What’s the best kind of motorcycle for your needs? If you’re in the market to buy a bike, the answer will vary based on a few important questions:
- What’s your experience level?
- How will you use your motorcycle?
- What price range are you comfortable with?
- Is power or comfort more important?
- Will you primarily be riding solo or with a partner?
From cruisers and crotch rockets to motorized scooters and off-road bikes, get to know each one in this motorcycle buying guide and start comparing the different types of motorcycles based on which are easiest to ride, what models are ideal for road trips, and which get the most style points below!
- Great For: Daily commutes, weekend adventures
- Riding Position: Neutral pegs, mid to low handlebars, upright seat
- Examples: Yamaha MT-07, Honda CB500F
Looking for the best type of motorcycle to get you to and from work? Standard bikes—also known as roadsters or naked motorcycles because of their exposed engines—are some of the easiest to ride. This is thanks to their upright seat, average-sized engine, comfortable handlebar and peg positions, and lighter body style. Standard motorcycles are also one of the best beginner motorcycles because of their affordability and versatility. They’re ideal for short commutes, but they can also be modified for longer trips.
Those looking for a standard bike with a retro flair can find it in a cafe racer-style motorcycle, such as the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 or the Norton Commando 961 Sport. Cafe racers have a forward tilted seat and a sportier, European-style frame that adds a vintage vibe to your ride while still offering more comfort than a standard sports bike.
- Great For: Daily commutes, weekend adventures
- Riding Position: Forward pegs, high handlebars, reclined seat
- Examples: Indian Chief Dark Horse, Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
Leaned-back seats make cruisers some of the most comfortable motorcycles for relaxed weekend rides and carefree commutes to work without looking overly bulky. The hefty price tag, traditionally large engines, and heavy body can be intimidating for some new riders. However, those looking for lots of low-end torque and a powerful yet comfy way to get around will love cruisers.
Looking for even more speed and power? Experienced riders can opt for a power cruiser like the Kawasaki Vulcan S, which offers a more thrilling ride with its low-ground clearance, thicker rear tire, and more powerful engine. If you pair the vintage body style of a cruiser with the speed and power of a sports bike, you have yourself a power cruiser.
When you hear “chopper,” you probably picture about a guy in a leather jacket riding a Harley-Davidson Road King on the wide open road. Choppers give off this American-muscle vibe because of their extended forks, extra high handlebars, and exposed engine. As a type of cruiser with additional weight and amenities “chopped off,” this custom motorcycle is ideal for going fast and looking good doing it.
Similar to choppers, bobbers also have the extra weight chopped off. While choppers are modified to have extended forks to go straight and fast, bobbers like the Triumph Bonneville Bobber have shortened rear fenders ideal for cornering. They can also be purchased for a lower price tag than most choppers.
- Great For: Long-distance trips
- Riding Position: Forward pegs, mid-height handlebars, neutral seat
- Examples: Honda Gold Wing Tour, Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager
Of all the different styles of motorcycles, touring bikes are ideal if you’re looking for a big motorcycle that offers the ultimate comfort. Touring bikes are the best long-distance motorcycles because they have large engines and fuel tanks, as well as expansive front fairings complete with bug screens to help with protection from the elements. Seats tend to be wider with back rests, and there’s space for saddlebags and a passenger. Touring motorcycles are also known for having all the luxury bells and whistles, including heated seats and handlebars, GPS systems, and satellite radio.
Searching for comfort and enhanced cornering? Sport touring motorcycles like the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT and the Ducati Multistrada 1260 are ideal for drives along winding roads where a balance between comfort and performance is key. A forward-leaning seat and exposed hardware give this bike a sportier look, while a lighter engine and frame makes it easier to maneuver. Don’t worry, though—sport touring bikes still provide plenty of cargo space without looking bulky.
- Great For: High-speed riding, daily commutes
- Riding Position: Rear pegs, low handlebars, forward-leaning seat
- Examples: Suzuki GSXR-600, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
If high-speed performance is important, and you plan to ride on paved streets, a sport bike (or crotch rocket, as it’s often called) could be right for you. Known for tight turns, impeccable braking, high-performance engines, and one of the lightest body styles, sport bikes are made for adrenaline-filled rides. Of all the different types of motorcycles, these are also some of the best for intermediate or advanced riders, as they can be trickier to drive, and the crouched position can be strenuous.
While still a fairly new trend, dual sport bikes like the BMW R 1250 GS are growing in popularity. These on/off road motorcycles are a versatile option for buyers who want a custom sports bike that’s light and quick while remaining street legal. Thanks to a body modeled off a dirt bike, a higher seat, an elevated center of gravity, a high-quality suspension system, and off-road tires, these adventure bikes are ready for any terrain at any time!
- Great For: City commutes, short-distance drives
- Riding Position: Neutral pegs, mid-height handlebars, neutral seat
- Examples: Piaggio Fly 150, Suzuki Address 110
If you’re searching for a less intimidating two-wheeled ride, there are many types of scooters that could be right for you. Motor scooters are ideal if you live in a city with narrow streets or if you’re looking for a more eco-friendly way to get around town. Not only do these scooters produce significantly lower emissions than a car, but they’re much more affordable to buy and can cut down on expenses as well. Scooters even run on much smaller engines, so they promise a more relaxed and quieter ride.
What’s the difference between a moped and a scooter? Mopeds are typically smaller than a traditional scooter with engines below 50cc and less protective front fairings. Some models like the Honda Ruckus are gas-powered with more standard motorbike controls; other models are electric-powered with a combination of motorization and pedaling (like old-school mopeds). Regardless of which type you choose, mopeds are some of the best motorcycle types for beginners, thanks to their light bodies, easy handling, and general affordability.
- Great For: Trail riding, weekend adventures
- Riding Position: Rear pegs, mid-height handlebars, neutral seat
- Examples: Honda CRF250L, KTM 690 Enduro R
Off-road motorcycles (or dirt bikes) are best for unpaved road riding. Their elevated height, lighter body style, knobby tires, and high suspension makes riding over rough terrain easier. Whether you’re planning on trail riding or hoping to get involved with competitive off-road racing, most dirt bikes require slightly more training and experience than an on-road motorcycle. Also, keep in mind that many off-road bikes aren’t street legal, so they’re not ideal if you need a motorcycle for daily commutes.
Now that you’ve determined which type of motorbike is right for your needs, you can start mapping out your motorcycle road trips, reading up on motorcycle winterization tips, and figuring out where you’ll store your bike during the off-season (if necessary).
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