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Motorcycle Types - Descriptions and Pictures of Major Motorcycle Types

By Walter F. Kern

New riders are often unaware that there are many types of motorcycles. These motorcycle types or styles have evolved from the standard motorcycle.

This article describes 10 motorcycle types. I've illustrated each type with a picture. Some pictures show the owners of the bikes so you can get an idea how you might look on the bike.

No one can tell you what motorcycle type is best for you. That's part of the fun, sitting on bikes and looking at specs to determine what type fits you. The odds are, you will go through most of the types during your riding career. That's just the way it is. What suits you as a beginner looks and feels less appealing later on. My progression so far has been: two standards, three tourers, a trike, and a standard. Your mileage will vary.

Standard Motorcycle

Standard motorcycle
© 2005 Walter Kern

A standard bike is what most new riders see when they take an MSF class. The rider sits pretty much straight up with the foot pegs directly straight down. The angle of the fork -- the rake -- is slight allowing for easy turning of the handlebars and easy balancing of the bike at all speeds.

Shown here is my former 1994 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH1200. I also owned a Honda CM400T and a Honda Nighthawk CB750, also standards.

There is often some confusion in motorcycle types. What one person calls a standard, another calls a cruiser.


Cruiser motorcycle
© 2005 Thomas E. Long

Cruisers are normally motorcycles with low seat heights, fat rear tires, raked front forks, and forward controls with the foot pegs way out in front to the point that your rear end takes a lot of the road jolts. With a standard bike, your foot pegs are straight down allowing you to lift yourself off the seat when you see a pothole coming. With the cruiser, you hope the rear suspension will take care of that for you.

Cruisers are great to look at. They handle beautifully at high speeds but their low speed handling can find you on the ground if you happen to be turning the front wheel just as you have to grab a lot of front brake. I dumped my wife's Honda Shadow VLX600 cruiser that way a couple of times. It was on the ground in the blink of an eye.

Most Harley-Davidson motorcycles are cruisers. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki have many cruiser models. In fact, the cruiser type is the most popular motorcycle type.

Shown here is a Harley-Davidson Softail Deuce. As with most Harley cruisers, it was customized a bit for its owner with custom paint, a 1550 Big Bore, Drag Bars with braided cables, back rest and various pieces of chrome added.

=> Page 2: Naked Bikes, Sportbikes, and Dual-Sports

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