Sport bikes, cruisers, scooters, and touring bikes are some of the many types of motorcycles
Sport bikes, cruisers, scooters, and touring bikes are some of the many types of motorcycles

Although there are many names and systems for classifying types of motorcycles based on their characteristics and usage, there are generally six categories recognized by most motorcycle manufacturers and organizations.[1] The six main categories of motorcycles are generally recognized as standard, cruiser, touring, sports, off-road, and dual-purpose.[2][3][4][5] Sport touring is sometimes recognized as a seventh category or integrated with the touring category.[1]

Strong distinctions are usually made between the six main types of motorcycles and other motorcycles.[6] Scooter, moped, underbone, miniature, pocket, electric, and three-wheeled motorcycles are generally excluded from the main categories but other classification schemes may include these as types of motorcycles.[7]

There is no universal system for classifying all types of motorcycles. There are strict classification systems enforced by competitive motorcycle sport sanctioning bodies, or legal definitions of a motorcycle established by certain legal jurisdictions for motorcycle registration, emissions, road traffic safety rules or motorcyclist licensing. There are also informal classifications or nicknames used by manufacturers, riders, and the motorcycling media. Some experts do not recognize sub-types, like naked bike, that "purport to be classified" outside the six usual classes, because they fit within one of the main types and are recognizable only by cosmetic changes.[8]

Street motorcycles are motorcycles designed for being ridden on paved roads. They have smooth tires with tread patterns and engines generally in the 125 cc (7.6 cu in) and over range. Typically, street motorcycles are capable of speeds up to 100 mph (160 km/h), and many of speeds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h). Street motorcycles powered by electric motors are becoming more common, with firms like Harley-Davidson entering the market.


This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: Various editors at different times have rewritten and deleted the historical narrative, and now it makes no sense. "The standard seemed to have disappeared..." was part of a larger chain of thought. Now it's a non sequitur. Need to sift through the article history and bring back enough of the old text to make sense again. Please help improve this section if you can. (January 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Ducati Monster 696 naked bike
The Ducati Monster 696 naked bike

Standard motorcycles (also called naked bikes, roadsters, or simply standards) are general-purpose motorcycles mainly intended for use on streets for commuting.[1] They are characterized primarily by their upright riding position (in-between the reclining rider posture of the cruisers and the forward leaning of sport bikes) and most of the usable torque (powerband) at lower engine rpm for commuting.[3] Footpegs are below the rider and handlebars are high enough to not force the rider to reach too far forward, placing the shoulders above the hips in a natural position.[2]

Standards are typically not equipped with fairings or windscreens from the manufacturer, hence the name naked bikes.[1] Standard is often a synonym for naked, a term that was originally used in reference to 1950s road racing bikes.[9][10] The standard has seen a resurgence since the turn of the century, with "modern classic" motorcycles from Triumph, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki and others[who?]. This marks a return to the essence of older motorcycles before the rise of different styles, and is exemplified by the Universal Japanese Motorcycle.[1] Standards are known and admired for their simplicity, quality, and versatility.[3][4][6] Because of their flexibility, lower costs, and moderate engine output, standards are particularly suited for beginner motorcyclists.[1]


Main article: Cruiser (motorcycle)

Harley-Davidson cruisers and a touring bike (red)
Harley-Davidson cruisers and a touring bike (red)

Cruiser motorcycles (or simply cruisers) are styled after American motorcycles from the 1930s to the early 1960s, such as those made by Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Excelsior-Henderson.[1] Harley-Davidsons largely define the cruiser category, and large-displacement V-twin engines are the norm, although other engine configurations and small to medium displacements also exist.[1] Their engines are tuned for low-end torque, making them less demanding to ride because it is not necessary to shift as frequently to accelerate or maintain control.[11]

The riding position places the feet forward and the hands are up relatively high, so that the spine is erect or leaning back slightly.[1][3] At low to moderate speeds, cruisers are more comfortable than other styles,[3][4] but riding for long periods at freeway speeds can lead to fatigue from pulling back on the handlebars to resist the force of the wind against the rider's chest.[12] Cruisers have limited cornering ability due to a lack of ground clearance.[3][11]

Peter Fonda rides a replica of the "Captain America" chopper used in the Easy Rider film
Peter Fonda rides a replica of the "Captain America" chopper used in the Easy Rider film

Choppers are a type of cruiser, so called because they are a "chopped", or cut-down, version of a production cruiser. Choppers are usually custom projects that result in a bike modified to suit the owner's ideals, and, as such, are a source of pride and accomplishment. Stereotypically, a chopper may have raked-out forks, small fuel tanks and high handlebars. Choppers were popularised in the Peter Fonda film Easy Rider. Being designed primarily for visual effect, choppers will not usually be the most efficient riding machines.

Related to the chopper motorcycle is the bobber which is created by "bobbing" a factory bike by removing dead weight and bodywork from a motorcycle to reduce mass and increase performance. A common element of these motorcycles is a shortened rear fender that creates a "bobbed" look.

A Ducati Diavel  power cruiser
A Ducati Diavel power cruiser

Power cruiser is a name used to distinguish bikes in the cruiser class that have significantly higher levels of power. They often come with upgraded brakes and suspensions, better ground clearance, and premium surface finishes, as well as more exotic or non-traditional styling.[13][14][15][16][17][18][11]


Main article: Touring motorcycle

Honda Gold Wing GL1800 touring motorcycle
Honda Gold Wing GL1800 touring motorcycle

Although any motorcycle can be equipped and used for touring, touring motorcycles are specifically designed to excel at covering long distances.[1] They have large-displacement engines, fairings and screens that offer good weather and wind protection, large-capacity fuel tanks for long ranges between fill-ups, and a relaxed, upright seating position.[1] Passenger accommodation is excellent and expansive luggage space is the norm for this class.[1] Such bikes can have wet weights of 850–900 lb (390–410 kg) and top 1,300–1,400 lb (590–640 kg) fully loaded with a rider, passenger and gear.[11]

Bagger, full dresser, full dress tourer, or dresser are various names for touring motorcycles, sometimes used disparagingly or jocularly, and originally referring to a Harley-Davidson or other cruisers with full sets of saddlebags. This can now refer to any touring motorcycle.[11][19][20][21]


Main article: Sport bike

A Suzuki GSX-R sport bike at Deals Gap
A Suzuki GSX-R sport bike at Deals Gap

Sport bikes are road bikes which emphasize top speed, acceleration, braking, handling and grip,[3][5][22][23] typically at the expense of comfort and fuel economy in comparison to other motorcycle types.[1][6] Sport bikes have comparatively high performance engines supported within a lightweight frame. Inline-four engines dominate the sport bike category, with V-twins and parallel twins having a significant presence; and most other engine configurations appear in small numbers at times.[1] High-performance braking systems may use upgraded brake pads, multi-piston calipers and larger vented rotors.[1] Sports bike suspension systems may be more sophisticated, with greater adjustments for compression and rebound.[1] Sport bikes have fairings to completely enclose the engine, along with windscreens that effectively deflect the air at high speeds away from the rider, thereby minimising overall drag.[1]

Sport bikes may have footpegs that are both higher and set further back than on a standard bike, improving ground clearance when cornering and enabling a more prone position for the rider. There may be a long reach to the hand controls, which positions the body and center of gravity forward, above the fuel tank. The rider leans forward into the wind, the force of which may support the rider's weight at high speeds. However, at lower speeds a rider may experience excessive weight on the arms and wrists, causing fatigue.

Muscle bike is a nickname for a motorcycle type, derived from a sport bike design, that puts a disproportionately high priority on engine power.[1][24][25][26]

Streetfighters are derived from sport bikes, originally being customized sport bikes with the fairings removed and higher handlebars replacing the low clip-on handlebars.[27][28] Since the 1990s, factory streetfighters have been produced.[29] As with naked bike and muscle bike (below), the name streetfighter is used to help clarify the middle ground occupied by designs that blend elements of both sport bikes and standards.[30]


A KTM dirt bike with a paddle tire
A KTM dirt bike with a paddle tire

Off-road motorcycles, also known as dirt bikes, specially designed for off-road use. The term off-road refers to driving surfaces that are not conventionally paved. These are rough surfaces, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow. These types of terrain can sometimes only be travelled on with vehicles designed for off-road driving (such as SUVs, ATVs, snowmobiles and mountain bikes in recent decades, and minibikes even earlier) or vehicles are designed to better handle off-road conditions. Compared to road-going motorcycles, off-road machines are lighter and more flexible, typically having long suspension travel, high ground clearance, and are geared higher to provide more torque in off-road situations.[31] Wheels (usually 21" front, 18" rear)[citation needed] have knobby tires, often clamped to the rim with a rim lock.[1]

Many competitive events have emerged[when?] and developed into a variety of off-road motorcycle sports, for which a number of specialized motorcycles have been built:


Main article: Dual-sport motorcycle

BMW R1200GS dual-sport motorcycle
BMW R1200GS dual-sport motorcycle

Dual-sports, sometimes called dual-purpose or on/off-road motorcycles or adventure motorcycles, are street legal machines that are also designed to enter off-road situations.[1] Typically based on a dirt bike chassis, they have added lights, mirrors, signals, and instruments that allow them to be licensed for public roads.[3] They are higher than other street bikes, with a high center of gravity and tall seat height, allowing good suspension travel for rough ground.[1]

Adventure motorcycles are motorcycles with touring capability on paved and unpaved roads. As a dual-sport they have a significant on-pavement bias and perform well on pavement at higher speeds unlike most dual-sports.[3][35] Their size, weight and sometimes their tires, however, limits their off-road capability. Most adventure motorcycles function well on graded dirt and gravel roads but are less than ideal on more difficult off-pavement terrain.

Supermoto motorcycles were designed to compete on a single course that alternated between three genres of motorcycle racing: road racing, track racing, and motocross. This increasingly popular type of motorcycle is often a dual-sport that has been fitted by the manufacturer with smaller rims and road tires. Supermotos are quickly gaining popularity as street bikes due to their combination of light weight, durability, relatively low cost, and sporty handling.

Sport touring

A BMW R1100RS sport-touring motorcycle
A BMW R1100RS sport-touring motorcycle

Sport touring motorcycles combine attributes of sport bikes and touring motorcycles. The rider posture is less extreme than a sport bike, giving greater long-distance comfort.[1] Accommodation for a passenger is superior to a sport bike as well, along with increased luggage capacity.[1] Being lighter, at 550–720 lb (250–330 kg) wet,[11] than a pure touring bike and often having racier engines, suspensions, and brakes, sport tourers corner better and are more at home being aggressively ridden on curvy canyon roads.[1] The distinction between touring and sport touring is not always clear as some manufacturers will list the same bike in either category in different markets. The Honda ST1300 Pan-European, for example, was listed by Honda as a sport touring motorcycle in the United States and Australia, but as a touring motorcycle in Europe.

Scooters, underbones and mopeds

Main articles: Scooter (motorcycle), Underbone, and Moped

Road racing a Lambretta scooter

Motor scooters are in many cases classified as a separate vehicle to motorbikes, given their large amount of differences, and different evolution.[36] Scooter engine sizes range smaller than motorcycles, 50–850 cc (3.1–51.9 cu in), and have all-enclosing bodywork that makes them cleaner and quieter than motorcycles, as well as having more built-in storage space.[11] Modern scooters have automatic clutches and continuously variable transmissions (CVT), which makes them easier to learn on and to ride.[11] Scooters usually have smaller wheels than motorcycles. They usually have the engine as part of the swingarm, so that their engines travel up and down with the suspension.

Modenas Kriss 120cc underbone

Underbones are small-displacement motorcycles with a step-through frame, descendants of the original Honda Super Cub. They are differentiated from scooters by their larger wheels and their use of footpegs instead of a floorboard. They often have a gear shifter with an automatic clutch.

The moped used to be a hybrid of the bicycle and the motorcycle, equipped with a small engine (usually a small two-stroke engine up to 50 cc, but occasionally an electric motor) and a bicycle drivetrain, and motive power can be supplied by the engine, the rider, or both. There are also Sport mopeds – a type of moped that resembles a sport bike.

In many places, mopeds are subject to less stringent licensing than bikes with larger engines and are popular as very cheap motorbikes, with the pedals seeing next to no use. Mopeds were very popular in the United States during the fuel-crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but their popularity has fallen off sharply since the mid-1980s. In response to rising fuel prices in the first decade of the 2000s, U.S. scooter and moped ridership saw a resurgence.[11] Sales of motorcycles and scooters declined 43.2% in 2009, and continued to decrease in the first quarter of 2010, with scooter sales doing worst, down 13.3% compared to a 4.6% drop for all two-wheelers.[37]

Other types of small motorcycles include the minibike, monkey bike, Welbike, pocketbike, and pit bike.

Enclosed and feet forwards

Zerotracer, winner of the Zero Emissions Race competition, is an electric feet forwards cabin motorcycle

Enclosed motorcycles include cabin motorcycles and streamliner motorcycles.

Feet forwards motorcycles include the 1911 Wilkinson TMC and the 1918 Ner-A-Car. Contemporary examples include the Quasar, powered by a Reliant Robin engine, and the Peraves range powered mainly by BMW K Series engines.


Police motorcycles are job-related motorcycles
Police motorcycles are job-related motorcycles

Some motorcycles are specially adapted for specific job functions, such as those used by the ambulance, blood bikes, fire, and military services, and for specialized delivery services, such as pizza deliveries. Beginning in the 1960s with the Mountain Goat specialized motorcycles were developed for use on farms. The Motocrotte (or cainette) was used in Paris to collect dog waste with vacuum suction in the 1980s and 1990s, and was still in use in other French cities as of 2016.[38][39]

A derny is a motorized bicycle used for motor-paced cycling events.


Yamaha Niken with 3 wheels
Yamaha Niken with 3 wheels

Main article: Motorized tricycle

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Types of motorcycles" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

While motorcycles typically have two wheels, some motorized tricycles are classed as three-wheeled motorcycles. Some brands have made various types of three-wheelers direct from the factory. Most of these vehicles are treated as motorcycles for registration or licensing purposes.

Tilting three-wheelers keep all three wheels on the ground when they lean to negotiate curves. These include Honda's Gyro range, all of which have a front wheel that leans and a pair of rear wheels that do not, and the Piaggio MP3, which has two front wheels and a single rear wheel, all of which lean. The Yamaha Niken is also a tilting three wheeler but has smaller track width such that it is considered a motorcycle by some authorities.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Maher, Kevin; Greisler, Ben (1998), Chilton's Motorcycle Handbook, Haynes North America, pp. 2.2–2.18, ISBN 0-8019-9099-8
  2. ^ a b Kresnak, Bill (2008), Motorcycling for Dummies, Hoboken, New Jersey: For Dummies, Wiley Publishing, pp. 63–64, 66–70, 132–141, ISBN 978-0-470-24587-3
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Domino, Kevin (2009), The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New Or Used Bike, 671 Press, pp. 47–58, ISBN 978-0-9821733-3-6
  4. ^ a b c Holmstrom, Darwin (2001), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles (2nd ed.), Alpha Books, pp. 20–21, 33–41, 334–358, 407, ISBN 0-02-864258-9
  5. ^ a b McCraw, Jim (July 2005), "About That Bike…", Popular Mechanics, Hearst Magazines, vol. 182, no. 7, pp. 68–70, ISSN 0032-4558, retrieved 2010-06-04
  6. ^ a b c Bennett, Jim (1995), The Complete Motorcycle Book: A Consumer's Guide, Facts on File, pp. 15–16, 19–25, ISBN 0-8160-2899-0
  7. ^ The MAIDS report, using the OECD Road Transport Research Programme methodology, uses the following nine classifications for motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters, providing one illustration of each: See:
    • International Coordinating Committee of the Expert Group for Motorcycle Accident Investigations (2001), Motorcycles: Common International Methodology for On-Scene, In-Depth Accident Investigation, Paris: Road Transport Research Programme; of the Directorate for Science Technology and Industry; of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD/DSTI/RTR/RS9/ICC
    • MAIDS (Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study) Final Report 2.0, ACEM, the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers, April 2009, pp. 15–20
  8. ^ Broughton, Paul; Walker, Linda (May 6, 2009), Motorcycling and Leisure; Understanding the Recreational PTW Rider, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 7, ISBN 9780754675013, retrieved September 14, 2013
  9. ^ TT '78 A Motor Cycle News special, EMAP publication, 1978. Hailwood's homecoming, pp.57-61. Accessed June 18 2018
  10. ^ Motorcyclist Illustrated, October 1974, p.13, Bomber, Norton Commando John Player Special road test by Dave Minton (pp.10-15). Accessed September 20 2021
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Stermer, Bill (2006), Streetbikes: Everything You Need to Know, Saint Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks Workshop/MBI, pp. 8–17, ISBN 0-7603-2362-3
  12. ^ Ash, Kevin (1 May 2011), "Ducati Diavel UK road test", Ash on Bikes, retrieved 2011-05-01
  13. ^ 2015 EICMA: Ducati reveals XDiavel power cruiser motorcycle
  15. ^ "Yamaha V Max -". Archived from the original on 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  16. ^ 2009 Yamaha/Star Vmax Road Test | Rider Magazine | Rider Magazine
  17. ^ 2015 Ducati Diavel First Ride - Motorcycle USA
  18. ^ COMPARISON TEST: Ducati Diavel Carbon vs. Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie vs. Star VMAX
  19. ^ Kelly, Howard, Custom Motorcycles: Choppers, Bobbers, Baggers, p. 161, ISBN 9781616730994
  20. ^ Duglin Kennedy, Shirley (2005), The Savvy Guide to Motorcycles, Indy Tech Publishing, p. 232, ISBN 978-0-7906-1316-1
  21. ^ Joans, Barbara (2001), Bike lust: Harleys, women, and American society, Univ of Wisconsin Press, p. 259, ISBN 9780299173548
  22. ^ Hough, David L. (2003), More Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well (2nd ed.), USA: BowTie Press, p. 253, ISBN 1-931993-03-3, sportbike: a motorcycle designed for aggressive performance, especially cornering
  23. ^ "sport bike". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) ("…a powerful, lightweight motorcycle, designed for optimal speed and handling" )
  24. ^ Stermer, Bill (December 2002), "The Next Wave; The future of motorcycling is on display at Germany's Itermot Show", American Motorcyclist, American Motorcyclist Association, pp. 32–35, 55, retrieved 2010-06-04
  25. ^ "Monster Ducati", American Motorcyclist, American Motorcyclist Association, p. 29, February 1993, retrieved 2010-06-04
  26. ^ Henshaw, Peter (2012), How Your Motorcycle Works: Your Guide to the Components & Systems of Modern Motorcycles, Veloce Publishing, p. 8, ISBN 9781845844943, retrieved July 23, 2014
  27. ^ Wallis, Michael; Clark, Marian (2004), Hogs on 66: Best Feed and Hangouts for Road Trips on Route 66, Council Oak Books, ISBN 9781571781406, Streetfighter -- Also known as a 'hooligan' cycle, this is a sports-bike stripped of all superfluous bodywork.
  28. ^ Doeden, Matt; Leonard, Joe (2007), Choppers, Lerner Publications, ISBN 9780822572886, streetfighter: a type of superbike customized for maximum speed and performance.
  29. ^ Inman, Gary (June 2008), "Freedom Fighter; Triumph's stripped-down sportbike came from the street", Cycle World, pp. 36–7, ISSN 0011-4286
  30. ^ Fraser, Colin (May 12, 2000), "It may be naked and a street fighter, but don't call Buell a UJM", National Post, Don Mills, Ontario, p. F.4
  31. ^ Clymer, admin (May 10, 2017). "Street Bike vs Dirt Bike - What's the Difference?". Clymer Manuals. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  32. ^ Steinke, Gared (June 29, 2016). "MXA's Two-Stroke Tuesday: The AMA Displacement Rule". Motocross Action Magazine. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  33. ^ What is MotoTrials, AMA/NATC USA National Championship MotoTrials Series, 2013
  34. ^ Rose, Brent (November 29, 2017). "What Are Snow Bikes and How Are They So Awesome?". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  35. ^ Duke, Kevin (January 15, 2006), "2006 Adventure Touring Comparo", MotorcycleUSA, retrieved 2011-11-19
  36. ^ Michael A. Regan, Gavan Lintern, Robin Hutchinson, Christine Turetschek, "Use of Cognitive Work Analysis for exploration of safety management in the operation of motorcycles and scooters" Volume 74, 2015, pp. 279-289
  37. ^ Carpenter, Susan (May 18, 2010), "Motorcycle dealers still scrambling to find customers; Sales fall 4.6% in the first quarter compared with a year earlier", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 2010-06-14
  38. ^ McNeil, Donald G. Jr. (1999-11-09), "Paris Journal; A Fouled City Puts Its Foot Down, but Carefully", The New York Times, retrieved 2017-03-01
  39. ^ Hoad, Phil (2016-04-12). "Mind the merde: why can't French cities clean up after their dogs?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-03-01.