A motorcycle is for the untrained eye a simple two wheeled machine that does nothing special. And they’re all the same, right? Well, not quite.
Riding a motorcycle is a passion, an expensive hobby that only a few people dare to try, because it’s more often than not associated with danger.
That might be true in part, but not because of the motorcycle itself, which is a very interesting mechanical marvel, to say the least. If you understand it, you won’t be afraid of it anymore. Motorcycling is a dangerous activity mostly due to other people, but that’s a different story.
Some people even consider motorcycles as toys. They might not be particularly useful, but they’re hell of a lot of fun to drive. You ride a motorcycle not because you need to get somewhere, you ride it because you strive for that journey without the need to arrive anywhere.
These days, motorcycles are some of the best toys most of us have access to, but like with everything in recent years, there are many types of motorcycles to choose from and getting the one that fits you and your personality is a little harder, especially when you know almost nothing about them.
For those of you who dread doing that research, we’ve got you covered. We’ve done it already and we’re here to explain the different types of motorcycles you can find on the market today.
So, let’s dive into the matter:
First is the minibike. Which, as the name says, it’s a miniature bike, with a low cc, usually around 125-250, which are, contrary to what you might believe when seeing one, quite capable machines.
It’s true, if you’re six foot something, you’ll look comic riding one, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun.
They’re perfect for city traffic, have low costs, both for acquiring and maintenance, and the fuel consumption is something others only dream of. Probably the most popular minibikes in recent years are the Honda Monkey and the Honda Grom, which both look adorable.
On the downside, you won’t have too much power available, you will feel cramped on one and you won’t have much visibility due to their low height. But you wouldn’t buy one for those reasons anyway, so who cares?
Many argue that the scooter isn’t a real motorcycle and they may be right. It’s a different, it handles a little bit different, but it’s still a very efficient two wheeled machine, especially around town, which is the reason they’re so popular all over the world.
They are small in size and lightweight, cheap to operate and maintain, and very easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Just watch a little bit of Indian traffic on YouTube and you’ll get the point.
The engines come in various sizes, ranging from 50 cc to 500 cc, which is great for those looking for a more capable machine than just going grocery shopping with it. They’re not very masculine, but they do the job they’re intended to do. And they do it well, fast and cheap.
The scrambler is a type of motorcycle that has its roots somewhere in the 1920s in England, when motorcycle types were only the standard and… well that was it. There weren’t many options to choose from and there were no purpose built off-road machines like we have today.
Because of that, riders who wanted more from their machines started customizing them to their liking. Off-road enthusiasts would often called their custom bikes scramblers, because they would be able to take on various obstacles and terrains to get where they wanted to go.
Off-road races became popular, so the scrambler was born. Fast forward to today, the scrambler motorcycle is making a comeback, not because there weren’t any off-road ready machines, but because of their vintage aesthetic.
12. Café Racer
The café racer has a similar history to that of the scrambler, but instead of off-road races, they were usually used in races from café to café, which is where they got their name from.
They started from the same standard motorcycles sometime in 1960s London, and were modified by their owners to fit the needs of speed and handling for quick rides over short distances between popular cafés on the city streets.
Today, they’re very popular for the same reason scramblers are: the vintage aesthetic.
In truth, both the scrambler and the café racer are more a subculture of motorcycling in general than motorcycle types, as they can be fit into the standard or the naked type we’ll discuss below.
11. Supermoto / Supermotard
Though a rare breed due to their lack of practicality, expensive maintenance and high price, the supermoto or supermotard is a type of motorcycles used primarily in supermoto races on technical karting tracks.
In its essence, the supermoto is a dirt bike with high performance sportbike tires and brakes. A combination of motocross and standard, therefore “motard”.
The combination makes them super agile on the street, very nimble, with excellent performance, but at the same time becoming uncomfortable for long distance / touring riding.
They’re super fun to ride, easy to wheelie and not very appreciated by cops. While there are brands that offer supermotos right from the factory, most guys love to take their dirt bikes and modify them, which is part of the fun.
10. Motocross / Dirt Bike
The Motocross, aka Dirt Bike, is that super capable off-road machine that’s built solely for that, thus lacking the headlights, taillights, mirrors and turn signals that would make them street-legal.
On the street, you’re often seeing them in the back of trucks or trailers. Since they are built specially for the track, they’re made to be fast and light, with hard suspensions and short gear ratios.
Dirt bikes require serious maintenance, with oil change every 20 moto hours, piston change every 100 moto hours, and so on, which makes them super expensive to own. Their advantages on the dirt track makes them super uncomfortable anywhere else, especially on asphalt roads.
The Enduro bikes get their name from the endurance races they’re mainly used in, races that test the rider’s both physical and mental resistance over heavy off-road terrain, scattered with various obstacles like fallen trunks, stones and boulders, water crossings, steep slopes and downhills, jumps and more.
This type of bike is of course built to meet the requirements for this kind of terrain, so you’re looking at a tall, lightweight and powerful bike with a high horsepower to weight ratio.
Most popular engine capacities for this type of motorcycles are between 250cc and 450cc, but you can find 125cc as well, which are better for beginners. They are tuned for more torque at low revs and are usually easier to maintain than the dirt bikes. Also, the suspension is softer for the Enduro and they get more gears, up to 5 or 6 as compared to the motocross.
8. Dual Sport
Some of the most popular bikes out there are dual sports, and that’s because they are capable of just about anything, as long as you don’t go to extremes. They’re good both on-road and off-road, can easily eat up miles on the highway and then get through some difficult terrain off the beaten path.
They make for good commuters and provide plenty of fun out in the wild as well. A dual sport motorcycle is as close as you can get to a dirt or enduro bike while staying street legal and providing more comfort for long periods of riding on the asphalt.
On the other hand, they are heavier, they lose some off-road abilities, but are in general more reliable and a lot more easier to maintain, which is why they’re extremely popular with riders who venture around the world or on trips to far away places, no matter the surface of the road.
7. Adventure Touring (ADV)
An evolution of the dual sport bike is the more recent adventure touring class, or ADV. While the dual sport shines off-road and has on-road capabilities, the adventure motorcycle shines when it comes to the comfort of riding on-road for long periods of time while having very good off-road capabilities as well.
As their name suggests, they were designed for adventures. These bikes are tall, sturdy, rugged, often coming with crash-bars for protection, good suspension, luggage racks and tires that combine the best of both worlds, on and off-road.
The downside is that they are a lot more heavy than most other motorcycles. When it comes to looks, they’re a combination of the touring motorcycle and an off-road one. Probably one of the most iconic adventure motorcycle in the world right now is the BMW R1250 GS Adventure, which is ubiquitous in adventure pics around the world and legendary for its riding comfort and tech.
6. Sport Tourer
The Sport Tourer is another great combination of two other types of motorcycles, the sport and the tourer. It’s like the adventure bike, but only for the road, combining the sportiness and performance of a sportbike with the comfort and luggage carrying options of a classic tourer.
While the adventure is a tourer motorcycle that leans toward off-roading, the sport tourer leans towards speed and fun on the road. They feature tighter fairings and aggressive performance, but their engines are tuned to provide a softer and more tolerable power suitable for long distance riding.
The looks are similar to a sportbike, but the riding position is a lot more comfortable and they benefit from larger windshields and the convenience of integrated panniers.
5. Touring (Dresser)
Touring motorcycles, also called Dressers, are some of the largest bikes you’ve probably seen on the road, but that comes with the best creature comforts you could hope for on a motorcycle.
They often feature a relaxed riding position with rear-set handlebars, forward-set foot pegs, large front fairings and windscreen for amazing wind protection, huge comfortable seats for both the rider and the passenger, plus luxuries such as heated seats and handlebars, satellite radio and GPS navigation, radio, Apple CarPlay, and plenty of cargo space in integrated panniers.
On the downside, they’re usually super expensive, which is probably the main reason you don’t see many young people riding these. Some of the best examples of touring motorcycles are the Honda Gold Wing and the Harley Davidson Electra Glide.
If you value good looks and pleasurable weekend trips, look no further than the superb unmistakable old-school silhouette of a cruiser. Made popular in the United States by motorcyle brands such as Harley Davidson, Indian or Excelsior, the cruiser has rapidly become one of the most iconic type of motorcycle in the world.
They’re known for their riding comfort with high handlebars, low seat and a that classic laid-back riding position.
These bikes don’t require a lot of power, as they’re usually taken on slower rides around town or an easy weekend road trip. Japanese brands like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki all offer various options for cruisers.
The sportbike is probably what most people think of when they think that motorcycles are dangerous, and for good reason. Initially built for the racetrack, the sportbike has made its way to the street while still maintaining some of that raw power and aggressive allure that made it popular in motorcycle grand prix races.
They are powerful, fast, agile and very good looking. Engine sizes vary a lot, from small 125cc to over 1,000cc, with the higher end models not being recommended to beginners due to their very high horsepower and torque numbers, which can easily get out of control if the rider doesn’t posses the necessary skill.
They’re also the most uncomfortable of all the two wheeled machines, with small seats and aggressive riding position.
The Chopper is one of the most iconic and popular motorcycle type around. Like its cousin, the cruiser, it was made popular in the United States sometime in the 1950s, and appeared in many movies and TV shows. Think Easy Rider, if nothing else comes to mind.
A symbol of freedom and masculinity, often associated with biker gangs, the chopper is built from an original stock motorcycle by “chopping” it, which is where it got its name from.
Iconic for this type of motorcycle are the modified frame and longer forks. The brand with which choppers are now associated with is of course Harley Davidson. Thanks to them, the chopper has become a symbol of the American man on the road.
They are often customized to give them a unique and personal style.
1. Standard / Naked
The standard, or the naked motorcycle, is one of the most common motorcycles you’ll see on the road. They’re so popular due to their ergonomics, which makes them easy to ride for most people.
The riding position is comfortable, fairly upright, seat height is good for most people, even shorter riders, thus making them more accessible. They’re dubbed streetfighters for their agility on the city streets and come with minimal fairing and no windscreens.
They are highly versatile and powerful and make for great two wheeled options in high traffic areas. But don’t think it’s the perfect motorcycle, as the lack of wind protection makes them uncomfortable at high speeds and the lack of luggage options makes them carrying stuff for long distances a tricky thing.
These are the main types of motorcycles you’ll find around. Sure, they can be broken down into more types and variants, but more often than not you’ll hear these names.