Cover long distances in style and at great speed
What exactly is a sport touring motorcycle? How do manufacturers define the balance between ‘sport’ and ‘touring’? Does it have to be an equal balance or do some factors have greater significance over others? What isn’t in doubt are the basic elements that need to be in place: comfort, practicality, dynamics, performance and – maybe not as important – style and technology.
Sport touring motorcycles must be able to strike a balance between all the elements. They are also attractive models for the manufacturers as they can adapt out-and-out sports models into more accessible touring motorcycles without large amounts of resources in the form of time and money being spent. With this in mind, there is a large choice available so, to help you decide, we’ve rounded up our favorite sport touring models available to buy new in 2023.
10 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello
Unique among European and Japanese manufacturers, Moto Guzzi relies solely on a single engine – in this case, the transverse V-twin – for its entire model range, whether it’s a retro café racer or a full-house cruiser. While the engine remains, there is a sign in the new V100 Mandello that Guzzi is looking to the future with more contemporary designs.
The V100 Mandello is being pitched as a Grand Tourer with the added spice of a strong dash of sportiness. Much of that sporty element comes from the rumbling exhaust note of the 1,024cc V-Twin, not something you always associate with a touring bike. Perhaps not the most practical, the Mandello has the emphasis on Sport, rather than Touring, but as a slice of Italian style, it has a lot going for it.
9 Honda NT1100
The Africa Twin 1100 model has given Honda a brilliant new platform upon which to weave more magic and the adventure-styled sport touring NT1100 is the first spin-off. It ticks a lot of boxes: comfort, performance, tech and quality. But where it might lose out to others on this list is in its personality.
Hondas have never been known for an overabundance of charm and the NT1100 is exactly the same, but that shouldn’t detract from its qualities, which are right up there with the best, even if they are rather well hidden from the outside. Ride one, however, and the qualities shine through. If you want a bike that doesn’t shout about itself, this is the one to go for.
The R1250RS is evidence, if any were needed, that the latest Shiftcam-equipped, variable valve timing boxer twin engine is brilliantly versatile and flexible unit, doing service in adventure bikes, touring bikes and this rather lovely sport tourer. Basically the R1250R with a half-fairing, it exudes all the BMW qualities of excellent engineering and build quality with some well thought out touches, 135 horsepower, excellent torque and a very well-sorted chassis to keep things interesting when the bends arrive but with enough comfort to make eating up the highway miles very easy indeed. It looks great, and if pricey, makes an interesting choice in this company.
The old GSX-S1000 F was a good motorcycle, but it was just a little bland, even if the performance generated by its 2005 GSX-R1000 engine was anything but. If anything, the bike as a whole was a little too much GSX-R1000 and not enough sport tourer. At first, it is easy to look at the GSX-S1000 GT as a mildly warmed-over GSX-S1000 F, but in reality, that GT name is completely accurate.
The looks are massively improved, the fairing and screen -non-adjustable – excellent and the luggage of very good quality. Comfort is acceptable, rather than outstanding and the riding position is on the sporty side but not excessively so. Suzuki has done a great job of upgrading the model and the engine remains one of the best inline four-cylinder units available today: smooth and characterful, with bags of punch at any revs in any gear. It can be a bit thirsty if you are pushing on, but with a relatively hard seat, stopping often might not be a bad thing.
Take one of the most insane naked sport bikes and slap a fairing and panniers on, and hey presto, an insane sport touring bike. If 173 horsepower isn’t enough for you, then you’re shopping in the wrong category. If the raucous nature of the 1290 Super Duke has been tamed, then it’s not by much but KTM has done an excellent job of giving the GT the comfort and ergonomics it needs, along with enough electronics to launch a satellite.
High-spec WP Apex suspension combined with KTM’s signature steel trellis frame gives handling dynamics you just don’t find on other bikes on this list without ever being harsh, the six-gallon gas tank gives excellent range and the luggage options cover virtually any eventuality or planned trip. Never has riding far been so much fun.
5 Kawasaki H2 SX SE+
Sorry, what was that about 173 horsepower being too much? The touring version of the supercharged Kawasaki H2 makes do with ‘only’ 197 horsepower, so the only question is, how much is too much? If anything, the H2 SX SE+ (snappy name, Kawasaki!) can’t really decide if it’s a sport bike or a sport tourer, even though the ingredients are there to fulfill both roles. It takes up neatly where the old ZZR-1400 left off: a long-legged sport touring model with enough performance to outrun almost anything on the road.
It’s comfortable, practical, dynamic, well-equipped and bristling with tech, from front and rear radar sensors offering adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection, to launch control (for those quick getaways from the border post…) quickshifter, keyless start, electronic semi-active suspension, hill-hold control, etc., etc. Not for the faint-of-heart but exhilarating in a way not often encountered in this category.
What a hit the MT-09 platform has been for Yamaha, from the original naked roadster to the retro XRS900 and then the Tracer 9 GT. New-for-2023 is the Tracer 9 GT+, which builds on the excellent Tracer 9 GT’s qualities of comfort, sparkling performance and an excellent chassis by adding radar-guided cruise control and a unified braking system to the already impressive package that included semi-active suspension, heated grips, cruise control and quickshifter.
If some of Yamaha’s recent styling efforts wouldn’t have been out of place in a Transformers movie, then the tracer 9 GT+ actually dials the angularity down a little to make this one of the best-looking of the MT-09 family. If 889cc sounds a little tame, then the performance is anything but.
3 Ducati Multistrada V2 And V4
In reality, the Multistrada V4 does nothing that the V2 version can’t do, it just does it faster and also while costing more. Whichever version you opt for, the Multistrada is an impeccable performer, with a brilliant chassis and tall, upright riding position that might not be for everyone but which is just so effective.
It’s one of those multipurpose motorcycles that performs both roles brilliantly. On the sporting side, the Multistrada has all of the Ducati sporting DNA coursing through its chassis with a small dose of off-road ability thrown in for good measure, although you’d be better off leaving that bit for the Multistrada V4 Rally, which is the all-singing, all-dancing adventure model. Ducati has worked hard on its reliability and the V4 motor in particular comes with 9,000 mile service intervals. If you can afford it, you’ll want to go on a long journey just for the sake of it: it’s that good.
Similar in conception to the Multistrada, the S 1000 XR does what the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT does so well: take a sporting model and turn it into a sport tourer. In this case, the donor bike is the S 1000 R package and the XR adds taller suspension, a larger screen and much more relaxed ergonomics.
The engine is the 1000cc inline four cylinder as found in the S1000R, which means 162 horsepower of smooth, high-revving action, which feels and sounds strange in an adventure bike-tall package, but in practice, works extremely well. The chassis is excellent, comfort the same, the electronics cover any eventuality and the build-quality and design is typical BMW.
Think of this as a natural rival to the Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT, having largely the same beginnings. In this case, the basis of the Ninja 1000 SX is the Z1000 naked sport bike and the SX appeared in 2010, making it one of the oldest models on this list. Constantly updated over the years in nearly every area, the Ninja 1000 SX is simple yet brilliant, offering huge, silky-smooth performance in a chassis that offers sporty handling while maintaining a good dose of practicality and being well-equipped. It may lack the cachet of the H2 SX SE+, but at the price, it is just as good in its own way.