As the world of motorcycling grows and evolves over time, so do people’s tastes in the kinds of motorcycles they ride. Sport touring motorcycles have grown to be increasingly popular in the last few years and many major manufacturers like BMW, Harley-Davidson, Honda, and Kawasaki have taken notice. Of course some may ask, “what is sport touring?” A sport touring motorcycle is designed to handle long-distance rides by providing comfort and performance. The main differences between a sport touring bike and a regular touring bike are the size, weight, design, and handling. While touring bikes are larger and bulkier, a sport touring bike retains the body of its cruiser/sporty siblings. But just like touring bikes, sport touring bikes share many similar features like a comfortable touring seat, hard saddlebags, improved suspension, a powerful engine, an interactive touchscreen infotainment system, and a protective fairing to shield the rider from wind and debris.
In other words, a sport touring motorcycle is a satisfying blend of a high-performance sport bike/cruiser, and a comfortable long-distance touring bike, and many sport bike riders have grown to see their value. Because as many sport bike riders can attest to, being able to curve through winding roads and blow past traffic without any additional weight feels fantastic. But riding for more than an hour can feel exhausting, opening the way to rider fatigue. Thankfully with a sport touring bike, they can ride on their lean, mean, two-wheeled machine without feeling tired in the long run.
Much like touring bikes, the primary focus of a sport touring bike is to keep its rider as comfortable as possible. Because if you intend on embarking on a cross-country road trip that involves you riding for hours on end, you are going to want to stay relaxed throughout the ride. Because many sport bike owners that have attempted this feat have expressed discomfort, rider fatigue, back pain, and muscle cramps after only an hour or two of non-stop riding. This would explain why you will often find sport bikes like the Ducati Panigale, for example, or the Kawasaki H2 in more urban and suburban environments that allow for more commuter, A to B-style of riding.
But by taking the DNA used by larger touring bikes, and mixing it with a cruiser/sport bike, a sport touring bike acts as a hybrid that allows its rider to stay comfortable for long periods of time without any of the extra bulk. That includes a larger, cushier saddle for one (and sometimes two) that creates a soft surface to rest on while you’ve got a few hundred miles of highway ahead of you. This way, you’ll be able to concentrate more on enjoying your weekend adventures instead of hoping you are close to a rest stop so you can stretch and recover every couple of hours.
Naturally, a sport touring bike holds a high standard for performance. Because these are medium-sized bikes going long distances, they need a high-performance engine that can handle long hauls. While every make and model sport touring bike varies in engine size and specs, they generally feature an above-average drivetrain when compared to similar stock models. One example is the Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST which features the Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight 117 cubic-inch engine which produces approximately 107 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. Before, this size engine could only be found stock on Harley’s top-line of CVO’s. Now, it serves as the starting point for this sport touring bike prior to upgrades.
Another valuable performance feature found on sport touring bikes is an improved suspension system. By bringing in less rake and trail, these motorcycles are able to handle turns much quicker and easier than its predecessors. Sticking with the Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST, this model features single cartridge 43 mm inverted front forks with aluminum fork triple clamps and a single rate spring, as well as a single coil-over mono-shock with a 56 mm stroke and hydraulic preload adjustment that is hidden beneath the seat. This hybrid performance allows sport touring bike owners to transition from tight turns in the city to long hauls on the highway seamlessly.
While performance and comfort are both big selling points when buying a sport touring motorcycle, it is the extra features that come with it that make you want to hang onto it for the long term. The most obvious, and probably most important of these are the full fairings. As anyone that has taken a long-distance road trip, a fairing is ideal for protection against the wind, rain, bugs, and exhaust fumes from other drivers. Thankfully, sport touring bikes take care of all of that. Bikes without any sort of wind protection leave their rider exposed to the elements, which can lead lots of discomfort for long periods of time, and suddenly this weekend trip just got a lot more upsetting. Thankfully, sport touring bikes come with fairings, along with ample windscreens to protect you from any sort of airborne dangers, as well as preventing you from taking a beating from gusts of wind, which would create rider’s fatigue. The saddlebags are also very useful as they provide ample storage for anything you would want to bring along the journey. That could include spare jackets, gloves, clothes, snacks, first-aid, emergency equipment, and anything else you could think of. Saddlebags are often seen as a feature that is better to have and not need, rather than need and not have. Otherwise, you’d be one of those riders that wears a backpack all the time.