Useful Car Tips

Types of Motorcycles

July 11, 2020
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, riding season is upon us once again with the arrival of warmer weather. Motorcyclists are out and about and riding a vast variety of bikes; from sport bikes to cruisers, to dual-sports to standards, and everything in between. But what are the real differences between all of them? There are clear visual differences between, say sport bikes and touring bikes, but how do these motorcycles differ beyond their appearance? These are questions any prospective first-time rider will wisely be asking themselves before investing thousands into a new (or used) bike. With so many different types of motorcycles on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your needs. Whether you’re a beginner looking to buy your first bike or a seasoned veteran looking for your third, here’s our breakdown of just a few of the major types of motorcycles you can buy and why they may—or may not—be the right match for you.


Standards (otherwise known as naked bikes) are general-purpose motorcycles characterized by their upright riding position and commonly a lack of fairings—which refers to the shell placed over the frame of some motorcycles which is designed to reduce drag. Owing to their flexibility and relatively low price, standards are excellent motorcycles for new riders. Modern examples include the Ducati Monster 1200 S and retro-inspired Triumph Bonneville Speed Twin, although standards are produced by virtually all manufacturers.


As their name suggests, cruisers are primarily intended for casual cruising. They’re designed for comfortable cruising on the street, although long rides on the highway at commensurately high speeds will likely lead to fatigue. However, riding at low to moderate speeds avoids this potential pitfall. Although (in the US) you’ll likely see American cruisers like Harley-Davidsons and Indians on the road most often, other manufacturers such as Yamaha and Triumph produce cruisers as well.


You may be beginning to see a pattern emerging here—the naming convention for different types of motorcycles is quite clear and unambiguous. Thus, as the name suggests, sport bikes are motorcycles designed for the pursuit of abject performance: the limits of speed, acceleration, and handling. Popular sport bikes include the middleweight (alternatively known as supersport) Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and the highly successful BMW S1000RR. These bikes are widely adapted for use in professional road racing series such as the British Superbike Championship and annual events such as the Isle of Man TT.


If you’re looking to go on long rides and tour faraway locales, few motorcycles will match the functionality, comfort, and storage space of touring bikes. Touring bikes are specially designed for motorcycle touring and are excellent choices for the ardent traveler. Some modern touring motorcycles include the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory and the venerable Honda Gold Wing.


What happens when you take a sport bike and a touring bike and mix them together? A sport touring motorcycle, of course! Sport touring motorcycles borrow the relaxed seating position and some of the enhanced storage of regular touring motorcycles and pair that with a lower weight, stronger brakes, and a more responsive engine—characteristics naturally borrowed from sport bikes.


Dual-sports have the unique distinction of being the only motorcycles designed to offer performance not only on the street, but offroad too. Depending on factors such as their suspension, frame geometry, and tires, dual-sports are variously able to take on sand, dirt, and even snow. This duality affords riders a certain level of flexibility that is virtually unmatched by different types of motorcycles. Due to their distinct properties, dual-sports (which are street legal, by the way) still remain popular among riders, with the Suzuki DR-Z400S and KTM 690 SMC R being just two modern examples.


If you’re a beginner looking for your first bike, you can’t go wrong with a standard. Although other types of bikes may be suitable too, none will offer the combination of flexibility and low operating costs that standards do—not to mention enough power to keep new riders entertained. Although any rider would enjoy a standard for everyday riding, those looking for specialized functions will be better served by other types of bikes. Looking to cruise around town and enjoy their sound and power? Cruisers may be calling your name. Want to hit your favorite windy roads in the canyons? Look no further than a sport bike. Touring or planning to go offroad? You know what bikes you need! Such a wide variety of motorcycles are available on the market that virtually any rider will be able to find the right bike with a little time and research. We hope our crash course has helped you in this endeavor, and either enlightened you or helped you brush up on your knowledge. Comment down below if you’ve enjoyed our guide. Safe travels this riding season!
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