What You Can Ride
Find the Bike For You
There are many types of motorcycles, each suited to a specific style of riding and, yes, a certain personal image. It’s important to understand the variety of bikes to ensure you’re making your most informed choice. Your decision should be based on function and capabilities, not simply appearances.
These off-road-only motorcycles are rugged and lightweight and built to take on trails and motocross tracks. They are taller than typical street bikes because of the longer suspension travel that is needed to absorb humps, bumps and jumps. They have knobby tires to pull through dirt and gravel. Dirt bikes are also a great way to get your first experience on two wheels.
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 generally taller than typical street bikes, with higher ground clearance and longer suspension travel to deal with rough terrain.
These are also dual-purpose motorcycles that can be ridden on pavement and off-road, but adventure, or ADV bikes, typically have larger engines and larger gas tanks and are built to take on many highway miles. ADV riders often outfit their bikes with all the luggage: side bags, a top case and a tank bag. Like the name says, adventure motorcycles are built for adventure. Many have fairings and a windscreen to protect the riders from wind, and many can be outfitted with auxiliary lights to provide better visibility when traveling to more remote areas. Many offer high-tech accessories such as heated grips and GPS. You might be surprised the types of terrain these rugged motorcycles can take on.
Touring motorcycles are designed to cover long distances in great comfort. They often have large-displacement engines, and tall fairings that offer significant weather and wind protection, and large-capacity fuel tanks for extended range between fill-ups. They are famous for their relaxed, upright seating position and plush seats. Passenger accommodation is excellent and expansive luggage space is the norm for this class. Large touring bikes are sometimes called dressers, especially those that are based on a cruiser platform. Others are more sporting in nature and can handle the curves as well as the interstate.
Styled after classic machines from the ’30s and ’60s, cruisers generally have low seat heights and a laid-back riding position (outstretched legs and arms) that many find comfortable. Cruiser engines are tuned for more low-end torque, making them less demanding to ride because it’s not necessary to shift as frequently. Cruisers come in many sizes, from smaller 250cc’s to hefty 1300cc’s and bigger.
These all-purpose street motorcycles are great for around-town commuting to longer highway rides and more. The riding position is more upright, with foot pegs below the rider and handlebars generally at a very comfortable reach. Standard bikes don’t have very much body work and can be a great “canvas” for customization. Accessories, such as luggage, are easy to add, too, for those who want to take longer road trips.
Sport bikes have comparatively high-performance engines with lightweight frames. Riders have a more tucked-in riding position, and a sport bike’s aerodynamic bodywork, or fairings, help shield riders from wind buffeting. Sport bikes often feature the latest in motorcycle technology. For those interested in doing track days, these are the perfect bikes for the purpose. Sport bikes also range in size, from 300 cc’s and up.
Scooters are a great choice for city dwellers. These two wheelers typically have smaller wheels than motorcycles and have a step-through seating position. Most feature an automatic transmission, so no shifting is required. Just twist the throttle and go. Many scooter models also include under seat storage that can carry groceries, a backpack, a purse or an extra helmet for a friend. Scooters come in many sizes, from 50cc and smaller to 500cc and up. Smaller scooters are perfect urban hoppers while more powerful scooters can be used for serious road trips. And if you’re looking for a fuel-sipping vehicle, scooters are it. Depending on the model, scooters can get 70 mpg to more than 130 mpg. Electric scooters are also gaining in popularity.