Built to cross continents with speed, flair and comfort. Most are big and heavy with fully enclosed bodywork and built-in luggage. Most also use a maintenance-free shaft drive to the back wheel instead of a chain and most will carry two people in comfort for a couple of hundred miles on a tank of fuel.
Covering long distances in comfort for both rider and passenger, sitting all day at motorway speeds while returning good mpg, being stable at high speeds when laden with luggage and a passenger. Tourers make good commuters too, because they are also usually easy to control at low speeds.
Not so good for:
High speed sports bike thrills (although most of the latest ones are more capable than you’d think), fast cornering on tight, twisty B-roads. Can be cumbersome to move around with the engine off because they are heavy and top heavy. U-turns on gravel need practice and confidence.
For new riders we’d recommend Honda’s NT700V Deauville or BMW’s F800ST which are easy enough to manage while you’re building confidence. Most proper tourers are big bikes and need confidence to manhandle, but many non-sports bikes make half decent tourers too. Honda’s ST1100/1300 Pan Europeans are superb bikes. Yamaha’s FJR1300 is worth a look too, as are most BMWs. Honda’s enormous Gold Wing is the ultimate tourer for experienced riders.