A Guide to the Different Types of Motorcycles

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While there are no official class systems for motorcycles, there are a handful of commonly used categories the describe the style of the bike and its intended use.

Within each class there are sometimes sub-classes or styles that can be used to describe a specific bike.

The best type of motorcycle is going to depend on how you ride, your experience level, and what you’re looking for.

If you’re a beginner, check out some of our recommendations for the best beginner motorcycles and tips for choosing the right bike.

Main Types of Motorcycles

The main categories of the different types of motorcycles you’ll see include:

Motorcycle Styles

Some common sub-classes within these larger categories, which can be thought of as styles, include:

  • Naked bikes.
  • Muscle bikes.
  • Choppers.
  • Bobbers.
  • Scramblers.
  • Cafe racers.
  • Baggers.
  • Streetfighers.

What is a Standard Motorcycle?

A standard motorcycle describes general purpose street bikes.

They typically feature:

  • Upright riding position.
  • Lower cost.
  • Mid-range engine size and power.
  • No fairings or windshields.
  • No luggage racks or saddle bags.

Standard motorcycles typically feature a more ergonomic seating and control set up, and can range in engine size anywhere from 250cc to 1,000cc+.

Standard motorcycles are often great commuter and around-town bikes that can be customized with whatever luggage and storage you may need.

That said, standard bikes are still a great choice if your a commuter who likes to ride for fun in your free time as well.

What is a Sport Motorcycle?

Sport motorcycles are built for speed, cornering, and acceleration.

These types of bikes typically feature:

  • Lightweight construction.
  • Inline engines.
  • High performance brakes and suspension.
  • Higher, rear-placed footpegs with a forward leaning riding position.

Sport bikes are the type of motorcycle you may have heard referred to as a “crotch-rocket.”

These types of motorcycle are lightweight and powerful.

The rider typically takes a higher seating position where they lean forward over the bike with foot controls pushed a little towards the rear.

What is a Touring Motorcycle?

A touring motorcycle is a bike that’s designed to travel long distances comfortably.

These types of bikes feature:

  • Larger displacement engines.
  • Fairings and windshields.
  • Large fuel tanks.
  • Comfortable riding position.
  • Luggage and storage compartments.

A touring motorcycle is a bigger type of bike that will keep you feeling comfortable on long-distance rides.

You may have heard these types of motorcycles referred to as “Lazy Boys” on wheels as the seats are often designed for comfort and the bikes are equipped with all sorts of amenities and extras to store your gear and keep you going over long distances on the highway.

The Honda Goldwing is a classic example of a proper touring motorcycle.

These often come standard with lots of storage, larger fairings and windshields, dashboard controls, heating and cooling features, and cupholders.

What is a Sport-Touring Motorcycle?

Sport-touring motorcycles are designed to combine some of the performance aspects of a sport bike with the distance features of a touring motorcycle.

This type of motorcycle typically features:

  • Scaled down extras like luggage racks, fairings, and comfort elements.
  • Higher, more upright seating positions.

Sport-touring motorcycles can be a good choice for riders who like to do a variety of riding, including longer trips.

What is a Cruiser Motorcycle?

A cruiser motorcycle typically describes larger sized, larger displacement motorcycles with engines tuned for low-end torque and less shifting.

Cruiser motorcycles typically feature:

  • More relaxed riding positions with the foot controls towards the front of the bike.
  • Lower seat height.
  • Lower ground clearance.
  • Windshields and fairings.

Cruisers are often synonymous with motorcycle manufacturers like Harley-Davidson or Indian.

You can think of these are the classic American motorcycles with low seats, V-twins, and raked forks.

What is a Dual-Sport Motorcycle?

A dual-sport motorcycle is designed for on-road and off-road use.

The bikes typically feature:

  • Dirt bike and off-road frame and suspension features.
  • Higher clearance.
  • Features suited more towards road or more towards street use depending on the tires and setup.

Dual sports feature everything need to be considered “street legal,” while still being designed to perform well on the trail.

What is an Enduro/dirt bike?

Enduros and dirt bikes are motorcycles that are designed to be used off-road only.

These typically lack the components necessary for street-use such as lights, mirrors, turn signals, etc.

What is a Bobber Motorcycle?

A bobber motorcycle describes a motorcycle that strips down some of the standard body work to remove weight and give it a more exposed look.

One key component of a bobber is the shortened rear fender.

What is a Bagger Motorcycle?

A bagger motorcycle describes as motorcycle with full fairings and cargo bags.

What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?

A scrambler motorcycle combines off-road components with a street bike.

These often feature knobby tires, higher exhaust routing, fork gators, and other off-road handling and style components.

What is a Cafe Racer?

A cafe racer describes a style of motorcycle that is lightweight, fast, and optimized for speed and handling.

They often feature pulled down handlebars and knee-divots in the gas tank for a more aggressive riding position.

Their design is typically minimalistic and speed-oriented.

What is a Chopper?

A chopper motorcycle describes a custom motorcycle that modifies the stock frame (or includes a custom frame).

They often feature raked forks, higher handlebars, low clearance, and rear sissy bars.

What about Scooters or Mopeds?

While the have two wheels and an engine, scooters and mopeds are not a type of motorcycle. They’re a class of their own.

Learn more about the differences between scooter, mopeds, and motorcycles here.