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Types of Motorcycles: Styles and Capabilities To Suit Your Needs


Olivia C · May 31, 2024

If you’re just starting out riding, or just looking to upgrade your motorbike, sifting through the different motorcycle types and styles can be overwhelming.

Due to the increased popularity of motorcycles over the decades, many different styles and features have entered the market, with a lot of bikes not neatly fitting into a neat ‘category’. But, whether you’re navigating bustling city streets or conquering rugged dirt paths, there's a bike suited for every adventure, sport or commute imaginable.

Here, we help you understand the options out there, with our guide on the types of motorcycles on offer.

What are the different motorcycle types?

There are a few different ways you could categorise motorcycles, with no universal way of classifying them - but there is some consensus on the main types being standard, cruiser, touring, sports, off-road, and dual-purpose. 

Generally, the type of motorcycle someone rides will be dictated by the use, so if you are primarily using your motorcycle to ride on roads as part of your commute, that rules out off-road bikes. 

Similarly, the licence you have for motorcycling, and/or your age, will limit the power of the bike you can legally ride. Having a CBT licence will mean you can ride up to 125cc bikes with a limit of 11Kw of power, whereas having a full motorcycle licence and being aged 24 or older means you can ride a motorcycle of any power.

Confused about what licences equate to what power motorcycle? We write more about motorcycle licences and laws here.

Standard Motorcycles (AKA Naked Motorcycles)

Standard motorcycles (also named “naked” motorcycles) are bikes that are likely what you imagine when picturing a motorbike. Think exposed engine, minimal (or no) windshields, midfoot foot controls and mid-range bars. They generally feature an upright seating position, making them a really comfortable option.

‘Classic’ motorbikes would fall under this category too, but this isn’t an official term, more a way to give a nod to the age and style of a bike.

Standard motorcycles are a fantastic choice for first-time riders. They hit the sweet spot with mid-range engines that are easy to learn on, without breaking the bank. Plus, their comfy riding position makes them perfect for tackling different road conditions, whether you're cruising around town or venturing out on a longer journey.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want a no-nonsense biking experience, feeling the road beneath them without all the extra bodywork.
  • Would be happy with an all-rounder road motorcycle, with middle-of-the-road characteristics.
  • Prefer an upright stance when riding.


Arguably one of the most recognisable styles, cruisers are motorcycles that have the style of American machines from the 1930s to 1960s. They’re long, low-set with a focus on comfort on the road, a true ‘road trip’ bike. You might recognise them from their rider’s upright or reclined posture, with high and wide handlebars. They’re often loud with an engine that ‘rumbles’ due to the V-twin engines which are in most cruisers.

They’re definitely ideal for leisurely cruising (hence the name) and city riding, as their design makes them easy to handle at lower speeds. They also often have comfortable features like plush seats and backrests, and it’s easy to tack on saddlebags or other storage options which adds practicality.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Are all about the comfort of riding, either around cities or on road trips.
  • Appreciate the classic, timeless style of motorcycles reminiscent of American road culture.
  • Don’t need to use their bike for frequent long journeys.

Bobbers and choppers

Both bobbers and choppers are styles of cruisers, with a few differences. 

Bobbers originate from when American servicemen returned from World War II and modified motorcycles for racing, based on the more nimble European motorcycles they had been exposed to. By ‘bobbing’ (making smaller) all unnecessary parts, the bikes became lighter and faster. Bobbers will typically have stripped bodywork parts, a shortened rear and removed front fender.

A chopper is essentially a more extreme version of a bobber, both in style and technical specs. They’re more about style than performance, even to the extent that their braking, handling and other safety features are hindered from extensive modifications.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Are fans of the aesthetics of bobbers and choppers.
  • Are advanced riders (in the case of choppers, as these aren’t the most functional bikes!).

Sportbike AKA superbike

These bikes are designed purely for performance. They’re the best performers for speed, cornering and acceleration, out of all the road-legal motorcycles. Sport motorcycles will generally feature a powerful engine with a lightweight frame for the fastest speeds possible, more suited to aggressive riding styles due to their nimble handling.

Because of these sacrifices in mechanics and design, they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient as a vehicle. Some modern models will have added safety features like anti-lock brakes, but they likely won’t have features to improve comfort or storage. 

Because of their fast acceleration and sensitive handling, these bikes aren’t recommended for beginners. The aspects that make them appealing are the same aspects that make them dangerous if you are not an experienced rider - it’s very easy to exceed the speed limit even in a low gear. They’re also ill-suited for longer rides (with the exception of ‘sport touring bikes’ which we’ll go over later) because of their seating position and lack of comfort features.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Are advanced riders, capable of handling powerful bikes.
  • Love carving through twisty roads and taking corners with precision.
  • Don’t need a bike for long journeys.

Looking to upgrade your CBT or A1 licence to a full A licence? Shop around for courses near you and book your full motorcycle licence.

Touring Bikes

As the name suggests, touring motorcycles are bikes designed for safe and pleasant touring. If you use your bike for long-distance trips, you’ll want to do so in comfort with the ability to stash your luggage, and that’s exactly where tourers excel.

Touring bikes are crafted for endurance. Their fuel tanks are larger so you can keep riding for longer, are reliable over long distances, and have taller windshields so you aren’t getting battered while racking up miles. They’re also one of the more comfortable bike options, so you’ll likely find your endurance increases too! Another important factor of tourers is their luggage abilities. Tourers will typically have good storage space, including side storage, and more spots to attach further luggage due to their larger build. 

Touring bikes are accessible to both less and more experienced riders thanks to their comfort and reliability, but beginners may need more practice riding larger framed bikes before setting off on a trip.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Need a bike that can handle long distances on paved roads.
  • Crave comfort, and want a bike with touring features such as spacious seating, and ample storage.
  • Fall anywhere on the spectrum from beginner to advanced riders.

Sports tourer

Looking for a bike with better performance stats, that keeps true to the key aspects of a touring bike? Sport touring motorcycles fill that need. They combine the performance of a sport bike, with the comfort and endurance of a touring bike. If your long-distance trips have technical routes thrown in, a sports tourer can handle it. 

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want a blend of sporty performance and long-distance comfort.
  • Would like the capabilities to tackle more technical routes on their travels.
  • Are happy with a position between a sport rider's forward lean and a tourer's upright posture.


We’re seeing more and more electric motorcycles (or ‘e-motorcycles’) enter the market, and they are gaining popularity globally for good reason. Electric motorcycles come in many different styles, with the fundamental difference being that their engine is powered by a battery’s electric energy rather than gasoline.

There are obvious benefits to having an e-motorcycle, notably that they’re a more sustainable way to ride as they don’t contribute to air pollution. But, there are lesser known benefits too. They make excellent beginner bikes as they’re easier to operate thanks to having no gears, and can require less maintenance compared to their petrol-powered cousins as they have less moving parts. They also have a lower operating cost, making them perfect motorbikes for commuters on a budget.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want an easy-to-operate, low maintenance bike.
  • Are after an eco-conscious way to travel, and don’t mind having to charge their bike.
  • Would like a budget option, with low running costs for zipping around.

Smaller bikes:


The name moped is a portmanteau of ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’, with the early mopeds essentially being motorbikes with bicycle pedals for pulling away or extra oomph on hills. You don’t really see mopeds with pedals anymore, however. So what does the term encompass now?

A moped is legally defined as a low-powered motorcycle with an engine capacity of no more than 50cc and a maximum speed of 28 mph. Any road-legal moped can be ridden on the road without a licence if you’ve passed your car driving test before 1 February 2001, otherwise you can ride it after having CBT training, without requiring a full motorcycle licence.

You might have an idea in your head of what a moped is - but given that it’s any 50cc or lower bike, the style of mopeds vary hugely. Some will look like sporty delivery vehicles, some like Italian scooters, and some like standard motorcycles.

Mopeds are perfect for beginner riders. They’re an easy way to learn motorised two-wheeled riding since they have low power and a comfortable riding posture. They’re also cheaper to tax, and can offer friendlier insurance premiums too.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Need a convenient bike for short commutes and errands around the city
  • Are beginners, looking to get a feel for two-wheeled riding
  • Don’t want to get a licence (and are fine with L-plates!) but want a small bike, and passed their car driving test before 1 February 2001


Scooters have the same step-through frame and smaller wheels like a moped, but they typically have a larger engine. A scooter with a 50cc capacity is legally classified as a moped, but you can find scooters that go all the way up to 900cc. 

Generally speaking, people will use the term moped and scooters interchangeably, but if it’s 50cc or less, that's technically a moped, not a scooter.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Like the comfort of a step through design with under-seat storage.
  • Want a fuel-efficient, easy to ride, beginner-friendly vehicle.
  • Are Vespa fans!

Dual purpose

Road legal, dual purpose motorcycles cover bikes that have both on and off-road capabilities. Combining features from street and dirt bikes, these bikes are suited for riders who will be using them for a mixture of activities and terrains.


An adventure motorcycle, often referred to as an "ADV" bike, covers a wide variety of motorcycles designed for adventure touring. The essence of these bikes is their ability to handle both on-road and off-road travel. Built to tackle rugged terrain, they feature robust frames, higher ground clearance, and long-travel suspension to absorb shocks from uneven surfaces.

On the touring side, adventure bikes prioritise rider comfort with ergonomic handlebars, comfortable seating, and windscreens for protection against the elements. Because of this, riders are more limited in their body positioning on the bike. They also offer ample luggage capacity for gear and supplies, and typically have larger engines ranging from 600cc to 1200cc.

Adventure bikes can be quite heavy with their added touring features, which can make them harder to handle off-road.Though they’re designed for diverse surfaces, the features they have for on-road riding can arguably make them a better choice for adventurers who are set to go on mostly paved or flat rides, who want the capabilities to do some off-roading. 

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want to go on-road adventure touring on their motorcycle, but want the option to do some off-roading on their travels.
  • Crave the comforts of a long-distance vehicle, such as comfortable seating and an upright riding style.
  • Want a decent amount of power in their machine.

Dual sport

It’s true that dual sport bikes can be very similar to adventure bikes, especially since there are no clear cut categories, but they do generally have some differences.

Dual sport motorcycles evolved from Enduro bikes, which are built for endurance competitions but lack street-legal features. By adding essentials like a brake light, turn signals, mirrors and a horn, Enduros can be made street legal. Manufacturers saw the demand for this, and began producing dual sport bikes.

Dual sport bikes will generally have a smaller tank than adventure bikes, usually 100 miles or less, with less power in the engine (generally the 250cc-650cc range). Generally lighter and more agile, they’re better suited for shorter trips and more rugged off-road trails.They lack a lot of the creature comforts an adventure bike would feature, which is exactly what makes them easier to manoeuvre and fix up after a crash, as well as giving more flexibility in riding positioning. 

Essentially, if you have off-roading spots nearby that you’d like to be able to ride your bike to, then a dual sport would fit the bill. Just don’t expect a longer commute to be comfortable.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want to do mostly trail riding, but the added option of being able to ride their bike to the track or trail (i.e. they need something road-legal).
  • Will mostly be using their bike for shorter trips and trail riding.
  • Appreciate a no-frills approach to riding, with simpler maintenance and fewer creature comforts compared to larger adventure bikes.


Some bikes have been specifically designed for rugged terrain, and are not suitable (or road legal in most cases) for riding on the roads. 


Trial bikes are specialised motorcycles designed for navigating obstacles with precision rather than speed. They are lightweight with a minimalist design, featuring small fuel tanks, low seats, and highly responsive brakes. These bikes have high ground clearance, soft suspension, and knobby tires to maximise grip and control on challenging terrains.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Love exploring off-road trails and rugged terrains.
  • Need a bike for varied, natural landscapes from forests to mountains.
  • Won’t be riding on any paved roads.


Motocross (often referred to as 'MX') bikes are lightweight, powerful off-road motorcycles designed for high performance on specially prepared tracks. These tracks are closed circuits featuring man-made jumps, corners, and obstacles.

Motocross bikes differ from trail bikes in a few key ways. While motocross is a type of trail riding, it takes place on specific tracks built for racing, unlike trail riding which can occur on any off-road terrain. Because motocross is a race, the bikes are designed differently to meet the demands of the sport. They have minimal shielding to keep them light, narrower gear ratios to handle sharp turns, and stiffer suspension to absorb the impact of large jumps.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Want to get a bike specifically for dirt track racing and training.
  • Won’t be riding on any paved roads, with only limited riding on natural landscapes.
  • Want to ride speed races rather than long-distance rides.


Enduro bikes are off-road motorcycles built for long-distance and endurance riding. They mix elements of motocross and road bikes, featuring strong frames, long suspension, and powerful engines. They come with headlights, bigger fuel tanks, and extra protection to handle all sorts of terrain over long rides.

Although enduro and motocross bikes share similar features, enduro bikes have wide-ratio transmissions, heavier flywheels for better low-end torque, headlights, and larger fuel tanks. Motocross bikes, in contrast, are designed to be lighter and faster, with stiffer suspension for quick, intense races.

Enduro races cover lots of miles across different terrains and often involve riding in the night and day, so good lighting on the bike is essential. On the other hand, motocross races are short sprints with winding turns, jumps, and whoop sections, so they need smaller fuel tanks to keep the bikes light and fast.

Perfect for riders who:

  • Would enjoy a blend of agility and endurance challenges in off-road settings.
  • Need a bike with the capabilities to ride day and night, so have features such as headlights.
  • Want to ride in natural settings over long distances, rather than for short stints. 

Other Types and Styles of Motorcycles

There’s a huge amount of overlapping features between motorcycles, without a strict consensus of their categories. Some aren’t necessarily ‘types’ but could be considered a subtype or simply a style. We cover some of these here:

  • Modern classic styles:
  • Scrambler: A stripped down vintage style motorcycle that has been designed for both off-road and on-road adventures, including taller suspensions and spoked wheels.
  • Café Racer: Originating from 1950s London, these modified bikes were shown off on rides from biker café to biker café. These days they’re stripped-down, lightweight motorcycles built for speed and nimble handling, typically boasting a distinctive low handlebar.
  • Brat: Very similar to cafe racers, this time originating from Japan. Named after Go Takamine's Tokyo custom shop ‘Brat Style’ that produces these bikes styled with bobbed fenders, spring rears and flat, slab seats. Like Champagne, you can have a Brat ‘Style’ bike but it's not a true Brat unless it's made there.
  • Streetfighter: A type of high-performance motorcycle, stripped of fairings and tailored for assertive urban riding, prioritising power, agility, and a sleek, minimalist aesthetic.
  • Three Wheeler: Often called ‘trike’ motorcycles,’ these are more stable thanks to their third wheel, which can be either on the front or the back. Because of the larger seats and ease of riding, they’re commonly used for touring or leisurely rides.
  • Maxi Scooter: Think scooter, but bigger and more powerful! These are designed for extended touring and daily commuting, with generous storage and a riding experience, similar to fully fledged motorcycles.

Understanding the various types of motorcycles and their distinct styles and capabilities can significantly enhance your riding experience. Whether you prefer the agility of a sportbike, the ruggedness of an adventure bike, the classic appeal of a cruiser, or the practicality of a commuter bike, there's a motorcycle out there that perfectly matches your needs and preferences. Each type offers unique advantages, ensuring that every ride is as enjoyable and suited to your lifestyle as possible.

Ready to embark on your motorcycle journey? Whether you're just starting out or looking to upgrade your skills, our comprehensive CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) and full licence courses are designed to equip you with the knowledge and confidence you need to ride safely and proficiently. 

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.