10 Comfortable Pillion Motorcycles For Fantastic Adventures

Ayup everyone,

Today I will be looking at the ultimate guide to the Best Pillion Motorcycles you can buy. They are all bikes built for maximum rider and passenger comfort but they do still offer seriously different options to consider when choosing the right motorcycle for your own 2 up riding.

I have been asked to do this video several times and I finally got it down to a top ten with a few honorary mentions at the end. I hope at least one of these motorcycles will be the perfect combination of comfort, style and excitement for you and your passenger.

Whether you are a speed demon or like a more relaxed ride, these 10 motorcycles all offer you unmatched riding comfort without loosing that spark that makes a bike special for both the rider and pillion.

So whether you’re planning a weekend adventure or an intercontinental ride, these bikes will keep both you and your passenger smiling, and get you where you want to go in comfort.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Remember, the journey is often more important than the destination.

With pillion motorcycles, what is often most important is great suspension for a smooth ride. A comfortable, well thought out riding position is also important, but a powerful engine always helps and I have left no stone unturned in this quest to bring you the best.

I tried to consider the needs of both riders and passengers who want a comfortable and thrilling experience. Remember, If your passenger is happy and comfortable you will get to ride your bike more often, So it is a win win situation for most of us.

I hope my suggestions help you find the right bike for you. A bike that can help you and your passenger get the best riding experience possible.

So, let us begin our journey to find the “Best Pillion Motorcycles” ever built.

I am going back to the original format, I will look at the more obvious choices first and gradually work through revealing some less obvious choices till we get to what I think is possibly the best all round Pillion Motorcycle you can buy.

This will be different for different people though and these are all great bikes.

I hope at least one of them will suit your riding style and that it gives you some ideas to explore when searching for your next motorcycle. I look forward to hearing about the bikes you add in the comments too.


Honda GoldWing

First up today and the most obvious choice, is the Honda GoldWing, known for its exceptionally smooth engine and spacious seating for both the rider and pillion. The early flat 4 engine was eventually replaced by a bigger flat 6 but both are renowned for the vibration free performance even at higher revs. Various levels of comfort come from the very different models released over the years, but all will deliver a seamlessly smooth ride.

I still remember my first ride on the first generation GL1000 Goldwing. It was a very different beast to the Goldwings of today, but that engine was silky smooth in a way I had never felt before. That is the hallmark of the Goldwing, and every future model would retain that vibration free engine design.

You can get every conceivable luxury feature on some models. A full sound system, heated seats, cruise control and more came on later models. They make the GoldWing one of the best specced motorcycles on the market.

These were bikes built to outperform the best touring motorcycles on the market when they were first released and they have become the benchmark by which all big touring bikes have been judged ever since.

Personally, it is the old series 1 that is the best of all the GoldWings in my opinion, but there is a Goldwing out there to suit most people. The later models get bigger and bigger, and some of the fully dressed models could almost be described as an armchair on wheels. They are hard to beat when it comes to all around comfort and no list of pillion motorcycles would be complete without these incredible bikes.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

Next, we have the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE. This is often described as an adventure-touring bike, but in reality, you should see it as what it is. It is a touring bike of the highest calibre.

It often gets overlooked but it is a great bike.

It isn’t made to go off road, but that means the designers have built a more focussed GT motorcycle which will deliver mile eating comfort for two with no fuss and plenty of performance to spare.

The Kawasaki Versys 1000 gives you a smooth ride and excellent wind protection. It’s a reliable bike with more than enough power for two up touring and the comfortable seating position makes it an ideal choice for long distance rides with a Passenger.

A Quick-shifter and Cruise Control will be the finishing touches for some people, and the Versys 1000 is a motorcycle that has been built perfectly for the job it is intended for.

The 4 cylinder engine is tuned to give a smooth, linear power delivery with no surprises, and that won’t be to everyone’s choice, but it is an easy bike to ride even at slow speeds. However, you can find yourself well beyond any speed limits faster than you might think.

Unless you live alongside an autobahn the Kawasaki Versys 1000 will give you more speed than you can ever use. You also get a much more comfortable rider triangle than with many of its competitors.

Indian Chief

Next, for those who appreciate a classic V-Twin design, the Indian Chief is a true gem. It offers a comfortable, spacious and laid-back ride, making it perfect for long journeys with a pillion.

For some, a slow revving V-Twin engine will always be the weapon of choice, and the engine in the Indian Chief really is a peach.

As with the GoldWing there are many versions of the Indian Chief. so it is easy to find one that suits your own particular needs, and to be clear here, I am talking about the post 2014 Indian Chiefs built after Polaris Industries took over the company.

This motorcycle had no connection at all with any of the previous Indian Chief’s built at Gilroy or Kings Mountain.

The bike was built around a new 1800cc 111 cubic inch engine that was dubbed the Thunderstroke 3. Polaris lightened the crank, pistons and con rods so this big 49 degree V-Twin engine retains all those classic attributes of a big V-Twin but picks up faster and revs out better too.

A single balancer shaft smooths out the worst of the vibration while retaining that “Character” that defines these engines. Torque is king here, and the Indian Chief will pull from tickover with a seamless power delivery and the 6 speed box is slick.

This is a big motorcycle and wont be for everyone, but it is a great example of a classic design and has gained a cult following since Polaris took over at the helm.

Kawasaki ZZR1200 and ZZR1400

We have two more Kawasaki’s next, Two different bikes, but they are from a whole exalted lineage that goes right back to the infamous GPZ1000RX I talked about in the Bargain Bikes of the 1980’s video linked above. The Kawasaki ZZR range has a history, the ZZR1100 was the fastest production motorcycle on the market at one point, but it is the Kawasaki ZZR1200 and ZZR1400 I will talk about here.

First, the ZZR1200 or ZX12C as it was also known, is in my humble opinion possibly the best high speed touring bike I have ever ridden. This isn’t your average tourer, it is a true hyper-bike. A big highly tuned engine in a long, stable chassis built for high speed stability.

First built in 2002 it was only made for 3 years. Then the all new ZZR1400 would take over as king of the Kawasaki Range.

Although different in many ways you can’t help but compare the carb fed ZZR1200 with its newer fuel injected cousin the ZZR1400. The spec. sheets make the 1400 look massively more powerful in comparison to the 1200, but independent dyno runs everywhere tell quite a different story.

Of the rated 160HP produced at the crank by the Kawasaki ZZR1200, 145HP reaches the rear wheel. On the ZZR1400, the rated power is verging on 200HP, but what reaches the rear wheel is in general closer to around 165HP.

Add to that the fact that the low speed fuelling on the 1200 is far better and the torque just seems more usable, and in the real world, there is little difference in performance.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the 1400 isn’t faster, it is. However, it is only really faster if you have a very long stretch of highway. The smooth power delivery of the 1200 makes it easier to go fast. The fuel injected ZZR1400 is much more unpredictable at low revs, it never seemed as happy below 3000rpm and the pick up was always more hesitant.

With the ZZR1200 you know when you crack open the throttle the front wheel will immediately rise to the occasion. With the 1400, you never quite know when that bark will become a surge. What you do know, is when the surge comes, it will be huge, and that makes me as a rider more wary. With the 1200 it is just a case of wind it on and enjoy the world rushing by.

Although the 1400 is faster and more streamlined, the ZZR1200 is more comfortable, especially for the pillion, who benefits a lot from the bigger screen on the 1200.

Years ago Visordown did a back to back test and there is an article where they say some very similar things after their experiences, if you are interested just do a search for “ZZR1200 v ZZR1400, splitting heirs” and you will find it. But I will put the link in the description.


Next we have another 2 motorcycles built around the same platform.

BMW R1250 GS and R1250 RT

For those seeking adventure, the BMW R1250 GS is still arguably the easiest of the heavyweight adventure bikes to ride off-road, and you get a comfortably plush pillion seat. In addition we have the BMW R1250 RT, a smooth and stable tourer with a road-going bias.

Both of these bikes offer levels of comfort that are hard to argue with. The 1250 boxer engine is strong, with plenty of low down torque which make it a lazy ride with easy to use power. Even fully loaded with passenger and luggage they will pull like a train, and the low centre of gravity made possible by the boxer engine means that manoeuvrability at slow speed is easier than you might imagine.

The Telelever suspension is an acquired taste when you have grown up dealing with fork dive under braking. It does take some getting used to, but it works well, and makes for a motorcycle that holds its line beautifully even of rutted roads.

The shaft drive is still one of its biggest selling points in some markets and BMW do have a long history of building great touring bikes. Dealer satisfaction isn’t always the best though, and BMW do have a reputation for too many recalls. To their credit, they are maybe more likely to facilitate recalls than some other manufacturers, so the ball does swing both ways.

The GS Adventure is probably the best known of all the Adventure bikes and it has earned its place at the top of the best selling Adventure bikes list. The R1250RT sacrifices the off road ability of the GS in favour of sharper steering and a lower seat height.

Never the cheapest option, they do hold their price well. So if you look after it, you can be assured you may well do better with financial losses, especially if you are one of those people who changes their motorcycle every few years.

Honda XL1000V Varadero

Another motorcycle that is easy to overlook is the Honda XL1000V Varadero. If you need a big mile munching bike that can can breeze along terrible road surfaces then the Honda Varadero is definitely worth a look. The seat for both rider and passenger is shall we say “Capacious” and provides one of the most comfortable places you could ever find on 2 wheels.

The layout of the controls on the XL1000V’s is superb. Simple but functional would be the best way to describe it. A comfortable well thought out rider triangle makes the riding position excellent and the strong engine, which is after all a detuned version of the bike Colin Edwards won the Superbike World Championship on, pulls like a train and will go on forever.

Honda’s linked braking system was great on the road but far from perfect if you are doing any serious off road riding, but it will stop the bike on a sixpence, and if you need to, its not a hard job to “Unlink” the brakes if that suits you better.

The bodywork works better than it looks like it should too. In foul weather you will find yourself well protected from the elements and even at speed you can ride with your visor up without getting a mouthful of bugs.

The bike is big, and high, but the seat height is actually lower than many comparable bikes, and a fairly low centre of gravity makes low speed manoeuvrability better than you might think too.

Power comes in steadily from just 3000rpm and there is no annoying vibrations at the bars or the pegs. That power just builds and builds as you open the throttle. 3,000 to 6,000rpm is its sweet spot, and there is little reason to push it further in normal riding. Short shifting allows the bike to make the most of the huge tank, and miles pass by in the blink of an eye.

Green-laning is fine on the Varadero, but this isn’t a true off-road bike. It will do gravel and fire roads fine, but deep ruts will see that 244kg take its toll, and its easy to lose the heavy front end. The high level exhausts mean that unlike many modern adventure bikes, the big XL1000V will even deal with deeper water crossings and reassuringly, the Honda electrics don’t start flashing like a Christmas tree every time you hit a puddle.

Where it shines most, is basically anywhere between small twisty single track roads and long haul motorway riding. Open the throttle on a fast road and the bike will happily keep revving forever, but it will happily sit around in city traffic without the heat build up you often get on much newer, more expensive bikes. Calling this bike a jack of all trades is true, but it doesn’t do the Honda XL1000V Varadero justice. It really is the master jack when it comes to most riding conditions.

Triumph Sprint GT

Next on the list is the Triumph Sprint GT. Now again, don’t get me wrong, the Triumph Sprint in its many guises are all great motorcycles, but in 2010, the Triumph Sprint GT was launched. It was more focused on two-up touring. It had a longer wheelbase and was heavier, with a better, more spacious and more comfortable pillion zone.

The 1050 triple engine is fantastic and produced around 128HP at just over 9,000rpm. Max torque of just below 110Nm arrives very quickly at just over 6000rpm and the engine pulls cleanly from below 3000rpm.

Gearing is set up so that at a 70mph cruising speed it is doing just 4000rpm and not only is it happy there, but a quick twitch of the throttle will take you past anything you need to pass, quickly and easily, with no real need to drop it down a gear like you would with many 4 cylinder bikes.

The Showa suspension was also beefed up on the GT model and is faultless. Preload and rebound damping adjustment on the rear also mean that however much weight you hang on it you can still get a decent ride.

The longer chassis allowed the pillion pegs to be repositioned and the rear seat lowered which makes a huge difference for passenger comfort and the bodywork is just designed really well. The bubble of air around rider and passenger is calm even at Autobahn speeds and it is easy to forget how fast you are going until you look down at the speedo.

The Triumph Sprint really is one of the best bikes Triumph have made in the modern era and the Sprint GT takes passenger satisfaction up a level from the other models. So for 2 up touring there are few bikes that combine that rare combination of comfort and exhilaration quite so well.

Moto Guzzi Audace

Now this next bike is much more of a niche motorcycle and won’t be everyone’s choice, but the Moto Guzzi Audace is a monster of a bike and the heavyweight 300Kg chassis makes for a stable platform. The 1400cc engine is strong and deals with the weight easily.

When I say strong, the engine chucks out a hefty 121Nm of toque from just 3,000rpm, but unlike many of the heavyweights the Guzzi engine will rev. Maximum power doesn’t hit until 6,500rpm where it produces around 100HP, but it will carry on right up to its 8,000rpm redline with no stress.

Build quality is sublime and although not maybe my style, I have to admit the Moto Guzzi Audace is one of the best looking bikes on the market. It somehow bridges the gap between the classic American V-twin cruisers and Power Cruisers like the V-Max, MT01 and Ducati Diavel.

The bike has a fantastic growl of an exhaust sound too and even with the standard pipes sounds far from tame. At low revs you get a glorious rumble and as the revs rise it turns into an addictive roar.

Piaggio have improved build quality year by year with all their bikes and the fit and finish on the Audace really is about as good as you will get with any Italian bikes on the market.

This is another bike that is over engineered everywhere, and there are beautiful little design details everywhere you look. Together with that engine, these touches will always make this bike stand out from the crowd.

Yamaha FJR1300

Moving on we come to the Yamaha FJR1300. The FJR was born from a long line of Yamaha motorcycles with a heritage that goes back to the first FJ1100’s built in 1984. That is a lineage that runs continuously for almost 40 years. This is another bike I featured in the bargain bikes from the 1980’s video.

The FJR1300 is a sport-touring motorcycle that balances performance and comfort like few others. They deliver an exhilarating ride that will allow a good rider to keep up with the best sport bikes, while maintaining exceptional comfort for both rider and passenger. .

Sleek aerodynamic bodywork gives a quiet, relaxed bubble that extends beyond the rider and passenger. Even fully loaded with luggage you will have plenty of power to spare.

Sometimes overshadowed by more powerful bikes from other manufacturers the Yamaha FJR1300 is a classic example of what Yamaha have always done best. It is a package that is more than the sum of its parts.

It might not be the biggest, or fastest, or most highly specced of the big Grand Tourers, but it will deliver endless miles of smiles for even the most demanding of riders and passengers.

They are equally at home on long highway runs or carving through mountain passes. They are remarkably nimble for such a big bike, and that is where the FJR’s heritage shows through.

Manoeuvrability at both fast and slow speed is as good as many smaller bikes. It feels sure-footed compared to most sportsbikes but agile compared to most tourers. You really do get the best of both worlds with the Yamaha FJR1300.

Finally we have what I consider to be the best all round pillion motorcycle you can buy, and it also happens to be one of the cheapest bikes on today’s list. You know value for money always ranks highly for me, so I guess it is no surprise my winner is a value for money bike.

Yamaha XTZ1200 Super Tenere

The Yamaha XTZ1200 Super Tenere is probably one of the most underrated of all the big ADV bikes. It wasn’t the fastest or best off road or the best handling, but that big vertical twin with a shaft final drive will go on forever if treated well.

The whole bike is over engineered, and the engine was designed for this bike alone. It wasn’t an engine designed for a different bike and then “made to fit”. The low end grunt is phenomenal and roll on power is smooth as silk.

The Yamaha’s flaw was its weight, It was almost 30Kg heavier than the R1200GS of its day and that is a lot. On the road, you would never believe it was that heavy, the bike just doesn’t feel big on the move at all, but having to pick it up on a muddy trail is another thing entirely. Even walking it around in the garage is a pain in the backside.

On highways and fast mountain roads it is a joy to ride, and even at low speeds it is stable and balanced. The seat is made for long days and is a comfortable place for both rider and passenger. They are as reliable as anything on the road too. They have very few flaws and there is something very “complete” about the design.

First released in 2010, the design remained almost unchanged for the next 9 years and was only dropped in 2019. That is a long run in these times of people always chasing the next big thing, and is testimony to the practicality of these bikes. They are strong, comfortable and reliable, which is a powerful combination.

It is a shame they didn’t sell better. If they had, we would have a better choice now on the 2nd hand market. They hold their price well and are now beginning to be appreciated more, but you get a lot of bike for your money with the Yamaha XTZ1200 Super Tenere.

I will finish off today with a few honorary mentions

If you’re a fan of Harley-Davidson, the Road Glide is a great choice for 2 up comfort. With its iconic style and comfortable seating position, this motorcycle allows you and your passenger to enjoy the open road in that particular Harley-Davidson style.

It is a proven design that has just been tweaked gradually over the years. If you like the Milwaukee style then this is a bike to consider.

If you prefer a sportier and technology filled ride, the Ducati Multistrada V2 could be what you’re looking for. With a powerful engine and agile handling, this motorcycle guarantees an adrenaline-pumping ride for both the rider and pillion.

It may not have the outright power of the newer V4, but the big V Twin has plenty of grunt and more power than you will ever need. The technology package is top notch too. It is a bike filled with high end components so should last well. It has an adventure bike style riding position, but it will always feel most at home on the roads.

Lastly, we have the inimitable Suzuki V-Strom, in 650, 1000 and the latest 1050 forms, and no I’m not including the Pstrom 800. Now the Vstrom has featured in many of my videos and You know my 15 years of ownership are bound to make me a little biased. I go into the 650 in detail here.

They are all reliable and versatile adventure bikes and those V twin engines are sublime. With a comfortable seating position, bombproof reliability and excellent performance, they will provide you and your passenger with endless smiles and countless hours of fun. They are the perfect steed for most adventures.

Well I’m going to wrap it up there for today. There are many more great bikes that will take 2 of you off on great adventures. No list could be definitive but I have tried to be as objective as I can, and with over 40 years of riding, I do have just a little experience.

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