Motorcycling is a sport that welcomes everyone. And if you’re thinking about joining, there are some things you should research first—especially when it comes to selecting your first bike.
Your first step should be taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation® Basic RiderCourse℠. Once you have the experience of learning to ride on the motorcycles used in the class, you’ll have a good frame of reference when it comes to selecting your first motorcycle. Bikes come in a wide array of designs, styles, colors, sizes, weights, and engines. We’ve put together this list of the basic categories of motorcycles to help you narrow your search for the perfect first bike.
The standard style motorcycle isn’t as popular as it once was. What it does offer is a very natural riding position for both new and experienced riders. The foot pegs are below the saddle and forward enough to create a natural seating position with your legs bent at about 90 degrees, while the handlebars offer an easy reach below shoulder height. This allows you to sit upright, providing good control of the motorcycle.
Style is what a cruiser motorcycle is all about. Also known as a boulevard cruiser, this style usually has foot pegs and controls mounted forward of the saddle. The handlebars can be pulled back and can rise to shoulder height or higher. The saddle height is lower than most other styles of motorcycles, making a cruiser popular for riders with shorter legs. A cruiser offers a very laid-back riding position that’s perfect on straightaways. You can still enjoy the curvy roads, just at a more relaxed pace—especially since a cruiser may have reduced ground clearance and lean angles. If a low saddle height and high style is your choice, a cruiser may be right for you.
A sport bike is the opposite of a cruiser. This motorcycle places you in a forward-leaning position. The foot pegs are located rearward and on the higher side. Combined with generous ground clearance, this allows for higher lean angles. The handlebars are set low and closer in, toward the front forks. This riding position places some of your weight on your arms and wrists. Perfect for carving through twisty roads, a sport bike can offer both great excitement and a colorful style.
If you’re all about road trips, then a touring motorcycle is what you’re looking for. But it may not be the best starter motorcycle. This kind of bike offers an upright riding position and the controls of a standard motorcycle, and usually include forward-mounted highway pegs for stretching your legs. This bike features fairings, a windshield and large motor, entertainment and navigation options, and plenty of storage in the saddlebags and trunk, allowing you and a passenger to ride off into the sunset. This heavy machine is very stable when in motion, but can be a handful at slow, parking lot speeds.
A sport-touring motorcycle is a hybrid machine that offers the best of both a sport bike and a touring motorcycle. The riding position is more relaxed than a sport bike, but still offers a similar ride. You’ll find higher ground clearance and lean angles, along with reduced storage capacity. This bike is perfect for long-range travels—especially on scenic, twisty roads. It’s also an excellent commuter motorcycle, thanks to its agility and practical storage.
If you’re an adventurous person who wants to explore places off the beaten track, then a dual-sport motorcycle may be your thing. This hybrid offers the off-road capability of a dirt bike with all the running gear of a street motorcycle, and features high ground clearance. As far as saddle height goes, it’s the opposite of a cruiser—long legs are a plus here. This kind of motorcycle is often set up in one of two ways: street or off-road. If you have experience riding a dirt bike, you’ll feel right at home riding a dual sport.
While most folks think of a moped when you mention a scooter, there are a few highway-capable large scooters. With surprising storage capacity and automatic transmissions, this step-through motorcycle is another long-distance option. Thanks to its touring-grade comfort and ease of riding, many riders prefer a large scooter for travel or commuting. For inner-city riders, a smaller scooter may be a perfect around-town ride that’s easy on gas and parking.
There’s a wide range of three-wheelers available today. A motorcycle with three wheels has traditionally been a sidecar rig or trike with two wheels in the back. The two configurations are variations on a basic motorcycle and utilize the common rider control setup. There’s also a three-wheeler with two wheels up front and is controlled like a motorcycle. It’s a great option if you have issues that make holding up a traditional two-wheeled motorcycle a challenge. Bear in mind that while the controls are similar, this kind of machine handles differently, and you should seek proper training.