Used touring motorcycle?

So, after reading Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I’ve gotten a bit of a wild hair to get a motorcycle to do some road tripping with. The question is, what type of motorcycle would be ideal. I’m looking for something reliable, something that’s reasonable to self service, and something less than about 3 grand. Any suggestion?

I think you have to look at 650 cc and larger to have a comfortable touring bike. Since you say self service I assume you are getting there to ride vs riding to get there. I do not know the answers specifically but would think a Honda Gold Wing might be a reasonable suspect. As with cars, have it checked thoroughly before you buy.

What experience have you had? How far do you plan to ride? How much mechanical work can you do?

Touring bike and less then 3 grand is like spandex in church. The two don’t go together. Touring bikes examples are Honda Gold Wings or Aspencades, HD Road Glides, etc.
Set your sites lower or your loan amount higher.

I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with motorcycles, and don’t have a license yet. I plan on making trips anywhere from a couple hundred miles to cross country. As for the mechanical work, I can do pretty much anything, and what I can’t do I can find people to help me with who have more knowledge than me.

I’m definitely not looking for a motorcycle any newer than a decade old, and a 70’s or 80’s bike would be fine.

Lots of folks’ ‘toys’ for sale right now, so it’s pretty wide open for older bikes around $3000. If it was me, I’d get something around 750cc so the weight won’t be a problem, especially since it’s new to you. Once you get some experience, you’ll see what kind of bike you’ll want.

And I like Zen… I read it again a few years ago. Good stuff.

Two great touring bikes that are well under $3k:

Honda Pacific Coast
Kawasaki Concours.

Very low maintenance.
Share parts with other models.
Very reliable bikes.
Good storage on both.


You have but one choice. A pushrod opposed twin BMW. They come in MANY different flavors but they all are pretty much the same. Try to find one with less than 40K miles that has been garaged. A fairing is a must for touring. Learn how the different models are designated so you know what the seller is talking about…BeeMer phreeks have a language all their own…You can use e-bay as a learning tool…I would get a few months experience on a smaller bike (250 or less) before I jumped on a big road machine…

About the only '70s motorcycles I would use as a daily rider are the BMW “airhead” motorcycles. Something like a R90/6. Easy to service, they need a lot of maintainance but it’s all easy to do. Getting to the carbs is not an all-day job. Valve adjustments are screw and locknut and can be done in less than an hour. Parts still readily available.
Those old fashioned long motorcycle seats that these bikes had were comfortable and the seat does not lock you into one position like the modern bucket style seats do, allowing all day rides without the onset of the common malady known as “monkey-butt”.

Be sure to take a riders training course, It can save your life. Bmw is a prefect bike for you.

Start off with a Honda Nighthawk, the 750cc version. Hydralic valves, plenty of power for highways, lots of saddle bags and tank bags will fit it. Very easy maintenance and all kinds of shops and bike mechanics are familiar with the bike. The only downside is you’ll have to learn how to take care of the chain, clean and lube it etc.

They stopped making the 750 Nighthawk in 2003, and they are popular bikes. He may not be able to find one.

I recommend a late 1980s or early 1990s Honda Goldwing. These models had standard electronic fuel injection and are really comfortable for long rides. They also have enough power to load-up and ride two-up and they have a low maintenance shaft drive.

zehhet, maybe you should read the sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, “Lila,” and buy a sailboat.

Those Gold Wings are great bikes. I just worry about putting a new rider on such a big one. While on a vacation in the Black Hills around the time of Sturgis (talk about lots of great bikes!) we came up on a wreck. A new rider had ridden his Gold Wing off the road because he couldn’t make the corner. Very luckily for him it wasn’t much of a drop off, only damage was to the bike.

I worry about that too. Perhaps he could even go a little smaller if he is willing to get an older non-fuel-injected Goldwing (the GL1200 or the GL1000).

BMW makes an 800cc touring bike, the F800ST, but it is pretty new and out of his price range.

I suggest that you get a smaller, used bike to learn on. One of the greatest causes of injury and death among servicemen returning from South Asia is motorcycle injury. They buy a big bike and can’t handle it. Unless you are very large (~250 lbs), I suggest a used bike between 400cc and 650cc. You could goose the throttle or dump the clutch and the bike can take off from under you. I had a 400cc bike in the 1980s that was quicker than every production car made, including Ferrari and Corvette. It ran a 1/4 mile in 12.25 seconds, still exceptionally fast for any car. And the 750cc+ bikes have even more power. Stay away from them until you learn how to ride. You can find a touring-style bike in a mid-size displacement and sell it for about what you paid for it if you decide you want to move up after you learn to ride.

You might also check out a Kawasaki KLR 650. Great gas mileage combined with a really large gas tank gives this bike a touring range that is almost unmatched in motorcycling, really nice if you ride where signs warn you “No gas next 200 miles”. This is a touring bike for people who’s idea of touring is exploring every unpaved road possible.

Touring doesn’t necessarily have to mean doing 600 mile days on the interstates. If you plan to explore the secondary roads where the speed limits are 60 or lower, there is absolutely no need for a 750 or bigger engine. It takes very little motor to cruise 55 or 60. I rode an old Honda CL 175 all over the place when the speed limit was 55.

Honda Shadows are beautiful bikes, they just don’t have all the fairings. Clean lines, sit upright, add a windshield, (lots of 'em already have one) you are good to go!