You’ve probably been in love with the motorcycling world for some time and feel ready to buy your own two-wheeler, becoming part of the biker culture. But how do you know which type of motorcycle meets your requirements the best?
You probably know what a motorcycle looks like, but how do you identify a cruiser from an adventure bike, or an adventure bike from a dirt bike? Identifying the different types isn’t the biggest problem – it’s not knowing the purpose behind each construction and design choice.
Luckily, we’re here to do away with the confusion.
Motorcycle Types Explained
A cruiser is a massive, comfortable motorcycle designed for relaxed riding at moderate speeds. Cruisers are typically slower and heavier than many other types – as the name says, they’re ideal for cruising.
When on a cruiser, the rider will have their feet in the front and be seated either upright or slightly leaning back. The handlebars will usually be higher and wider, and the rider will need to stretch out their arms to hold the bars
Choppers are modified versions of standard cruisers, often with a raked-out fork and smaller fuel tank. A chopper will have higher handlebars than other motorcycles. If this description sounds familiar, it’s because movies like Easy Rider have made this type quite easy to recognize.
Power cruisers fall into the cruiser class but have much more power than typical models. These motorcycles are designed with suspension, ground clearance, and brake upgrades. In addition, power cruisers may come in unique styles that set them apart from the rest of their class.
Bobbers are similar to choppers, but the design focuses even more on cutting down any unnecessary bodywork. This particularly applies to the rear fender that’s often shortened. The result is less mass and more performance.
Adventure motorcycles might remind you of a beefed-up version of the off-road type at first sight. This is true to a certain extent, but an adventure motorcycle is actually more at home on the road. These motorcycles are typically quite tall, heavy, and equipped with massive engines reaching over 1,200 CC.
The weight is the main reason why most riders avoid taking their adventure motorcycles to the dirt. A lighter motorcycle is easier to manipulate on uneven terrain, but the heavy adventure-type machine could cause significant problems in case of a fall. That’s why it’s much wiser to use this motorcycle type for the purpose that fits it the most – comfortable rides on tarmac.
A standard motorcycle is intended for commuting and street rides. They are usually built for fuel efficiency, which is evident in their greater low-RPM torque. The rider’s position on a standard motorcycle is upright with the feet right below the body line.
When talking about standard motorcycles, we’re almost always thinking of the “naked” variant. In fact, naked motorcycles are so common that they don’t represent a subset of the standard type but are synonymous with it. The name derives from the motorcycle’s lack of a windscreen or fairings.
Performance is the name of the game when it comes to sport motorcycles. Their design focuses on acceleration, speed, aerodynamics, braking, and cornering, both on the road and the racetrack. A sport motorcycle isn’t made for longer rides. They are less comfortable, don’t have plenty of storage space, and can gulp up the last drop of fuel before you know it.
You might’ve heard of off-road motorcycles by their alternative name: dirt bikes. Both titles illustrate the main purpose of this motorcycle type – it’s designed for any surface other than the road. To account for the difficult terrain, an off-road motorcycle is, as a rule, lighter and has more flexibility than its road counterparts.
This motorcycle has higher ground clearance and gearing, as well as longer suspension travel. The tires on off-road motorcycles are usually knobby and secured using a rim lock.
An enduro motorcycle is a road-legal variant of the off-road type. Unlike standard dirt bikes, enduros can carry number plates, lights, and horns. These motorcycles are a better fit for particularly long courses that take several days to complete.
Take an enduro, tweak it to be more recreational and less for competitions, and you’ll end up with a dual sport model. These motorcycles aren’t as rugged as off-roads or enduros. They usually have all of the equipment that makes a motorcycle road-legal and feature dual-purpose tires.
Tourers are ideal motorcycles for long journeys. They are equipped with massive fuel tanks, large saddlebag sets, windshields and fairings with large displacement for extra protection from the elements. In essence, a tourer can guarantee a comfortable ride from point A to point B, even if those points are a thousand miles apart.
The rider sits upright or slightly laid back on a tourer. Like everything else with this kind of motorcycle, the position is designed for maximum comfort and a more relaxed journey.
Full-dress tourers have the largest fairings, along with more bodywork than other motorcycles in this class. These models usually have integrated hard luggage and massive displacement.
A full-dress motorcycle will often come with added equipment that might not be common for other motorcycle types. This may include air bags, custom windshields, air compressors, GPS, satellite radio, and a complete stereo system.
Sport tourers are a hybrid between touring and sport motorcycles. They keep the comfort of a tourer but have the enhanced performance of a sport motorcycle. In other words, you get the best of both words.
You can look at an adventure tourer as a touring or dual-sport subset. Adventure tourers have a larger fuel capacity typical of the tourer type and higher ground clearance like dual-sport models. This combination makes the adventure tourer great for long journeys that may take you on and off the road.
Some may see talking about scooters in the context of motorcycle types as a travesty. Scooters have a wildly different development history compared to motorcycles and are often even classified as a different type of vehicle.
However, any talk about motorcycles would be incomplete without mentioning scooters. This is especially true when we look at two-wheelers from the context of a beginner.
Scooters have smaller engines and wheels, enclosed bodywork, and more storage space. Placed beside a massive twin-engine motorcycle, a scooter might look less serious. Yet, some scooters can have engines north of 800 CC and they can represent an ideal tool for learning to ride a motorcycle.
Mopeds started as a motorcycle-bicycle hybrid. This scooter subset typically has a very small engine or even an electric motor. They might not be the powerful machines you’d expect when discussing motorcycles, but mopeds are fuel-efficient and easy to manipulate in traffic.
A classic motorcycle isn’t precisely a motorcycle type. The term refers to older vehicles, usually built before the 1980s. If the motorcycle is even older and goes back to before 1975, it’s usually called vintage.
Many classic motorcycles have a telltale sign: They feature much more chrome than modern models. These machines showcase a love for the history of motorcycling. Sometimes, a relatively newer model can become a classic if it’s held in particularly high regard among riders.
Like classic motorcycles, electric models are a bit of a cheat on our side. An electric motorcycle can fall into most other categories and doesn’t constitute a class of its own. However, there are many differences between fueled and electric motorcycles that make this type stand out.
While there aren’t many models of electric motorcycles (yet!), they’re getting more popular by the year. Besides the obvious difference in how they generate power, these motorcycles are often equipped with high-tech devices and accessories. Due to battery capacity, they aren’t as well-suited for longer journeys.
Which Motorcycle Type Is Best for Beginners
When you decide to buy your first motorcycle, you’ll need to consider what you’ll use it for.
Going with a smaller cruiser motorcycle, something around 600cc will always be a good decision. These motorcycles are great for general riding purposes and are a middle ground between comfort, performance, and safety.
However, choosing a scooter for new or younger riders allows them to build their skillset while minimizing the risks. Scooters are often the most cost-effective options for people who are uncertain if they are going to like riding. If they do enjoy riding, they can move up to a bike that suits their riding needs better based upon their individual riding experiences.
Finally, if you’re interested in going off the road, a dirt bike would be a good option. These are often the type of motorcycle that gets young people to fall in love with motorcycles.
We have all had to learn something new at some point and know how many mistakes are made due to lack of experience and understanding. But give us a few months of doing it and many actions become automatic. Riding a motorcycle has more risks than riding a bicycle due to the speeds they can go, and more risks than a car, which encapsulates the driver and passengers in a protective cage. So, for new riders, protective motorcycle gear is extremely important.
A helmet, jacket, boots, gloves, motorcycle pants, and eyewear are recommended to own before you ride a motorcycle. EagleLeather.com has a great selection for all riders and the expertise to make sure you get the right gear to ride protected, in comfort, and with style.
As always, if we missed anything, comment below.