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Different Riding Segments, Explained


In our vast motorcycling landscape, there are many different types (or segments) or riding. You may have come across many terms and wonder what exactly they mean.

We're here to clear it up for you.

Street/Standard


This is the most diverse bike category and have the largest variety of body styles. Basically, they're exactly what they sound like: they're for riding on the street.

Standard bikes are commonly known as "naked" bikes, or bikes without a fairing. Fairings are those plastic body elements that cover the engine and frame. They help to make a bike more aerodynamic, which is absolutely needed for sport bikes. However, street bikes have less of a need to be so aerodynamic so a naked style is quite popular.

These bikes are ideal commuter bikes (or even if you use a bike as your main mode of transport!). They're a good balance of performance, handling, and comfort. The more upright seating position is comfier and allows you to be more aware of your surroundings.

Cruisers


Ah, the iconic Americana style. Cruisers bring up images of that untamed and carefree rebel lifestyle.
 
Cruisers rose to power in the 1930's - 60's in the U.S., and even the modern cruisers of today retain that old-school styling (which let's face is, is most of their appeal). These bikes are characterized by a low riding position, larger V-twin engines, raked-out front forks, and in some cases, tons of chrome accents.

Performance wise, they're heavy clunky ol' things and are not known for being the most technical or efficient. They are hard to handle and tiring at high speeds. The riding position is also not the most comfortable as you're in a leaned-back low position with your hands and feet stretched way out. But hey, it's all about that lifestyle.

Keep in mind: these days, there are a lot of other manufacturers making cruisers imitating the classic American style (often called metric cruisers). You will find great value in those, and often better performance, reliability, and comfort.

Sport

the SoloMoto trackbike (a Yamaha R6) tearing it up on the track
You've probably heard of bikes being referred to as "crotch rockets". This term is reserved for the sportbike (or race replica bikes), which are built for performance and high speeds. Sportbikes have powerful engines in a lightweight frame with full fairings for maximum aerodynamics. They're also the ultimate bike eye-candy with their incredibly sleek and sexy design.

Sportbikes are ideal if your main goal is to take it to the track. That's where their true power shines. These bikes are meant to go fast, and like most riders will tell you - it's no fun to ride a fast bike slow. 

Keep in mind: Sportbikes (even the smaller ones) are FAST! - and so they are not ideal to learn to ride on. It usually takes a lot of time to improve your skill. They also don't make ideal commuter bikes, because the riding position (tucked forward, higher foot pegs, longer reach to handlebars) is designed for aerodynamics, not for ergonomic comfort.

Off-road/MX



Or, better known as the dirt bike. These bikes are a whole different breed. They're made for jumping over dirt hills, rolling over gravel trails, and slugging through mud paths. Because of the rough terrain off-roaders encounter, the bikes are designed to be very lightweight and nimble with a high seat and high center of gravity

Keep in mind: Dirt bikes are not street-legal as they have no horns, turn signals, mirrors, or headlights. They're designed for... well... tearing up the dirt. If you like the idea of getting dirty and having some fun off the street, but want more versatility, then read on:

Dual Sport


If you do want a street legal dirt bike, you'd want to look into a dual-sport bike. This is one of the fastest growing bike segments, and for a good reason. These bikes offer the best of both worlds: the lightness and versatility to ride off-road, while still being comfortable and safe enough to ride on the street. 

They're basically dirt bikes but with mirrors, lights, speedometers, and license plates so they're legal to ride on the street. And like dirt bikes, they have smaller engines, lightweight frames, and higher center of gravitySome are more dirt-oriented, and some more street-oriented, so pick one that sounds like the type of riding you're more realistically likely to do.

Dual sport bikes make a good option for beginners because of their less powerful engines and maneuverability. Keep in mind that they are taller bikes, so make sure you are able to plant both feet firmly on the ground. 

Touring


Touring bikes are designed for comfort during long distance travel. They're practically like mini cars on two wheels! They're the largest bikes (and the heaviest) because they have to be capable of enduring many, many long hours - and even days - on the road, while being loaded up with a lot of equipment (and even a passenger).

They usually have large windshields for protection against all sorts of weather, large storage compartments for everything you need to survive on the road for days, large fuel tanks to cover the miles in between fill-ups, full fairings for aerodynamics, and an upright comfortable riding position. They usually come with a range of luxury features as well, including heated grips, heated seats, or stereo systems.

The touring segment can be broken down further into adventure touring and sport touring. Adventure touring (more below) combines off-road capabilities with long distance. And sport touring - a super niche market - offers that powerful sportbike performance combined with long distances.

Keep in mind: Touring bikes are among the most expensive bikes because of the luxury features they offer and their durability. But because of how reliable they are, used tourers can be a great buy provided that the previous owner took care of it and did all the regular maintenance. 

Adventure


These bikes are hard to categorize. It's what it sounds like - a bike that can take you on an adventure. Think an around-the-world motorcycle trip, perhaps on mountain paths and dessert trails. You can think of adventure bikes are a cross between touring and off-road: built for covering the miles with the capability to go off-road.

Because of the ability to go the distance, they have heavier frames and large tanks like a touring bike, with luxury features. And because of being able to go off-road, they have a higher seat height too. They're almost like taller touring bikes. 

Keep in mind: Adventure bikes are very expensive (BMW's classic R1200GS starts at over $16k). And second: riding a big and heavy bike off-road is not the easiest to handle. Before sinking money into an adventure bike, think: will you really take it far and off the beaten path? If you're more likely to have adventures closer to home, a lightweight dual-sport will serve your needs. 

What segment do you ride in the most? Tell us! 
By Daniel Relich

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