If you’ve ever pictured yourself astride a motorcycle, cruising along a wide-open highway in gorgeous weather to the infectious groove of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” you’ve no doubt longed to taste the freedom known by all dedicated motorcycling enthusiasts.
But, you don’t necessarily have to be a romantic to want to ride a motorcycle. Many people do it simply as a way to save money on gas. Whatever your reason, if you’re interested in buying a motorcycle but you’ve never ridden one before, you’re probably not sure where to begin your search. If so, rest assured. We’ve got some helpful information that’ll help cut out some of the necessary research on the various kinds of bikes there are out there.
When you see a sleek, compact motorcycle rocket past you on the highway, it’s most likely a sport bike. These machines were built for the thrill of speed Tey’re as light and powerful as possible, and typically not as comfortable as other types of motorcycles.
Sport bikes are the speed machines of the motorcycle world. High-powered with sophisticated suspension systems and high-performance brakes, sport bikes typically are stuffed with the latest and greatest technology you can find on two wheels (or four). A common sentiment about sport bikes is that they are not comfortable unless you’re going over 100 mph, at which point they become very comfortable because they are in their element. While most sport bikes are not designed for distance riding, that hasn’t stopped many riders from adding some soft bags and a better seat so they can ride to distant stretches of challenging roads or racetracks. Sport bikes are typically not the best choice for a beginner due to their hair-trigger nature and prodigious power, but a lower-powered, middle-weight sport bike or a “sport bike lite” might be a good choice to start with if this is the kind of bike you definitely want to ride.
These machines are also referred to as “naked bikes” because they offer very few of the bells and whistles now being incorporated into more specialized motorcycles. They are general-purpose street bikes.
One of the most obscure genera of motorcycles is the naked, or standard. It looks like a sport bike at certain angles, but where did all the bodywork go? Why are the handlebars upright like a dirt bike, and what’s up with the large, comfortable seat? The naked motorcycle really hit the limelight back in the ’80s, when Eddie Lawson raced the beastly Kawasaki KZ1000R, which revealed a hellish inline-four engine, Kerker megaphone exhaust and minimal lime-green bodywork. The allure of the standard is that riders get sport bike power with cruiserlike comfort. Standards excel in versatility for that reason and can handle longer trips with the ability to intimidate track riders with tuned-up power and confident handling in the twisties. The Kawasaki ZRX1200R is one of the most beloved and multifaceted standards on the planet. Styled after Eddie’s liter bike, the ZRX is a torque monster that’s comfortable to ride, and one look at the green monster might transform you into a naked freak.
Sometimes called dual-purpose or on/off-road motorcycles, are street legal machines that are also designed to enter off-road situations. Typically based on a dirt bike chassis, they have added lights, mirrors, signals, and instruments that allow them to be licensed for public roads.
Dual-sports, sometimes called dual-purpose or on/off-road motorcycles, are street legal machines that are also designed to enter off-road situations. Typically based on a dirt bike chassis, they have added lights, mirrors, signals, and instruments that allow them to be licensed for public roads. They are higher than other street bikes, with a high center of gravity and tall seat height, allowing good suspension travel for rough ground.
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. 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.
Stemming from the styling themes laid down by Harley-Davidson, most cruisers are low, long, and somewhat mean looking. Their main benefit is low seat height along with a certain visual swagger.
Many beginning riders picture themselves cruising city streets on a glistening, low-slung machine and if that’s your dream, you should be shopping for a cruiser. Cruisers feature a low seat height, a torque-rich engine (typically a V-twin), a fat rear tire, lots of style and very often, a lot of chrome. Comfortable to ride, cruisers can also make for good touring bikes with the addition of saddlebags, a windscreen and maybe a backrest for the passenger. Cruisers can be stripped down, bobbed, have amazing paint jobs or a rattle-can finish – a cruiser is what you make of it. A light or medium-weight cruiser makes a good beginner bike because they are easier to handle at low speeds and have a more relaxed power output. Just don’t expect to win races against sport bikes.
The name of this motorcycle category suggests their strong suit. Touring bikes are better equipped for long-distance rides.
Do you have an affinity for travel and motorcycles? Then you’re probably going to shop for a touring bike. Like a cruiser, the touring bike is designed ergonomically to maximize the comfort level wherever you happen to trek. However, the touring bike is designed to get you from point A to the other side of the country rather than from bar to bar. With plenty of storage space, large and plush seats, a full backrest for a passenger, and heightened technology, high-end touring bikes tend to be fairly expensive. The Honda Gold Wing is one of the most infamous touring models in existence. Of course, there are the sport tourers like the Triumph Sprint ST, which takes a corner-carving bike and tosses some hardbags and advanced technology into the cauldron. If you fancy yourself a Magellan of the motorcycle world, then you want a touring bike.
Another fast-growing genre is often called just ADV(ADVENTURE TOURING). These bikes are patterned after the long-popular BMW R-GS bikes, which are basically large street machines that also offer some off-road capability.
This rider laughs at daily city commutes in stop-and-go traffic. That’s not real riding. Real riding is visiting international points of interest solely via motorcycle. Machu Picchu? The Andes mountains? Getting as close to Pripyat (where the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened) as possible? Been there, done that – on bikes that can go almost anywhere when ridden by a skilled rider. Unless you’re a fellow adventure tourer, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see this rider in the wild – your life is simply too mundane.
In general, a scooter or moped will be easier for conducting day-to-day activities when you’re riding around town, but are not recommended for the highway. They usually have all-enclosing bodywork and, compared to motorcycles, are typically: Smaller, Quieter, Not as fast and have more built-in storage space.
What are scooters doing on this list? Scooters are a type of motorcycle and a popular one at that, so don’t sell them short. Today, you can get scooters in sizes ranging from 50cc city machines to 650cc (or larger!) comfort wagons that can cross continents. Scooters are also one of the more stylish types of motorized conveyances and as of late, are incorporating a lot of cutting-edge technology, like ABS and fuel injection. Plus, they usually feature an automatic transmission, so they make for a good beginner bike. If you live in a city and don’t think you’ll be doing a lot of long distance riding, consider a modern, stylish scooter.
With styling that recalls motorcycling’s roots mated to modern technology like antilock brakes and fuel injection, today’s retro bikes are both mechanically simple and utterly reliable.
A non-rider often asks, “What’s the best motorcycle?” The experienced rider answers, “That depends on what you want to do with it.” Today, motorcycles are better than ever and also more specialized than ever. The key to being happy with your choice is not finding the “best” motorcycle, but rather finding the motorcycle that’s right for you and the kind of riding you want to do.