Best Harley Touring Bikes for Your Next Ride

Dec 25, 2023

Tags:harley-davidsonrentersrentalguide

Picture of the gas tank on a black and brown Harley Davidson with 110th anniversary emblem

Choosing the "best" Harley-Davidson touring motorcycles mainly depends on individual preferences, riding style, and specific touring needs. However, some models are widely recognized for their comfort, reliability, and suitability for long-distance riding. Whether you’re going on a cross-country tour, adventure touring, vacation touring, or even just a scenic ride, here is a complete list of Harley’s touring bikes, their evolution, and top picks- each offering unique features that cater to different touring requirements. 

Evolution of Harley-Davidson’s Touring Motorcycles

Early Years and Evolution

  • 1936-1947: Knucklehead

The foundation of Harley-Davidson's touring line is known for its distinctive engine.

  • 1948-1965: Panhead

Featured hydraulic lifters and aluminum cylinder heads for better cooling.

  • 1966-1984: Shovelhead

Introduced to replace the Panhead, notable for its shovel-shaped rocker covers.

Evolution to Twin Cam

  • 1984-1998: Evolution

Often called "Evo," these models featured an air-cooled V-twin engine.

  • 1999-2006: Twin Cam 88

Introduced a twin-cam engine, significantly improving power and reliability.

  • 2007-2016: Twin Cam 96/103/110

Upgrades in engine displacement and technology for enhanced performance.

Project Rushmore and Milwaukee-Eight Era

  • 2014-2016: Project Rushmore Models

Significant updates in technology, control, and design.

  • 2017-Present: Milwaukee-Eight Models

The latest in the touring line, featuring the powerful Milwaukee-Eight engine.

Best HD Touring Models Over the Years

Electra Glide

  • Classic: A traditional touring bike with full front fairing and luggage.
  • Standard/Ultra Classic: Offering varying levels of comfort and tech features.
  • Street Glide: A stripped-down version of the Electra Glide with a modern look.

Road King

  • A versatile touring model with detachable windshields, known for its classic style.

Road Glide

  • Unique with its fixed fairing and distinct look, it is popular for long-distance travel.

Ultra Limited

  • A premium touring model with all the bells and whistles for comfort and luxury.

CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) Models

  • Limited-edition, high-end models with custom paint and exclusive features.

Tri Glide Ultra and Freewheeler

  • Three-wheeled variants offer stability and comfort.

Special and Limited Editions

  • Over the years, Harley-Davidson released special and limited edition touring models, often with unique paint jobs, accessories, and performance upgrades. These editions are typically highly sought after by collectors & enthusiasts and come with a hefty sticker price. 

Best Harley Bikes for Touring

1. Electra Glide Ultra Classic

A blue Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra sitting in front of an old water wheel

The Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic is a quintessential touring motorcycle renowned for its blend of classic styling, comfort, and modern touring capabilities. This model is a part of Harley-Davidson's esteemed Touring lineup. It's typically powered by a robust V-Twin engine, such as the Twin Cam 103 or Milwaukee-Eight 107, ensuring a smooth and powerful ride. Designed with long-distance comfort in mind, it features plush, supportive seating for both rider and passenger, making it an ideal choice for extended road trips.

  • Ideal For: Traditional long-distance touring.
  • Features: Ample storage, a full fairing, an advanced infotainment system, and a comfortable, upright riding position.
  • Why It's Great: Known for its smooth ride and ample comfort, it’s perfect for cross-country trips.

2. Street Glide

Harley Davidson Street glide at a bike show

The Street Glide, another prominent model in Harley-Davidson's touring lineup, combines style with functionality, making it a popular choice among riders. It's distinguished by its sleek, streamlined design, featuring a batwing fairing and a lower profile than other touring models. In recent models, a potent V-Twin engine powers the Street Glide, often the Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114, delivering ample power and torque for highway cruising. It's known for its responsive handling and comfortable ride, making it suitable for long journeys and urban cruising. The bike also boasts modern amenities like an infotainment system with GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, adding to its appeal as a contemporary tourer with classic Harley charm.

  • Ideal For: Riders looking for a mix of style and comfort.
  • Features: Batwing fairing, powerful sound system, and sleek design.
  • Why It's Great: The Street Glide balances functionality and style, suitable for long rides and urban cruising.

3. Road King

Man in a leather Harley jacket sitting on a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle in a parking lot

The Road King from Harley-Davidson is a versatile and classic touring motorcycle that blends traditional Harley styling with modern touring capabilities. Characterized by its detachable windshield, hard saddlebags, and timeless, uncluttered design, the Road King offers a nod to the nostalgic while being equipped for the present. Powered by a strong V-Twin engine, commonly the Milwaukee-Eight 107, it provides reliable and robust performance for city riding and long-distance tours. The Road King's handling is praised for its balance and ease, making it a favorite for riders who appreciate a straightforward, no-frills touring experience. The bike's comfortable seating and effective wind protection ensure a pleasant ride on various road conditions. It remains a versatile and enduring choice in the Harley-Davidson touring range.

  • Ideal For: Riders who love classic styling with modern performance.
  • Features: Detachable windshield, hard saddlebags, and a timeless design.
  • Why It's Great: The Road King’s versatility makes it perfect for long rides while being manageable in city traffic.

4. Road Glide

Harley Davidson Road Glide front end view

The Road Glide is among the best Harley-Davidson touring motorcycles with its unique frame-mounted fairing and aggressive styling. Known for its distinctive "shark nose" design, this model offers excellent wind protection and stable handling, especially at high speeds on the highway. It's typically equipped with a powerful Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114 engine, delivering strong performance and smooth acceleration. The Road Glide's handling characteristics are enhanced by its fixed fairing, which provides a different riding experience than other models' fork-mounted fairings. Inside the fairing, there's a modern infotainment system with a touchscreen and GPS navigation, making it a technologically advanced option for riders. Comfortable seating and ample storage in the hard saddlebags make it suitable for long-distance touring, while its distinctive look appeals to riders seeking a mix of performance and style.

  • Ideal For: High-mileage touring with unique styling.
  • Features: Frame-mounted fairing, dual headlamps, and a shark nose design.
  • Why It's Great: The Road Glide offers excellent wind protection and stability at high speeds, which is especially beneficial for long highway stretches.

5. Ultra Limited

Harley Davidson Ultra Limited motorcycle motion picture on the road

The Ultra Limited is a premium model in Harley-Davidson's touring range, exemplifying luxury and comfort for long-distance rides. This model stands out with its extensive features for maximum rider and passenger comfort, including heated hand grips, a plush Tour-Pak luggage carrier, and a larger windshield for better wind protection. Powered by a robust Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114 engine, the Ultra Limited offers ample power and smooth handling. The bike's advanced suspension system ensures a comfortable ride over various terrains, making it ideal for extended touring. It's also equipped with a top-of-the-line infotainment system with GPS navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, enhancing the overall touring experience. The Ultra Limited's combination of comfort, performance, and luxury features make it a top choice for riders seeking a high-end touring motorcycle.

  • Ideal For: Luxury touring with all the bells and whistles.
  • Features: Heated hand grips, Tour-Pak luggage carrier, larger displacement engines.
  • Why It's Great: Provides a high level of comfort and convenience, ideal for those who want to tour without compromising on amenities.

6. CVO Limited

Front view of a Harley Davidson CVO motorcycle

The CVO Limited represents the pinnacle of Harley-Davidson's touring line, part of the exclusive Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) series. This model is known for its high-end finishes, custom paint options, and advanced features. At its heart lies a powerful Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine, the largest displacement offered by Harley-Davidson, providing exceptional performance and smooth power delivery. The CVO Limited includes all the luxury features of a premium touring bike, including a superior audio system, heated seats and handgrips, and a sophisticated infotainment system with integrated navigation and Bluetooth. It has advanced rider safety features such as traction control and ABS. The attention to detail in its design and exclusive components and finishes make the CVO Limited a sought-after model for enthusiasts and collectors seeking the ultimate in touring luxury and performance.

  • Ideal For: Riders seeking exclusivity and top-of-the-line features.
  • Features: Custom paint, premium sound system, and high-performance engine options.
  • Why It's Great: CVO Limited is a premium option for touring bikes with exclusive features for a more luxurious touring experience.

7. Tri Glide Ultra

Harley Davidson Tri-Glide bike parked in a parking lot

The Tri Glide Ultra takes Harley-Davidson's touring experience to another level with its three-wheeled design, offering enhanced stability and comfort, especially appreciated by those who prefer the security of a trike setup. This model is powered by the robust Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine, providing ample power for highway cruising and easy maneuvering. The Tri Glide Ultra is designed with long-distance travel in mind, featuring a large trunk for storage, a comfortable passenger seat with a backrest, and a spacious Tour-Pak for additional luggage capacity. It also includes a range of luxury features, such as an advanced infotainment system with touchscreen and GPS navigation and reverse gear for easier handling in parking situations. The bike's suspension is specifically tuned for a trike, ensuring a smooth ride on various road surfaces. The Tri Glide Ultra is an ideal choice for riders seeking the comfort and stability of a three-wheeled motorcycle without sacrificing the classic Harley-Davidson touring experience.

  • Ideal For: Riders looking for stability and comfort in a three-wheeler.
  • Features: Three-wheel stability, reverse gear, trunk storage.
  • Why It's Great: Best for those who prefer the stability of three wheels or for riders with physical limitations that make two-wheelers less accessible.

Test Ride a Harley Touring Motorcycle or Rent a Harley for Your Next Tour

If you're seeking the adventure and freedom of riding a Harley-Davidson touring motorcycle, Riders Share offers the ideal platform for you. Including the largest selection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles for rent across the United States, Riders Share simplifies finding the perfect bike for short and extended tours. Whether your preference leans towards the timeless charm of the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, the sleek sophistication of the Street Glide, or the exceptional stability of the Tri Glide Ultra, Riders Share caters to a wide range of tastes and needs. 

This service provides the unique opportunity to explore various models before deciding on a purchase or simply to enjoy the Harley touring experience without the commitment of ownership. With Riders Share, you can select a motorcycle that aligns with your personal style and touring aspirations, setting the stage for an unforgettable journey on the open road.

Bottom Line

Deciding on a new Harley-Davidson purchase or renting a Harley motorcycle for your next touring adventure can be challenging. Unlike a short, few-mile ride, preparing for a tour involves a lot more planning. Finding the right bike for you is important. To pick just one recommendation for the best Harley Davidson touring motorcycle would be doing the brand an injustice. Each motorcycle comes with its own unique set of features and styles.