Top Bagger Motorcycles Available In 2022
Lighter than a full touring cruiser, baggers are the perfect blend of style and practicalityby Harry Fisher, on
A Bagger is a motorcycle that is equipped with panniers but is much leaner and lighter than a full-dress touring bike: it’s the best of both worlds - practicality alongside style and great riding dynamics helped by less weight. Here’s our list of the best baggers available in 2022.
Indian Super Chief - $18,499
If you are looking for a stripped-down, retro-appearance bagger, then the Indian Super Chief is the one for you. Soft panniers and a simple large perspex screen leaving everything visible from the front to back is a refreshing change. Of course, all this adds up to less weight for the bike, which translates to sharper handling and less stress when low-speed maneuvering. Huge footboards give multiple riding positions to ease discomfort over long distances.
The screen might look low-tech but Indian says they spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel making sure it works well. Screens are also available in easy-to-clip-on different sizes. Smooth punchy power from the 111 cubic-inch engine is typical of all Indians. Lots of character and personality, great handling and braking, and simplicity make the Super Chief an anomaly in this class.
Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero - $19,799
The Japanese have always been keen on biting into the U.S. market with their own versions of large-displacement V-twin-engined cruisers, seemingly immune to smirks from the rest of the world. But, what can’t be denied is that they are perfectly good at what they do, if slightly soulless.
Kawasaki’s entry into the bagger world is the Vulcan 1700 Vaquero, which the manufacturer describes as ‘the pinnacle of elegance.’ Whether you agree is down to personal taste, but there can be no doubt that this bike is good-looking in a derivative manner.
The Vulcan 1700 has good riding position and less wind protection compared to others on this list, but that does make it look less bulky. Being Japanese, the electronics are up-to-spec and the ride and handling are OK, if not spectacular. Pillion seat definitely not for long distances, being small and falling away to the rear. A small wind deflector atop the fairing is not very effective for riders over six feet tall.
Harley Davidson Heritage Classic - $20,799
Harley and Indian going head-to-head in the retro bagger stakes, with Harley’s offering being the Heritage Classic. Different from the Indian in having a Softail rear end, which hides the single shock for a clean rear end look.
The engine is the brilliant Milwaukee 8, 114 cubic-inch unit, which has all the grunt and shove you could ever need, accompanied by that unmistakable Harley sound. We’re not saying a bagger has to sound like this, but it sure does help!
Styling might be retro but has been toned down compared to previous generations: gone are the studded panniers and tassels and lots of the chrome in favor of more matte black finishes.
Good comfort allied to a competent chassis means that long-distance rides are a pleasure, not a chore.
Moto Guzzi MGX21 - $21,990
The MGX21 is a huge and imposing bagger from the venerable Italian manufacturer, also called the Flying Fortress! All Guzzis are idiosyncratic, and the MGX21 is no different, with its large displacement V-twin engine. All the bodywork is carbon fiber - gas tank, front fender, panniers, and front-wheel embellishments. It all makes for a distinctive motorcycle.
An Italian Bagger? Well, yes, and why not? Based on the California 1400, the MGX21 is an interesting alternative to the massed Harleys and Indians out there and it’s extremely likely that you won’t see another one on the road, no matter how far you travel. So, if exclusivity is your thing, then this is the only choice.
Being Italian, it rides beautifully, even if the engine is a little underpowered in this company. Extensive electronic rider aids and excellent suspension and brakes make this the rider’s choice, while comfort is acceptable for all-day riding. The price is right in this company, also.
Indian Springfield Dark Horse - $22,499
The Indian Springfield is a stripped-down bagger that differs from the Super Chief by being thoroughly modern in appearance. You’ll do without a screen and you get mid-height ape hanger handlebars. It’s a modern bagger with attitude, power, and great ride and handling out of the box, which is just as well as the suspension has no adjustment.
Fitted with the Thunderstroke 116 engine, performance is punchy and strong, while remaining smooth. Three riding modes - Tour, Sport, and Standard - allow you to tailor the throttle response characteristics to your preferred riding style.
Lots of people will appreciate the unfussy appearance of the Super Chief, which we would say is more in line with the traditional ‘bagger’ concept. In line with all Indians, brilliant build quality and finish.
BMW K1600B - $22,545
BMW has long been known for its efficient, slightly stodgy, and expensive touring bikes, and the K1600 range of six-cylinder-engined bikes was no exception, although the stodgy part no longer applied. The transversely-mounted engine is an absolute beauty, at once punchy and creamy smooth and the whole bike wears its weight low down so it feels super maneuverable at low speeds.
The K1600B bagger version is slightly lower at the rear than the GT/L models and the handlebars are more pulled back for a more laid-back riding position. The lower stance reduces suspension travel and it can feel a bit wallowy on undulating surfaces but, by the same token, can be smooth as silk on good roads and acceptable when things get twisty.
Like the Gold Wing and Moto Guzzi, the K1600B gets a full fairing instead of the bat wing fairings on the American offerings and everything is thoroughly modern about the cockpit and electronics, as you’d expect from BMW, along with peerless build quality.
Indian Challenger - $24,499
Indian has made no secret of its intention to challenge Harley Davidson head-on, and you’d have to say it is doing a good job. Direct challengers they may be, but blatant copies they are not. Indians have a character and design language all of their own, successfully marrying retro and modern design cues.
The Challenger is powered by Indian’s 108 cubic-inch Power Plus liquid-cooled 60° V-twin engine which is uncannily smooth and quiet-running but with all the torque you’d expect. The chassis feels modern in its dynamics and proves surprisingly agile when the road twists and turns, helped by the upside-down forks and gas-filled Fox shock absorber at the back. It manages the trick of being supple on the highway but taut in the corners, while the Brembo brakes are more than up to the job of hauling in all that weight.
Indian like to call the Challenger a Performance Cruiser, and while that might be stretching it a bit, it does lay a strong claim to being the sportiest-feeling American bagger.
Honda Gold Wing - $25,300
What is left to say about Honda’s Goldwing that hasn’t been said over the past 47 years? Introduced in 1975 with a flat-four-cylinder 1000cc engine, but no fairing. Successive models have grown in size, weight, and the number of cylinders - six from 1987. In 2013, the F6B bagger version was introduced.
The latest Gold Wing is a marvel of Japanese engineering. The bagger version is now known simply as the Gold Wing, with the full touring version called the Gold Wing Tour.
The Gold Wing has always been unapologetically expensive and over the top but the Bagger version dials that back a little and, overall the 2022 models are a model of styling restraint compared to previous generations. The panniers aren’t the biggest, however.
Updates to chassis, weight, engine, and electronics have returned the Gold Wing to being a motorcycle and not just a bloated whale of a bike. Chassis dynamics are brilliant, the engine is a silky smooth peach, and comfort is as good as it ever was. Now available with DCT transmission to make it even easier to ride.
Harley Davidson Street Glide - $29,999
Harley Davidson just loves a bagger! The Street Glide is one of three Harleys on this list, and why not? The architecture of an American motorcycle makes it perfect for the stripped-down aesthetic of a bagger.
The 2022 Street Glide features the 117 cubic-inch Milwaukee 8 engine which gives it more than enough performance, while Brembo-sourced brakes stop things getting hairy. It is distinguished from the Road Glide by the single round headlight in the fork-mounted batwing fairing, complete with a smaller smoked perspex screen.
Rear suspension travel has been increased to three inches and there’s a knob to adjust pre-load. Specify the Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements package which gives cornering ABS linked brakes, cornering traction control, hill-hold control, and tire pressure monitoring, all reading through a six-axis IMU: pretty advanced stuff from Harley.
Full-color TFT dash combined with round analog dials give a nice blend of old and new in the cockpit, which, of course, comes with built-in speakers.
What is a Bagger Motorcycle?
A bagger is a motorcycle that has been fitted with hard or soft luggage - panniers, generally - to make it practical for long-distance journeys. As time goes on, different classes of motorcycles fragment into sub-divisions as manufacturers point them in the direction of subtly different markets. Thus, what was once simply called a touring bike or cruiser, can now also be called a bagger. Some manufacturers actually call their bikes Baggers while others assume you’ll know what they are.
Another way of thinking about baggers is being halfway between a cruiser and a full-on touring bike: more comfort and amenities than a cruiser but not as dauntingly large as a touring bike.