Different types of motorcycle explained

Last updated by mustard.co.uk on October 31st, 2018

Are you a newcomer to the world of motorcycles? Or just wanting to see what else is out there?

Like cars, vans, planes and trains, there’s more than one type of motorbike and each one is designed to fulfil a different taste or purpose for the rider.

Although there’s no universal system for classifying motorcycles, a bike will usually fit into one of the following six categories:


This type of bike is styled after American machines from the 1930s-1960s and includes iconic brands such as Harley Davidson, Indian, Excelsior and Henderson.

They can be distinguished by their large displacement V-twin engines which are specifically tuned to offer low-end torque. This type of engine makes cruisers a lot easier to ride than high-end torques as they don’t require as frequent gear shifts to maintain control, but it can also mean riders are not able to accelerate as much as they may like.

Cruisers are unable to navigate corners as easily as bikes with more ground clearance; the space between the lower end of the chassis and the road. They also require the rider to place their feet forward and keep their back straight and their hands up high.

For low speeds and short journeys this isn’t too difficult a position to maintain, but for longer periods at higher motorway speeds it can cause an onset of muscle fatigue for the rider as they’re having to pull back on the handlebars to resist the force of the wind on their chest.

Choppers are a customised ‘chopped down’ version of a cruiser and is the low seat, high handle bar bike you’re most likely to recognise from Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Captain America’ and ‘Easy Rider’.

It’s perhaps the most radically modified of all custom bikes due to its stretched-out appearance. This is mainly achieved by including long front ends with extended forks, an increased rake angle, hardtail frames and larger stock front wheels.

It’s signature feature is its extended ‘sister bar’, which allows the rider or passenger to recline against it while riding a set of tubes that connect the rear fender with the bike’s frame.


Sport bikes

This type of motorbike typically has a high-performance engine inside a lightweight frame.

The majority of sport bikes in this category have inline-four engines in order to maintain structural integrity and chassis rigidity, as well as higher performance brake pads and advanced suspension systems.

Windscreens were added to help deflect the air at high speeds and reduce overall drag, while the higher foot pegs require the rider to keep their legs close to the body in order to improve ground clearance when cornering.


Touring motorcycles are specifically designed to cover long distances with ease. To do this they’re equipped with large-displacement engines, fairings and screens to give the rider good wind and weather protection.

The larger engines allow for more fuel intake so riders can go longer before needing to fill up while the relaxed positions offers easy riding. Touring motorcycles also give you plenty of room for passengers and lots of boot space for luggage.

Sport touring

As you’d expect, sport touring motorbikes include a combination of both sport and touring bike features.

The increased space and more comfortable riding position make them ideal for long distances, but without the heaviness and poor cornering that comes with traditional touring motorbikes.

Instead they take the racier brakes, engine and suspension that are typically attributed to sport bikes.


These popular street-legal bikes are designed for both on and off-road riding.

They are often built higher off the ground, with a taller seat height, to allow for good suspension when travelling over rough ground.

Dual-sport bikes can be grouped into three categories according to their weight;

  • lightweight – 250 to 300 lbs (110-140kg)
  • middleweight – 300 to 350 lbs (140-160kg)
  • heavyweight – 350 lbs and over (160kg)

An ideal bike for both your daily commute and your off-road adventures; dual-sports come equipped with lights, mirrors, speedometers, horns, mufflers and a licence plate mounting to ensure they can be registered and licensed for use on public roads, as well as being light and nimble to perform well on rough dirt tracks.


Standard bikes are versatile, general-purpose street bikes, sometimes known as naked bikes due to their limited bodywork.

Their design is not as extreme as other bikes as the focus is more on being flexible, good quality yet low cost with a moderate engine output, making them ideal for beginners, veterans and everyone in between.

The natural riding position for a standard falls somewhere between the forward position of a sport bike and the reclined position of a cruiser, with low to mid-range bars and mid foot control, making it an all-round comfortable ride that makes them perfect for commuting in the city.

Whatever your two-wheel choice is, mustard.co.uk can help you find the insurance quote that’s right for you, your bike and your wallet. You can compare online or over the phone with some of the UKs leading insurance providers.

Related articles you may find of interest

The five best naked bikes
The five best touring motorcycles
The five best biking roads in Britain

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