You can tour on anything. People go around the world on Honda step-thrus and ride 250cc singles to the South of France, two-up. But a purpose-designed tourer just makes it so much easier.
What do you want from a decent tourer? Comfort, range, luggage capacity, weather protection and torque rather than brute power. Shaft drive is nice, but not essential. That said, all five bikes here are shafties.
1215cc | 132bhp | 800mm seat height
● Dealer price £7500-£9750
● Private price £6500-£9000
● This one 2014, 25,652 miles, £7699
Not one of Triumph’s great sales successes, though it’s probably the best here. It’s got a fabulous engine, has decent handling, glorious comfort and more gizmos than you can shake a hefty stick at.
It uses the same engine as the Explorer adventure bike (another with lukewarm sales for Triumph), but is retuned for more torque. You get 89ftlb at 6450rpm, which is 1400rpm lower than on the big trailie-style Explorer. Sixth gear is an overdrive, and gadgets include cruise control, an electric screen, electronically adjustable suspension, traction control, stereo, heated seats and tyre pressure monitoring.
So, why hasn’t it sold that well? Because it looks like a BMW, and people who want a bike that looks like a BMW, buy a BMW. Also, for a triple with an inherently narrow engine, it’s a wide old thing. But, being a slow seller means it’s a bargain used buy.
Buyer beware: Electronic problems on early ones resulted in a redesigned electronic control module. So check that all the toys fitted to the bike you’re looking at work properly, including the stereo.
1170cc | 124bhp | 805mm seat height
● Dealer price £9500-£15,000
● Private price £8500-£13,000
● This one 2015, 9668 miles, £9750
The R1200RT has been with us since 2005, but in 2014 it got another major revision with a partially water-cooled engine, more power, different riding modes, hill start assist, taller final drive, revised fairing and so on.
Sure, it lacks power compared with some, but it will still cruise all day at 100mph, and while it’s no lightweight (270kg or so fuelled up), it’s remarkably agile and light, the fairing is superb and equipment is comprehensive.
Buyer beware: Build quality is sensational, but there are still some question marks. BMW’s electronics can give trouble when they get old, and the thumbwheel scroll on the left-hand bar can fail. It remains to be seen if the old-model final drive failure issue has been resolved. Check that the shock recall was done in 2014.
1298cc | 146bhp | 805mm seat height
● Dealer price £10,000-£14,000
● Private price £9000-£12,000
● This one 2014, 14,000 miles, £8995
It’s been around for 17 years, but was given a serious revamp in 2013. The older model is great value used, but from 2013 the suspension was improved. In 2016 it got a sixth gear. 2017 saw USD forks, a slipper clutch and cornering lights. This year, it got electronic suspension.
It’s a touch sportier than the opposition (no bad thing), and a nice 21st century take on the old air-cooled FJ1200. There’s also a less-popular semi-auto clutchless version which is cheaper used.
Buyer beware: In the main, the FJR is ultra-reliable given the miles most are subjected to. Regular suspension linkage greasing is a must every 12,000 miles in order to prevent it seizing, but it requires the removal of the centrestand and exhaust. Wheel bearings can die early if axles are over-tightened at tyre change time.
1352cc | 139bhp | 815mm seat height
● Dealer price £7500-£14,000
● Private price £7000-£12,000
● This one 2016, 9000 miles, £9495
The 1400GTR, born from the ZZR1400, takes after the old GTR1000 (born from the GPZ1000R, in turn born from the 900R) in being a bit too big, bulky, heavy and awkward.
That said, the 2010 revision changed things, with new linked ABS-equipped braking, traction control, electric screen and heated grips. The engine is still super- smooth with amazing torque but it’s 40kg heavier than the BMW. Great comfort, but the FJR offers more.
Buyer beware: Excellent build quality and a bulletproof engine mean you don’t need to shy away from higher mileage examples. The keyless ignition is a useless pain, the rear shock preload adjuster can seize if not regularly used, and you need to keep on top of cleaning the brakes to prevent binding. Give any potential buy a good going over.
1261cc | 125bhp | 805mm seat height
● Dealer price £3000-£5500
● Private price £2250-£4500
● This one 2003, 15,000 miles, £3000
The replacement for the incredibly capable ST1100, this was an all-new design, but didn’t share the same success. Early problems included stability issues and the sumps grounding out with potentially disastrous consequences. Several recalls dented buyers’ faith.
The engine is incredibly tough with 200,000 miles not unknown. By today’s standards it’s old, not very powerful, and not particularly well equipped. But it is cheap.
Buyer beware: Pans tend to get used hard, clocking up big miles in all conditions, so paintwork and metals can suffer prematurely. The valve clearance check at 16,000 miles can be quite costly due to the time it takes to remove the complex fairing.
Find all these bikes and other big tourers at MCN Bikes for Sale.