The touring rider’s needs are significantly different from the casual motorcyclist’s. Riders looking for top-tier touring gear are likely to be wearing the gear for hours on end, in a variety of weather conditions, and they need to be able to count on it, every time.
Top touring gear 2020
Touring demands versatile, comfortable, and high-performing gear that does far more than just the basics. Touring gear sees thousands of miles of use and if any part of the tourer’s gear fails, it could jeopardize a whole trip. At RevZilla, we take touring gear as seriously as you do, because we tour, too! And now, we’ve assembled our choices for the best short-haul and long-haul touring gear of 2020 in one place. Let’s get started.
Short-haul touring? Does such a thing really exist? We think so. The short-haul riders are heading out for way more than a joyride, just not a week-plus tour. They’re keeping brisk paces and covering lots of ground to get to their destinations. Riders with long commutes might also fit the short-haul persona. Lots of riding, varied weather, and traveling on the lighter side of touring when it comes to luggage. Their needs are similar to the riders taking transcontinental tours, where quality and protection are paramount, but the short-haulers favor sportier gear for faster burns down the highway.
|Helmet||HJC RPHA 70 ST||$360-$374||
|Jacket||REV’IT! Tornado 3||$350||
|Pants||REV’IT! Tornado 3||$320||
|Gloves||REAX Ridge WP||$129||
|Boots||TCX Explorer 4 GTX||$220||
The HJC RPHA 70 ST was specifically designed to blend touring and sport-touring. It’s a light helmet at just three pounds, six ounces in a medium… including the internal sunshield! Huge props to HJC for delivering a helmet in this segment at that weight.
That lightness is made possible with HJC’s advanced P.I.M. Plus (Premium Integrated Matrix Plus) shell. It marries carbon fiber and carbon-glass hybrid fabric for exceptional protection and strength. Touring riders spend hours in the saddle, and a lightweight helmet makes a difference. The RPHA 70 ST’s aerodynamics are very effective at reducing fatigue in the rider’s neck. Combined with that P.I.M. Plus shell, this helmet means more miles.
We especially liked this helmet’s increased ventilation over previous versions. The top vents and exhaust flow plenty of air on warm tours. Sweat is also managed by HJC’s Multicool interior, which uses an anti-bacterial fabric to wick moisture away. The overall package is sporty without straying too close to an uncompromising race helmet. At $360, this is our undisputed choice for short-haul touring in 2020.
Nitpicks: If anything, we’d like to see a little more airflow from the chin vent. The top vents are the real heroes when the sun’s beating down.
We recommend the REV'IT! Tornado 3 jacket and pants for the short-haul rider. REV’IT!’s refinement of the Tornado platform has resulted in an adaptable combo that’s an absolute powerhouse on the road. The Tornado jacket and pants are built with different grades of REV’IT!’s PWR|shell material. The result is a seriously tough chassis that doesn’t flinch when the weather changes. The only thing it won’t tackle is the cold of winter.
That said, the jacket and pants both feature waterproof thermal liners. Let the Tornado’s mesh panels flow air in the heat, then add the liners when temperatures drop. Seeflex armor is along for the ride at the shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips. Zip the Tornado pants and jacket together, and you’re looking at a tenacious three-season touring suit that can handle your short tours, your big commutes, and your weekend adventures.
Nitpicks: A pocket for a back protector accepts one of REV’IT!’s back protectors, which you’ll have to purchase separately. We know most manufacturers expect riders to bring their own back protectors these days. It just seems strange to have excellent armor everywhere but the spine.
A tourer’s gloves are crucial to a successful trip, especially when foul weather could be involved. That’s why we recommend the REAX Ridge WP gloves. There are other, fancier touring gloves on the market (more on those later), but for the short-haul rider, the Ridge gloves check all the boxes without breaking the bank.
The Ridge gloves mix cowhide, goat leather, and textile to provide great protection, mobility, and feel. A big win for the Ridge gloves is the Superfabric at the palms. Superfabric means small ceramic elements are embedded in the glove to slide in the event of a street crash. It’s usually reserved for premium gear. Waterproofing is made possible by the McFit bonded liner, which locks out the elements while permitting breathability for your hands. Other tour-friendly features include touchscreen-capable fingertips and subtle reflectivity.
Nitpicks: The Ridge gloves do almost everything you’d want from a $120 pair of waterproof touring gloves. For cool to cold weather riding, you’ll want glove liners, heated grips, or both.
For the warm-weather tourer who probably won’t see rain, we’d also recommend REAX’s Castor Perforated gloves. They offer similar protection to the Ridge gloves, with the addition of perforation for more airflow. You do lose the waterproofing, though.
For 2020, TCX’s lauded EVO touring boots have been replaced by the Explorer 4, and they’re our top pick for short-haul riders. The Explorer 4’s microfiber panels make for light, abrasion-resistant boots, with all the right reinforcements at the ankles, shins, toes, and heels. A shift pad prevents excessive wear to the top of the boot as you stir the gearbox. These boots aren’t overly technical or complicated — perfect for the no-nonsense tourer.
What really pushes the Explorer 4 into the top spot is their use of Gore-Tex, the gold standard for waterproof gear. As tourers know, Gore-Tex doesn’t just excel in keeping rain out. TCX integrated large mesh panels on the sides of the boots help evacuate moisture as it leaves the membrane, too.
We’re always glad to see Gore-Tex in a boot like this, and for $219, short-haul tourers owe it to themselves to try the Explorer 4.
Nitpick: The Explorer 4 boots feel more like an update to the EVOs, not a redesign. We’d like to see the Explorer 4 take on some of TCX’s new design language.
The long-haul rider is out on the road for longer than anyone: at least a few days, out to several weeks or even a month. The ride is the vacation. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable for hours and miles on end, so these riders demand gear that performs. The good news? After all those miles, the best gear is easy to spot. Here are our picks for the true long-haul tourer.
|Helmet||Schuberth C4 Pro Carbon||$899||
|Jacket||Dainese Tonale D-Dry||$570||
|Pants||Dainese Tonal D-Dry||$450||
|Gloves||Held Air N Dry||$250-$275||
|Boots||TCX Clima Surround GTX||$300||
|Airbag vest||Dainese Smart Jacket||$700||
Schuberth built its legacy on quiet, tech-forward helmets, and the C4 Pro Carbon is the pinnacle of their achievement for touring. This 100 percent carbon fiber beauty weighs 3.91 pounds, making it one of the lightest modular helmets available. The shell’s profile has been aerodynamically tuned to make the helmet feel even lighter than it actually is. Over a full tour, that translates to less fatigue and a more enjoyable journey.
The C4 Pro Carbon’s greatness keeps building from there. Its ventilation channels are considerably more complex than the competition’s, resulting in a very effective airflow pattern for superior rider comfort. Deploy the internal sun shield with a single touch, and revel in the Coolmax comfort lining.
Adding a Bluetooth communicator to the C4 Pro Carbon could not be easier. The helmet is already prewired with a microphone, speakers, and antenna. Just plug in an SC1 comms system, and you’re all set. (Communicator sold separately.)
There’s no denying that the $899 C4 Pro Carbon is expensive. We see it this way: Helmets expire because of age, not mileage. A long-haul touring rider will spend far more miles in their helmets than just about anyone else. That more than justifies having the best.
Nitpicks: The C4 Pro Carbon’s awesome shell actually has a slight drawback. Bluetooth communicator range may be shortened by the carbon shell. Turns out, Bluetooth signals struggle a bit to pass through carbon weave and resin.
Dainese is this year’s winner for the best long-haul touring jacket and pants, with their Tonale D-Dry suit. If you aren’t familiar with D-Dry, it’s Dainese’s proprietary waterproof coating. The Tonale features a variant called D-Dry XT, which allows for waterproofing on four-way stretch material. Waterproof and comfortable? It’s a tourer’s dream.
A removable inner thermal jacket allows the Tonale jacket and pants to be worn year-round. At the impact areas, you’ll find a Dainese-exclusive material called D-Stone, which performs like leather in slide abrasion tests. CE-rated armor sits at the shoulders, elbows, and knees. (Pockets are available for chest and back armor, sold separately.) As far as protection goes, the Tonale suit and pants are totally up to the task of mega miles.
Living with the Tonale jacket and pants revealed them to be thoughtfully designed touring companions. We especially liked the Tonale’s cargo pocket layout, adjustability, and ventilation. If there’s a jacket and pants combo we’d take across the country and back, it’s the Tonale.
For as long as motorcyclists have needed gloves, there’s been a little problem. A glove can either be waterproof, or it can have airflow, but it can’t do both. Seal out the water, and you seal out the air. Poke holes in the glove for airflow, and the water comes in, too. What’s a glove maker to do?
Get innovative, Held decided, and the Air N Dry gloves were the result. Held’s secret is a two-chamber design that separates breathability and waterproofing. Air can reach the hand through the palm side, while the back of the hand shrugs off soggy weather. Gore-Tex makes sure moisture can leave, but water can’t enter.
The gloves’ main construction is kangaroo leather and DuPont Cordura for slide resistance and excellent dexterity. Additional elastication improves feel. Overall, the innovative Air N Dry gloves deliver long-haul comfort with tourers in mind.
Nitpicks: After its release years ago, this glove became legend among touring riders. As the adage goes, don’t fix what isn’t broken, and that might be Held’s strategy. We know they can take this glove to the next level. Let’s see an Air N Dry 2.0!
If you want a more traditional option that’s waterproof and breathable, Rukka’s Imatra 2.0 gloves are full leather with Gore-Tex waterproofing throughout. They use Outlast to manage the climate inside the gloves, rather than Held’s dual-chamber design.
For the touring rider who wants all the comfort that boot tech can muster, the clear choice is TCX’s new Clima Surround GTX. If you’ve struggled with sweaty feet in riding boots, especially on a tour, these boots are your best bet for ventilation. Channels in the footbed allow air to reach a Gore-Tex membrane inside. Moisture from your feet can escape the boot, which boosts rider comfort on long rides. The Surround system even landed TCX a mention in one of Common Tread’s “Best Advancements in Motorcycle Gear” articles.
The Clima Surround GTX boots aren’t a one-trick pony, however. We also liked their use of mesh and stretch materials throughout. Long-haul riders will appreciate that comfort over the course of a tour. And for the price, the TCX Clima Surround boots are simply peerless.
Nitpicks: A little reflectivity would be nice for those inevitable late-night miles a long tour can demand.
The Airwire Surround GTX is also available for a few bucks less. Still featuring the Surround footbed and the Gore Tex waterproofing, these boots ditch a few features and flow a little less air.
Another entry from a Best Advancements article is Dainese’s revolutionary Smart Jacket. In that article, CT’s Andy Greaser wrote, “What sets the Smart Jacket apart is its price point, its universal fit to any riding gear, and its advanced electronics, all in one package from a major player.” That still holds true in 2020. Alpinestars has joined the fray with their Tech Air 5 system, also impressive, and yet the Dainese is still our choice for the long-haul rider. The Smart Jacket is slimmer and less intrusive under your gear. Even though the Alpinestars vest has more coverage, the low-profile Dainese airbag vest is our choice for a long tour.
Again, the Smart Jacket will fit with any riding gear. Seven on-board sensors monitor the rider 1,000 times per second for an immediate reaction to any anomaly. It can differentiate low-sides, high-sides and collisions, even when stopped. We loved that no connection to the bike was needed, and the 26 hours of battery life meant a full day’s ride was possible without stopping to recharge.
Airbag technology is just too affordable to ignore in 2020. Tourers, especially those riding solo, should seriously consider the latest airbag technology for their next trip. Tetherless technology has completely changed the game.
Nitpicks: Dainese makes a big deal about how the Smart Jacket can be worn on top of whatever gear you’re wearing. While true, the Smart Jacket does not provide any abrasion resistance. A slide could damage your airbag. We recommend wearing it under your jacket for this reason.
Buying the best touring gear... for you!
Long-distance riders, we get it. There’s no room for compromise when you’re on tour. Our riders and gear experts carefully reviewed the best of what’s on the market today, and we only recommend the products that can truly hang with the best out there. So whether you’re escaping for the weekend, or going to see what the other coast looks like, we’re confident that our touring gear choices for 2020 will be the best companions for the ride ahead.