Motorcycle Types Explained
The motorcycle landscape is constantly evolving. There are makes and models for every type of riding and rider these days. Wind the clock back a few decades, and that wasn’t the case. Seeing as we now have a cornucopia of motorcycle types packing dealership floors.
Whether you’re thinking about kickstarting your riding career or are a salty veteran with the bugs on your visor or goggles to prove it, we’ll break down the most common motorcycle categories available today to keep you informed.
Adventure motorcycles are built as rugged as they look and not stop when the pavement ends — hence the name, Adventure or ADV.
ADV bikes are the motorcycling equivalent to a modern SUV. They can hit any terrain thanks to their long-travel suspension, increased ground clearance, and larger wheel sizes.
Meanwhile, aspects like their great comfort and excellent wind protection make them wonderful choices for long-distance riding. You can always spot an ADV motorcycle because it will look like a dirt bike that’s hit the gym.
Adventure bikes can ride off-road, but that isn’t their primary purpose. The more expensive, heavier, and larger-displacement ADV motorcycles can become challenging to pilot in the dirt because of their weight and size.
These motorcycle types are all-around machines but do incredibly well on the road. Many owners never venture into the trails, enjoying good comfort and massive fuel range. Another benefit is that Adventure motorcycles can accommodate luggage and a passenger easily, making them even more appealing for travel.
The ADV segment has grown over the years with offerings that come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from lower-displacement and more affordable models fit for beginners to pricier, high-performance, and technologically advanced offerings for more experienced motorcyclists.
If you need a bike that can go long distances and do some light off-road riding, an Adventure (ADV) bike is a great option.
Café racers date back to London in the 1960s and are a staple in the British motorcycling scene, inspired by professional racing motorcycles of the past. Back then, motorcycle manufacturers didn’t create sportbikes with low clip-on handlebars and aggressive seating positions from the factory.
If you wanted that look and riding style, you had to do it yourself. Riders would take standard motorcycles, strip unnecessary parts, and create race-oriented seating positions suitable for faster riding. The trend still thrives to this day, and since then, many motorcycle makers now offer production café racers capturing that classic style.
Whether it’s a custom build or production model, café racers are all about looking cool, and there are some fine examples available today. Due to the race-inspired riding position, these motorcycles can become uncomfortable over long distances and are not recommended for newer riders.
Cruisers do precisely what their name says: Cruise. These long, low motorcycles have a seating position that lets you lean back to enjoy the scenery.
Moreover, cruisers often use a V-twin engine that focuses on delivering most of its power right off the line. In the United States, brands like Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle dominate the cruiser conversation.
Cruisers appeal to newer riders because of their often incredibly low seat and stand-over heights, which help boost those with less experience. In addition, these motorcycle types have a low center of gravity that makes them easier to control.
Lastly, V-twin engines are all about torque and provide useable power much early, which newer riders find reassuring.
Dual sport motorcycles are little more than street-legal dirt bikes: Lights, license plates, turn indicators, and emissions equipment is there, but at its core, it’s a dirt bike. Dual sport models are lightweight bikes with long-travel suspension capable of performing off-road riding.
Street-oriented dual-sport machines typically have shorter suspension travel and seat heights, which are great characteristics for riders new to motorcycling. More extreme models are aimed at competition, utilizing additional suspension travel, taller seat heights, and off-road-oriented components.
Dual sports from KTM, Husqvarna, Beta, and Sherco fall in the performance category. Dual sport bikes are some of the few motorcycles where you can leave your garage in the morning, ride the trails all day, and come home on the same roads in the evening.
Those that live close to OHV parks and authorized trails should investigate a dual sport bike.
Naked bikes are simply motorcycles without fairings, exposing much of the engine and chassis for all to see. In a modern context, naked bikes are derivatives of proper full-fairing sportbikes, offering similar performance and handling characteristics.
However, naked bikes are much more suitable for everyday street riding since they use an upright riding position. They’re also sometimes referred to as streetfighters.
These motorcycle types are on the sporting side of the spectrum and is available in various engine displacements. Options perfect for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders are common from nearly all manufacturers and is currently one of the most popular categories.
Everyday commutes, sport riding, traveling, and even racetrack riding can be done on these motorcycles, depending on the model and its positioning.
Simple and to-the-point two-wheeled transportation. A standard is your classic motorcycle: A bench seat, handlebars, and usually a steel-cradle frame. This segment is vast and includes any motorcycle without fairings for wind protection and a neutral riding position.
Technically, many naked bikes would fit into this class by that description, but standards do not have a performance slant.
These bikes are great for just about anyone getting into riding and are impressively maneuverable, which makes them exceptional in urban environments. A good standard motorcycle can do a little bit of everything and are suitable for riders with any skill level.
Sportbikes are the pinnacle of motorcycle technology, flexing the highest performance, most advanced rider aids, and aerodynamic features. For that reason, many sportbikes are the flagship models within a manufacturer’s lineup.
These motorcycles are often referred to as “race replicas” because they are a street-legal version of what’s used in professional racing.
These high-performance motorcycles are best experienced when ridden aggressively at a racetrack, where the stiff suspension and uncompromising riding position can be put to good use. In a street environment, that demanding riding position can lead to cramping in your legs and wrists when stuck at lower road speeds.
There are two major classes of sportbikes: 600cc or equivalent Supersports and Superbikes that can exceed 1000cc engine displacements. These bikes are intended for experienced riders only.
However, there are also lightweight 300cc and 400cc sportbikes that are perfect for newer riders, thanks to comfortable riding positions and manageable engine performance.
Touring motorcycles offer every comfort amenity imaginable: Heated grips, heated seats, wind protection, and infotainment systems designed specifically for touring the country.
Better yet, that all applies to your passenger, too. Racking up hundreds of miles in a single day is easy work on a comfortable touring motorcycle, which also typically features ample storage space for extended trips.
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Touring machines come in various styles, yet storage and comfort are consistent traits. In addition, various engine configurations are found in this class, with V-twin, inline-three-cylinder, inline-four-cylinder, and inline-six-cylinder engines used with great success.
Anything in the touring segment will be big, comfortable, and feature-loaded to keep you happy while riding from state to state. These motorcycle types aren’t popular with younger audiences mainly due to their higher MSRPs, typically attracting older and financially secure buyers.
What happens when you splice the DNA of a Sportbike and a Touring motorcycle? You get a Sport Tourer.
The creature comforts of a massive luxury touring machine built into a far lighter and sportier motorcycle simply means you can ride much faster through the curves when the opportunity arises.
Sport Touring motorcycles often offer many practical benefits of touring bikes, such as storage, ample wind protection, and heated seats or grips. Still, they allow riders to enjoy a motorcycle that’s quite capable in the corners.
These motorcycles types are always user-friendly and easy to ride, appealing to various skill levels.
Motocross motorcycles are designed for racing and are meant to be ridden at motocross tracks. Not unlike sportbikes, these machines are engineered for peak off-road performance with massively tall seat heights and powerful single-cylinder engines to match.
The suspension travel is some of the longest in the two-wheeled world, which is needed for soaking up landings when clearing jumps. As uncompromising as motocross sounds, motocross is a segment that offers suitable models for all skill levels and kids as low as 4-years old.
A motocross, dual-sport, and trail bike look similar to the untrained eye. However, each of those categories has an intended purpose. Trail bikes are incredibly friendly with accommodating seat heights and engine performance that many riders will find agreeable.
These off-road motorcycles are equipped for less intense riding than motocross and are excellent for casual off-road riding.
It is vital to remember that trail bikes are not street legal, despite sometimes being equipped with lighting. In addition, their use may be seasonally restricted, depending on where you live in the country.
We all know what a scooter is! Scooters are some of the most user-friendly vehicles on the road and typically shift automatically — just twist the grip and off you go. They’re perfect for congested cities where short commutes are common and offer under-seat storage compartments.
In many ways, scooters are the perfect motorcycle types for young people that need economical transportation. In the United States, scooters are classified as motorcycles, meaning that you need a motorcycle endorsement to operate one legally.
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We use what we sell, and many of our staff are avid riders, enjoying everything from street riding, touring, and off-roading. If we’re not here assisting you with your technical questions and shipping out our lifetime warrantied items to your door, then we’re most likely getting some seat time in ourselves.
If you need replacement fuel system components, contact Quantum Fuels Systems Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT. Our staff is just as eager to get back riding as you are and are happy to assist you over the phone or email.