There are nine types of motorcycles that a beginner should consider before buying a bike. There is the Adventure Bike, Sport Bikes, Cruisers, and many more.
The Nine Types Of Motorcycles A Beginner Should Consider.
- Standard Motorcycles
- Sport Bikes
- Touring Motorcycle
- Sport Tourer
- Dirt Bikes
- Adventure Bike (ADV)
- Dual Sport Bike
Today we’re going to talk about some of the various categories that exist in today’s motorcycle market. We are going to help you figure out what type of motorcycle you should get as a beginner.
We are going to break down those classes so you know exactly what type of bike you might want to look at when you walk into a motorcycle dealership.
I’m going to be talking to you about some of the features of each of these bikes that help them be good at a particular task. We will also debate some of the pros and cons of those features of the motorcycles themselves.
My job in this article is not just to explain the features of each bike, but to talk to you about how the bike feels from an ergonomics standpoint. Keep in mind there’s a lot of you out there that might have fallen in love with a particular style of bike, for example, a sportbike.
A sports bike may look awesome, looks fast, hardcore lines, and that bike might be appropriate for aggressive riders on a track day, but it’s probably not the most suitable machine if you’re commuting to the office regularly.
While we do not intend to tell you what bike is right or wrong for you, what we would like to do is give you some recommendations about what you can expect from each of these machines and how it’s going to affect the riding that you’re doing.
Remember, the style of riding you might think you’ll be doing might be a lot different than the riding you do.
Because these bikes are constructed differently, they come in all shapes and sizes, much like many riders, and this means they interact with people’s bodies differently.
For example, if you are sitting on a motorcycle and your feet are firmly on the ground, and you feel like you have complete control of the bike, this is going to instill confidence in you right from the get-go, especially for beginners.
If you have any doubts about whether or not the motorcycle is right for you, the same way you would try on a pair of jeans or clothes before you buy them to try out the bike.
I’m not talking about a test drive; I’m talking about walking into your dealership, putting your ass in the seat, grabbing the handlebars, and sit on the bike for 10 or 15 minutes to see how you feel.
We’re going to break this article down very very simply. We’re going to kick things off with street bikes. If a bike was made to roll mostly on the pavement, we’re going to be talking about it in this first section.
Table of Contents
Let’s kick things off with one of my favorite classes of a bike, and that is the standard. Standard motorcycles are usually fairly sporting machines, and they’re best exemplified by having no fairing fitted. These bikes are generally fairly naked. You’ll hear that term use from time to time.
These motorcycles are not the perfect tool for any job. However, they can handle lots and lots of different scenarios with ease.
For instance, a Suzuki SV650 could very easily be taken to a track day, but it’s also comfortable enough that you wouldn’t mind taking an all-day trip on this motorcycle; it’s a very versatile machine.
These bikes are updated all the time, and the model that is available now may be slightly different, but the size and shape of any of the new models will give you the same feel as any previous models.
What you are looking for is not necessarily the models I mention here but the shape and style.
There are no surprises as to why the Suzuki SV650 style of motorcycle is going to be a do-anything machine; it’s great for new riders.
If you were to site on this type of motorcycle and grab hold of the handlebars, your hands would be directly in front of you.
There’s maybe a slight drop to the handlebars, which means you would have a little bit more weight on your wrist, but that’s going to benefit you as a rider because it puts a little more pressure on the front wheel, which makes the bike easier to steer.
The other thing you’ll notice is your shoulders aren’t quite perpendicular to the ground, they’re a little bit more forward than your hips, but then your feet are going to be directly underneath you.
Your feet should be able to reach the ground, so you have firm control of the bike.
Next up, we have the sportbike. Sportbikes are patterned after road racing machines. You’ll notice how sleek and aerodynamic these bikes look, and that’s in part due to the plastic fairings on these types of motorcycle.
Sportbikes are suitable for racing if you are planning on doing a track day, and you can also use them on the street too. I’d say they’re probably best used for shorter, more spirited rides due to the aggressive body position. It’s hard to remain comfortable for most riders on a sportbike for a long time.
The other reason I wouldn’t probably recommend these for a beginner unless you’re in the beginner class of sportbikes is that the larger machines like the Yamaha R6 or larger bikes generally are extreme machines and when I say that, I mean that a lot of different senses.
They’re very, very fast, and they also have razor-sharp braking and handling, which doesn’t bode well for a beginner who might not have mastered inputs on the motorcycle. The other thing that’s extreme on these sportbikes is body positioning.
If you sit on the sports bike you will notice right away the aggressive body position.
Your hands are at or slightly below or your knees. Your shoulders are pitched forward, your ass is pushed way back as are your feet, and that’s going to put you in an aggressive tuck down position.
This is an excellent position if you are planning on aggressively riding or tackling a track day, but if you’re commuting from home to work for 30 to 45 minutes, it’s not going to be comfortable.
That’s not to say that there are no riders out there that do it, there’s plenty of riders that commute on these types of bikes, but we’re just going to say that this might not be the most suitable machine to do that on.
Especially when you consider some of the more advanced race-style mechanics on this bike, like the suspension.
For example, if you’re using this on the street and you start to hit potholes, it will be transmitted back to the rider, which can cause you to feel a little bit uncomfortable, so the sportbike might not be the best machine for beginners.
This bike is arguably the antithesis of a sportbike, and that is the cruiser. Cruisers are bikes built for a nice long low cruise, as the name implies.
These bikes prioritize comfort over speed. Now there’s a couple of characteristics about a cruiser that make them particularly suitable for beginner riders.
The first is that these bikes, even though they have huge engines, they have massive engines that deliver very controllable power. They’re typically very forgiving for beginners who happen to make some mistakes.
One of the other things that makes them particularly suited to beginning riders is the fact that you’ll notice the front wheel is kicked out just a little bit.
The frame has a little more rake, and by having that front-wheel out there, it makes the steering and handling a little bit more controllable on this motorcycle. Again also forgiving to rookies who might happen to make a mistake or two now.
There’s a class of rider who might be very interested in the cruiser, and that’s people who are vertically challenged. If you’re a shorter rider, a cruiser is almost universally the right choice because just about every one of them across the board has a very low seat height.
This means that even if you’re not a large motorcyclist, even if you’re on a large motorcycle, you’ll find yourself being able to control the bike easily. These motorcycles are built for comfort, not for speed.
On a cruiser, you will be in a much more of a slouched riding position with your hands slightly above your shoulders. Your shoulders are going to be kind of like slumped back with your ass almost kicked out in front of your shoulders a little bit.
Your feet are going to have two different options. They will be either kicked out in front of you using a forward control or your feet just slightly below your hips. That’s going to be a much more comfortable riding experience.
I prefer the forward position when I’m riding a cruiser. I find that to be just a little bit more comfortable for me, so even among experienced riders riding the same bike, there’s not even a consensus necessarily what is right.
I’m going to reiterate what we told you the first time around, and that is to spend some time on a bike, sit on it. It’s not weird at all to be in a showroom or perhaps to park yourself on a used bike and ask for 10 or 15 minutes to make sure the bike is comfortable for you.
Now we come to the class of motorcycle that offers more miles per gallon than just about anything else, and that is the scooter. Scooters are kind of interesting, and scooters are offered in a variety of sizes, the smaller bikes are excellent for in town work.
If you live in an urban area and you want just to run some errands scooters are perfect.
There’s also a larger class of scooters known as maxi-scooters, and those are much much bigger with more powerful engines, and they can attain motorcycle speeds. Legally, they’re classified as motorcycles.
They offer lots and lots of storage capacity, and taking a long trip on one isn’t out of the equation at all.
Scooters are built a little bit differently than a regular motorcycle. Looking at one it visually much different.
Lett’s go through some of the construction features that make it a little different from some of the other bikes we’ve talked about.
First, let me direct your attention to the wheels. You’ll notice the wheels are a much smaller diameter than the other bikes we’ve looked at.
Generally, these contribute to the easy handling nature of a scooter; note the platform of the scooter step-through design is a hallmark of this scooter.
It’s entirely different in terms of where your feet sit and almost every other motorcycle out there on the market.
There is also plenty of storage, believe it or not, there’s a surprising amount of cargo-carrying capability on a scooter, especially relative to its size.
Except for older scooters, almost every single one of them has an automatic transmission, so if the prospect of learning to drive a manual transmission vehicle is daunting for you, a scooter might be the perfect gateway into the world of motorcycling.
When you’re sitting on a scooter from a body position standpoint, your hand bars are closer to you than anything we’ve talked about so far.
Your hands are almost sitting at your knees, and your shoulders are still right on top of your hips, but your legs are more in front of you than anything else.
If this were a motorcycle, your feet would be sitting right where the engine would typically be. I think if you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, you’re not going to notice it.
You do have a lot more room, and you do have that precise planted feel to the ground, and because these things are so lightweight, you’d never feel like you’re intimidated.
The other point to make is if you are coming off an MSF course, this is not to be confused with a motorcycle. You need to remember a scooter is automatic.
Don’t grab that front lever thinking it’s a clutch because it’s a brake lever as you will throw yourself right over the front. Other than that, it’s a fun little machine you learn how to ride a bike.
Your touring bikes are also called dressers or baggers. Touring bikes are meant to carry lots of stuff at high speeds for long distances. The signifying factor that makes a bike a touring bike is large storage, which is often integrated right into the motorcycle.
You will notice these touring motorcycles have some giant saddlebags, and the street glide we tested is one of the more stripped-down touring bikes you can put your money down on.
A lot of full touring bikes also have a top case or top box on the back for additional storage capacity.
Because these bikes are meant to be ridden for long distances. The manufacturers typically make them very comfortable for riders, and I mean that in terms of both seating position as well as appointments on the motorcycle.
It’s not uncommon at all on a touring bike to see full audio systems and navigational aids to make a rider’s ride as good as possible.
A touring bike provides lots and lots of comforts. Again these are meant to keep riders happy in the saddle for quite a while. Out of all the bikes we’ve talked about so far, this is the one that’s big enough to fit from my size standpoint.
There’s plenty of room for you to move around, and what you will see is a mix of two different types of body positions, from the waist up, your in a very neutral position.
Your hands are out in front of you, wider handlebars with plenty of leverage, and your shoulders are above your hips. This is a comfortable upright seating position, which is excellent when you are traveling long distances.
From the waist down with these floorboards, you have a couple of different options for where you can put your feet.
You can kick your feet out a little bit if you want to give you more stretched out for control, or you can slide your feet back and use it for more leverage as if these were mid controls.
There are plenty of options for you to move around and find what position works well for you.
In addition to the rider comfort, there’s also plenty of room at the back for a passenger. They can move around comfortably too, but that’s going to bring us back to weight.
These bikes weigh around seven to eight hundred pounds, you throw a passenger in the mix, and it’s a pretty heavy ride. Especially considering that while I can get my feet on the ground, it’s still going to be hard to leverage its back and forth if I’m not comfortable with the machine.
We’re not here to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong for your first motorcycle, and we are not going to steer you away from any bike, but if we did, this would be one of them just because of how large this is.
It’s not going to instill confidence right from the get-go for new riders, and it’s heavy, so not one we would recommend.
One of the other bikes I want to talk about before we move on is kind of a throw to a blend of motorcycles we’ve already talked about, and that’s the sport-tourer. It’s a mixture of a sportbike as well as a touring machine.
Typically you’re going to give up a little bit of carrying capacity with a sports tourer. Generally, they can’t carry quite as many things as a straight-on touring bike, but these bikes are considerably faster than a straight touring motorcycle.
One of the other hallmarks of this breed of a motorcycle is the aerodynamic fairings. They’ll typically be very sleek looking motorcycles, and the riding position is sort of mediocre as well.
You won’t see the full upright position, but you’re also not going to be somebody on a sport-touring bike all wadded up in that uncomfortable sport position either. It sort of split the difference.
Before we move on, I do want to mention something else about positioning. You may have noticed that just about every bike we’ve talked about has had a pretty neutral or intermediate riding position, except for the cruiser and the sportbike.
Both of those are kind of at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Most manufacturers are shooting to that sort of neutral riding position, and the reason I bring that up is that it’s a very successful riding position.
The reason you see it on so many motorcycles is that so many motorcyclists are comfortable in that position. If you do find yourself gravitating towards one of the bikes, again toward the outer ends of the spectrum, whether it be sportbike or Cruiser.
I would encourage you to spend a little bit of time on one of those more intermediate bikes to see what else is out there.
When you say off-road motorcycle to most people, the thing that jumps into their head immediately is probably something like a dirt bike. These bikes are made to tackle the roughest terrain that Mother Nature has to offer, and as such, they’re constructed in a particular way.
Let’s start with a couple of those features.
The first and probably most noticeable are the tires. You will see that they are very nobly super aggressive tires made to bite into the loose surfaces dirt bikes are typically ridden on. The other thing to notice about this bike is how tall it is.
It has lots and lots of suspension travel, it also sits very high up, and that’s because dirt bikes are meant to roll over some obstacles. From trees to logs and rocks, they all get in the way. Having a bike that sits up high prevents the bike from being damaged.
One of the other essential parts about a dirt bike is you should know that this is a single-cylinder machine. The motor is physically tiny, though it is pretty powerful.
On some motorcycles, it’s kept small, so the weight is kept down when you’re wrestling a bike around off-road, and you have to pick it up after you’ve dropped it after a crash, which is relatively common. In off-road riding, having a lighter weight bike really can help.
There are no headlights, no key, no tail light, and there’s a bunch of stuff missing on this bike that won’t make it legal to ride around on the street. When it comes to riding these things again, riding off-road is different than riding on the street.
These types of bikes are tall, I’m six foot three, and I’m standing up I’m on my tiptoes on this bike. The suspension travel works excellent, but keep in mind that you probably want to go to the tall end of the spectrum if you’re learning how to ride.
From a rider standpoint, talking about the ergonomics, it’s very similar to what we talked about with a standard riding position.
My hands are out in front of me, it’s a broader handlebar for maximum leverage, but you will see from the image that your shoulders are on top of your hips.
You would be sitting upright, and your feet would be just below your hips, making it very comfortable.
One thing to note with the dirt bike is it has a long flat seat, and it is quite uncomfortable, but that’s okay because you will spend most of your time standing up or sliding back and forth.
You’re not going to sit in one position too long because you’re going to use your body as a counterweight over terrain.
It’s also one of the reasons why you might see different style handlebars on other style dirt bikes because you want to make sure you’re comfortable not just sitting down but also when you’re standing up.
The Honda CRF 450 in the image is one of the larger machines in the dirt realm, and while this bike itself might not be the most appropriate one for you to start with. The beauty of dirt bikes is they come in a plethora of different sizes.
You can start with something as small as a CRF 50, or you can work your way up throughout the range across pretty much every manufacturer out there, so there’s a dirt bike for you, and like I said, as long as you get somewhere to ride it they’re an excellent machine to start depending on.
Dirt bikes are really a lot of fun this is one of my favorite classes to ride in.
Adventure Bike (ADV)
The next bike is my weapon of choice, and that’s an adventure bike, also known as an ADV bike.
These bikes differ from a dirt bike in several important ways. They’re larger, they’re heavier, they have bigger, more powerful multi-cylinder engines, and they’re also street-legal, so these bikes are the Cadillac of dirt bikes.
They’re kind of enormous, but they’re also much more powerful.
You can look at the adventure bike as just a giant dirt bike, or you could look at them as touring bikes with some off-road pretense to it. The adventure bikes aren’t as tall as dirt bikes, but remember, it’s still pretty damn tall.
At six-foot-three and I’m almost flat-footed on this FA100, but for the shorter riders out there, remember these might be intimidating as a first machine.
From a rider standpoint, when we’re talking about economics, the adventure bike is very similar to the dirt bike. It has a broad flat handlebar, and your hands will be in front of you. Your shoulders on top of your hips, and then when you put your foot onto the peg, it will sit directly below you.
That’s because of a lot of adventure riders out there, and if you are going to use this off-road, you’re going to spend a lot of time standing up, the same way we talked about with a dirt bike.
Unlike a dirt bike, this seat is much more comfortable because most of the OEMs realized that the majority of riders looking at this style of bike are probably using it for traveling a large number of miles on pavement. Therefore you need a more comfortable seat.
One thing to note with this is they are a larger bike. They’re a little bit pricier, and most of you out there are probably not going to want to consider the larger sect of ATV machines as your first bike.
However, I have a favorite section in a zone that might be more appropriate for riders out there looking to tackle both on-road and off-road, and that’s the dual-sport.
Dual Sport Bike
A dual-sport sits squarely between the dirt bike and the adventure bike. Think of it as a dirt bike with blinkers.
It doesn’t have nearly the amenities or road capabilities of an adventure bike, but what it does allow a rider to do is to take a dirt bike onto the street.
This is great for riders who plan on either riding to the trail, or riders who want to connect a series of trails with short pieces of pavement in between.
Their Road legal, they have emissions equipment, they also have all of the lighting and inspection items you might need to get a sticker onto your bike, but you still have most of the capability of a dirt bike.
So What Type Of Motorcycle Should You Get As A Beginner?
Well, that’s a tough question to answer. It’s kinda’ like asking somebody else to tell you what kind of underwear you should wear.
There’s a lot of strong opinions on the matter, and just because all your buddies wear tighty-whities doesn’t mean that they’re right for you.
At the end of the day, it’s your butt. But there are some things you may want to consider. First being, what kind of experience are you looking to have?
Thinking about the kind of riding you want to do will help you find a bike that is capable of that. But more important than any of that is just; which bike do you think is the coolest?
Seriously. All your buddies are riding cruisers, but you think the Suzuki V-Strom is the coolest thing you’ve seen since Han Solo showed up in the Millennium Falcon: Go with that, she is a helluva ship.
But if you are still unsure, just like everybody loves Firefly, a standard is a great place to start. Being at the center of things, if you find yourself leaning one way or the other, the standard can accommodate you and help you find the riding that you enjoy the most.