So, you’ve made the decision to hop into a beginner motorcycling safety class and dive into the world of owning your first motorcycle.
Chances are, you’ve stepped foot in a dealership to test out a few bikes and combed through the internet to scout what each manufacturer offers, searching for the perfect fit based on your height and size.
The options out there are vast – the sheer number of types of motorcycles available on the market can be overwhelming. Even if you have a general idea of the bike’s purpose, there’s a whole range of types that can get the job done.
If you’ve been riding for a few seasons now, you might be eyeing a change or an upgrade – perhaps a beefier engine or an entirely different motorcycle type. We all kick off at the same starting line. When you decide to switch bikes, it’s all about personal preference.
And boy, is there a smorgasbord of motorcycles waiting to be upgraded to. Whether you’re eyeing something brand new or considering a used option, it’s crucial to wrap your head around your choices.
Here’s a breakdown of the different motorcycle types out there and a solid suggestion to ponder for each one:
What you'll learn:
☞ Types of Motorcycles
The standard motorcycle type tends to be a crowd pleaser because of its straightforward design that fits various purposes.
Ranging from 125cc to 1,000cc, this type can easily accommodate luggage, a tank bag, or a different seat, making it a fantastic choice for a first ride and an all-purpose bike. Usually, it doesn’t sport a big fairing at the front, if it has one at all.
In terms of ergonomics, it leans towards neutrality. It doesn’t force you into an extreme forward-leaning or a rearward reclining position. Seat height typically falls in the shorter to middle range, catering to the comfort of nearly every rider.
One solid recommendation for a great all-around town motorcycle would be checking out the Yamaha SR400. It strikes a balance—not too big for a beginner, yet not too small for a seasoned rider.
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The cruiser, often called a chopper, was built for cruising, and that’s where it got its name. Sporting a lower seat height, it’s perfect for casual rides around town, but add some luggage, and it transforms into an ideal weekend companion.
Engine sizes vary from smaller displacement to 1,000cc or more, depending on the brand. Riding a cruiser might feel more like sitting in it than on it, but it’s a fantastic choice for both beginners and seasoned riders alike.
When you envision a cruiser, Harley-Davidson might be the first brand that pops into your head. For a prime example of a cruiser, check out the H-D Low Rider—a low-slung machine ready to travel miles with an array of accessories for a quick trip or a fulfilling weekend on the road.
The sports genre of motorcycles is all about speed and agility, boasting forward-leaning ergonomics designed for maneuvering through corners with finesse. One significant difference in a Sport-type motorcycle is its weight.
These bikes are typically lighter, crafted from aluminum and other lightweight materials to enhance side-to-side maneuverability. Seat height tends to lean towards the higher end, allowing you to lean the bike farther without scraping foot pegs or fairings.
For shorter riders, the taller seat height might mean being on their tiptoes. Suzuki pioneered this motorcycle type in the 1980s with the GSXR lineup, still going strong today.
A solid recommendation in this category is the Suzuki GSXR600—a bike with ample power and the potential for added accessories to turn it into a reasonably comfortable weekend sport-touring machine.
Touring motorcycles are usually larger than most, equipped with amenities for cross-country adventures, perfect for exploring beaches on both coasts. They offer substantial storage and comfortable ergonomics designed for hours-long rides.
Expect the largest fairings to shield against wind and weather while cruising. Typically equipped with large engines to maintain highway speeds and haul plenty of extra gear and clothing, the iconic image that comes to mind for a Touring motorcycle is often the Honda Goldwing.
These durable machines can easily boast 100,000 miles on the odometer, often remaining with the original owner who has stories galore about their adventures.
They seem to have an endless lifespan, perfect for a simple trip or an exhilarating weekend to explore the quirkiest roadside attractions.
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Sport Touring motorcycles strike a balance between Sport and Touring, as the name suggests. With taller seat heights than Touring bikes and superior luggage options compared to Sport motorcycles, they excel in carrying extra gear on longer trips.
These bikes blend both styles seamlessly and, with the right equipment, can handle everything from quick jaunts with friends to the extended road trips you’ve been dreaming of. Engine sizes usually fall in the mid-range to larger available options.
One recommendation is Kawasaki’s Concours14 ABS—a bike that accommodates a substantial amount of extra gear, enabling you to clock in miles over a long weekend. The slightly larger engine provides the extra power necessary for cruising the country’s highways.
Dual Sport (Dual Purpose or Adventure Sport)
Dual Sports are versatile—built to venture anywhere and tackle anything. These bikes retain road features like lights and a horn but sport aggressive off-road suspension and possibly knobby off-road tires.
With slightly taller seat heights, they’re geared for navigating backroads and off-the-beaten-path trails. Usually offering limited storage from the dealership, they can be outfitted with extra bags for a memorable weekend camping adventure.
The BMW G 310 GS perfectly blends off-road capability with sporty aesthetics, delivering versatility without overwhelming power, ideal for both weekend rides and long cruises. Equip it with the necessary gear and create lasting memories on the road.
Off-road motorcycles are precisely what their name suggests—crafted for venturing into uncharted territories.
Featuring taller seat heights to conquer rough terrain and high suspension capable of handling bumps, these bikes usually lack lights or turn signals, often requiring trailering to reach weekend riding spots.
Lightweight and primed for back trails, Kawasaki offers a solid lineup of off-road motorcycles that won’t break the bank.
The KLX110, equipped with a 4-speed transmission and a clutch-less design, eases strain on hands and wrists during adventurous weekends climbing steep hills for breathtaking views.
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Scooter (Maxi/Mega Scooters)
While some may argue that a Scooter isn’t a “real” motorcycle, these nifty rides offer safety and style akin to their larger counterparts.
Ideal for metropolitan areas with lower speeds, Scooters are lightweight and easy to maneuver through city streets without requiring constant physical exertion.
Available in various sizes, from 50cc through 500cc, they pack enough power for your daily commute or a delightful evening out. Offering a smaller fairing with limited storage, they’re perfect for zipping around.
Consider the Honda Ruckus, a popular Scooter choice with a fantastic lineup of accessories to add an extra touch of uniqueness to your ride.
Moped (Small Scooters)
Distinct from Mega Scooters, Mopeds boast a lighter frame reminiscent of a bicycle-style, featuring a smaller engine (50cc or less) or even an electric motor in place of the engine. Becoming increasingly rare in the United States, they exude a vintage charm.
Light and limited in power, they offer minimal to no storage and limited or no fairings to shield against wind and weather. Major motorcycle brands typically don’t offer authentic Mopeds, so exploring imported brands like TaoTao is a good bet.
TaoTao’s Titan 50 (for 50cc) offers a touch of storage and optional fairing—a simple yet effective option for navigating city streets.
Most popular type of motorcycle?
The most popular motorcycle type varies across regions and countries. Globally, the standard or naked bike takes the lead.
These motorcycles are versatile and adaptable, fitting various riding styles and purposes—from leisurely weekend rides to everyday commuting.
Best motorcycle type for beginners?
Typically, a standard or naked bike stands as the ideal choice for new riders. Their simple design and neutral riding position make them easy to handle for beginners.
Another beginner-friendly option is cruisers, boasting a low seat height and relaxed riding posture.
It’s crucial for new riders to choose a bike they feel confident and comfortable with, starting with a smaller engine size that matches their skill level.
Most popular motorcycle type in USA?
In the United States, cruisers take the crown as the most popular motorcycle type. Harley-Davidson Softail and Touring models, Indian Chief, Honda Shadow, and Yamaha V-Star are among the favored cruiser models in the country.
Best motorcycle type for rural areas?
The best motorcycle type for rural areas hinges on specific needs and conditions.
Generally, dual-sport or adventure motorcycles prove ideal due to their capability on both on and off-road terrains. Examples include the Honda CRF450L, Yamaha WR250R, and KTM 500 EXC-F.
Best motorcycle type for urban areas?
The ideal motorcycle type for urban areas varies based on factors like traffic, road conditions, and parking availability. Lightweight, agile motorcycles that are easy to maneuver excel in urban settings.
Scooters, such as the Honda PCX150, Yamaha NMAX, and Vespa Primavera, are popular choices.
Standard motorcycles with smaller engines like the Yamaha MT-03, KTM 390 Duke, and Honda CB300R also navigate urban environments effectively.
Best motorcycle type for teenagers?
Motorcycles with smaller displacement engines, like small sportbikes or standard motorcycles, suit teenagers well.
Their lightweight build, easy handling, and generally more affordable pricing make them fitting options for young riders.
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It’s completely understandable if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of motorcycle options out there.
Each brand offers something across the major types, and within those categories, there are various models catering to different engine sizes and overall bike dimensions.
If you’re not set on a particular brand, it might help to grab a pen and notepad. Jot down what you intend to use the motorcycle for.
Once you have that clarity, you can navigate through the options more effectively, considering what fits you best and exploring the available safety features for each model.
If you’re uncertain about how to assess fitment, we recently covered that in an article, providing insights into what to look for.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of contenders, checking ratings from other riders can be invaluable. Visiting a local dealership to try out a few motorcycles firsthand can also provide crucial insights.
Finally, with these steps done, you’re on your way to finding that dream ride you’ve been envisioning. And remember, safety is paramount. Good luck on your motorcycle journey, and ride safe out there!
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