The best touring bike is the bike you roll out of the garage, jump on and head off to new horizons - you really can travel on any bike!
And with that, I could keep this article very short and end it here. Thank you very much for your attention! 😊
But if you already have several motorbikes in your garage and can`t decide which one to take, or if you're having trouble choosing which motorbike to rent for your upcoming trip to Ireland, I have a few more recommendations for you:
The best touring bike for Ireland is a mid-sized adventure style motorbike. Good suspension travel and a large front wheel improve comfort on bad roads. A moderate seat height and well-treaded tyres provide more safety on rolling gravel or gravelled car parks. Engine power is not crucial because of the low cruising speeds in Ireland.
And now in more detail: I have been travelling for many years and many thousands of kilometres on very different motorbikes from cruisers to enduros. After all this experience I have come to the following conclusions.
1. The bike is comfortable enough for long days in the seat.
2. The throttle response is pleasant, even after many hours.
3. Clutch and brake responses are always good and predictable.
4. The suspension and chassis can cope with a full load without any problems.
5. The exhaust sound is not annoying or stressful, even after hours.
6. The fuel tank capacity and consumption allow longer trips on one tank.
7. Sufficient luggage can be attached to the motorbike.
8. Good comfort for rider and passenger in 2-person operation.
9. The motorbike is reliable and requires little maintenance when travelling.
10. The motorbike suits the riding conditions in the country you plan to travel.
11. The motorbike suits the rider`s height and can be very safely controlled by the rider.
Let's take a closer look at these topics:
Which motorcyclist doesn't know the feeling: after two hours of riding, your hindside hurts, your knees ache and your back is giving you a hard time. A little later, your neck stiffens up, followed by an unpleasant headache - motorbike trips are fun?
Yes, if the ergonomics are right: The seat triangle, meaning the distances between the handlebars, the foot pegs and the seat, must correspond to the rider's height. The motorbike industry builds motorbikes according to men's standard sizes, so if you are about 178cm tall, most motorbikes will fit you ex works.
For taller and heavier riders, thicker and wider padded comfort seats, a handlebar riser and lowered foot pegs will help. Smaller riders benefit from lower seats and, if necessary, a handlebar offset that brings the handlebars closer to the rider.
On some bikes you don't need to change much at all, e.g. the Honda Africa Twin 1100 or the Yamaha Tenere 700 already fit taller riders pretty well from the factory and the BMW G310GS can also be ridden by a smaller, lighter-built female rider.
If you choose a motorbike that fits well to the rider's size or adjust an existing one ergonomically well, you can effortlessly spend long distances in the seat and really enjoy your motorbike holidays!
Like a leopard on the hunt, my highly powered machine is shooting forward - so much acceleration, so much fun!
But after a few hours on bumpy little country roads, it does get annoying: the big cat jumps off every time the throttle hand wobbles, and on the bumpy roads it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the hand still...
A linear response of the engine and a "tolerant" throttle grip help to keep the ride more calm. If you have a motorbike with riding modes, you can switch from dynamic mode to rain mode, even if it's not raining. The smoother response of the rain mode is definitely pleasant. Be careful with the off-road modes, though, as the ABS may be reduced or switched off at the rear wheel, which is not, what you want on asphalt.
On the home track the brakes are great, but after hours the fingers hurt and the clutch engagement becomes increasingly jerky - what to do? Often the distance between the brake lever and the handgrip does not match the size of the rider's hand - adjustable hand levers provide a remedy and reduce finger fatigue on long rides.
The same applies to the clutch lever. When choosing a motorbike, pay attention to how much force the hand levers need and whether they are easy to adjust.
Many, even modern, motorbikes are lagging in this regard! Especially with so-called "entry-level" motorbikes, manufacturers save on the price - understandably - and thus also on the cost of the components. Suspension and swingarm, as well as main and rear frame are somewhat simpler and cheaper.
What is not noticeable during the test ride (alone) often becomes noticeable when riding with a pillion passenger and/or fully loaded with luggage: The bike floats and swings and does not feel very safe. The bike becomes too light at the front, contact with the road deteriorates and precise cornering turns into a wobbly line. Potholes quickly hit the rider's and passenger's backs. Braking distances can also become unpleasantly long with a loaded bike, if the braking system is not of high quality.
The entry-level motorbike is not a bad motorbike and usually well suited for one person and not too much luggage. But this category of bikes is perhaps not always best suited for long journeys with two riders and lots of luggage. If in doubt, rent (or borrow or buy) in the mid or higher categories. More expensive bikes usually have higher quality components which make riding with passenger and luggage more fun.
Cool aftermarket exhaust, it really roars! I speak from my own experience, the V-Twin Cruiser with the "cool exhaust" resulted in a headache after a few hours. That thing was just much too loud. Some time later, a high-reving four-cylinder: the turbine whispers gently at idle, but very soon starts to whistle just above idle and then "screams" at higher revs. After a while, the racecourse-like sounds with their high frequencies really got on my nerves.
The sound is more important than many people think, and on tour, it helps to have a less annoying sound. A low hum has a calming effect, high sound frequencies have a rather activating effect on the nervous system. Often enough, the supposedly boring Euro 5-compliant standard exhaust turns out to be a blessing on tour!
Exactly, it's about tank volume AND consumption. If the tank only has a volume of 12 litres and the bike only consumes 3 litres/100 km, you can still go up to 400 km on one tank - at least in theory. Fully loaded and on the motorway, that's maybe 250 km, and in mixed touring mode maybe 280-330 km.
When travelling, it makes a lot of sense to refuel in good time before the reserve light comes up. This saves your nerves when the next two petrol stations only exist in your navigation system or are closed on Sundays (and off course it is Sunday…).
My tip: If you subtract about 30% from the manufacturer's range in the specifications, you'll be about realistic in mixed travel mode. If the manufacturer specifies a theoretical range of 350 km, you will practically get about 245 km on a tank. Even in Western Europe, you should realistically have at least 250-300km real fuel range available to be able to travel relaxed and effectively.
This is self-explanatory, but not all motorbikes are equally suitable for luggage systems. Often the exhaust is in the way, for example on retro scamblers where the exhaust is laid very high on one side.
The manufacturer does not offer good luggage systems for every motorbike, and accessory manufacturers also focus on models where larger order quantities can be expected. If you ride alone, you can almost always strap a tank bag in front of you and a luggage roll behind you. For 2 people you need more volume. You should be looking for a motorbike, for which carrier systems with large side cases and a large top case are available.
When all the luggage is finally stowed, there should still be enough room for the rider and passenger. This includes two well-padded and well-fitting seats and the possibility of leaving a little space between the two people.
On a quick home round, the close snuggle may be ideal in terms of driving dynamics, but on long tours everyone needs a bit of "privacy". Otherwise, the repeated beating of the pillion`s visor on the back of the rider's helmet quickly becomes annoying.
A shocking number of even new motorbikes offer very poor pillion comfort with poor rear seat cushions. Sometimes the branded luggage system also restricts the ascent of the passenger or the panniers press into the back of the passenger's knees. The only thing that helps here is: Don`t trust “your” motorcycle brand – try the fit on a demo bike with luggage systems – and try it you’re your passenger!
Most modern motorbikes will fulfil this requirement very well. The maintenance interval is usually at or above 10,000 km and if the motorbike starts on tour freshly serviced, there should be no surprises.
Fresh oil, fresh tyres, a freshly lubricated chain (and take a chain spray with you) and a generally roadworthy condition of the motorbike help to start the holiday relaxed and also to end it relaxed.
Those who ride more exotic motorbike brands should check before the trip whether there are also specialist dealers of this motorbike brand in the destination country, because otherwise ordering a spare part if needed can become difficult.
There are experienced motorbike mechanics who like to travel with "antique" motorbikes and some of the travel reports are then full of successfully mastered roadside repairs.
Don't misunderstand, an older motorbike can also be reliable if it is well maintained. And for me it should be in good condition, because I want to experience the country and its people on my trip and not have to worry too much about the motorbike.
Tyres and wheels: Today, especially large, heavy and high-powered adventure bikes are often equipped with so-called 90/10 tyres as standard. These should cover 90% road use and 10% (light) off-road use, which suits most riders and riding conditions. These so called 90/10 tyres often are really suitable for use on good roads only.
In some countries, however, even road-riders often come across large amounts of loose chipping, dirt on the road or gravelled large parking areas. In Ireland, for example, this is very often the case and there are some other countries on the continent, where you can easily find yourself riding on not so good roads. In these countries it can make a lot of sense to fit an 80/20 or 70/30 tyre, which offers more safety on loose grounds due to its coarser tread.
Furthermore, larger wheels with a diameter of 19 or 21 inches roll better over potholes and road damage than smaller wheels with a diameter of 17 inches.
In such road conditions, a sufficiently good suspension with long suspension travel is also very helpful. Most touring enduros and hybrid tourers are well equipped in this respect.
Wind protection: Am I going south or north? Do I need protection from the cold and wet or will I encounter hot temperatures? Will I be riding a lot on the motorway or mainly on smaller country roads? A motorbike's wind protection can be both a curse and a blessing. If you ride a lot, you might buy one high and one low windshield for your bike and then switch accordingly depending on the riding conditions that you expect on your next trip.
Also important: The windshield should not cause turbulences (buffeting) on the helmet. A smaller and lower windshield may be the better choice. Otherwise, add-on spoilers can be very helpful.
Size and weight of the bike: It's nice if the top-class touring enduro has 130-170 horsepowers - but this usually also means a high weight of 250-280 kg, not counting the pillion and luggage. These high end adventure bikes become more powerful, more heavy and more expensive every year.
This development is not good for every rider. The seat is tall, the ground is far beneath the feet and when turning, the rider loses his balance on the heavy bike easily... and gravity does the rest. Can you even lift your fallen heavy bike by yourself? Think about it.
Also think realistically about your body height – I know this exercise may be painful, especially for the not so tall riders. But if you cannot get your feet flat on the ground and push your bike a couple meters backwards, the bike is probably to tall and too heavy for you.
Standing, manoeuvring and turning safely on uncertain ground is extremely important when travelling. The lighter midsize-motorbike with the slightly lower seat height can be the better option. And how many horsepower do you really need on your journey?
The ideal touring motorbike is as individual as the rider himself or herself. And it is wonderful that there is so much variety among motorbikes!
Although I am personally tall and strong enough to handle big motorbikes, for me personally, the medium-sized adventure bike really is the bike of choice. Engine power is less important to me than good handling. A medium size adventure bike remains manageable, when driving conditions become more challenging. And it still remains easy to control at the end of a long riding day when exhaustion sets in.
When I ride with a pillion passenger, I sometimes prefer the bigger (and heavier) motorbikes - because of the added comfort. But I find myself no longer turning into every narrow path with the big behemoths and I am thinking more often about “how am I actually going to turn the heavy bike around on a steep single-lane road if necessary”. The added weight limits my sense of exploring - which is a shame.
Bigger is not always better, and for me personally the medium-sized adventure bike remains my preferred - best - touring motorbike.
I wish you many wonderful travel experiences with your personal best motorbike!
Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg, January 2022
photo credits: photos by easycruiser.tours and client photos given to easycruiser.tours with allowance for publishing.