Someone looking for a new bike has an unbelievable array of motorcycle types to choose from. There’s something to fit just about every taste imaginable. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it should cover just about everything you’d normally see on the road.
Cruisers / Choppers / Customs
The current cruiser market is defined by Harley Davidson though most other makers have their own offerings. Cruisers feature a relaxed, upright seating position with foot controls placed well forward. Cushy, comfy, low seats and low centers of gravity make them attractive to riders looking for an easy going ride. They do tend to be heavy, which is why some of the biggest motorcycle engines around are in cruisers. Choppers and customs are modified versions of their cruiser brethren or can be pure originals as well.
Big. Large. Humongous. Stereos. Heaters. Navigation systems. Reverse gears. Passenger seats by La-z-boy. These massive bikes are built for long trips. With every creature comfort imaginable (and some you couldn’t imagine on a motorcycle), they’re the ideal two-wheel horse for that ride across country or up the California coast. Honda’s Gold Wing is one of the class favorites; riders favoring American steel may opt for something like Harley’s Electra Glide.
Standards are the wide-ranging middle-ground of motorcycles. They all tend to feature an upright seating position and generally easy ergonomics but can differ wildly in looks, power and ability. Some of them are very user-friendly and make good beginner bikes; others are nothing but upright-seated sport bikes with massive power.
Modern sport bikes are fast, light and agile. Recent models seem built for the racetrack with little regard for street utility. They are also more difficult to ride and for that reason are typically a poor choice for a first bike. The seating position throws the rider’s weight forward onto the hands while the foot controls are located far back and high. This puts the rider into a more athletic position, but one that’s uncomfortable over long rides. Sport bikes are also notoriously top-heavy and difficult to maneuver at slow speeds. Fortunately there are bikes within the class that are more relaxed than others, giving enthusiasts a range between hard core race-replica machines and something more tolerable for the street.
Dirt / Dual Sport / Adventure / Enduro / Supermoto
These are off-road weapons for tearing up dirt and mud. Pure dirt bikes are extremely light, so a 450cc dirt bike (while small by street bike standards) is very powerful. The “dual-sport” and “adventure” variants are street legal. They’re also heavier and not as nimble as pure dirt bikes, but then again they don’t have to be towed to the nearest trail. The “enduro” sub-class are bigger street legal bikes built for long off-road rides and inspired by races such as the Paris-Dakar rally. The “supermoto” variants are basically dirt bikes equipped with aggressive street/track tires, and can be whipped around turns on the pavement like nothing else (a very popular race classification).