San Francisco Bay Area

Bike Types

Once upon a time, there were motorcycles, do-it-all machines with two wheels, a frame, a gas tank and an engine. Those days are long gone! Now we have all kinds of machines, specialized for different competitive, professional and leisure activities. Here are the most common ones you'll see out on the road, track and trail. Note: power (at the rear wheel) and weight numbers (with the motorcycle fuelled up and ready to ride, without rider or luggage) are broad estimates to give you a rough idea of these machines' capabilities and sizes.

Select a bike type below to get more info on that bike


Also called "traditional" or "naked" styled, it's basic, with little bodywork and a neutral riding position that puts the rider's feet underneath his or her shoulders. Power: 12hp-150hp Weight: 300-500 pounds.


The most popular style sold in the USA is marked by a feet-forward riding position, high bars, a long wheelbase, low seat, stretched-out fuel tank and lots of chrome. Most will have a V-Twin engine configuration for lots of power at low rpm. Power: 12hp-150hp Weight: 300- 850 pounds.


A street-legal motorcycle styled after (or directly based on) closed-course competition machines designed to do one thing: win races on twisty pavement. Look for a riding position that places the rider low on the bike, with heels below or behind the seat and wrists down low, closer to the front wheel. Sportbikes usually have full bodywork, race-tuned suspensions and brakes and engines with power-to-weight ratios that rival exotic $300,000 sports cars. Power: 25hp-195hp Weight: 360-550 pounds

Naked Sportbike

This is what happens when a manufacturer takes the fairing off a sportbike and adds higher handlebars for more street-biased comfort. They have the great handling, brakes and power of sportbikes but are comfortable enough to commute or tour on. Power: 60hp-195hp Weight: 360-550 pounds.


A heavyweight ride with wind protection, comfortable riding position, ample passenger seating and usually, locking luggage so you can get away from it all while taking it all with you. These kings of the road have torquey motors, lots of electronic gizmos and gadgets and good fuel range. Power: 75hp-150hp Weight: 700-950 pounds


A tourer that's designed to also tackle dirt roads and jeep trails while also being fast, smooth and comfortable on the pavement. These also have good wind protection and luggage and are just as good on short trips. Power: 12hp-150hp Weight: 450-650 pounds


Like a tourer, but designed with two-lane twisty roads in mind. These will be like giant sportbikes with locking luggage and enough passenger room to take a like-minded friend along. Power: 100hp-150hp Weight: 550-700 pounds


This is a motorcycle that has all the equipment to be legally ridden on pavement while still being light and agile enough for the dirt. These generally have lightweight single- cylinder engines. Power: 12hp-65hp Weight: 250-450 pounds


An offroad-only bike designed to win motocross races, a form of racing that involves big jumps and lots of bumps and dips. It will have lots of suspension travel, big knobby tires and a high-revving single-cylinder engine. Power: 12hp-50hp Weight: 160-220 pounds

Enduro or Trail Bike

This one's also off-road only, but designed for longer rides on very rough terrain. It will have wheels and suspension like a motocrosser, but it will also have rudimentary (not DOT or road-legal) lights and more fuel capacity. Power: 12hp-65hp Weight: 200-350 pounds.

Cafe Racer

A sportbike from the days before sportbikes, this may be a classic machine from the '60s or '70s—or a modern machine designed to look like an old one—with low clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs, a stepped seat and every unneeded component tossed in the dustbin to shave off precious ounces. The name was originally an insult—the only "racing" these bikes did was from cafe to cafe.


What do you get when you cross a motocrosser with a sportbike? A very light machine with a free-revving, single-cylinder (or sometimes a Twin) engine in a dirtbike-derived chassis with the wide, grippy rubber and giant brakes of a sportbike. Not good for touring, but huge fun in urban environments, go-kart tracks and twisty canyon roads. Power: 15hp-100hp Weight: 250-450 pounds


Based on the classic American flat-track race bike, these stylish machines have a single-cylinder or V-Twin motor, small fuel tank, shortened seat, limited suspension travel and wide "buckhorn" handlebars. Power: 12hp-150hp Weight: 250-450 pounds

trials bike

Observed Trials is an off-road competitive event where the riders traverse very uneven terrain at extremely low speeds, performing unbelievable feats of balance and control. The bikes have skinny, large tires, plenty of suspension travel, light, torquey motors with very short gearing and no seat—there's no time to sit down! Power: 12hp-150hp Weight: 250-450 pounds


The California Vehicle Code says a 'scooter' is a motorized skateboard, but when we say "scooter" we mean a street-legal powered two-wheeler that has two out of three of the following elements: step-through design, an engine/drive unit attached to the rear wheel/ swingarm and an automatic transmission. Yes, you need an M1 license endorsement to ride one in California, despite what the salesman or your Uncle Earl said. Power: 2.5hp-80hp Weight: 200-550 pounds


A moped has an automatic transmission and pedals that can both start the bike and propel it on flat ground. The California Vehicle Code calls this a "motorized bicycle" and you must have an M2 endorsement to ride one unless it's electric and restricted to under 20 mph. If a moped goes faster than 30 mph it magically becomes a "motor-driven cycle' and you need an M1 endorsement. Confusing, huh? Power: 2hp-6hp Weight: 100-150 pounds


Although electric motorcycles can be any of the other categories, you may consider an electric motorcycle to be in a class of its own. Currently (ha!) electric motorcycles have limited performance and range compared to their gas-powered siblings, and carry a significant price premium—but you'll never pay for gas again. Power: 20hp-60hp Weight: 300-450 pounds

drag bike

Drag racers need to go very fast and have just a quarter-mile to do it in. Look for long, raked chassis and motors tuned to produce fearsome amounts of power. They can accelerate to a quarter-mile almost faster than you can swallow! Power: 100hp-1500hp Weight: 250-450 pounds

bobber or bob job

These custom-built machines hark back to the days after WWII, when returning servicemen bought surplus US Army Harley-Davidsons and made them lighter (and faster) by "bobbing" all the unneeded metal and other parts in the way young girls bobbed their hair when they wanted to change their look. Power: 15hp-150hp Weight: 300-600 pounds


An evolution of the bobber that valued custom style over sheer performance. Look for long front forks, tiny gas tanks, rigid rear wheels (with no shock absorbers) and lots of chrome. 15hp-250hp Weight: 300-600 pounds

can-am spyder

A motorized tricycle that shares some motorcycle looks and attributes, but you don't need an M1 endorsement to ride one in California. However, we strongly recommend you learn to ride a two-wheeled motorcycle first to fully acquaint yourself with the realities and hazards of riding on an unprotected vehicle. Some may claim these vehicles are safer than motorcycles, but there is no statistical evidence (yet) of this being the case. We also warn you that it is not designed to be operated by an untrained driver.


A motorcycle with a third wheel and platform next to the bike, atop which may be a seat for a passenger, a cargo box, or even a flat plate for transporting another motorcycle. Sidecars look like motorcycles, but have very different handling characteristics. If cornered aggressively when steered in the direction of the sidecar, they can tip over if not handled properly. Sidecars are the only way that one can carry their dog or a fake german machine gun on a bike and expect to get away with it that we know of.