Motorcycles are fun. There is such an incredibly wide range of brands, styles, classes, and purposes spread across the market to the point where there is literally a certain kind of motorcycle for everyone. Bikers also come in a diverse lineup of individuals from different backgrounds, ages, and races, all with their own set of personal styles and needs from a motorcycle.
It just so happens that the one particular class that happens to meet those needs also happens to be one of the most popular in the world… baggers. These touring motorcycles are everywhere: bars, highways, charity rides, motorcycle festivals, and they take up considerable real estate in any motorcycle dealership. Sport bike and cruiser riders may ask themselves “What’s the deal?” The deal is whether they are aware of it or not, a bagger is every long-term biker’s ideal motorcycle.
1 Baggers Are The Most Comfortable
Action shot of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
If you want to conduct a little experiment, ride a sport bike and a bagger non-stop for an hour. When you dismount from a bagger, you will feel noticeably different when compared to the sport bike. Your body is a little more relaxed and less tense, and you could frankly spend a few more hours on it if you wanted to. That is because with baggers, comfort is a top priority.
Baggers are built on large, sturdy frames designed to carry up to two people for long rides. Naturally, with this intent in mind, riders are going to want to be comfortable the entire time. Not to mention that the large selection of saddles available range from sturdy foam, to semi liquid gel pads, to even seats with built-in heaters for those cooler nights. Then there is the relaxed seating position that baggers have their owners ride in, mounting their feet forward on floorboards, and stock mini-ape handlebars that encourage better back posture instead of having them slouched over.
2 Baggers Are More Maneuverable Than They Look
Black Metallic 2023 Indian Challenger cruising on the highway
At first glance, baggers appear heavy, bulky, and slow. Nothing like the sport bikes doing donuts, wheelies, and swerving in and out of traffic cones. While baggers are indeed larger and heavier than sport bikes, they are not as clumsy and oafish as one might assume. Motorcycles in general need to be able to weave away from obstacles at a moment’s notice, and every bike in the bagger class is no exception.
Despite their size, baggers are very light on their feet (or wheels), which is a feture that comes in very useful when riding in busy, urban environment. It is thanks to their agility that so many police departments carry baggers as part of their motorcycle units. Because, aside from keeping officers comfortable while having to ride all day, and storing all their equipment, they are also able to pull off some of the most advanced riding maneuvers with complete control and at impressive speeds.
3 Baggers Have Great Infotainment Systems
Press photo of the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
Can you imagine driving to work with the radio in your car on mute? No music, no podcasts, no GPS, absolutely nothing. Unless you’ve got a good memory, some entertaining thoughts, and a good sense of direction, that all sounds pretty scary, right? Thankfully for many stock bagger models, they come equipped with touch-screen infotainment systems that allow riders to listen to their favorite music, play their favorite radio shows, punch in directions to a new destination, check the weather, traffic conditions, and many other essential riding functions.
Many modern infotainment systems come equipped with Bluetooth, allowing riders to sync their motorcycle to their smartphone and helmet (if it is compatible), as well as be able to provide the same user interface as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are also manufacturer-specific apps that also work in-sync with their interface too.
4 Baggers Are Ideal For Passengers
A 2023 Anniversary Edition CVO Road Glide Limited riding on the road
Technically, almost any motorcycle can hold a passenger. If you’re doing short, around-town rides with a passenger, there probably won’t be any big complaints. But there is a clear, noticeable difference between how a passenger feels on a sport bike and how they feel on a bagger. Just like the rider of a touring bike, the passenger gets more seat space, support, and amenities.
On some of the full dressers, the passenger gets a full mini-sofa with speakers, heated seats, and even the controls to take over the radio. The level of comfort passengers receive is at such a high level that some will confess that while on those long, cross-country road trips, they’ve fallen asleep while cruising on the highway. However, if you attempt that same cross-country ride with a passenger while on a sport bike or cruiser, don’t expect them to have the same pleasant demeanor at the end of it.
5 Baggers Can Handle Big Road Trips
Shot of a green 2022 Harley-Davidson Road King Special cruising on the highway
It is pretty obvious why these bikes are named the “Touring” class. Stemming from their high-level of comfort, baggers are the motorcycles of choice if you are going to be out riding for a while. Their touring ability is a culmination of the bike’s frame, engine size, fuel tank size, and overall weight in order to conquer those long stretches of highway for hours on end. They are even more fun when you are traveling in groups.
There is a difference between making your way across the country in a car than on a motorcycle. Sure, you can go with friends, see the sights, stop and check out landmarks, restaurants, and so on. But it can also get a little dull very fast, especially while in a 4-wheeled enclosure. On a touring motorcycle, you get to see all the same spots, all while experiencing a sensory overload with the rumble of the engine, the wind in your face, and a direct connection to the world around you.
6 Baggers Are Perfect For Storage
Shot of a white Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited parked
Now we get to the root of the “Bagger” nickname. It’s simply because all touring motorcycles come with a stock set of… bags. Most come with hard cases averaging between two and three cubic feet of storage, while full dressers add a third storage unit located behind the passenger. For those looking to spend a majority of their time on the highway, these storage bags are essential for carrying extra clothes, gear, camping equipment, etc.
Of course, for the more local rides, they can also be used for other things like carrying groceries. While it is possible to add luggage to smaller bikes too, they may not be on your to-do list until you are faced with a situation where having luggage would be imperative. In other words, it is better to have saddlebags and not need them, rather than need saddlebags and not have them.
7 Baggers Are Loaded With Advanced Technology
Press photo of a 2020 Indian Chieftain
Riding technology is constantly evolving and progressing every day, and it is no surprise to anyone to see baggers be the first ones to come equipped with the latest gadgets. While some features like ABS, cruise control, and a speaker system are pretty standard at this point, other new features like hill-assist, Rider Defensive Reflex Systems (RDRS), and Cornering Drag-Torque Slip Control are just some of the newer options that have become available to the touring class. While some of this technology can be flashy, a decent amount of it is intended for optimal safe riding. So in the event where you ride over an oil slick, or if the system detects that you’ve got a flat tire, the more ready you are to deal with these kinds of obstacles on the road, the better.
8 Baggers Get The Biggest Engines
Harley Davidson Road Glide ST engine detail shot
Who doesn’t love a big engine? They are the very heart of the machine built to last while pumping out pounds of torque. While a majority of bagger owners ride for the comfort, there are many engine upgrades available to those looking to get a little more performance out of their bike. As mentioned above, never underestimate the power of a bagger.
They may be bigger and heavier than most high-performance motorcycles, but that shouldn’t suggest that they can’t bring the smoke either. Because not all riders are the same. Some are more comfortable on the highway at a cruising speed of 65 mph. Then there are others that want that extra hit of adrenaline and kick it into sixth gear, leaving everyone else in their dust.
9 There Are Different Kinds of Baggers
Press photo of the 2023 Harley-Davidson Road King Special
What makes a bagger such a hit among motorcycle enthusiasts is that there are different kinds of baggers to pick from. Some come with different fairing styles like the timeless batwing or the massively popular shark nose. Then there are the simplified models that don’t need a fairing.
All of these coming in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and patterns. With so many different baggers to choose from on the market, riders are granted the opportunity to choose a motorcycle that matches their own personal style. While all baggers are available in black, which never gets old, having the option to personalize your bagger is a nice perk of the touring class.
10 A Bagger Will Be The Last Motorcycle You Buy
Two-up riding on a Billiard Red 2021 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
The motorcycle world is vast and ripe with motorcycles of every shape and riding style. When we start out on our biker journey, normally we gravitate towards sports bikes or cruisers. Mainly because they’re lighter, easier to ride, and affordable. But as we grow older and our riding confidence improves, our needs and desires also change.
In our youth, some of us loved tearing it up on Kawasaki Ninjas and Suzuki Gixxers. But it is very unlikely that anyone would ride a sport bike in the long-term. Because sooner or later, they will have to make the shift to a motorcycle that allows them to be comfortable, expressive, experience with friends, and still be able to ride happily into the sunset.