First off, I want to make it clear that unlikely touring motorcycles shouldn’t be as unlikely as they seem!
See, my opinion is that pretty much any bike can be a touring motorcycle. But not every rider can be a touring rider.
That said, there are plenty of riders out there who want to go touring but think they can’t because they don’t have (or can’t afford) the right bike or the right setup.
But for those riders, I want to say that there is no such thing as either.
If you want to tour, then you’re a tourer my friend – regardless of the bike you own. So strap up your lid, swing your leg over, fill the tank, and ride until the sun goes down.
1. Indian FTR
Looking for something a little different? If you want a fast track fiend, then your search is over. Because they don’t get any more fast track fiendish than the Indian FTR.
This brute isn’t for the faint-hearted. But with those looks, who cares! Arguably, the FTR 1200 Rally is even better looking.
The first thing you’ll notice (after how good it looks) is the surprising quality that has become synonymous with Indian since the brand’s 2014 revival.
In terms of touring, the wide bars add to the already comfortable riding position. And the 121 horses pumped out by the 1,203cc V-twin between your legs give you a sense of being planted. It’s all about the low-down dirty grunts with the FTR.
If you want more touring goodness, the FTR comes with cruise control – and you can also get the touring pack which gives you a water-resistant messenger bag, a tank bag, and a touring screen.
For more bike posts, check out our dedicated Motorcycles category
2. Ducati Scrambler
Next on the list of unlikely touring motorcycles is from Ducati. If you’re the kind of person who buys moustache wax or drinks beer from micro-breweries, the Scrambler was made for you!
Of course, I jest. But it does look damn cool.
And it’s perfect for those who – in contrast to the FTR above – want a bike that is light and easy to ride.
The 803cc v-twin engine produces its power in the low-mid range making it perfect for easy touring. It’s not the most powerful machine in the land, but it’s usable and accessible.
For a so-called ‘budget’ bike, the Scrambler looks way better than its price tag suggests. The bike overall is well made and oozes desirability and good looks.
The riding position is neutral and comfortable for those all-day miles, and it can even cope with some light green-laning if the mood takes!
Small but functional panniers are available from Ducati, or you can buy equally nifty ones from the likes of Shad.
3. Kawasaki Z900RS
For those feeling the ’70s vibe, we have the stunning Kawasaki Z900RS. Built with a nod to the excellent Z900, the 900RS takes retro charm and couples it with technology from today.
Like many modern Kawasaki’s, the Z900RS comes with more than enough power for feisty riders to throw around. But Kawasaki engineering makes it easy to ride – even for newer riders.
Kawasaki has sacrificed top-end power for low-end grunt with the 900RS. And for touring, that makes it usable and easy to live with.
The other thing to mention is the growl from the exhaust when you give it a fist full of the good stuff!
It might not be the world’s best touring machine. But with looks like this and a noise like that, you’ll have a smile on your face from breakfast ‘til dinner.
Aftermarket panniers are available from Shad for the full touring experience.
4. Moto Guzzi V7 IV
Just look at it! If you want a bike that harks back to nostalgic summer days in the saddle whilst looking delightfully debonair, the V7 is clearly for you.
Moto Guzzi has been very clever here. Some retro bikes feel like old bikes – despite being brand new. Others feel like you’re riding an old bike in a modern frock.
But the Guzzi? Well, this has the perfect balance between authenticity and modernity – opposite to most unlikely touring motorcycles.
Despite its charisma and flair, the Guzzi is simple and easy to ride. With the weight riding low, it’s nimble around bends and in town.
And once in the twisties, it’s laughing galore as you scrape the pegs on fun-filled rides.
The instruments are simple and timeless. And whilst many of the components aren’t the plushest on the market, the Guzzi is catering to its classy heritage rather than adding unnecessary gadgets.
Original OEM panniers are available from Moto Guzzi. Or you can find some nice retro ones from SW-Motech.
5. Harley-Davidson Sportster S
Okay, I know that here in the UK and Europe, Harley’s aren’t really the done thing. But the ones who love them, love them – so it seems appropriate to list one!
And love them or loathe them, the old-school Sportster is charming. These days, of course, we have the Sportster S – Harley’s newest incarnation of its classic model.
This is a funny one. Because if it was anything other than a Harley-Davidson, I’d be wishing it was more like a Harley.
But seeing as though it is a Harley, I’m somewhat disappointed that it lacks that HD Americana feel.
That said, it’s an unprecedented advancement on the old-style Sportster in almost every conceivable metric (apart from looks and charm.)
In terms of touring, the 92 lb-ft of torque from the 1,252cc v-twin engine gives you instant grunt from zero. And in terms of gearing, you can reach a happy mph using third.
Throw-over panniers are available from Harley-Davidson or custom websites.
6. BMW R nineT
I’ve always been a fan of the R nineT as one of life’s unlikely touring motorcycles.
Designed as a nod to trendy city dwellers, the R nineT looks good – but it performs, too.
The throaty boxer twin is glorious in the bends. And with 110 bhp, it isn’t lacking in touring horses, either.
If you’re the type to gravitate towards the gravel, the R nineT is somewhat competent off the beaten track.
One of my only complaints is the seat – which has been the subject of antipathy from quite a few R nineT owners. Thanks to BMW’s optional comfort seat, though, this is easily remedied.
In terms of touring, however, there is plenty of power. And the handling is neutral and inviting – tempting you into some truly sideways leaning through the bends.
It’s a nice place to be, as well. The R nineT lives up to the Bavarian quality synonymous with the company that built it.
Aftermarket panniers are available from Givi.
7. Yamaha XRS900
The XRS900 is a stunning retro bike that most people buy because of the way it looks.
But the thing to remember here is that this bike was modelled on Yamaha’s legendary MT-09 – one of the best all-rounders (and best sellers) to leave Yamaha’s factory.
So although you buy into the looks of the XRS900, you’re also buying into the foundations of the MT-09. And that’s a combination that will take some beating!
But it’s also a proper rider’s bike. The handling is excellent, with no fettling needed whatsoever.
Whilst not a traditional touring bike, the XSR900 has the same 115bhp from the MT-09 – plenty of power and a usable amount of grunt for pushing through twisties.
And there’s somewhat of a premium feel to the XSR900, too. For components such as the clocks, tank, and brackets, you’ll find aluminium where you might expect plastic.
In terms of price, this is a good option if the R nineT above is a little out of budget. It comes in around 3 grand cheaper, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the quality considering the price difference.
Aftermarket panniers are available from the likes of Givi and SW-Motech.
8. Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
One of my favourite things about this bike is that it’s A2 compliant – meaning it can be ridden by those who don’t yet have their ‘big’ bike licence.
For an A2 bike (and with a price tag of under £6,000), it’s one of our cheapest unlikely touring motorcycles.
Okay, so this bike isn’t quite as well finished as some of the others on this list. But when you consider that it’s half the price, a few little blemishes here and there seem acceptable.
Not only are they acceptable, but they also add to the charm of the bike – like an underdog that you can’t help rooting for.
If you’re looking for power that will leave the back of your head on the pillion seat, this isn’t the bike for you – although it will just about get you to 100mph if you want it to.
But then again, that isn’t the point of this bike. Its forte is leisurely riding and taking in the scenery – perfect for touring.
Top it off with some aftermarket panniers from Givi, and you’re good to roll.
9. Honda CB250
I know, I know… but come on! The CB250 is the first bike of many a touring rider. And with a pedigree that goes back to the 70s, this little workhorse has earned its way onto this list!
It’s a basic, budget bike in terms of components and build quality. But it’s honest – and that makes it loveable.
If Germanic engineering is your cup of tea, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you want a bike that is cheap, reliable, easily fixable and sufficient in every way, then read on.
For touring, it definitely lacks power for red-lining on the autobahn. But if you want a relaxed tour through Alpine passes, it will certainly do it without so much of a grumble.
And it’s great value, too. If you don’t have a lot of money to throw at a touring bike, the CB250 is a worthy option.
They’re available by the bucket load, and insurance is pretty much free! Add to the fact that there are tonnes of aftermarket parts flooding the market, it makes for a great touring option.
10. Triumph Speed Twin
The Speed Twin is a great bike these days – and boy, they look good. In fact, I saw a used one in my local Triumph dealership (complete with brown leather panniers) for £6,500.
I didn’t have the extra money to buy it, unfortunately. But if I had, I would’ve bought it there and then.
And Triumph has done a brilliant job of moving it forwards, too. The newer ones are fast, comfortable, easy to ride, totally manageable, and most of all, fun.
With a riding position that seems to be developed with long-range riding in mind, the seat is low, and the footpegs are just about perfect.
Nice little touches make the Speed Twin desirable – including riding modes, good-looking dials, bar-end mirrors, and Monza fuel cap.
The biggest complaint is the park-bench seat which doesn’t make all-day riding possible. But this is soon overridden by the optional Quilted Bench seat – which also looks classy.
Finish the look with Original Triumph panniers or some aftermarkets ones from the likes of SW-Motech, and you have yourself one of the best unlikely touring motorcycles available.
For more touring tips, head over to our Touring category!
Top image: Indian