With so many types, sizes  and engine configurations to choose from, picking a motorcycle can be a difficult decision for learners and experienced riders alike. There are many things to consider before taking the plunge and purchasing a bike; the following two pages will give you a clearer understanding of what’s out there and what’s right for you.

The Types of Motorbikes

Like cars, there are many types of motorcycle, each better suited to a different purpose and offering different levels of performance, comfort and economy.



The moped is the lightest, but also the slowest of all the styles of motorcycles and in the UK at least, is the only style where the performance specifications are dictated by law. Mopeds are limited to 50cc of engine capacity and are restricted to a top speed of 28mph and as such, are only practical for short commutes in cities or residential areas.

The most common style of moped is the scooter-style; fully faired and with little to no exposed mechanical parts they are designed to be as user friendly as possible. Most mopeds have a step-through frame, meaning that instead of footpegs, the rider rests their feet on a platform with all of the controls being operated by the hands.

Mopeds generally feature CVT, meaning that they do not require input from the rider to change gear, adding to their ease of use. Due to their small engine size and light weight, mopeds are incredibly cheap to run, insure and tax, making them ideal for nipping to the shops or other small errands.

One of the most popular mopeds, the Peugeot Speedfight

Veterans of scooter manufacture, Piaggio are still going strong with the Fly.

Honda offers rugged utility in a moped frame with their Ruckus model.

Aprilia proves that mopeds don’t always have to be scooters with the RS50.


The bigger brother of the moped, the scooter is a step-through framed motorcycle that has none of the legal restrictions of a moped.

Scooters are available with up to 500cc engines (called maxi-scooters), though generally engine sizes fall into the 50cc to 125cc range. Like their restricted brothers, scooters are generally very lightweight, frugal and easy to use, but have the added nip of a bigger engine, making them much better suited to city riding.

With over 60 million sold, the Honda C90 Super Cub is the best selling vehicle of all time.

French style, epitomised in the Peugeot Vivacity 125.

The SR Motard 125 inherits Aprilia’s performance pedigree.

The Yamaha X-Max 400 delivers power and comfort in a maxi-scooter frame.



The standard bike, otherwise known as the commuter or naked bike is by far the most common and diverse style of motorcycle. Engine sizes in this class range all the way from 125cc to 1000cc and beyond.

The smaller capacity standard bikes are often called commuter bikes due to their fuel economy, neutral riding position and light weight and are often used by riding schools to teach new motorcyclists.

Larger standard bikes are often called nakeds because they generally feature down-tuned and road-optimised versions of faired sports bike engines and are designed for road as well as light track use.

The Yamaha YBR 125 is a popular riding school bike due its to smooth engine and neutral riding position

The Kawasaki ER-6N is a popular middleweight, formidable both in the city and on the back roads.

If you just want to zip around the city in style, the Suzuki Inazuma 250 may be the answer

The Honda CB1000R Is a true ‘naked’ bike, with its agile handling and CBR1000 Fireblade derived engine, it’s made to go fast.


The cruiser is a naked motorcycle most popular in the US. They feature low seat heights; high, wide handlebars and a leaned back, relaxed riding position. Cruisers are most commonly equipped with high capacity V-twin engines and are designed for relaxed road use.

Their torque allows the rider to go longer without changing gear and their riding position places little stress on the rider, allowing them to travel long distances in relative comfort.

The Harley Davidson V-Rod blends old with new in impeccable style.

Japanese reliability is combined with American style in the Yamaha XVS1300

Featuring a gargantuan 2.3 litre, three cylinder engine, the Triumph Rocket III has the biggest engine of any production bike.

The Ducati Diavel proves that cruisers can be sporty.



The touring bike is a faired motorcycle designed for long distance travelling. These bikes generally feature large engines of at least four cylinders that offer a smooth ride and plenty of power.

Touring bikes offer an upright, comfortable riding position and feature softer suspension than their more racy faired counterparts to absorb bumps in the road and allow light off road use.

To facilitate long distance travel, tourers will also often feature multiple storage spaces on the rear of the bike, beside the wheels (called panniers) and behind the seat (called tail boxes)

 The Triumph Sprint GT is made for the long haul.

The Honda ST1300 Pan European sets the standard in touring bike design.

BMW prove that you can go long distances comfortably even with a sub-one litre engine.

Japanese reliability ensures that the Yamaha FJR1300 will never let you down.


These are off-road bikes and each differ subtly in their function and features.

  • Motocross bikes (otherwise known as scramblers) are designed for off-road use exclusively and are made to absorb the large impacts caused by jumps. They feature knobbly tires to maintain grip even on mud and loose gravel and are generally very light, with powerful, single cylinder engines. These bikes generally do not include lights and indicators and are therefore not road legal.
  • Enduro bikes are closely related to Motocross bikes but are designed for long distance on and off-road time trials. Much like Motocross bikes, enduro machines feature knobbly tires, high ground clearance and long travel, soft suspension but differ in that they come equipped with larger tanks, lights and indicators, and quieter exhaust systems. This allows Enduro bikes to be road registered and thus legal to ride on the road.
  • Supermotos are a hybrid of on-road and off-road bikes. They are designed for speed and are used on mixed tracks with a blend of on-road and off-road surfaces. Because of this, they feature smoother road tyres, lower suspension, and are generally road legal.

An enduro machine: The KTM 250 EXC

The Suzuki RM-Z450 motocross bike.

The Husqvarna FE350 enduro bike can easily be made road legal.

The Yamaha XT660X supermoto has enough grunt for any occasion.

Adventure/Dual Purpose

Adventure bikes are a hybrid of Enduro and Touring bikes, making them some of the most versatile bikes available

Adventure bikes are made for travelling long distances, sometimes completely off-road in relative comfort. They feature an upright riding position, and like enduro bikes, sport high front fenders, high ground clearance and crash plates to guard the engine. Like touring bikes, adventure motorcycles also feature large, torquey engines, road tyres (though often deep cut for off-road grip) and are half-faired, reducing wind noise and drag to add to rider comfort.

Adventure bikes are BMW’s forte, and it shows in the BMW R1200GS.

Ducati’s signature single-sided swingarm gives the Multistrada 1100S a unique look among advanture bikes.

KTM’s offroad pedigree shows itself in the KTM 990 Adventure.

The Honda Transalp has proven its ability to carry its rider over punishing terrain for many years.


These motorcycles are for experienced riders and are designed for speed and handling over all else, featuring aerodynamic full fairing, wide back tyres, narrow handlebars and powerful, highly tuned engines of at least 600cc.

These motorcycles place the rider in a forward leaning, crouched riding position to make them as aerodynamic as possible, sacrificing comfort by placing allot of the rider’s weight on their wrists. This trend continues throughout the bike, with hard suspension, a lightly padded seat, short gearing and a quick throttle response.

This sort of bike is generally reserved for veteran riders that can handle its harsh and unforgiving nature.

The HondaCBR 600 is a classic among sports bikes with its supreme agility and speed.

The Yamaha R1 is a litre-class racing bike for the road.

Italian flair combines with blistering performance in the Ducati Panigale 1199.

The Kawasaki ZZR1400’s 1,352 cc power plant can propel it to speeds in excess of 186 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest bikes in the world.


These bikes are so called because of their age or vintage style.

Classic bikes are generally naked but they do come in most of the styles described above, depending on their age. Retro bikes are new bikes that are made to look like older machines but feature modern technology, offering a happy medium between style and reliability.

Vintage and classic bikes are often less fuel efficient than modern bikes and will generally be less practical, often requiring a kick-start to bring engine to life, as opposed to the now common electric start.

Classic and vintage bikes require allot of maintenance when compared with modern bikes, and so require considerable dedication on the owner’s part to keep them road worthy and in good condition.

A legend of British engineering, the Norton Commando 850.

The Honda CB750 Four revolutionised the motorcycling world with its four cylinder engine, offering unrivalled smoothness and speed.

A British classic, brought back to life with modern touches: the Triumph Bonneville T100

A Japanese rival to the Triumph reborn: the Kawasaki W800


Now that you have an idea as to some of the properties of each of the types of bike, you need to find one that is right for you.

Choosing a Motorcycle – Which Bike is Right for Me? >