely on tarmac.
And if this is the case, you would be more comfortable on a larger capacity bike.
Want to take a BMW GS 1250 Adventure? Great, go for it!
How about a 1290cc KTM or an 1800cc Goldwing?
Excellent, knock yourself out.
But what if you’re determined not to touch the black stuff and intend to ride the vast majority of your trip off-road?
If you want to ride the Altiplano of Peru or visit Mongolia or Africa, you’ll be better off with a smaller dual-sports bike. Go for one that is nimble, flexible, and lightweight.
Not only are lighter bikes easier to live with, but they’re also light enough to pick up by yourself.
And that’s a huge prospect to consider if you’re riding solo.
Reliability & Repairs
You would have to be pretty brave to embark on a round-the-world trip with a bike that is notorious for being flakey. So reliability is important.
You don’t want to be rebuilding an engine in the middle of the Gobi desert. Or in minus 10 conditions in the mountains of the ‘Stans.
But it’s not just about reliability. Because even the most reliable bikes are prone to inopportune faults that need repairing.
European Bikes Might Not Make For The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World
Touring on a BMW in the middle of south-east Asia?
Good luck getting it to a garage that knows what to do with it when it breaks down.
And even if you do manage to order the part you need, it’ll take you days (if not weeks) to get it from whichever BMW salon is closest to your location.
BMW’s and KTM’s (and the like) are difficult to fix. And if something goes wrong, the repair bill is astronomical.
And this is why many people opt for bikes such as the Suzuki DR650.
Old Japanese Bikes:
DR650’s are old bikes and Suzuki dealerships are everywhere.
And even if you can’t find a dealership, there’ll be a guy in a hut somewhere who knows exactly how to fix your problem with nothing but chewing gum and experience.
He’ll likely have the part you need so you can be on your way in a matter of hours rather than weeks.
This is partly the reason why every single bike on this list is Japanese. Their bikes have been around for decades. And there are thousands of aftermarket parts for every conceivable need.
It’s also worth noting that developing nations do not have an abundance of £20,000 Ducati Multristrada V4’s on their roads.
So if yours has an electrical fault, you’ll be hard-pushed to get your Ducati to a mechanic who even knows what it is – let alone fix it.
Small capacity Japanese bikes and parts? Well, they’re absolutely everywhere!
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Other Considerations
It’s not just about the bike though. It’s about what you intend to do with it.
Going two up? In that case, a 250cc probably isn’t going to cut it!
What about if you have a lot of equipment to take or a camping setup?
If I’m riding predominantly off-road, I prefer minimalist packing on an ultralightweight bike. If I’m riding on tarmac, I can afford a few more luxuries to cram into the panniers.
Your situation will be different. So you need to figure it out and put yourself in the best position for the results you need.
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Limitless Options
So as you can see, it’s difficult to say exactly what bike will be the right choice for you in your particular situation.
But it’s important to remember that RTW touring is not a new thing.
Over the years and decades, people have completed RTW tours in a whole manner of ways and means.
And they’ve done it on everything from sports bikes to full-dress cruisers.
There’s a setup out there for you and your needs.
But the best bit of advice I can give you is to do it on a bike you love.
So with that in mind, here is my list of top 7 motorcycles to tour around the world!
1. Honda CRF250L
My gripe with the CRF250L is the same as everybody else’s – in that it isn’t very gutsy. But if you’re spending most of your time on trails instead of tarmac, this isn’t really an issue.
And the prevalence of the CRF250L in recent years (with regard to RTW touring) speaks volumes in terms of it being one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
The 2021 model weighs in at a mere 140kg. It’s light, reliable, is excellent on the trails, and you can pick it up yourself when you drop it.
Away from the trails, it will comfortably hold 70mph on the motorway.
Perhaps best of all is that the CFR250L is manufactured in Thailand. And this means that parts are readily available all over SE Asia.
The CRF250L is also popular in Europe, the America’s, Australia, and NZ. So no matter where you ride, the chances of you finding parts are pretty healthy.
There are also a gazillion aftermarket parts and lots of luggage options.
In terms of the ride, the 250L is quiet and poses little-to-no intimidation. It’s a friendly little thing!
For me, the suspension leaves a lot to be desired. And the seat is almost certainly an instrument of torture rather than a plush and comfortable platform to park your peachy derrière.
But the biggest part of this bike is the fun factor and the way it makes you feel.
Go for the Rally version if you want the looks and the extra mileage from the larger tank. But even in its base form, the CRF250L makes you feel comfortable and confident on the trails.
And that’s important.
2. Yamaha WR250R
For me, the WR250R is the perfect intermediary in a dual-sports world where race-ready dirt bikes straddle one side of the fence (think Husky’s and KTM’s) whilst street-friendly bikes straddle the other (think Yamaha XT250.)
Loitering around in the middle like it’s up to no good is the Yamaha WR250R.
And even though it shares the WR name with the WR250F, it isn’t as off-road biased as the F. In fact, it’s a totally different bike.
So whilst the F gets to be an off-road hooligan, the R is a purpose-built dual-sport bike. And because of that, it’s one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
The WR250R is a balanced bike and it performs just as well in urban settings as it does on the trails.
On the street, the WR250R’s suspension laughs at the setup on the Honda CRF250L. Potholes, bumps, uneven surfaces, or sketchy terrain are simply not a problem – even if you’re sat down.
And on the motorway, you can comfortably keep up with traffic doing 70mph.
Off-road, the ergonomics are good and it’s a joy to ride. As with the CFR above, the tank is on the small side, but aftermarket tanks are available that can double your range.
All in all, the WR250F is light, reliable, and a whole lot of fun.
3. Yamaha XT250
Yamaha XT250’s are an absolute bitch to get hold of here in the UK. For our American audience, you should be able to get hold of the new 2021 version quite easily – and at a very good price (around $5,000.)
Despite being around for 40 years now, the XT250 has always kept to its routes. It’s all about simplicity, reliability, and ease of use. And this makes it perfect to be one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
If you’re a more serious off-road rider, you might be better off with the WR250R above. But if you’re new to off-roading or planning to spend a little more time on tarmac, the XT250 is more approachable.
The suspension travel is slightly less than on the WR, and the seat height is also more manageable.
Once riding in the dirt, the XT250 is a joy if you’re not in a rush. It isn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination. And for a RTW trip, that’s actually a good thing.
The XT250 isn’t designed to get you places fast. It’s designed simply to get you there. And as you enjoy the view thanks to the serene pace, you can keep going, and going, and going.
I also love the retro styling on the new models!
4. Honda XR400R
I’ve tried throughout this post to keep my suggestions to newer bikes. That’s not because the older ones are shit – far from it. It’s just that the newer models are easier to obtain.
But when trying to bridge the gap between the smaller and larger dual-sports bikes, it was a toss-up between Honda’s legendary XR400R and Suzuki’s DRZ400 workhorse.
As it stands, the XR400R is one of the longest-running and unchanged motorcycles in production. And as such is proven to be one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
And from first leaving the manufacturing line in 1996, it remained unchanged until Honda stripped it from its line-up in 2004.
The Honda X400R is a proper nuts and bolts machine with more dirt legs than road legs. With no electric starter or radiator to worry about, it’s simple, reliable, and easy to fix.
That said, if the shit hits the fan, you would happily trade the extra weight for an e-start!
It comes in at around 120kg (dry). And by today’s standards, that’s probably 10kg too heavy.
But my God it’s reliable. And cheap! And it’s this proven reliability and affordability that allowed the XR400R to gain loyal and devoted fans the world over.
For me, the XR400R reminds me of what Honda used to be known for: Well designed, high build quality, powerful brakes, comfort, and typically understated.
What happened over the years, Honda?!
If you want an old-school 400 that’s easy to ride, controllable, lively, and full of personality, look no further than the XR400R.
5. Kawasaki KLR650
As we move up the capacity chain, we welcome the 650cc dual-sport bikes.
And there’s no better place to start than with Kawasaki’s legendary KLR650.
If you want an excellent trail-basher that is comfortable on faster roads, is flexible, durable, and reliable then the KLR650 is a commendable option.
All in all, it’s gutsy and capable yet maintains a sense of quietness, comfort, and reliability. It has everything to be considered as one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
I’d be thrilled to get my hands on one of the new 2021 models. But unfortunately, Kawasaki have chosen to release this model in the US but not in the UK.
But at a retail price of $7,000 (around £5,000) there’s a bargain to be had when you consider that you could buy four of these machines for the price of a single BMW 1250 GS Adventure.
Throughout its existence, the KLR650 remained pretty much the same – which means parts are easy to obtain on the road.
Even the 2021 model doesn’t vary all that much from the original specifications.
Sure, the suspension is a bit soft and the drivetrain is a bit ‘laid back.’ But the engine that is torquey, dependable, and flexible more than makes up for it.
Not only is it reliable, but it’s also simple – having no electronics or fuel injection. It comes with a stock 23-litre tank, but aftermarket tanks up to 30-litres are available.
Whilst the 2021 model receives a healthy boost in horsepower, I can’t say I’m thrilled about the ginormous weight increase of 35kg.
In my opinion, stick with the tried and tested models from yesteryear. If you can find one!
6. Suzuki DR650
As accomplished as the KLR650 is, for me, the number one spot in this range goes to the Suzuki DR650. It’s been used so many times that it has to be one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
With an abundance of low-down grunt, the engine is buttery and seamless.
With a stock fuel tank of 13-litres, you can expect a respectable 220km (ish) from a full tank.
But there are lots of aftermarket tanks out there ranging from 20-36-litres.
From a RTW standpoint, the DR650 is lightweight and easy to maintain with parts available in most countries. And due to the length of time the bike has been around, there are aftermarket options for everything – which allows you to personlise your ride.
As with most of the bikes on this list, the DR650 is a simple, old-school design. And it’s oil-cooled which means there are no radiators or water pumps to damage.
I love the fact that they are cheap to buy, affordable to run, easy to maintain and can be fixed with even the most basic of toolkits.
Oddly enough, obtaining the bikes and parts in the UK are more difficult than in the US or Europe.
But if you’re willing to search for a good one, you can expect a bike that is fun to ride, capable both on and off-road, easy to work on, and with parts available in abundance.
7. Honda XR650L
As with the Suzuki and the Kawasaki above, Honda have also reintroduced their big-bore dual-sports oriented XR650L.
And it’s nothing if not a safe choice!
The XR series has been around since 1969. And the XR400 has been in production for decades.
The Honda XR650L has been a cornerstone of the Honda line-up for years. And this means it’s tried, tested, and refined. It is, without doubt, one of the best motorcycles to tour around the world.
Even after all these years, the XR650L has a simple 644cc single-cylinder engine. And it’s still perfectly responsive and offers plenty of power when you need it.
The newer ones now have an e-start – which is always a help.
With its suspension and frame refined in Baja, you’re promised a smooth ride on motorways, through cities, on trails, and over the bumpy roads of developing nations.
If you want a dual-sport machine that is tried-and-tested, you could do a lot worse than the XR650L.
The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Conclusion
As you can see, the best motorcycles to tour around the world really depend on your own sets of circumstances.
As mentioned in this post, I’m all for lightweight Japanese bikes. But if you love your KTM 1290, then you go ahead and take it!
Once you know what your priorities are and whether you want to go off-road or not, there really is no right or wrong choice.
Because the best motorcycles to tour around the world on are the ones you love the most!
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