Have you ever noticed our seemingly endless battle with size?
Most of us who live in cities and towns find ourselves cramped and lacking space. Yet our cars act as status symbols – so the bigger, the better.
Others go the opposite way. They realise space is at a premium, so they get a city car that can fit in a regular parking space – widthways.
When tablets and iPads made their way into our lives, we wanted one – because the bigger screen was preferable to the smaller smartphone.
But as the years ticked by, we relinquished the tablets in favour of the more ‘large’ smartphones that are bigger than they used to be but still smaller than tablets.
In A League Of Their Own
As the rest of us faff about deciding if we want everything to be massive or miniature, one small section of our culture dispenses with the dilemma altogether – and just goes big.
As in bigger than ever before – to the detriment of practicality, aesthetics, and even health (think of bodybuilders.) And bikes, too, have been created for these people for years.
For these people, it’s all about size. It’s about accomplishing the unaccomplishable. And it’s about the challenge of making the impossible possible.
So in this post, we want to go through our top 12 biggest-capacity motorcycles for those who crave size, brute force, and the ultimate show of power!
Bike Choices: Staying In Reality
For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you’ll look at this list and email me to say, “Yes, but you missed the Boss Boss BHC-3.”
You’re right – I did miss it off this list. But I did that on purpose because most regular people can’t get a hold of one.
I also missed off the 8.3L Dodge Tomahawk V10 Superbike (as only a handful were built) and Millyard’s 8.0L Viper V10 – because it’s a one-off build.
For the purpose of this post, I wanted to keep it achievable. So every bike on this list is attainable and legal to ride.
I’m also aware that these aren’t the biggest-capacity motorcycles to have ever been built. There are bigger bikes than the ones in this post. However, you can tour on every one of these. And seeing as we’re called Motorcycle Tourer, that seemed important!
Finally, it would have been easier if we’d confined our list to cruisers – because they’re generally the biggest bikes around.
But not everybody likes cruisers. So you’ll find a mixture of touring bikes, references to adventure bikes, sports tourers, muscle bikes, and of course, cruisers.
Triumph Rocket III
If you’re into Triumph and the Rocket, check out our post from a few weeks ago: Top 10 Triumph Motorcycles For Your Weekend Ride, where we go into more detail about the Rocket.
But in a nutshell, Triumph dropped a bombshell on the big bike world by unleashing its 2,294cc powered Rocket in 2003. Intent on tempting American riders from their Harley’s and Indian’s, Triumph used some of the components from the V10 Dodge Viper to really sell their “world’s biggest capacity production motorcycle.”
And it worked, too. Because where many (including myself) wrote this bike off as a one-hit-wonder, riders across the world added their names to the ever-expanding waiting list. It was raw, and there was certainly room for improvement. But it sold – because of the 163 ft-lb (223Nm) of torque that propelled you from the traffic lights.
In 2020, an updated model of the Rocket III was released. Of course, it was the bigger 2,458cc engine that captured the headlines. But as mentioned above, the original model was somewhat raw and needed improvement. And that’s what Triumph focussed on in 2020.
With an up-rated engine, better suspension, refined steering dynamics, and better stopping power, the new Rocket III leaves you feeling exhilarated and bereft of breath where the old one left you wanting. It truly is one of the most impressive biggest-capacity motorcycles out there.
Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited
CVO stands for Custom Vehicle Operation and is a limited version of certain models offered across the HD range.
The CVO models have all kinds of features, upgrades, and customisable options over the standard models. But what they also offer is Harley’s Milwaukee-8 117 engine. The 117 refers to cubes – whatever they are. So if you’re from the British or European market like me, that translates into a whopping 1,923cc’s – Harley’s biggest engine.
As mentioned, the CVO engine stretches across a few models, including the Street Glide, Road Glide, Tri Glide, and (our favourite for touring) the Road Glide Limited. It’s featured in only the brand’s large-capacity motorbikes.
It’s the ultimate in long-haul trips – the 1.9L engine making light work of miles, and the 166Nm (126 ft-lb) of torque is ever addictive. And man is it comfy!
As Harley’s top-spec model, you can expect two-way speakers, a modern interface, a wireless headset, a pillion seat complete with a backrest, and huge panniers/top box to carry your kit.
You’ll also find a tonne of rider aids, including cornering ABS, cornering traction control, and hold control. And that’s a good thing. Because at 390kg (860 lbs) and a starting price of £38,495 ($44,899 in the States), you certainly don’t want to drop it!
Related: Why Everyone Loves Harley-Davidson
Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse
Not to be outdone by Harley-Davidson and its CVO range, Indian also have a similar CVO-type offering in its lineup of large-capacity bikes. So we’re delighted to introduce you to Indian’s Thunderstroke 116 engine (1,890cc.)
Available in various models (such as the Springfield, Chieftain, some Roadmaster models, and the Limited and Dark Horse trims), our pick is the Roadmaster Dark Horse.
If you prefer the classic Americana look, you can’t go wrong with the original Roadmaster. But if you want extraordinary touring capabilities and a whopping 1,890cc V-twin to whoosh you along effortlessly, the Roadmaster Dark Horse is where it’s at.
As with HD, Indian don’t dwell on peak power. As a cruiser, that isn’t what this bike is about. It’s about torque, and this bike will give you a peak torque output of 126 ft-lb – matching the efforts of Harley’s Milauwkee-8 117.
The toys and goodies also match those of the Road Glide. The Roadmaster Dark Horse features various rider modes, ABS, traction control, cruise control, and an impressive 7″ rider display, including Apple CarPlay.
The audio system pumps out 200 watts, and other rider aids include a powered windshield, keyless ignition, and adjustable passenger floorboards – so they’ll be just as comfortable as you!
Honda Gold Wing
The legacy of the Gold Wing is such that we had to write an entire dedicated post on the subject! If you want to read more about the history and evolution of this legendary machine, head over to this post: How The Honda Gold Wing Has Stood The Test Of Time.
Since the 1970s, the Gold Wing has represented the pinnacle of motorcycle touring and shows no sign of stopping. Since the first production model, Honda has given us regular reincarnations of its flagship model to keep up with emissions regulations, power increases, weight reductions, and adding riding comforts.
The last major update came in 2018, with the (then) new Gold Wing featuring a new engine, new styling, a new tech suite, and a new chassis. For 2023, we’ll see more minor updates across the range – including airbags on the top-of-the-tree DCT model.
To bring the tech up to par with other touring bikes (like the HD and Indian above), the 2023 Gold Wing has a 7″ TFT display and a tyre pressure monitoring system as standard. This is on top of the toys we’ve come to expect, such as rider modes, torque control, cruise control, hill start, and a walking mode to assist with the weight.
At 390kg, it isn’t light. But it’s also no heavier than the cruisers above. And you kind of have to expect some heft from that 1,833cc 6-cylinder engine!
BMW R18 Classic
When we think of cruisers, we often picture the American brands above. But that needn’t be the case.
Over the years, we’ve had numerous options from Japanese brands such as Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki, as well as from Triumph. And not to be outdone, the Europeans joined the party in 2020 courtesy of BMW and its monster R18.
In the same way Triumph was clearly targeting the American market with its Rocket, BMW is doing the same with its 1,802cc R18 Classic. It’s a worthy and upmarket alternative to an American bagger, featuring a push-rod twin-cylinder engine, pushed-out rake, trad styling, bagger panniers, cruise control, and a touring screen.
Of course, if you wanted to cover huge distances in comfort on a BMW, you’d probably go for the K1600GT or the 1250RT. But then you’re missing the point of this particular bike.
The R18 Classic serenades you with pomp and circumstance every time you ride it. A simple ride-out becomes an event. The engineering is second-to-none, and the entire thing is dripping in quality. Every blip of the throttle sends tingles through your body.
If you want comfort, speed, and precision, go for the 1600GT or the 1250RT. But if you want to meander through the scenery whilst being fully emersed in the experience, the R18 Classic is the way to go.
Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.
I know, I know. I mentioned at the top of this post that all motorcycles had to be available to be included on this list. And the Suzuki Boulevard M109 R B.O.S.S was only ever sold to the North American and Canadian markets.
That said, you can get hold of them in the UK, and there are quite a few in Europe that you can get shipped here, too. So whilst you might have to put a bit of effort in to get your hands on one, you can get a hold of them.
So why this particular model? Well, it’s quite simply the flagship model in Suzuki’s portfolio. It features its largest production engine at 1,783cc’s, and the forged aluminium-alloy pistons are some of the largest ever to be installed on a production vehicle.
And for more bragging rights, the M109R has that humongous 240mm rear tyre – the largest Suzuki has ever used on a motorcycle.
The engineering that’s gone into this thing is simply incredible.
But in a nutshell, you can expect 128bhp from the V-twin lump and 118 ft-lb of torque. And for touring, the M109R comes equipped with a low-slung comfort seat, a passenger seat, and a 5.2-gallon (23.6-litre) tank.
Related: Top 6 Bikes Not Available In The UK
I very nearly chose between the Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K1600GTL for the purpose of this list. But it seemed impossible.
Yes, the Gold Wing is the flagship. But preferences are emerging for BMW in certain markets. And with its 1,649cc inline-6 engine, it belongs on this list in its own right.
If you want a racier experience when you tour, go for the regular GT. But if you want comfort and fabulously buttery-smooth engineering to enjoy it on, opt for the GTL.
For touring, BMW has really concentrated on rider comfort and experience. As a result, you’ll get a tremendous amount of luggage space, a more touring-inspired riding position, lower footrests (rider and pillion), and a plusher seat.
The GT is undoubtedly the more engaging bike to ride. But for luxury, it’s hard to fault this machine. The six-cylinder engine is smooth and capable. Torque is available on demand in whatever gear you happen to be in. And all this gives you the delights of touring in a way the GT can’t compete.
In terms of toys, if you can think of it, then it has it. Heated rider and pillion seats, adjustable electronic suspension, sexy TFT dash, sat nav, stereo… the list goes on and on!
Related: The Most Comfortable Touring Motorcycles
Kawasaki Vulcan (VN) 2000
I kinda feel sorry for Kawasaki with this bike. It was supposed to be the largest capacity production bike on the market. And it was… until Triumph released its outrageous Rocket a few weeks later!
That said, the Rocket shouldn’t detract from the 2,058cc engine sitting inside the VN2000. Being from 2004, I dare say the engine and finish of the bike isn’t up there with the likes of a similar-aged Harley-Davidson. If Kawasaki released an updated version of this bike today, it would blow most bikes into the stratosphere.
As with many bikes of this style and era, this isn’t a fast bike – despite the engine capacity. It offers oodles of torque, but that hasn’t stopped many owners from serving up power commanders and various upgrades to boost the peak power to 125-135bhp over the stock 103bhp.
If you want to race around the Alps, this bike isn’t for you. The 2-litre engine serves you best when you keep the revs low. Then use a huge dollop of torque to propel you out of the bends.
The chrome looks good – but it won’t for long if you continually scratch the footboard in the twisties or expose the chrome to salt.
All-in-all, there are better bikes than this in the form of Harley, Triumph etc. But it’s a brute of a bike with plenty of character and grunt.
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I could have gone for the Suzuki Hayabusa here, especially given their most recent model. If that’s your preference, then great – I can’t fault you.
But for touring prowess, I’d argue the ZZR (or especially the GTR) is built more for the job than the Hayabusa.
If big cruisers aren’t your bag, but you’re not keen on the prim-and-proper BMWs, the ZZR could be the sports tourer you’re looking for. At release, it was the fastest production bike on the market. It offered more power and torque than any other bike (restricted to 186mph), but it would get you there without fuss – hitting the redline for fun.
Not only that, but it was massively comfortable. The engine was smooth and became the ultimate mile-munching machine for long-distance touring.
Despite its weight, you could still get your knee down in the twisties. But because of its weight, it was stable at high speeds. The 200bhp machine had you covered in the higher rev range. But its 119 ft-lb of torque meant it would propel you from the traffic lights faster than anything else around, too.
Even though this was the fastest machine on two wheels, its easygoing nature makes it a good workhorse. So if you’re after a big-capacity machine that’s blisteringly quick, comfortable for touring, but good-natured enough for the daily commute, the ZZR could be for you.
Related: Top 10 Sports Tourers Under £3k
Moto Guzzi California
Not many people look at buying Italian cruisers. But this one is an exception!
As with many other European motorcycles, this V-twin cruiser is aimed at the American market. But unlike Triumph (which hit the market with traditional good looks,) Moto Guzzi put their own modern twist on a genre that isn’t supposed to stray too far from the classic design.
And because it isn’t American (or Japanese, or even British), it doesn’t ‘feel’ like a traditional cruiser, either. It has its own character – warts and all.
At 337kg, it isn’t as heavy as some of the machines above. But with a 1,380cc engine, it isn’t the biggest, either. It sits somewhere in the middle – not big, but not small. Not American, but not Japanese or British. It’s cheaper than a Harley but more expensive than a Japanese equivalent.
In short, it’s carved its own way – and I like that.
For its size, it handles well and doesn’t feel as heavy as the specs would suggest. It’s manageable at low speeds and pulls away with gusto from as low as 2000 rpm.
And it’s equipped for touring, too. With a large luggage set up as standard, you’ll also find cruise control, ABS, and a touring screen.
Yamaha XV1900 Midnight Star
In terms of old-school cool, this Yamaha has it by the bucket load. But this is also the thinking rider’s big cruiser. Because despite its 1,854cc V-twin engine, it weighs in at 329kg. Yes, that’s heavy compared to almost any other bike. But compared to other big displacement cruisers, it’s a featherweight.
So what does this mean? Well, for a start, it makes it nimble at slow speeds where its rivals can be cumbersome and hard work. And the power-to-weight ratio is enhanced – meaning it reaches its peak power of 115bhp as low down as 2,500 rpm. So it’s mighty quick off the line.
If you’re one for gadgets, the Yamaha Star might not be your cup of tea. But in typical Japanese fashion, what little equipment it has works perfectly, and is of high quality.
The styling isn’t for everyone. And I must admit, I’m not overly keen on the front light. But it has a futuristic funk going on which makes it unique in a genre where many bikes can look too alike.
For me, the quality of this bike lies in the engine. Low down grunt off the line and a silky smooth powerplant that’s tech-centric and versatile.
Related: Is It Okay To Buy A Second-Hand Bike For Touring?
KTM 1290 Super Adventure S
As the world of adventure bikes continues with its trajectory of more, more, more (like it or not), I find myself including one on this list.
In a way, it’s not a bad thing. Many people don’t want a cruiser. They’re not ready for a sports tourer just yet after climbing aboard the adventure tourer bandwagon a few years back.
So if you’re one of those people, this KTM can offer you everything you’re looking for – incredible power with zero effort, oodles of torque, trailblazing tech, and the ability to venture anywhere you want.
Over the years, KTM has honed this flagship model into the feat of engineering it is today. At 1,290cc’s, it’s only marginally bigger than rivals from BMW, Ducati, and Triumph. But where this bike stands out is in its balance, poise, power, torque, and the fact you can throw it around relatively easily.
The engine produces 160bhp and a mind-boggling 102 ft-lb of torque. And it’s all stored away neatly in a lightweight chassis, which means this big adventure bike weighs 245kg.
I know it’s not everybody’s idea of a looker – I think it’s ugly. But we can’t let this detract from the bike – and the fact it’s quite possibly one of the finest engineered, do-anything, go-anywhere motorcycles we’ve ever seen.
Top image: Donald Giannatti