Motorcycles are all about freedom, or so we like to tell ourselves. However, how often do we really get out there and ride? More often than not, we’re stuck in the city streets, with little blasts of fun between the lights, or maybe a nice cruise down the freeway to get to the next suburb.
To really embrace the freedom that motorcycling offers, a long-distance ride is precisely what the doctor ordered. The city behind you, the open road ahead, maybe some twisties here and there. Fresh air, an engine thrumming below you, urging you to keep chasing the horizon.
However, not all motorcycles are suitable for long-distance rides. Some are too stiff, meant more for the racetrack than the road. Some are too low power, designed with the city in mind only. Worry not, as we have put our collective heads together here at BestBeginnerMotorcycles to find the best beginner motorcycles for long-distance riding.
Note: For long-distance, we defined it as day trip capable, as we have another article regarding the best touring bikes for multi-day trips.
Suzuki V-Strom 650
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is one of the two pure adventure bikes that we think also make great day tourers. This stems from the fact that the engine of the V-Strom is the same one that lives at the heart of the Suzuki SV650, a very rider-friendly V-twin that puts out 70hp and 46 lb-ft of torque.
The rider-friendly power delivery and torque curve, combined with the more relaxed standard seating position and the windshield deflecting all the air that would otherwise be hitting your chest, makes for a bike that can take the miles. With 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wire-spoke wheels, the V-Strom 650 is also well equipped to go off-road, should you ever choose to tread off the beaten path.
Don’t miss the rest of Suzuki’s 2022 model lineup.
Kawasaki Versys 650
The other adventure bike, the Kawasaki Versys 650, is in the same school of thought as the Suzuki. Rider-friendly power, comfortable seat, more suspension than its Z650 and Ninja 650 brothers, and a windshield to keep the air off you, so you don’t feel like you’ve been through a hurricane after a day of riding.
The only significant difference between the Versys 650 and the V-Strom is that the former uses a parallel twin. The minor difference is that the Versys, with 17-inch cast alloy wheels at either end, is a little more road-oriented than the Suzuki.
KTM 390 Adventure
The KTM 390 Adventure is one of my favorite motorcycles in the entry-level adventure segment. It may feature the smallest engine on this list, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t handle nearly anything thrown at it. The 373cc, liquid-cooled, single produces 43.5hp and 26lb-ft of torque, more than enough to get you up to (and keep you at) highway speeds all day long.
The Austrian company also didn’t skimp on the goodies on the bike just because it’s the entry into its “Travel/Adventure” range for 2022. It comes equipped with a steel trellis frame, WP Racing suspension, switchable ABS, and traction control.
And on top of all that, KTM Motorcycles has equipped the 390 Adventure with the same easy-to-read TFT dash, excellent LED all-around lighting (headlight, indicators, brake lights), and lightweight but strong aluminum handlebars that all the big adventure bikes also get. If you’re looking for your first adventure motorcycle, this may just be the perfect option for you.
Honda Rebel 500
The Honda Rebel 500 is a beautiful bike you can ride day in, day out, and never get tired of for the smaller beginner rider. One of the classic Honda 500cc series of bikes that shares engines with the likes of the CB500X, and the CB500R, it has a 471cc parallel-twin that produces 46hp and 32 lb-ft of torque.
The Rebel 500, from the very outset, was designed to be approachable and fun for the newer rider. It doesn’t have much in the way of distractions, which allows the rider to just… ride. It also offers excellent fuel efficiency, and a seat that seems to be made out of magic allows the under 6 foot, under 220 lbs crowd to have the same enjoyment of the open road and a day out on the bike.
If you like the Rebel 500, don’t forget to check out Honda’s 2022 lineup.
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
Known in the US, due to trademarks, as the Royal Enfield INT650, this bike is a modern take on one of the most influential and classic of day-trippers out there. Way back in the 1960s, if you wanted to take a ride between cities on the West Coast (i.e., the classic LA to San Diego day blast), you had only three or four real choices, of which the original Interceptor 650 was one.
Retro styled with modern touches; the INT650 is the quintessential British roadster. Comfortable seat, standard riding position, high and wide bars, a 648cc parallel-twin thumping out 47hp and 38 lb-ft of torque under you. The modern touches include fuel injection, modern brakes with ABS, external reservoir rear shocks, and a wet multi-plate clutch that allows all six gears to engage much more smoothly than in days past.
Kawasaki Vulcan S
What may look like a big, intimidating, aggressive muscle cruiser is actually one of the friendliest beginner cruisers out there. The Kawasaki Vulcan S is meant for the open road, plain and simple. It has the nigh unkillable Kawasaki 649cc parallel twin as its power unit, with 54hp and 46 lb-ft of torque.
What prepares you for the long-distance day trip is the surprisingly plush suspension, despite looking like a girder at the rear, as well as the wide, comfortable seat. Another great thing about the Vulcan S is that if you do buy it new, you can customize it to fit you with Kawasaki’s ergo-fit options so that it will give you the confidence to ride it all day.
Harley-Davidson Iron 883
You really can’t talk about distance riding without mentioning one of the big American cruiser companies. While most of Harley-Davidson’s model range is meant for the experienced rider or multi-day touring, the Iron 883 is a Sportster bike designed for the new rider to get onto a Harley and enjoy being able to use most, if not all, of its power.
The 883cc V-twin that gives the bike its name has a reasonable 49hp and 54 lb-ft of torque. This allows the new rider to get used to the thundering torque of a V-twin without sending their bike sideways into a guard rail. Add on that classic Harley comfort and a seat that belongs on an armchair, not a motorcycle, and this entry-level bike will get you cruising all day with a grin on your face.
Indian Scout Sixty
Yes, we already mentioned a Harley-Davidson in the list. However, Indian has a superb introductory cruiser in the Scout Sixty. Powered by a 999cc V-twin, it sounds imposing with 78hp and 65 lb-ft of torque going through a five-speed box. However, the Scout Sixty is astonishingly forgiving and never really seems to flex its muscles fully.
The power delivery is linear and smooth, and you also get a lovely burble from the engine as you apply throttle. Speaking of throttle, with a cruiser like the Scout Sixty, you really will never crack it open 100%, which is why Indian tuned the throttle response and engine on this introductory bike to be responsive without being scary. And if you do crank it open fully, the traction control and engine management systems are programmed from the factory not to allow the rear wheel to spin up.
Triumph Tiger Sport 660
The Tiger Sport 660 is a brand new model from the British manufacturer. It joins Triumph’s recently introduced 660 platform and sits below the Tiger 850 and the Tiger 900 range, which require a more experienced set of hands to tame. Triumph categorizes the bike as one of its ‘Adventure’ models, but with 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels at either end, this is a motorcycle that thrives on the highway.
At the heart of the Tiger Sport 660 is a sweet inline-six that produces 80hp and 47 lb-ft of torque, enough to get you up to triple-digit speeds with ease. That said, this engine has a linear power curve, and it’s not going to surprise or scare you. Triumph, as always, offers a host of storage accessories to choose from so you can extend your day-long trip without worrying about how you’re going to carry all your stuff.
The only sport-oriented bike we will list is the Yamaha MT-07. Supersports and most nakeds are meant for city trips or short blasts around some twisties near town. Where the Yamaha differs, however, is through some magical Japanese engineering that allows the bike to be supple and supple over distances and rough roads while also being aggressive and eager when carving a corner.
Powered by a 689cc parallel-twin that makes 73.4hp and 47.4 lb-ft of torque, the MT-07 is surprisingly easy to ride. It has enough torque and power to let the shorter, lighter rider get some good fun out of it while also allowing the taller, heavier rider to learn all about the intricacies of the naked bike world.