The Different Types of Motorcycles

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Over the past couple of centuries, manufacturers and mechanics have evolved basic concepts of the motorcycle into a multitude of styles. Understanding the different motorcycle types helps potential buyers achieve a perfect purchase the first time.

Vintage Bikes

Bobbers

Yamaha XS650 Bobber

Photo by Brett Jordan

The Yamaha XS650 is the most common Bobber on the market.

Many different types of bikes can be stripped down to the Bobber style. For instance the Honda CB Series is traditionally known on the market as Naked, however a huge amount of CB Series motorcycles have been converted in to the Bobber style.

Bobbers are the most classic style of motorcycles. In order for a motorcycle to be a genuine Bobber, some modifications must be made. Bobber mechanics focus on the external look, not on engine performance. Bobbers are urban style bikes meant to be shown off in a public setting re-embracing popular vintage concepts which disappeared after the end of the World Wars.

Bobbers strip motorcycles down to their most essential parts. Manufacturing companies often only supply the bare essentials, yet mechanics take essentiality to the next level.

Bobbers have modified seats, lights, fenders, forks, tires, exhausts, paint jobs and handlebars. A fender can be modified by removing the rear frame rail, cutting off sections of the front and rear fender. Lights can be modified by converting stock lights for found vintage lights. Bobbers are not genuine if new parts are added onto the motorcycle for reasons of speed or performance.

In the Bobbing community, participators distinguish different levels of Bobber authenticity. Some argue parts added with an age less than ten years older than the model year are not genuine Bobbers. Certain handlebars take away from the authenticity of Bobbers. Sissy bars are not implemented on Bobbers.

Bobbers are best suited for riders who like riding vintage equipment in the city or suburban areas.

Pros

  • Agility
  • Aesthetic
  • Style
  • Specialization

Cons

  • Comfort
  • Modernity and Technology
  • Practicality
  • Speed
  • Performance

Sport Bikes

Standard

The Suzuki SV650 Series and the Triumph Bonneville are some of the more popular bikes in the Standard style.

Standard and Naked are synonymous terms describing a type of bike that does not include fairings or windshields. Standard motorcycles fail to hide the engine with coverings. Covers are only placed where the rider rests their body.

Naked motorcycles are designed for the rider to sit in the upright position. This is one reason why the Standard motorcycle has a large portion of the engine exposed compared to Sport bikes in which the rider lays on a large across the top of the motorcycle. A designer’s choice to include less fairings makes long distance commutes less comfortable.

Standard motorcycles are basically a modern version of the Bobber.

Pros

  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Acceleration

Cons

  • Comfort
  • Protection

Sport

Kawasaki Ninja 650 Sport Bike

Photo by arlo_

The Kawasaki Ninja 650 Series is one of the most popular bikes in the Sporting style.

Sport motorcycles have an aggressive design. Riders lean over the top of the engine as a means to protect themselves from wind and debris. Leaning over the engine also helps riders become aerodynamic and take advantage of the small windshields offered by manufacturers.

These bikes are the flashiest styles on the market and also the most dangerous. The manner in which the handlebars, foot pegs, shifters and brakes are set up around the engine demands an aggressive stance from riders. All parts of the bike encourage riders to feel comfortable only when traveling forward at moderate or high speeds.

Pros

  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Acceleration

Cons

  • Comfort
  • Seating
  • Recreational travel

Motocross

Motocross Bike

Photo by Pierce Martin

The Yamaha YZ450 Series is the most popular dirt bike on the market.

Dirt bikes are often smaller than other types of motorcycles because they are designed specifically for off-road use. Handling, agility and acceleration are a dirt bikes specialty. Speed is not important because dirt trails rarely have long straight paths similar to a highway or freeway. This is the reason why 450cc is the most common dirt bike engine size.

Motocross bikes must endure mud and rocks flying onto the engine and covers. Inexpensive plastic covers are used instead of expensive shiny chrome pieces seen on most other street savvy models. Professional dirt bikes are specialized for closed course competitions with sharp turns and multiple jumps.

All dirt bikes are not road legal because they lack blinkers and headlights.

Pros

  • Acceleration
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Handling
  • Durability
  • Comfort

Cons

  • Speed
  • Seating
  • Recreational travel
  • Commuting

Dual-Sport

Kawasaki KLX 250 Dual Sport Motorcycle

Photo by Jon Purdy

The Kawasaki KLX is one of the most common Dual-Sport motorcycle model currently on the market.

Dual-Sport motorcycles are often heavier than motocross bikes. They are able to keep up with the flow of traffic on highways and can also ride on the dirt trails around the outskirts of any city.

Basically, Dual-Sports are made for dirt trails and can be ridden to garages in downtown areas without illegal activity.

Dual-Sports are equipped with a license plate, lights, mirrors, blinkers and speedometers. Dual-Sport motorcycles are propped higher up on the forks than Cruisers and Touring motorcycles because of their off-road nature. They also demand riders to lean forward slightly onto the handlebars. Dual-Sports are smaller than Adventure types.

Pros

  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Versatility
  • Size
  • Acceleration

Cons

  • Comfort
  • Specialization
  • Seating

Road Trip Bikes

Adventure

BMW F800GS Adventure Bike

Photo by Stijn Spijker

The BMW 800 GS is the most common Adventure motorcycle on the market.

Adventure type motorcycles are similar to Dual-Sport, except that Adventures specialize in light off-roading and long distance traveling. Adventure motorcycles are larger than Dual-Sports.

Pros

  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Versatility

Cons

  • Comfort
  • Specialization
  • Seating
  • Size

Cruiser

Cruiser motorcycles have a laid back design compared to Sport machines. Riders are often seen sitting up straight with raised handlebars and foot pegs. The feet and hands of a Cruiser are positioned away from the frame.

Foot peg style differentiates between the Cruiser, Dual Sport and Sport bike.

Cruisers often have the pegs six inches forward. Sport motorcycles have pegs six inches back.

Sport motorcycles allow riders to stand up on the bike in order to have suspension systems take the impact of the potholes. Cruisers are often designed to require riders to take the holes because it is harder to stand up on the motorcycle quickly.

Cruisers are made strictly for the road.

Pros

  • Comfort
  • Seating

Cons

  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Size
  • Acceleration
  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Handling

Touring

Honda Goldwing Touring Motorbike

Photo by Pete Johnson

The Honda Goldwing is one of the most popular motorcycles in the Touring style.

Touring motorcycles have better handling than their Cruiser cousins. They are always on the larger side of the weight class and for that reason are specialized in long distances on the highway. Almost all Touring motorcycles offer impressive passenger seating.

Pros

  • Comfortable seating
  • More than one passenger
  • Long distance
  • Performance
  • Handling

Cons

  • Gas mileage
  • Speed
  • Size

Scooter

Aprilia Scooter

Photo by Stephan Ridgway

Popular scooters are the Aprilia SRV 850 and the Gilera GP 800.

The companies sound foreign because professional scooters are not a common vehicle in the United States.

Scooters have an internal engine philosophy. Most if not all of the engine is completely covered by metal guards. Scooters have smaller wheels than motorcycles and a cutaway for riders to place their legs together in the sitting position. Scooters do not have to switch gears.

Engines sizes between 40 to 70cc often refer to Mopeds. Engine sizes between 70cc to 95cc often refer to mini-bikes. Professional scooters have an engine range from 100 to 850cc. Scooters can be used casually and in races.

Pros

  • Comfortable seating
  • Long distance
  • Automatic shifting
  • Gas mileage
  • Versatility

Cons

  • Aesthetic
  • Speed


Knowing these nine types of motorcycles clears up a lot of confusion buyers may have when visiting a local dealership. Good luck and happy shopping!

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