Find Your Perfect Ride: Breaking Down the 17 Most Popular Types of Motorcycles

So you‘ve got the itch to break out from four wheels to two – welcome! As you‘ve likely gathered, today‘s motorcycle landscape offers endless styles catering to individual tastes from laidback cruising to blood-pumping sport riding and everything between.

In this complete guide, I‘ll equip you with insider knowledge to navigate all the exciting options. As a 10-year rider and lead analyst for Bike Magazine Online, I live and breathe motorcycles daily (just ask my wife). So let‘s get started finding your dream machine!

First, we‘ll travel through time to see how we arrived at the 17 most common modern motorcycle breeds.

Vroom Vroom: A Brief History of Motorbikes

Believe it or not, motorcycle pioneers started bolting engines onto bicycles back in 1867! But tinkerers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach built the first true gas-powered "motorcycle" in 1885 – the wood-framed Einspur. Huzzah!

Motorbikes quickly gained popularity over the next decades as this newfangled technology improved. Affordable mass-produced models hit roads worldwide by the early 1900s.

Just look at how the industry has grown since!

YearGlobal Motorcycle Sales
1915est. 150,000 units
1920500,000 units
19501 million units
201344 million units
2021~55 million units

Today motorbikes comprise a $123 billion global market, with some 58 million units rumbling roads worldwide. And manufacturers continuously churn out innovative new models. But at the foundation remain 17 classic breeds serving distinct riding niceties across pavement and dirt.

Domination on Demand: The Different Types of Street Bikes

When you envision hitting wide open roads under boundless skies, one of these street-legal pavement eaters likely comes to mind. Let‘s break down all the dynamic options:

Choppers: Old School Cool

[Insert image:] Captain America chopper from Easy Rider

First sprouting out of California custom culture post WWII, choppers grab vintage cool points through old school "bobbed" styling. Signature traits involve extended front forks, hardtail frames and ape hanger handlebars. Performance takes a backseat to show stopping classical flair.

While less street legal today, purists keep the movement alive through basement wrenching and small custom shops like West Coast Choppers – made famous by Discovery‘s "American Chopper" series.

Prices run from showpieces at $30k+ to budget custom builds under $15k. So chop life ain‘t cheap, but delivers priceless character!

Cruisers: Easy Rider Vibes

Nothing catches wandering eyes like a glittering cruiser glistening down the highway. The quintessential biker aesthetic centered on feel-good vibes more than breakneck performance.

Cruisers sweep riders into a laidback riding position with low seat heights, pulled-back bars and feet kicked out front. Milwaukee iron still dominates, where Harley‘s 883 to 1903cc V-twins vibrate America‘s riding soul. Classic models like Harley‘s Heritage Softail set you back $20k+.

But Japanese and European options provide plush cruiser comfort at friendlier prices – especially in the expanding middleweight segment. For example, Yamaha‘s 942cc Star Venture costs just $17k.

Overall cruiser sales still lead most categories, with 338k units sold last year (down modestly from 349k pre-COVID in 2019).

Touring: Mile Crushers

Maybe you desire maximum amenities for radar-detector equipped journeys beyond the horizon. Step right up touring bikes! These specialized rigs minimize discomfort over long daily miles. You‘ll pay for premium features mind you – full boat models run $30k+.

Key creature comforts span adjustable windshields, heated seats/grips, Bluetooth connectivity and motorhome-sized luggage capacity for extended getaways. Drive cross-country endorsed by auto-leveling rear suspension and adaptive headlights on market leader BMW‘s 1600cc K 1600 GTL touring flagship.

Such bulk does compromise easy handling for canyon carving however. So I advise spending proportionate time on multi-state crusades to justify the price.

Touring Sidebar: Rising Luxe Market

"Luxury touring bikes now capture over a quarter of the touring market," notes Dana McMahan, analyst at Motorcycle Consumer News. BMW, Honda Goldwing and Harley CVO tourers over $40k drive this trend.

Sport Touring: Lightweight Distance

[Insert Image:] Sport touring riders counterlean through twisty mountain sweepers

Seeking tighter handling for those getaways through serpentine mountain routes? Enter my favorite genre – sport touring bikes! Blending lighter weight with midsize wind protection and luggage, sport touring strikes a versatile balance I believe suits most riders best long-term.

Flexible ergonomics support comfortable long weekends while able handling encourages backroad bliss chasing sweepers at speed. Expect 150 to 165+ horsepower from 1000cc inline fours or 1200cc V-twins driving sub-500 pound wet weights – delivering formidable power-to-weight for everything from commuting to interstate journeys.

Five leading options:

2022 Sport Touring Comps

BMW S1000XR1000cc / 165hp462 lbs$17,545
Ducati Multi V2950cc / 113hp473 lbs$19,995
Honda NT11001084cc / 101hp516 lbs$12,999
Kaw Ninja 1000SX1043cc / 142hp515 lbs$12,099
Yamaha FJR1300ES1298cc / 138hp609 lbs$18,499

Supersports: Professional Speed Addicts

I advise casual riders against considering costly superbikes without earnest intentions of frequent track days! Why? Because their uncompromising speed focus ruins street comfort and practicality. Price tags stretch from $13k into $35k+ territory on some Italian exotics!

Extreme rider positions promise unmatched acceleration and razor sharp handling on closed circuits. Firm suspensions brutalize public roads however, and temperamental powerbands don‘t play nice in city traffic.

So again – I caution sticking to middleweight standards or sport touring rigs for street use. Or sidestep into motocross disciplines designed specifically for fast dirt action outlined later below.

Please folks, keep public roads safe and leave the 180mph liter sport machines to professionals!

Standards: Jacks-of-All-Trades

Most riders actually need nothing more than an friendly "standard" roadster. Devoid of extreme ergonomics or power, standards deliver balanced versatility for serving everyday transportation or weekend escapes.

Nimble handling benefits newer riders while punchy engines keep veterans smiling ear-to-ear. Standards shine commuting Monday through Friday then double down playing Saturday in the canyons.

Expect light weights around 400 pounds with powerbands producing 75-130 horses from 600cc to 1000cc mills. Prices run budget friendly as low as $5k up to $15k for premium options like Ducati‘s Monster.

I wholeheartedly endorse standards like Yamaha‘s hugely popular MT-09 triple for the everyman. Its torque-rich 890cc engine and sub-$9k price represent my 2022 bike of the year!

Dominate the Dirt: Key Off-Road Disciplines

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CategoryUse CaseKey Bike Models
MotocrossClosed-circuit dirt oval tracks with jumpsHonda CRF450R,
Husqvarna FC 450,
Kawasaki KX450
KTM 450 SX-F
EnduroPoint to point cross country over long distancesBeta 390 RR
Husqvarna FE 501
Sherco 300 SEF Racing
Dual SportStreet legal machines to transition between surfacesHonda CRF300L
Husqvarna FE 350s
Suzuki DR-Z400S
Yamaha WR250R
AdventureExpedition riding for multi-day remote journeysAprilia Tuareg 660
Ducati Multistrada V4
KTM 890 Adventure R

Scooters and Electrics

We‘ll wrap up with two wildcards that are less motorcycle than unique genres.

Scooters feature enclosed engines and step-through frames best suited to urban areas thanks to small wheels, nimble handling and economical operation. Models like Honda‘s Metro start around just $2,500.

Electric motorcycles continue gaining real-world range and power while eliminating emissions and noise. Instant torque can humble gas superbikes off the line! Look for improving viability over coming years as infrastructure expands.

Which Motorcycle is Right for You?

Even reviewing 17 of the most popular styles, no shortage of choices tempt bikers traversing pavement to remote trails. So reflect on your riding plans, then match directed features accordingly. Maybe an easy handling standard excites weekend escapes while goldwing comfort eases cross-country tours later on.

I welcome any questions in choosing the optimal match for your needs – ride safe and let the good times roll!

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