What is a Motorcycle?
The legal definition of a motorcycle (for the purposes of registration, licensing, and taxation), is a motor-powered two-wheel vehicle, although some new 3 wheeled, motor-powered vehicles are also considered motorcycles and may also be called “trikes”. Most countries differentiate between mopeds and motorcycles, with any vehicle with up to a 49 cubic centimeters (cc) engine being considered a moped and the more powerful, larger, vehicles known as motorcycles. Off-road motorcycles, more commonly known as dirt bikes, are considered motorcycles but in most areas are not street legal due to the difference in their design and purpose.
Scooters do not count as a separate category and are deemed to be “motorcycles”, although they commonly incorporate elements of mopeds (a step-through chassis and footrest platform), with a more powerful engine than a moped, generally ranging between 50 – 250 cc. The Vespa is the most well-known version of a scooter and was developed in Italy after WWII.
Motorcycles can be described as all of the following:
- a means of transport
- a type of vehicle
- a type of motor vehicle
- a type of machine
- sports equipment
Types of Motorcycles
While many people think that a motorcycle is a motorcycle, regardless of its differences, the reality is that there are 8 different types of motorcycles, with mopeds constituting the 9th type of 2 wheeled motorized transportation. The types are:
A standard motorcycle is a common favorite among both new and experienced riders, functional for a daily commute or longer rides. The engine sizes range from 125cc to 1,000cc with a neutral, upright riding position and low to mid-range handlebars.
A cruiser, or chopper, is an ideal bike for commuting or joy rides, but not the best option for long-range touring. It features a lower seat height with a more reclined riding position and mid-range handlebar height. Engines on cruisers are generally the same size as standard motorcycles, ranging from 125cc – 1000 cc and these bikes are a great choice for riders of all skill levels.
Sportbikes feature more powerful engines, ranging from 500cc – 1300 cc and are best suited for track or fast riding. The seat sits higher than a standard motorcycle, but the handlebars are lower, creating a forward-leaning riding position. These bikes are designed for aerodynamics to maximize speed and are geared toward more advanced riders due to their higher speeds and quicker acceleration.
A touring bike is designed for long rides, featuring an average seat height and wider sides to create a more comfortable ride. Touring bikes sport larger engines, generally 1,000cc – 1800cc, and are considerably heavier, designed to allow for significant storage space and to protect the rider from the elements for long periods of time. Because of their weight, they may not be ideal for new riders.
A sport-touring bike is what you may expect, designed to take the best aspects of a sportbike and a touring bike and combine them. They provide storage space, but lighter weight and slightly smaller engine than a touring bike, ranging from 750cc – 1300cc. The seat height is slightly above average and the handlebars are of a mid-range height, offering an upright riding position.
Dual sport bikes are designed for use both on-road and off-road usage, although their off-road usage is limited. They are smaller in weight and engine size, 125cc – 800cc, offering a high seat level, with mid-range handlebars to promote an upright ride. While a dual sport bike is good for riders of all skill levels, you must be able to sit comfortably on the bike with your feet on the ground.
Off-Road bikes, or dirt bikes as they are more commonly known, are designed for off-road or trail riding. They can be a good place for new users to start learning how to ride, while also offering experienced riders the ability to push their off-road skills. Engine sizes vary from 125cc – 450cc and the seat sits quite high in order to accommodate the necessary off-road suspension.
Scooters are designed for local commuting and are not geared for highway travel. They have small engines, ranging from 50cc – 500cc, lower seat height and a platform for the rider’s feet to create the most comfortable riding position possible. The handlebars are of mid-range height, allowing the rider to sit upright. Scooters are a great choice for new riders, or for more experienced riders who just want something small and easy to use for a short daily commute.