Touring motorcycles with panniers to go the long distance

Baggers are nothing but motorcycles with large motors with plenty of low-end torque, forward set footpegs, and a laid-back reclined riding position defining any modern-day cruisers, with an addition of saddlebags. Meant for long distance travel, baggers maintain agility, an open feel, and classic motorcycle styling. In addition to the bags, they will often have windshields, partial fairing, a more comfortable seat, better suspension, larger tank, and forward controls.

Touring is synonymous with motorcycles; it’s an integral part of the riding experience. No other feeling satisfies a man’s desire for freedom, to head in a direction unknown. And if you don’t have the right tool to do it, the whole feeling just becomes uncanny. Here is our list of top ten baggers of 2018 touring the roads of the world:

Harley Davidson Road Glide Special

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From the year 2017, this American legend gave the world a brand new lineage of motorcycles that are sophisticated and technologically packed while keeping the core values of its predecessors intact. Running under the hood of each of them will be the all-new Milwaukee-Eight, the ninth generation of Harley-Davidson V-Twin engines that delivers power and reliability unlike no other before. The venerable Road Glide Special is one of them.

Harley has always been the bigs, but this Road Glide’s proportions will give it a whole new meaning; courtesy the gargantuan ‘Shark Nose’ fairing carrying the Dual Daymaker Reflector LED Headlamps slapped right up front. Harley-Davidson has managed to keep the old charm look with an analog instrument panel featuring the main speedo and rev counter and smaller fuel and battery gauges flanked on either side of the 6.5”full-color touch infotainment display called the Boom!

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It’s difficult not to be enamored with the Twin-Cooled, 450 V-twin mill harvesting 1745cc which rumbles with a signature fell but with a gentler manner. The engine boasts of 154 bhp @ 5000 rpm of peak power and 104.7 ft-lb @ 3250 rpm of torque enough to get you to a 60 mph faster than ever before. The 107 gets re-tuned ride-by-wire system and more sensitive knock sensors for gaining all the torque on offer. A 6-Speed Cruise Drive Transmission and a slip and assist clutch provides the rider smooth shifting of gears that help in maintaining fatigue-free long rides.

With the launch of the new Milwaukee Eight, a totally new re-engineered dual bending valve with beefy 49mm Showa Dual Bending Valve front forks front and rear suspension with easily-adjustable emulsion shocks also donned the 2017 line-up. Harley-Davidson has given the Glide 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear Reflex Linked Brembo Brakes with ABS that catch on to twin 320mm discs.

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The Road Glide Special will empty your bank account to the tune of $23,999 (MSRP). It comes in Vivid Black and for an extra $1000 you can get it in Superior Blue, Laguna Orange, Olive Gold, Velocity red sunglow and Black Denim. Again for another additional $1000 you can get it custom painted. But wait for it, for another $1000 you can get a special ‘Hand Candy Custom’ paint job like the Black Gold flake, Mystic Purple flake, and Hot rod red flake.

Indian Chieftain Elite

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An ultra-premium bagger boasts worldly comfort, convenience, power, style, infotainment, craftsmanship and most important of all - confidence. It is everything the Chieftain stood for, and this time, the Elite rises higher with the high-flake Black Hills Silver color hand paintjob, industry-leading Ride Command system with a 200-watt premium audio system and much more premiumness.

The Elite gets underpinned by the standard Chieftain but gets a lot of oomph, thanks to its stunning paint scheme. It is a high-flake Black Hills Silver color inspired by the silver mines in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A location close to the brand’s custom paint facility near Spearfish. The new 19" Front Wheel showcases a 10-spoke, contrast-cut wheel that completes the custom look.

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Indian has kept the old school charm with this engine layout. But don’t get fooled because the inside story is a whole new world. The Thunder Stroke 111 engine used in the Chieftain makes way here too with its 1811cc 490 V-Twin capable of belting out 73 hp of power and 119 lb-ft of torque. Enough torque to tear apart the tarmac. Unlike other floorboard operators, the forward foot controls give way to heel/toe shifter.

It is huge. No getting around that. Huge handlebar mounted fairings which look like the 50’s steamliner locomotives add to the gigantic stature of this motorcycle. It also gets the same features as the previous Chieftain commanded like ABS, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, remote-locking saddlebags and keyless ignition and the rest of the bells and whistles.

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Indian Motorcycles will be making only a limited number of the Elites’, although we don’t have those numbers. With the standard Chieftain costing at $21,499, and the Chieftain limited at $24,499, the Elite costs a little more than that, $31,499 to be precise.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21

Top 10 Baggers of 2018
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Given the evocative sobriquet as the “Flying Fortress”, the MGX-21 is Italian’s take at the traditionally styled cruisers and tourers or what we also call as Baggers, a mainstay of motorcycling in America. This motorcycle was primarily developed to boost the brand’s American sales and now has entered the Indian shores along with the V9s’. As stealth as something on two wheels can get, this motorcycle features everything you would expect in a bagger.

Designed by the futuristic thinkers of the Centro Stile Piaggio Group, with input from the Piaggio Advanced Design Centre (PADC) in California, this mysterious nocturnal creature fulfills everything for a bagger connotation and does it in carbon – fiber. A futuristic looking batwing-style fairing at the front is what you see as an immediately obvious appearance, and then there is the big 90° transverse V-twin engine with two large cylinders that seem to literally explode out of the petrol tank. The red paint on the aluminum head covers is the only place other than the brake calipers where you will see a concept known as ‘colour’.

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Carried over from the award-winning Moto Guzzi California, the MGX-21 is armed with 1,380cc, longitudinally mounted, V-twin, fuel-injected and air and oil-cooled motor. Armed with a pair of 104 x 81.2mm cylinders, it punches a flat torque curve of 89 ft-lb at 3000 rpm and power peaks at 97 bhp at 6500 rpm. The big air-cooled V-twin is a little too lazy and soft to be considered angry. Make no mistake, since the 1400 engine features ride-by-wire, it has three on-the-fly, rider adjustable engine maps: Veloce, Turismo, and Pioggia.

A set of 45 mm forks float the front on 4.2 inches of travel but come with no adjustments to the ride quality. The rear end floats on a pair of shocks that offer up the same amount of travel and at least come with an adjustable preload so you can adjust for changing passenger and cargo loads. A pair of four-pot, opposed-piston, Brembo calipers bind the dual, 320 mm front brake discs and a twin-pot caliper pinches the 282 mm disc in back. ABS protection comes as part of the standard equipment.

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A price tag on the motorcycle depicts $21,990 which is definitely not cheap. But is very much in line with the likes of the Harleys and the Indians available making thea choice a rather more difficult one. You will get it in just the carbon-fiber flaky natural color.

Honda Gold Wing

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Designed from the ground up, this model packs in all the bells and whistles you can fathom including the electronic suspension and the new 124 hp engine that performs like a well-built athlete compared to the previous generation Gold Wing, making all that past feel old and outdated. This is Honda’s bet to give us a revolutionary new touring machine that promises to heighten our experiences to whole new levels of satisfaction.

And Honda has made it clear to express the future in its designs rather than having a retro take on the 2018 model, all without losing the core principles the bike. The aggressive looking new Gold Wing has an ingenious body design to delivers a ‘pleasant cooling breeze’ to the riders that will also improve the fuel efficiency by 20%. The smaller electrically adjustable windscreen is also designed to suit the sleek body, so is the rest of the bike including the top and side panniers.

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Coming to the soul of the Gold Wing, Honda hasn’t bothered changing the 1833 cc horizontally-opposed flat six architectures. They have instead burnt the midnight oil and managed to chop 6.2 kilos off the bulk from the previous engine. Yet, the new powerplant gives 124 hp of peak power (from 117 hp) and 125 ft-lb of peak torque now coming at just 4500rpm. The manual 6-speed gearbox comes with a new cam assist slipper clutch to make riding a breeze with lighter clutch action. There is a new reverse gear added to the bike to help you maneuver tight corners available both in the manual and DCT gearbox.

Introducing an intelligent suspension system featuring a semi-active unit, the Gold Wing has a pair of wishbone attached to a cast aluminum girder and a central spring strut. Both the front and the rear suspension unit gets four settings (rider, rider and luggage, rider and pillion, rider and pillion with luggage) and is electronically adjusted to match the riding mode selected. You can also adjust it for your personal preferences and comforts. Few other niche pieces of tech are packed in this model which includes the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), and the Hill Start Assist (HSA).

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The base model will be the 2018 Gold Wing which starts at $23,500. Color option: Matte Majestic Silver, Candy Argent Red and Pearl Stallion Brown. The 2018 Gold Wing Automatic DCT for $24,700. Colour options: Matte Majestic Silver, Candy Argent Red and Pearl Stallion Brown.

Indian Springfield Dark Horse

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Indian Motorcycles is lifting itself to the pinnacle for 2018. This Dark horse gets updated with subtle yet dark cosmetic changes to give it a stealth outlook while blacking out just about everything apart from the exhaust. It carried around the same panache and poise of the epoch Springfield, a motorcycle that leaves no question of having a prominent place in the lineup of this historic brand that knows retro indulgence.

It still carries the Hiawatha headlamp and nacelle born in the 1960’s, a time when chrome ruled the streets. Except there isn’t any chrome there now. What you get is a dark themed matte finish that goes on all sides to put things blatantly into perspective. Flanked by this are the black fog lamps to match the humongous Hiawatha. Surrounding the cluster is the tough and durable detachable windshield that has a clean envelope of air over the long haul. With this one can choose to go touring or to cruise in just a heartbeat.

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Designed from the ground up, the Thunder Stroke 111 engine used in the Chieftain makes way here too with its 1811cc 490 V-Twin capable of belting out 73bhp of power and 102 lb.ft of torque. Enough torque to tear apart the tarmac and accelerate without breaking a sweat in every situation. It is both oil and air cooled and operates pretty smooth compared to the heavy throbbers around.

Suspension leverages are carried out by large 46 mm forks float the front end having 119 mm of travel, and the single rear pneumatic shock can be adjusted for load or preference with 114 mm of travel. To halt this 862 lbs monster, you need heavy performers, and hence dual four-pot calipers bind the front 300mm brake discs, and a twin-pot caliper binds the rear 300mm disc. ABS will come as standard, knowing which you can brake under control in any situation.

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This 2018 Indian Springfield Dark Horse comes with a price tag of $ 20,999. That is the same as the standard Springfield is. You can only get the Thunder Black Smoke Trim for the Dark Horse, which is also the case with the other two Dark Horse models, the Chief and the Chieftain. Of course, Indian will give you a plethora of accessories to make it your own deal, and the list includes 300 different fitments to your Springfield Dark Horse.

Harley-Davidson Road King

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This Harley has got the design language that is responsible for taking you to the 60s’ where motorcycles used to feature some of the biggest headlamps and spoked tires with white wall. It’s reminiscent of that era where chrome spoke of ecstasy and class. There are many retro-styled motorcycles around, but nothing gets more ‘old’ than this Road King. Longtime fans of the brand will recognize the influence of the old Duo-Glide circa 1958 and the FLH models that came after. It’s the front end that sets the tone with massive, 49 mm forks made to look even fatter with chrome, “beer can” fork skirt and “Hiawatha” headlamp nacelle. Whisker-bar mounted passing lamps, and turn signals finish the forward lighting, and a large, “Detachable” windshield crowns the whole assembly.

The engine boasts of 94 bhp @ 5000 rpm of peak power and 111.4 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm of torque enough to get you to a 60 mph faster than ever before. High flow air box with 55mm throttle body lets the engine breathe better for making use of every ounce of power. Redesigned heat management system will improve rider and pillion comfort and keep your inner thighs cooler. The 107 gets retuned ride-by-wire system and more sensitive knock sensors for gaining all the torque on offer.

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To get the maximum comfort, the blokes at Harley have given the King a wide set pullback handlebar that gives you a commanding position and making sure your muscles stay relaxed even after hours of riding at a stretch. You also get ergonomically designed hand controls that let your eyes concentrate on the job at hand or at the scenery around, whichever comes first. You will obviously get the two-up Road King seat which boasts of contemporary looks and performance—without sacrificing an ounce of nostalgic style. It is sculpted with a deep bucket and a narrow neck for that ultimate ride comfort which you always want to be seated on.

With the launch of the new Milwaukee Eight, a totally new re-engineered dual bending valve with beefy Showa Dual Bending Valve front forks front and rear suspension with easily-adjustable emulsion shocks also donned the 2017 line-up. The rear abandons the air-adjustment shocks for the conventional spring loaded which can be adjusted with just a turn of a knob and bigger pins will give improved damping performance. Braking duties are given to Reflex linked brakes with ABS that turns a locked up front wheel or a rear wheel skid into a relic from riding’s history.

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As usual, Harley offers a range of prices depending on which color package you choose. The basic Vivid Black model rolls for $18,999 with a whole fistful of color options that can drive the price as high as $21,399. Options such as the ABS and security system will set you back another $795 and $395 respectively, and as usual, California riders can expect to take a $200 hit for their special emissions package.

BMW K 1600 B

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The factory has widely touted this highly-anticipated machine as having been built specifically for touring American roads, and as we all know, touring here means something entirely different than it does in Europe.

Beemer seems to take it a bit further though, as it boosted the size of the slipstream deflectors and ran with a fuller, power-adjustable windshield. Beemer nests its flashers in a row along each side of the leading edge of the fairing scoop. Everything looks well-planned out with nothing of “afterthought” features cobbled on, and this leaves me with a certain confidence in the vehicle as a whole. Up front, we have wind-tunnel-tested fairings that provide a sizable “air pocket” for the rider while offering up ample protection from wind and weather, well, as much protection as one can reasonably expect on a motorcycle anyway.

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The BMW R 1200 RT sources its power from a four-stroke, flat twin, oil/water cooled, 1170cc engine, which has been shared with the standard naked R 1200 R. Needless to say, this engine is one of the most ballistic twin cylinder engines available in the country, which pumps out 127.2 PS of power and 92 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed helical type gearbox transmits all the power generated from the engine to the rear wheel via a Cardan type shaft.

Sitting on a bridge type cast aluminum frame, the motorcycle comes with a Telelever, 37mm central spring strut at the front and a cast aluminum single-sided swingarm with the paralever setup at the rear. BMW’s famed ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) allows electronically adjustable damping. The braking duties are taken care of by dual 320mm disc brakes at the front and a single 276mm disc brake at the rear with ABS Pro part of the standard equipment package.

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BMW lets go of the K 1600 B for $21,995. Additionally, it packs in multi-controller, automatically heated grips, ABS, riding modes, automatic stability control, tire pressure control, traction control, and dynamic brake light.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero

Top 10 Baggers of 2018
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The Vulcan 1700 series from Kawasaki launched in 2009 replacing the the existing 1600 series and carried forward the Vulcan family that started in 1984. Kawasaki calls it “hotrod-style” elements on the dash where the color-matched dash holds analog gauges. The Vaquero with its blacked-out bruiser-cruise appeal got a black trim on the turn signals, tail light and instrument panel in 2018 to continue that dark look.

Kawasaki gave the Vulcan 1700 family what the American buyer likes to see; lots of inches in a V-twin configuration. At 1,700 cc (103.7 cubic-inches), this is one of the larger V-twins in the world. The factory claims a whopping 107.6 pound-feet of torque out of this water-cooled, 52-degree mill, unquestionably well within the power-cruiser territory.

The half-ton-plus operating weight shows the factory dropped all pretension of keeping things light, and built for strength instead. Steel makes up the tubing for the double-downtube, double-cradle frame and squared-off backbone member, and that brings its own obvious advantages over aluminum skeletons.

Air shocks and 45 mm forks tend to the suspension duties with 5.5 inches of travel up front and 3.1 in the back. Dual, four-pot calipers bind the 300 mm front brake discs, and a twin-piston binder grabs the 300 mm rear disc. All this falls under the management of Kawasaki’s proprietary ABS, the Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-braking Technology (K-ACT II).

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MSRP on the 2018 Vaquero is $16,799. For 2018, the Vaquero comes in Metallic Spark Black. Kawasaki covers your Vulcan 1700 with a 36-month limited warranty with the option to go for 12, 24, or 36 months with Kawasaki Protection Plus.

Yamaha Star Eluder

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The Star Eluder, based on the tour-tastic Venture, takes the family deep into custom-bagger territory with blackout treatment, a cut-down windshield and a clean rear end that comes sans top case. Meant to look low and mean, the Eluder brings Yamaha into the ever-expanding bagger battle that has seen many of the top manufacturers vying for a piece of the action.

The Venture provides the perfect platform upon which to start building, or stripping away as the case may be. A shark-grin fairing leads the way with no less than four headlights set like teeth in a maw below the chopped down windshield. Like BMW, the Tuning Fork Company’s entry runs a fixed fairing and short shield as well, if only in a more sportbike-like configuration.

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Yamaha’s 1,854 cc (113 cubic-inch) powerplant produces 126 pound-feet of torque and is right on point. Not only that, but it comes geared to cruise at 75 mph at a leisurely 2,750 rpm. Yamaha went to the top shelf for the engine-control components. First off, a ride-by-wire throttle makes the rider-to-machine link, and that input gets washed through a variable power-delivery “D-Mode” feature, traction control, and of course, cruise control.

Toward that end, Yamaha floats its steel frame and aluminum subframe on beefy, 46 mm forks up front and gas shock out back. Yamaha sweetens the deal with a linked-brake feature that provides an extra layer of safety by automatically balancing braking efforts between the front and rear calipers.

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Yamaha gives the Eluder some blackout touches to further the custom flavor and add to the somewhat-menacing look. Yamaha goes straight to the top-shelf with a 7-inch touchscreen interface similar to Indian’s “Ride Command” system. Yamaha hits close to what we expect from the homegrown marques with a $22,499 sticker.

Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring

Top 10 Baggers of 2018
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The handcrafted California possesses the same classic style and grace of previous California models, with modern, cutting-edge technology that would make the previous models positively die from envy. The factory touts this bike as the flagship of Gran Turismo, and backs it up with plenty of innovations and features that place it squarely in the luxury tour-bike category.

Moto Guzzi manages to maintain a sense of continuity with previous California models, albeit with contemporary lines and engineering. The seat with its chromed passenger grab rail and the side panels were inspired by the T3, and the engine and fuel tank sizes emulate the ratios present on its V7 and V850 forebears.

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The California is armed with 1,380cc, longitudinally mounted, V-twin, fuel-injected and air and oil-cooled motor. Armed with a pair of 104 x 81.2mm cylinders, it punches a flat torque curve of 89 ft-lb at 3000 rpm and power peaks at 97 bhp at 6500 rpm. The big air-cooled V-twin is a little too lazy and soft to be considered angry. Make no mistake, since the 1400 engine features ride-by-wire, it has three on-the-fly, rider adjustable engine maps: Veloce, Turismo, and Pioggia.

A set of 46 mm forks float the front on 4.7 inches of travel but come with no adjustments to the ride quality. The rear end floats on a pair of shocks that offer up 4.3 inches of travel and at least come with an adjustable preload so you can adjust for changing passenger and cargo loads. A pair of four-pot, opposed-piston, Brembo calipers bind the dual, 320 mm front brake discs and a twin-pot caliper pinches the 282 mm disc in back. ABS protection comes as part of the standard equipment.

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At $18,490, the California falls between U.S. domestic tour bikes and its Japanese counterparts, though none of its competitors offer a hand-made bike. You can pad this base price significantly, though, as Moto Guzzi offers the most extensive accessories line they had ever produced for any of their bikes.

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