Know the difference between a bagger and a touring bike? Just what is an ADV anyway? We answer these questions and more in this guide to bike types.
For someone just getting into motorcycles—or, hell, even for some of us bitter vets—motorcycle classification can be pretty confusing. What’s the difference between a sports tourer and an ADV bike? Is a bagger a touring bike? Is the bike I want a cruiser or is it a standard? Is this all academic? Well, kinda. While motorcycle categories are helpful in grouping bikes with similar features together, there are countless variations within those categories. For example, while the Ninja 400 and the Suzuki Hayabusa are both sports bikes, the gulf between them in terms of performance, use, and riding style is vast indeed. So we here at AMERiders are going to give you our Big Guide to Motorcycle Categories.
For this bike guide, we’re going to break bikes down into three super-broad categories—Street Bikes, Off-Road Bikes, and Step Throughs. Each category will have subcategories—Cruiser, Moped, Super Moto, etc.—where we’ll lay out the different kinds of bikes. So let’s get started, shall we?
Street Bike Guide
Like it says on the tin, street bikes are motorcycles designed for riding on the street. They run the gamut from dirt-flinging Adventure bikes to laid-back cruisers to long-legged touring machines complete with heated seats and six-speaker stereo systems.
The motorcycles formerly known as dual sports, adventure bikes—ADV bikes to the properly initiated—are the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles. Built for both asphalt and dirt, these machines tend to have tall suspensions, aggressive tires, and protective bars like dirt bikes but have bigger engines and street bike ergonomics.
Adventure bikes can typically be fitted out with all sorts of accessories like skid plates, hard luggage, more comfortable seats, handguard—stuff to improve their on and off-road performance and touring ability. BMW, KTM, and Honda make the most famous ADV bikes, but you can find a decent ADV hiding in just about every company’s lineup. Even Harley is promising one soon! Who rides ADV bikes? Street riders who like to play in the dirt and crazy people who do things like sell all their belongings and ride all around the world for fun.
Cruisers are the quintessential American bike and were perfected on America’s open roads. Low, slow—except when they’re not and those are Power Cruisers—and laid back, cruisers are built to get you where you’re going in style rather than in a hurry. They typically have low seats, soft suspension, forward controls, big, powerful V-twin engines, and are mostly at home on short rides through town to bike night rather than on the open road.
That said, like most bikes cruisers can be fitted out for long-distance riding and some—like Harley-Davidson’s Softail Heritage Classic and Indian’s Chief—are remarkably well suited to long stretches in the saddle. Who rides cruisers? Cool dudes, weekend warriors, fans of Easy Rider, and people with a yen for classic, mid-century American iron.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
Want to go really fast? Get a sportbike. Descended from racing motorcycles, sportbikes are high-strung, high-performance machines with loads of style, speed, and agility. They come in all sorts of wild colors and have engines that displace anywhere from the low hundreds to over 1,000 cubic centimeters.
Usually fantastic at the track, sportbikes also make respectable commuters and city bikes. They’re pretty bad at touring though, so if you plan to see the world you don’t want to buy, say, a Hayabusa or a Ninja. Who rides sportbikes? Speed freaks, gixxer bros, amateur, and pro racers, and anyone who has an appreciation for speed and style.
Touring Bikes and Baggers
As this category’s name suggests, there are two flavors of a bike built for eating up the miles—touring bikes and baggers. Touring bikes—the most famous of which is probably Honda’s venerable Gold Wing—are massive beasts with huge engines loaded down with luggage, protective fairings, and car-like amenities such as touchscreen infotainment systems, heated seats, onboard communication systems, even traction control, and ABS.
Some are so massive that they even have a reverse gear to help riders park them. They’re extremely comfortable and, despite their size, often very easy to ride. Baggers are stripped-down touring bikes like the Indian Springfield, Harley’s Road King, or the BMW K 1600 B. They’re typically built on touring bike frames and have touring bike suspensions, but are short on the techno-wizardry, fairings, and luggage. Where a touring bike is essentially a car on two wheels, baggers typically make do with a big windshield and a pair of hard saddlebags. Who rides touring bikes and baggers? Long-distance travelers, bike campers, and people who like to be comfortable in the saddle.
Note: You will find that many sections in this guide will have more riders fall into it than others.
Sport Touring Bike Guide
Sports tourers are what you get when a touring bike and a sports bike love each other very much. They combine speed, style, comfort, agility, and long legs into very capable packages for those who want to take a long ride but want to go very fast while doing so. They tend to have stiffer, sportier suspensions and their carrying capacity isn’t as large as a heavy touring bike, but they can still haul gear, haul a passenger, and haul ass with equal aplomb.
Who rides Sports Tourers? Europeans, people who want to tour where the roads are technically challenging, and sportbike riders who want to go on vacation.
Standard and Naked
It used to be, up until maybe 40 or 50 years ago, that all bikes were both standard and naked. Well, except for Harleys and Indians. Standard and Naked bikes are the cloth from which all other bikes are cut. They’re usually very simple, often handsome machines with upright riding positions and pleasant ergonomics.
They can be ultra-modern like the Ducati Monster or a throwback to earlier times like the Kawasaki Z900RS or the Triumph Bonneville and are built with general-purpose fun in mind rather than a specific job. Who rides standard and naked bikes? Rockers, riders who like simplicity or retro styling, old guys who fondly remember the CB750 and the Z1000, and anyone looking for a good, all-around, easy to live with a motorcycle.
Since this is getting a bit long I thought that I would give you a bit of a break and continue this guide on Friday Starting with the Off Roaders.
~And as always…
~Live Free Ride Hard~
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