- There are different types of motorcycles for every enthusiast, from cruisers to electric bikes.
- Street motorcycles include choppers, cruisers, power cruisers, touring bikes, sport tourists, street sports, and naked bikes.
- Electric motorcycles are gaining popularity and offer environmentally-friendly options.
- Trikes provide stability and freedom on the road for riders who want a different experience.
- Dirt bikes/off-road motorcycles include adventure bikes, trail dirt bikes, dual sport bikes/enduro bikes, and motocross bikes.
- Scooters are popular in Europe and Southeast Asia and feature automatic shifting and step-through seating.
It doesn’t get better than motorcycle riding when it comes to experiencing open roads with all the smells of nature. Thankfully, there are different types of motorcycles for every enthusiast.
Cruising down a windy country road on a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is an experience any motorcycle enthusiast would enjoy. Or, how about flying over the whoops on a motocross track? Now that’s an adrenaline junkie’s dream!
There are so many different types of motorcycles, from electric to cruisers, that the perfect combination exists for every rider. Some are pleasing for their looks and style, while others are built for long-distance travel.
Today, we’re looking at some of the most popular motorbike styles, so hop along for the ride.
- Iconic Motorcycle Brands
- Harley Davidson
- BMW Motorrad
- Types of Motorcycles: Street
- Power Cruiser
- Sport Tourist
- Street Sport (Crotch Rocket)
- Naked Bike
- Three-Wheeled Trikes
- Types of Motorcycles: Dirt Bikes/ Off-Road
- Trail Dirt Bike
- Dual Sport Bike/ Enduro Bike
- Types of Motorcycles: Scooters
Iconic Motorcycle Brands
Although the bikes below fall into some of the other “type” categories, we list some of the most iconic motorcycle brands. They each stand alone for their own reasons, but these motorcycles represent the best of the best.
Any leather-clad biker type knows that American roads belong to Harley-Davidson. For 120 years, Harley riders have enjoyed the motorcycle’s classic style and two-lane road trips. These bikes signify freedom, self-expression, and individuality.
- The 1968 FLH Electra Glide signifies all the brand embodies in its free-spirited, all-American love of performance and chrome.
- 1970s stuntman and daredevil Evel Knievel wowed audiences worldwide with his daredevil stunts and jumps. And his motorcycle? The HD XR-750! It now resides in the Smithsonian, if you’d like to see it. But the customized motorcycle took Knievel soaring over 50 stacked cars!
- Some of Harley Davidson’s types of motorcycles include these iconic models:
- Fat Boy
- Fat Bob
- Street Glide
- Road Glide
- Road King
- Soft Tail
- Freewheeler Trike
Founded in 1901, two years before Harley-Davidson, Indian was the first motorcycle company in America. The initial models looked a little like today’s electric bicycles but with much more power!
Indian Motorcycle riders pride themselves on going their way and not joining the crowd. They’re rule breakers and rule makers who love being part of something bigger than themselves.
Here are some Indian Motorcycle models:
- Challenger: Darkhorse
- Chief: Bobber, Darkhorse, Sport, and Super
- Chieftan: Darkhorse
- Scout: Bobber, Rogue, and Sixty
- Springfield: Darkhorse
- eFTR: Electrics
- FTR: Championship, R Carbon, Rally, and Sport
BMW Motorrad Motorcycles
The company started out manufacturing airplane engines. But after World War I, they switched to cars and motorcycles in an attempt to stay in business. The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that the German company could no longer make airplane engines.
BMW Motorrad released its first motorcycle model in 1923, the R32. But the motorcycles didn’t come to the United States for a few more years.
The year 2023 marks the company’s 100th birthday, and you can join the celebration this Fall in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Barber Vintage Festival. What a treat for BMW riders!
BMW uses alphanumerics to name its motorcycles. The first letter equates to the engine type.
- C: parallel twin-cylinder engines and a constantly variable clutch
- S: four-cylinder sport
- R: opposed twin-cylinder
- G: single cylinder
- F: parallel twin-cylinder
- K: three or more cylinders
Numbers in the motorcycle name’s second part usually represent engine displacement size in cubic centimeters. And the last letters explain what the motorcycle excels in.
- A: Adventure
- B: Bagger
- G: German gelande, meaning terrain
- GSA: Grand sport adventure
- GT: Sport touring
- GTL: Luxury sport touring
- L: Luxury
- RR: Road racing
- RT: Road touring
- S: Sport or Strasse (German for street)
- T: Touring
- X: Extreme
Other Iconic Brands
The motorcycle world has many other iconic brands, and we’ll try to cover them in the different types of motorcycles below. But a few more favorites include these:
Different Types of Motorcycles: Street
Street motorcycles incorporate a wide variety of different types of motorcycles, from electric to cruisers.
The chopper came out in the 1950s and is one of America’s most iconic motorcycle styles. It looks stretched out from its long fork and modified steering angles. Customized choppers came from the California sunshine and were advertised with ruggedly masculine riders.
The movie “Easy Riders” took choppers mainstream and global. But you may also be familiar with Orange County Choppers from the Discovery Channel show “American Chopper.” Father and son team Paul Teutul Sr. and Jr. work with a team of craftsmen to produce some of the most beautiful bikes imaginable.
Arlen Ness is another big name in the chopper world. And the Dublin, California, customization and parts company is still family-owned since 1970.
The long front ends of choppers give them their signature style. And combined with their hardtail frames, choppers had their heyday in the 1960s and 70s. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but these bikes scream dramatic style, even if some are straight off the factory floor.
- 1960 Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper
- Captain America Easy Rider HD Chopper
- Honda Fury
- West Coast Choppers
- Big Bear Choppers
- American Ironhorse
- Big Dog Choppers
Different Types of Motorcycles: Cruiser
Cruiser-style motorcycles became popular in the 1930s. And they’re still one of the most popular of the different types of motorcycles today because of their comfortable riding position.
Your feet stretch forward, and your hands are slightly up. That keeps your back comfortable and erect, or even in a slightly reclined position.
Cruisers are heavy bikes that focus on low-end torque and comfortable riding. And they sometimes have lower power-to-weight ratios.
- Harley Davidson Heritage Classic
- Indian Scout Bobber Sixty
- Excelsior-Henderson Super X Motorcycle
- Honda Shadow Phantom
- 2019 BMW K1600B
- Honda Goldwing
While cruisers are low-powered, comfortable machines, power cruisers are a different type of motorcycle. They sport upgraded suspensions and lots of horsepower. You’ll also find better ground clearance in a power cruiser. In addition, they feature a more neutral riding position, so you get better cornering at higher speeds.
- Honda Rebel 1100T DCT
- Ducati Diavel 1260
- Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom
- 2019 Yamaha VMAX
- Harley-Davidson FXDR 114
This is a different type of motorcycle than a cruiser because a touring bike helps you sit more upright for long rides. It comes equipped with luggage compartments and cruise control for extra comfort.
Touring motorcycles have spacious storage and cup holders. They also feature heated seats and hand grips to make countryside touring super comfortable. The downside is extra weight from all these amenities.
As a result, touring bikes may not be for everyone, especially if you have trouble lifting it back up when it goes over. One of the most popular touring motorcycles is the Honda Goldwing. But other models include the following:
- BMW R18 Trans-Continental
- Indian Pursuit
- Indian Roadmaster
- Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited
- Suzuki GSX-S1000GT+
- Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
These bikes take touring to the next level! Sport tourist motorcycles are edgy and fast, but they still have the comfort, technology, and storage you want for longer trips.
Some sport tourist bikes are similar to adventure motorcycles with their off-road capabilities. And the functionality of the two classes sometimes overlaps. But sport tourists have superior performance and comfort even when they have the souls of adventure and sportbikes.
- Kawasaki Concours 14
- Ducati Multistrada
- KTM 890 Adventure
- Yamaha FJR 1300 ES
Street Sport (Crotch Rocket)
Street sport motorcycles go by different names: crotch rockets or supersport motorbikes. But whatever you call them, these machines are made for agility and speed over storage capacity and comfort.
Crotch rockets have sleek, aerodynamic styling that makes them seem like they’re ready to fly. They are reliable commuters, in addition to their powerful agility.
Street sportbikes come predominately from metric manufacturers. And the Kawasaki Ninja gave this different type of motorcycle its other nickname of Ninja-bikes.
- Yamaha YZF
- Honda CBR 650F
- Aprilia RSV4
- BMW S1000RR
- Ducati SuperSport 950
Naked or standard roadster motorcycles are some of the simplest bikes on the market. They are widespread, and you’ve likely seen hundreds, even if you don’t know what to call the type of motorcycle.
Naked bikes have upright seating and riding position between the reclining cruisers and the forward-leaning sport bikes. They don’t usually have fairings or windshields, making them stripped-down versions of today’s plush motorcycle options.
Standard motorcycles are general-purpose, smaller bikes that you find in many garages across America. They are lightweight and versatile; an excellent choice for smaller riders gaining experience. In addition, riders often turn them into track racers, where they function as smoothly as on the street.
- Yamaha MT-09 (Hyper Naked)
- Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS
- KTM Super Duke 1290 R EVO
- Zero SR/F
- Kawasaki Z900RS
- Indian FTR Sport
Different Types of Motorcycles: Electric
If you’ve seen the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman motorcycle adventuring series, “Long Way Up,” then you know their mixed experience with electric motorcycles. The pair and their team had their share of struggles trying to ride electrics from Argentina to Los Angeles.
And while the adventure is part of the game, the result is a successful journey from one point to the other. In addition, Harley-Davidson spun off its Livewire division into its own publicly traded electric motorcycle division after McGregor and Boorman rode the prototypes.
Electrics might be a different type of motorcycle than you’ve previously considered. But the newer technologies are expanding their popularity. So, if you want an environmentally-focused choice (or you’re just a techie-nerd), you may want to check out some of these options.
- Livewire ONE
- Zero SR/S
- LiveWire Del Mar S2
- Evoke 6061
Like scooters that we’ll talk about below, trikes aren’t every motorcycle enthusiast’s dream bike. However, they offer the wind-in-your-hair feeling to riders who want more stability. Trikes aren’t quite bikes or cars, but they still offer freedom on the road.
Motorcycle classification keeps trikes from needing to conform to DOT rules for automobiles. And it also keeps their prices lower than autos.
Some have solo seats, while others let you bring a passenger along. And the ride experience and positioning vary, too, just like in the different types of traditional motorcycles.
- Can-Am Spyder RT Limited
- Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra
- Polaris Slingshot (looks more carlike)
- Piaggio MP3 530 HPE Exclusive
Different Types of Motorcycles: Dirt Bikes/ Off-Road
Dirt bikes, or off-road motorcycles, take adventure to the next level. Made for trails, dirt tracks, and muddy bogs, these motorcycles know what it means to get down and dirty.
This type of motorcycle is designed for adventure! Drive them on rocky terrains or fast tracks. They’re built for punishment or speed. And the choice is up to you.
They look like a cross between street and dirt bikes, built to get the best of both styles. Taller seat height makes back road navigation more manageable, and you can even outfit adventure bikes with cargo carriers to stow your tent and sleeping bag.
- BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
- Harley-Davidson Pan America® 1250 Special
- Yamaha Tenere 700
- Honda Africa Twin
Trail Dirt Bike
Designed for off-road riding, trail dirt bikes are not street-legal since they don’t have mirrors, turn signals, headlights, or taillights.
Instead, they are lightweight and agile, perfect for zipping through the woods. They usually have 2-stroke or 4-stroke models but sometimes come in electric versions.
Cruise through dirt and mud and climb rocky mountains like a pro. But don’t expect to drive down the road to grandma’s house on a proper knobby-tired dirt bike.
- Suzuki RM-Z250
- Yamaha YZ125
- Yamaha YZ250F
- KTM 250 SX-F
Different Types of Motorcycles: Dual Sport Bike/ Enduro Bike
Enduros and dual sport bikes are street-legal but still go off-road for adventuring. Ride them with street tires or switch over to dirt ones. Or, you can even use a mix of both tire types, depending on how and where you ride most often.
They have upright seating to help you see upcoming dips and potholes. And dual sports are lightweight enough to take them anywhere you want to go. But they’re also sturdy enough to withstand the bumps and bruises headed your way.
Enduros often forgo the windshield to keep the weight down. But they sure are nimble!
- Suzuki DR-Z400S
- Yamaha YZ250X
- KTM 250 XC-W
- Husqvarna FE 350S
Built for steaming full-speed around a track with jumps, whoops, bermed corners, and any other dirt obstacle you can imagine, motocross bikes are a whole different type of motorcycle.
Motocross engines are tuned for high RPM horsepower, and that’s where you’re supposed to ride them. These bikes also have close-ratio gears in their transmissions.
So, more shifting will keep your RPMs right in the powerhouse. Plus, the suspension absorbs high-speed impacts. And that’s how you’ll fly over the whoops and take jumps like a Pro. Or at least better than your old man, back in his heyday!
- Honda CRF450R
- Kawasaki KX450F
- Yamaha YZ450F
- Kawasaki KX250F
Different Types of Motorcycles: Scooters
Any trip to Vietnam will give you forever nightmares of trying to cross the street. You’re like a pebble in a vast sea of scooters, but here’s the primary rule.
Once you step forward, you never step back, and you never, ever run! Stepping back or running means the scooter drivers can’t anticipate your moves. And you’ll most certainly get clipped.
While scooters are more prevalent in Europe and Southeast Asia, they also have a significant presence here in the States. We’re just a little more spread out, so you don’t generally see hundreds per city block.
We’re not talking about Birds or Limes, either. Instead, it’s all about Vespas, Piaggios, and Hondas. BMW is even making an electric scooter, BMW CE 04.
Scooters generally feature automatic shifting, step-through seating, and small 10-inch tires. They usually have a maximum of 150 ccs, but larger models are also available.
- Vespa Primavera 150
- Honda Metropolitan
- Yamaha Zuma 50F
- Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS Executive
- Yamaha Vino Classic
- Piaggio Liberty
There are almost as many different types of motorcycles as there different types of people to ride them. So, whether you want an environmentally-friendly electric or a stylized street cruiser, you’ll find just the right bike.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Jag_cz/Shutterstock.com.