Types of Motorcycles: A Trustworthy Guide to Finding the Perfect Bike

The history of motorcycles dates back over a century ago. 

Two German engineers—Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, designed and built the first internal combustion engine motorcycle in 1885. It was a petroleum-fueled bike, which they named Reitwagen, meaning “a riding car.”

Over the years, the motorcycle industry has seen massive improvements to the idea. Today, motorbike enthusiasts have more than ten unique types of motorcycles to choose from.

It’s now more difficult than before to choose from the wide variety of bikes. Each bike is unique in design and application. Read on for an in-depth review of the different types of motorcycles and how to choose a perfect bike.

What is a Motorcycle, and What Legally Defines a Motorcycle?

A motorcycle refers to any motor vehicle with a seat or a saddle designed to travel with not more than three wheels using motive power.

Legally, for taxation, registration, and rider licensing, the Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a motorcycle as a “two-wheeled powered motor vehicle”.

However, some countries register a three-wheeled motor vehicle under the motorcycles category.

Why is it Called a Motorcycle?

The name motorcycle is coined from two words—”motor” and “cycle“. The former means a machine powered by internal combustion or electricity to produce motive power that facilitates the movement of parts of a machine.

“Cycle,” on the other hand, means either a pedal-powered vehicle or a motorized vehicle with two or three wheels. Hence, the name “motorcycle” means a two or three-wheeled vehicle that moves using motive power.

What is a Motorcycle Made Of?

The early motorcycles had parts made from bamboo and even plastic materials. That’s no longer the case. 

Today, motorcycles have their frames and other parts made from either aluminum, steel, titanium, carbon fiber, or a blend of those materials.

The choice of material is dependent on parts and manufacturer preferences. 

For instance, steel is the most dominant material used in motorcycle parts such as chassis and frames. It’s for the apparent reason—steel is relatively inexpensive and highly malleable, thus easy to work into different shapes.  

Can a Bike Mean a Motorcycle?

A “motorcycle” and a “bike” are interchangeable terms always used to refer to the same thing. 

“Motorcycle” comes from ”motor” and ”bicycle,” which has been contracted into “bike”. Therefore, it’s okay to use any of the two words without the fear of being misunderstood. The longer form of “bike” to mean a motorcycle is the word “motorbike”.

Types of Motorcycles

The motorcycling industry has evolved over the years. Riders now have a wide array of options, unlike a few decades ago. 

Here we look at different types of bikes you might want to consider based on your unique circumstances or applications.


Standard bikes are simple-design motorcycles mostly suited for new riders and all-purpose applications. They are also known as “naked bikes” due to their stripped-down design. 

Standard bikes come in a mix of many traits found in other types of motorcycles, making them highly versatile and fun. The footpegs and handlebars are designed to give the rider an upright position, making them suited for longer trips. 

Standard bikes are also available in many styles, with Yamaha and Honda being some of the most famous models. These bikes are available in a wide variety ranging from 125cc to 1000cc engines.

Standards are highly customizable. You can always modify accessories such as tank bags, luggage, and even the saddle. 

Although not as powerful as sports bikes, the moderate-size engines are easy to power and can guarantee an excellent all-around town experience.

Cruiser Motorcycles and Power Cruisers

Cruisers come to many people’s minds when you talk of motorcycles. It’s the archetypical rider’s bike. Cruisers feature low and leaned back riding positions. The cruisers’ seats are always low and with taller handlebars than the standard bikes.

Cruisers are also fun with a comfortable riding position, making them suited for long-distance rides. However, the high handlebars and forward footpegs may not make a cruiser an ideal bike for an amateur rider. Pulling back at high speeds may feel uncomfortable.  

Cruisers come into two categories—regular and power cruisers. Power cruisers are heavier, more aggressive, and have a higher engine performance than their regular counterparts.

Power cruisers borrow a lot of sportbike performance characteristics and come with large exhaust pipes, thick rear tires, and low ground clearance.

Sport Bikes

Sportbikes are racetrack beasts built for speed and high performance. These bikes come with high footpegs and extended reach to the low-positioned handlebars.

Sportbikes feature a forward-leaning riding position, a higher horse pipe, and a high seat for a hunched-over riding posture. 

The hunched-over posture makes sportbikes uncomfortable, thus only suitable for high-speed riding over short distances.  

However, some aftermarket sportbikes feature add-ons that make the bikes a little more comfortable for tracks and weekend rides. However, they may still not be your go-to-bikes for long commute rides. 

Sportbikes require confidence and high competence, hence not suited for beginners. Experts advise that beginners go for a 500cc sportbike or less and only hop on a more powerful machine after mastering the basics.   

Touring Bikes

As the name suggests, touring bikes are designed with easy ergonomics for long-distance riding. These bikes have bigger fuel tanks and large engines than most standard motorcycles. 

Touring bikes assume a more upright sitting position that makes them more comfortable.

The bikes are also bigger with large windscreens but are quite stable. They are also called “baggers” due to the in-built luggage cases that come pre-equipped.

The bagger has a wide, pillion seat suited for an extra passenger and some extra luggage without sacrificing comfort. 

The bike may not be your ideal choice for racing, but they still have large and powerful engines to sustain longer journeys without any strain.

Touring bikes are not recommended for beginners, though. The brawny engines and large frames may be challenging for a less experienced rider to handle over an extended highway riding session. 

Sport Touring Bikes

A sport touring bike is a hybrid between two motorcycles—a sportbike and a touring bike. However, a sport touring bike is lighter, has more storage, and offers a more comfortable sitting position compared to a sportbike

The idea behind a sport touring bike is to provide riders with more extended mile-riding at higher speeds with more comfort.

Sport touring bikes have taller seats and mid-range engine sizes, but some models feature larger and more powerful engines. 

Your choice of engine size may depend on the luggage and whether you’ll be riding more with a passenger on board.

Dual Sport Motorcycles

Dual sport motorcycles, also known as adventure bikes, are great beginner bikes designed for long travels and better rough road riding, thanks to their relaxed upright seating position

As the name suggests, these bikes can serve both worlds—on and off-road riding.

Dual-sport bikes come in medium-high suspension and are also available in taller and medium seats. The bike has a dirt bike chassis combination that features standard and sportbike models.

Dual sports are ideal for those looking to adventure in far-out areas that require background capabilities. The bikes have a simple design and are well-balanced, making them ideal for novices. 

Duals have aggressive tires and come equipped with a luggage option for your touring needs. 

Scooters and Power Scooters

Image Credit: Suzuki

Scooters are small and lightweight bikes. These bikes are mainly characterized by automatic transmissions and are powered by small engines between 50cc to 250cc. The bikes are mainly designed for fun.

Scooters are also economical, making them the best all-around-town or short-distance commuter bikes. The bikes have carefully designed bodywork and a step through-shield to protect the rider from the messy engine parts.

On the other hand, a power scooter is an advanced model of a regular scooter. They feature a large motor embedded in the chassis, making them more powerful, and suited for commuting.

Power scooters also have their mechanical parts enclosed in step-through bodies to protect riders from excessive staining. The Suzuki Burgman 400 is a reliable power scooter you may want to check out.

Off-road Bikes

Image Credit: American Honda Motor

Off-road bikes are also referred to as dirt bikes. These bikes are built to maneuver rough terrains such as muddy paths and rough mountainous roads. 

Dirt bikes feature raised seats and higher suspension, differentiating them from adventure bikes. Off-roads are fun if you like riding in the dirt. 

The bikes feature aggressive off-road tires and depending on the manufacturer’s specifications, these bikes may not be legally acceptable on the streets. They require a great level of skills, therefore not the best choice for beginners.


The chopper is an iconic US motorcycle that has been featured in many films, television shows, and advertisements as a symbol of rugged masculinity. 

The bike features an extreme style of reclined seats, lengthened forks, and far-reaching steerings, making it aesthetically pleasing.

Choppers are famous for their extended forks, which give them a more lifted front end. These bikes are associated with two of the most iconic motorcycle brandsHarley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle

Choppers are common in the US and are viewed by many as a symbol of the traveling American man.

What to Consider Before Deciding on a Motorcycle Type

As we have seen above, motorcycles come in many types and designs. Each is uniquely designed to suit a particular application. 

Although you can have more than one type of bike, below are general guidelines to help you make a better choice each time. 

Bike Weight

Heavier bikes are generally better than lighter ones. They offer more stability during rides and crashes. However, heavy bikes are only suited for experienced riders since controlling them can be challenging.

The ideal bike weight is one that you can handle more comfortably. You should remain upright on the bike if the bike stumbles over an obstacle or gets knocked over. 

Engine Size

Motorcycle engine sizes are measured in cubic centimeters, abbreviated as “CC.” 

The CC refers to the engine’s volume for holding air and gas that powers the bike. More CCs mean a larger engine, more power, and higher speeds.

Your choice of engine size will depend on how you intend to use the bike. Typically, up to 600cc is a good size for beginners with little experience.

Height of the Seat

Bikes are different from cars, which allow you to adjust the seat according to your height. 

A good motorcycle seat should let the bottom of your feet touch the ground flat when you stop the bike. Avoid taller bikes as they can be challenging to control during a crash

Examples of Top Bikes in Each Motorcycle Category

The motorcycle industry is becoming more advanced by the day. You can now expect to get more than two bikes under the same category but with modified features to suit specific applications.

For instance, a sport touring bike combines the features of sport and a touring bike but remains with dominant touring bike features. 

Below we look at some of the top bikes from the most popular motorcycle categories.


Image Credit: Honda 

Standard bikes are famous for their neutral and slightly forward-leaning position. They are versatile and well-balanced motorcycles suited for beginners and long-distance commuting.

Honda CB300R and Yamaha SR400 are some of the top standard bikes you’ll find on the market today.

Cruiser Motorcycles and Power Cruisers

Image Credit: Harley-Davidson

Cruisers are popular bikes for commutes and long-distance rides. Many riders identify with these bikes for their versatility. They are very comfortable and come in two categories—regular and power cruisers. 

The difference is in power, as the name suggests.

The Harley-Davidson Softail Standard is a top model from Harley’s cruiser collection that enthusiasts can check out.

Sport Bikes

Image Credit: Suzuki 

Sportbikes are the beasts of the racetracks, known for their top speed and high performance. They are more prevalent among males than females.

If you dream of riding on a beastly motorcycle at high speeds, check out Suzuki Hayabusa from Suzuki.

Touring Bikes

Image Credit: Indian Motorcycle

Touring bikes offer a laid-back and fun riding experience over long distances. Those who love touring bikes are more concerned about the bike comfort and luggage cases for their touring amenities and perhaps enough space for one passenger.

If that’s you, you can never go wrong with the Indian Roadmaster touring motorcycle.  

Sport Touring Bikes

Image Credit: Honda

If you love speed and long tours on a motorcycle, then sport touring bikes got you covered. These bikes have a balance of comfort and speed and come with slightly raised seats. 

Check out  Honda Gold Wing for a light sport touring bike that promises you both speed and convenience.

Dual Sport/Adventure Motorcycles

Image Credit: Ducati

Dual sport motorcycles are famous for their upright riding position and medium to high suspension. These are all-weather bikes suited for far-out area adventures both on and off-road. 

Adventure bikes have a simple design suited for beginners.

Ducati Multistrada V4 and Kawasaki Versys are the two top models you want to check out under this category.  

Scooters and Power Scooters

Image Credit: Yamaha Motor USA

Scooters are lightweight bikes powered by small engines. They are best suited for around-town commutes. These bikes are also fun to ride but may not be your ideal bike for distant rides.

Scooters come in many varieties, but you can check out the 2020 Yamaha Scooter Motorcycle—a top power scooter motorcycle on the market today.

Off-road Bikes

Image Credit: American Honda Motor

Off-road or dirt bikes are fun for the experienced. These are the perfect bikes for rough-path riders, divers, and mountain climbers. However, they require practical skills for maximum fun, including the backflip capabilities that these bikes promise.

You can check out the Honda CRF250R, one of the best off-road motorcycles for dirt riding.


Image Credit: Harley-Davidson

Choppers draw attention and offer a sense of identity. The bikes are associated with badass movie stars in American films. If you love chopper motorcycles, the BreakOut 114 is a top model from the Harleys you might want to try out.


The motorcycle industry is expansive. With more than ten types of motorcycles and hundreds of models from each category, picking the right bike can be challenging. 

It takes a proper understanding of the most proper application for each bike to make an informed choice.

The decision does not end with picking the correct type of bike. Some important considerations to keep in mind while shopping for a motorcycle include engine size, bike weight, and the seat’s height.

People Also Ask

Topics about motorcycles can be confusing. The industry is filled with different motorcycle types, designs, and hundreds of models. Below we address the most common questions people ask about motorcycles.

What Different Types of Motorcycles Are There?

Motorcycles can be categorized into up to ten different types. Below are the motorcycle types you’re likely to come across.

  • Standard or naked bikes
  • Sportbikes
  • Scooters
  • Cruisers
  • Touring bikes
  • Sport touring bikes
  • Off-road/Dirt bikes
  • Dual sportbikes
  • Chopper

What Are the Most Popular Types of Motorcycles?

Below are the most popular bike types that come to mind when you think about motorcycles.

  • Sportbikes
  • Cruisers
  • Standard motorcycles
  • Touring bikes
  • Dirt bikes
  • Dual-sport bikes

Note: Popularity is not in any order, and how popular one bike type is from the other may vary by country.

What Does Naked Mean When Buying a Motorcycle?

Naked bikes are also called standard motorcycles. “Naked” refers to a lack of frame and a fairing that obscures the engine or a windscreen covering the handlebars.

However, not all bikes without the screen or fairings qualify as naked bikes. Exceptions include adventure sports bikes, custom bikes, and off-roaders.

About Alex

Hi Friends! Welcome to Motorcycle Exploits. I'm Alex! If you ever had any personal hindrances or doubts about your abilities to ride a motorcycle, then you are in the right place, Mate! My desire is to help you overcome any fears and other personal struggles you have so that you, too, can celebrate your EXPLOITS!