What is a Motorcycle
Perhaps the most stereotypical image of motorcycles includes the image of leather-clad bikers riding on low saddles with tall handlebars. But there is so much more to motorcycles than just that. In fact, that image evokes only one of many types of motorcycles.
A motorcycle’s precise legal definition varies by country, as well as by the individual states that make up a country. However, generally, a motorcycle is understood to be a motor-powered vehicle that has at least two but not more than three wheels and a sufficiently large engine. Mopeds and motor scooters are often excluded from the category of motorcycles due to their smaller engine sizes.
For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles in the United States says that in order to be a motorcycle, the engine size has to be greater than 150cc (cc stands for cubic centimeters, and represents an engine’s overall volume). However, the exact definitions might vary from state to state, and the regulations in order to be licensed and which ones can go on highways might depend on which state you’re living in.
Generally, mopeds and scooters are not classified as motorcycles. If the engine is 50cc or less, it is usually called a moped, whereas between 50-250cc can be mostly classified as a scooter. So what categories do motorcycles encompass?
Types of Motorcycle
There are several types of motorcycles, including standard, cruiser, sport, touring, sport-touring, and dual sportbikes. Let’s go over each category to better understand each one and what makes one type of motorcycle different from another.
The standard motorcycle is the oldest style of motorcycle out there, hence the name. They provide upright seating with the handlebars at a comfortable reach (you don’t have to outstretch your arms or hold them at an awkward angle), and the footpegs are either directly below or a little behind the rider. Of course, everyone has a different body type, so it is still important to consider the seat height and ergonomics of an individual standard motorcycle (or any motorcycle) prior to choosing one. The best option is to try them out in person to make sure it is a comfortable fit.
Standard motorcycles usually feature a single headlight and lack fairings (the plastic pieces covering the body of the motorcycle that is often seen on sport bikes). Due to this lack of fairings, sometimes standard motorcycles are referred to as naked bikes. You can tell if it is a naked bike as you will be able to see the engine and other mechanical components of the bike as it stands; they are constantly exposed rather than hidden under plastic trim pieces.
Another variant of the standard motorcycle is the cafe racer, which is a modern motorcycle styled from older eras like the 1950s and 1980s.
Originally from England, they are now all over the world-famous and especially in Asia. As we know, motorcycles are much popular in Asia.
The goal was to transform a standard motorcycle into a racer. Keynotes are:
–low-mounted handlebars (=aerodynamic)
–slab style seat
A racer that’s gone to the dark side down back alleys and rough streets. Think, smoky nostalgia and vintage flare. That’s what you’re after when you build your Cafe Racer.
The minimalist design and the lightweight body built for speed and handling scream freedom and rebellion.
The simplest explanation would be: A café Racer build for Dirt Roads with an upright sitting position.
The bikes can be maneuvered comfortably which makes them awesome starter bikes. One of the most famous scramblers from the factory, new, has to be the Ducati scrambler. (Also available with a café racer kit!)
The Ducati Scramble can be an awesome starter bike! A very comfortable sitting position, which allows nice control over the motorcycle. The engine is pleasant with a little more power.
A bobber motorcycle is a motorcycle that has been stripped of all its non-essential parts, literally leaving it as just a composition of all the vital parts.
It lacks parts such as a front fender, or other accessories that are more just aesthetics. It has a shortened rear fender, a muted and very basic paint scheme, and a lowered stance.
Standard motorcycles come with a wide range of engine sizes, from beginner-friendly, low CC models up to 1000+ CCs! Some beginner-friendly models include:
- Kawasaki Z400
o Engine size: 399cc
o Weight: 364lb or 165.1kg
o Power: 44.1hp
o Seat height: 30.9in or 785mm
- KTM Duke 390Z400
o Engine size: 373.2cc
o Weight: 329lb or 149.2kg
o Power: 44hp
o Seat height: 31in or 800mm
- Yamaha MT-03
o Engine size: 321cc
o Weight: 373lb or 169.2kg
o Power: 41.4hp
o Seat height: 30.7in or 779.7mm
The cruiser motorcycle is not focused on speed or agility, instead, the cruiser is about a comfortable ride to enjoy. They feature low seats and foot pegs below or forward of the rider, with the handlebars easy to reach in a relaxed rather than aggressive posture. They have enough torque to get around but usually are not capable of the high speeds other kinds of motorcycles are.
A cruiser usually features fairings, a seat slumped well below the gas tank, and a variety of headlight and handlebar styles. Cruisers are also the type of motorcycle that is often customized (although other styles of bikes can also be custom). When is a cruiser the right fit for me? Whether a cruiser is right for you or not depends on a variety of factors. Think about the weight and speed you want to go.
Beginner-friendly cruisers include:
- Honda Rebel 500
- Engine size: 471cc
- Weight: 414lb or 187.8kg
- Power: 40.83hp
- Seat height: 27.2in or 690.9mm
- Kawasaki Vulcan 500
- Engine size: 498cc
- Weight: 439lb or 199.1kg
- Power: 46hp
- Seat height: 28.1in or 713.7mm
- Harley Davidson Sportster/Iron 883
- Engine size: 883cc
- Weight: 564lb or 255.8kg
- Power: 49hp
- Seat height: 29.9in or 759.5mm
Sport motorcycles often referred to as sportbikes, are designed for high speeds and excellent handling. They place the rider in a more aggressive position, generally hunched forward to reach the handlebars and footpegs behind the rider. This creates a low profile while riding to reduce drag. While sport bikes are used professionally in motorsports, there are tons of street-legal models ranging from as low as 250cc to 1,000cc!
Sportbikes will have fairings and typically come in a variety of colors and styles. They are meant to look aggressive and stand out. Some “beginner-friendly” sports bikes are:
- Kawasaki Ninja 400
- Engine size: 399cc
- Weight: 366lb or 166kg
- Power: 45hp
- Seat height: 30.9in or 785mm
- Yamaha R3
- Engine size: 321cc
- Weight: 375lb or 170.1kg
- Power: 50hp
- Seat height: 30.7in or 779.7mm
- KTM RC 390
- Engine size: 373cc
- Weight: 329lb or 149.2kg
- Power: 44hp
- Seat height: 32.3in or 820.4mm
What you might have noticed is that the comparison between the sport models and standard models listed above are very similar. In fact, the specs are very close for the Ninja 400 vs. Z400, with one being in a standard form and the other the sport model. Choosing between the two types when they are so alike is one of personal preference. Which one do you like the looks of more? Which one is more comfortable? Both are great beginner models but each offers a different riding position and therefore experience.
Touring and Sport Touring
The touring motorcycle is made just for what the name sounds like: travel! These are generally fairly large bikes and have luggage attached. It is a bike designed for long trips, with a bigger fuel tank, large windshields and fairings to block out the elements, and room for a passenger.
Because they are meant for touring, they are also designed to promote comfort over speed, placing the rider in a relaxed position so they can enjoy the many miles they traverse.
Touring motorcycles are not really intended for beginners, who are better off starting on something lighter and smaller before progressing to a high capacity, heavy touring bike. However, just like the above options, brands like Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, KTM, etc., will be good options in the touring market. And they offer a small block version which makes them significantly lighter.
The sport-touring model is meant to be a combination of touring motorcycles and sportbikes. It will have better performance overall than a touring model, but it will have less room for luggage and passengers, a more aggressive riding position, less weight, and a higher seat. This type of motorcycle is intended for those who want to travel long distances on their motorcycles but also enjoy the experience of riding a sportbike.
Thus, you see a rider that is tucked in, leaning forward for aerodynamics, and with their feet set behind the alignment of their hips. It’s comfortable for the short term, but won’t be a position very sustainable for long-haul riding. One thing that Cafe Racers were not built for is comfort.
The dual-sport motorcycle is often referred to as an adventure bike or ADV bike. This is a motorcycle designed to tackle both on and off-road scenarios. Whereas dirt bikes are usually not legal to ride on the roads, a dual-sport motorcycle can do it all. Sometimes there is a distinction made between dual-sport, adventure, and enduro bikes, but they are essentially all part of the same family of bikes that can go on and off-road.
Generally, dual-sport motorcycles are lightweight and feature tall seat heights with high handlebars for riding while standing up. There are many different models, some designed very closely to a dirt bike (minimal bodywork and thin chassis) and others made for long-distance trips that will feature both dirt and pavement (larger models with more bodywork and accessories). There are also supermoto bikes, which are essentially street-legal motocross bikes. These can be considered a sort of combination between dual-sport and sportbikes.
Some good beginner dual-sport motorcycles to consider are:
- Suzuki DR 200 SE
- Engine size: 199cc
- Weight: 276lb or 125kg
- Power: 20hp
- Seat height: 32in or 810mm
- Kawasaki KLX250
- Engine size: 249cc
- Weight: 297.7lb or 135kg
- Power: 27hp
- Seat height: 34.8in or 779.7mm
- Honda CRF230M
- Engine size: 223cc
- Weight: 276lb or 125kg
- Power: 18.6hp
- Seat height: 31.7in or 805mm
What are the differences
Which engine size should I get?
Not only the cc is important, also the type of motorcycle. If you’re brand new to riding then it may be a good idea to start with a smaller bike in order to really master the craft. . It may be a good idea to buy a smaller motorcycle, either a 125 or 250cc, to start with.
You’ll be able to progressively increase your skills and confidence on the road until you feel that you are ready to increase the cubic capacity of your motorcycle.
What if I want to build my own custom motorcycle?
Which bikes are best suited for a conversion? That is an important and crucial question. I would say there is no such thing as the perfect base for every build.
First, you have to decide, will it be:
- Café Racer
After you have chosen the right style, to can look for the perfect base. For our Top list of suggestions just click on the links above.
There are many types of motorcycles out there, and they come with their own unique features. Some are meant for speed and the best aerodynamics possible, whereas others are built for comfort when journeying over long distances. The exact definition of a motorcycle from a legal perspective varies based on what country you live in, as well as which part of that country you’re in!
Further, the rules to get licensed and be able to ride a motorcycle (and which kind you can ride) on the roads varies by where you live, but you can be confident that a motorcycle is a 2 wheeled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine that is not very low capacity (such as those found in mopeds and scooters).
It’s never a good idea to just hop on a motorcycle and take off on a whim, especially if you’re new to it. Before you buy your first motorcycle, spend some time doing research.
Choosing your first bike is such an individualized experience. Motorcycles are not one size fits all.
Different Motorcycle Companies
- Boss Hoss
- Di Blasl
- Gas Gas
- Indian Motorcycles
- Royal Enfield
- TM Racing
- Wild Eagle