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A 1954 Triumph T110
BMW's first motorcycle, the 1923-1925 R32

The following outline is provided as an overview of motorcycles and motorcycling:

Motorcycle — two-wheeled, [1] single-track motor vehicle. [2] [3] Other names include: motorbike, bike, and cycle.

Motorcycling — act of riding a motorcycle, around which a variety of subcultures and lifestyles have built up.




Types of motorcycles The design of a motorcycle reflects the purpose for which it is to be used. The main types of motorcycle include:

A 1969 Harley-Davidson chopper, a replica of the ' Captain America' bike from Easy Rider
Honda CB750 inline four, the first to be called a 'superbike', [5] and the archetypal Universal Japanese Motorcycle
2015 BMW R1200RT Sport Touring Motorcycle
  • Street motorcycle – designed for riding on paved roads; features smooth tyres with a light tread pattern and at least 125 cubic centimetres (7.6  cu in) engine.
    • Cruiser – mimics the style of American machines from the 1930s to the early 1960s, including those made by Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior and Henderson; models evocative of the early cruisers make up 60% of the U.S. market
      • Bobber – usually has had the front fender removed, the rear fender 'bobbed' or made smaller, and all superfluous items removed to make it lighter [6]
      • Chopper – has a longer frame design accompanied by a stretched front end (or rake). To achieve a longer front end, while the frame is being designed, the fabricator tilts the neck of the frame at less of an incline and installs a longer fork.
    • Sport bike – optimised for speed, acceleration, braking, and cornering on paved roads, [7] [8] [9] [10] typically at the expense of comfort and fuel economy in comparison to less specialised motorcycles. [11] [12]
      • Café racer – a type of motorcycle that has been modified for speed and good handling rather than comfort. Cafe racers' bodywork and control layout typically mimic the style of Grand Prix roadracers of the 1950s or 1960s with or without fairings. They tend to feature an elongated fuel tank, a small, rearward mounted and humped single seat, and low, race style handlebars mounted on the front forks.
      • Streetfighter – a sport bike that is customised by removing the fairing, with other changes that result in an overall more aggressive look [13] [14]
    • Touring motorcycle – designed for long-distance touring and heavy commuting; although any motorcycle can be ridden to tour or commute, manufacturers provide specific models designed to address these particular needs
      • Sport touring motorcycle – blends performance with long-distance capabilities while providing comfort and relative safety to the rider, and tend to include accessories, such as a trunk or saddlebags for storage, to enhance the touring experience
    • Standard motorcycle – versatile, general purpose street motorcycle, [11] with an upright riding position. [15]
      • Universal Japanese Motorcycle – Japanese motorcycle with a transverse air-cooled four-cylinder engine in a conventional tube frame with a dual seat, mostly made in the 1970s and early 1980s
  • Custom motorcycle – unique or individually produced in a very limited quantity, as opposed to stock bikes which are mass-produced. Is usually highly stylised or has an unusual frame geometry or engine design. Many styles including café racer, streetfighter, and chopper began as customized motorcycles before manufacturers mass-produced bikes styled after popular custom machines.
    • Rat bike – motorcycle maintained at little to no cost, or often of a deliberately exaggerated state of disrepair
  • Dual-sport motorcycle – type of street-legal motorcycle designed for both on and off-road use
    • Enduro motorcycle – motorcycle made specifically for the Enduro sport, with the long travel and medium-hard suspension of a motocross bike enhanced with motorcycle features such as a headlight and quiet muffler to make the bike street-legal for parts of the track
    • Motocross motorcycle – a light weight, high power, off-road competition race bike
    • Supermoto motorcycle – a dual purpose, single cylinder, light weight bike fitted with equipment better suited to street riding or racing such as 18 inch front wheel and road tyres
  • Off-road motorcycle
    • Motocross motorcycle
    • Track racing motorcycle – customised for track racing, with no brakes and fueled with methanol
    • Trials motorcycle – an extremely lightweight design, that lacks seating (designed to be ridden standing up) and that has suspension travel that is short, relative to a motocross or enduro motorcycle
Honda Super Cub, the archetypal underbone and the world's best-selling motor vehicle [16] [17] [18] [19]
  • Small class
    • Minibike – sometimes called a mini-moto or pocket-bike, it is a considerably smaller motorcycle; most traditional minibikes use a two stroke engine to turn the rear wheel via a chain
    • Mini chopper – mini choppers are scaled-down versions of choppers, and are usually constructed from 1" steel tubing or 3/4" steel black pipe; the tube or pipe is bent and then welded together to get the desired angles and shapes of the frame, which is usually custom made
    • Moped – a type of low-powered motorcycle designed to provide economical and relatively safe transport with minimal licensing requirements
    • Pit bike – a small off-road motorcycle originally used for riding around the pits or staging area of a motocross race; since the early 2000s, pit bike racing, a sport similar to motocross, has become popular in the United States, especially in Southern California
    • Scooter – a step-through motorcycle with a seat, a floorboard, and small or low wheels. Most modern scooter designs have swingarm-mounted engines
    • Underbone – a step-through motorcycle with a structural down-tube and conventionally sized wheels, but without a floorboard
  • Electric motorcycle – has an electric motor powered by one or more batteries or fuel cells
  • Enclosed motorcycle
  • Utility motorcycle
  • Other designs and variations
  • Related three-wheeled vehicles


Motorcycle design

Major component parts

Motorcycle components




Brough Superior SS 100 1925

Motorcycle history


Lucius Copeland 1894

First motorcycle ride – it is generally accepted that the first motorcycle ride was by Gottlieb Daimler's son Paul on a new machine called Einspur ('one track') near Stuttgart in Germany on 10 November 1885. [21] However, several pioneering engineers and inventors preceded Daimler, mostly with steam engines powering their cycles. These include:

Many pioneering engineers and inventors followed Daimler in using internal combustion engines . These include:


  • Max Friz – German mechanical engineer and contributor of engine design that led to the founding of BMW in 1917
  • Harry Ricardo – pioneering motorcycle engine designer influential in the early years of the development of the internal combustion engine
  • Edward Turner – motorcycle designer and General Manager of Triumph where he led the development of many important technical ideas found on motorcycles today
  • John Britten – New Zealand mechanical engineer who designed a world-record-setting motorcycle with innovative features and materials
  • Mike Tomkinson - motorcycle engineer whose Bol d'Or endurance racers incorporated numerous innovative features.
  • David Garside - BSA engineer who developed the F&S Wankel into a powerful Norton motorcycle engine.


Museums and exhibitions

There are a number of museums which feature collections of motorcycles, either as part of a larger exhibition of vehicles, or dedicated entirely to motorcycles. Some of those museums are listed below:








FIM Motocross World Championship, taking place at Mallory Park, England

Motorcycle sport – broad field that encompasses all sporting aspects of motorcycling. The various disciplines are not all races or timed-speed events, as several disciplines test a competitor's various riding skills. Riders have raced motorcycles for over a hundred years, with the first official competition recorded as the Paris–Rouen race in July 1894. This was quickly followed by races all over Europe and the US. In 1907, the Isle of Man TT races took over 66 kilometres (41  mi) of the island's roads and has continued since. [21] Motorcycle sport now takes many different forms, including:


Motorcycle racing – motorcycle sport involving racing motorcycles, on or off a track.

Organisations and clubs

Although motorcycling can be a solitary form of transport, there are clubs for almost every aspect; including charities, social clubs, criminal or outlaw clubs, lobby groups that guard against restrictive legislation, and specialist clubs for specific makes or types of motorcycle. [21] Examples include:


Logo of the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF)

Motorcycle clubs

Motorcycle club – group of individuals whose primary interest and activities involve motorcycles.

Notable motorcyclists

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (left) holding the handlebars of his 500 cc single cylinder Norton motorcycle

Notable motorcycle sportspersons

Joey Dunlop on his Honda RC30 ready for the Senior TT

Motocross riders

Motorcycling in the media


Television programmes





  1. ^ Cossalter, Vittore (2006). Motorcycle Dynamics. Lulu. ISBN  978-1-4303-0861-4.
  2. ^ Foale, Tony (2006). Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design. Tony Foale Designs. pp. 4–1. ISBN  978-84-933286-3-4.
  3. ^ Note: Some definitions also include some forms of three-wheelers.
  4. ^ " Daily Telegraph" report on new limits [1]
  5. ^ "The Dawn of the Superbike: Honda's Remarkable CB750". AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. American Motorcyclist Association. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  6. ^ Art of the Bobber by Spencer Drate, Judith Salavetz, Alex Mardikian - 2006
  7. ^ Hough, David L. (2003), More Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well (2nd ed.), USA: BowTie Press, p. 253, ISBN  1-931993-03-3, sportbike: a motorcycle designed for aggressive performance, especially cornering
  8. ^ "sport bike". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) ("…a powerful, lightweight motorcycle, designed for optimal speed and handling" )
  9. ^ McCraw, Jim (July 2005), "About That Bike…", Popular Mechanics, Hearst Magazines, vol. 182, no. 7, pp. 68–70, ISSN  0032-4558, retrieved 4 June 2010
  10. ^ Domino, Kevin (2009), The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New Or Used Bike, 671 Press, pp. 50–51, 70, ISBN  978-0-9821733-3-6
  11. ^ a b Maher, Kevin; Greisler, Ben (1998), Chilton's Motorcycle Handbook, Haynes North America, pp.  2-11–2-12, ISBN  0-8019-9099-8
  12. ^ Bennett, Jim (1995), The Complete Motorcycle Book: A Consumer's Guide, Facts on File, pp.  15–16, 19–25, ISBN  0-8160-2899-0
  13. ^ Wallis, Michael; Clark, Marian (2004), Hogs on 66: Best Feed and Hangouts for Road Trips on Route 66, Council Oak Books, ISBN  9781571781406, Streetfighter -- Also known as a 'hooligan' cycle, this is a sports-bike stripped of all superfluous bodywork
  14. ^ Doeden, Matt; Leonard, Joe (2007), Choppers, Lerner Publications, ISBN  9780822572886, streetfighter: a type of superbike customised for maximum speed and performance
  15. ^ Domino, Kevin (2009), The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New Or Used Bike, 671 Press, pp. 47–58, ISBN  978-0-9821733-3-6
  16. ^ Cumulative Global Production of Cub Series Motorcycles Reaches 60 Million Units (press release), Honda, 21 May 2008, archived from the original on 3 March 2016, retrieved 31 October 2010
  17. ^ Squatriglia, Chuck (23 May 2008), "Honda Sells Its 60 Millionth – Yes, Millionth – Super Cub", Wired, retrieved 31 October 2010
  18. ^ "That's 2.5 billion cc!", American Motorcyclist, Westerville, Ohio: American Motorcyclist Association, p. 24, May 2006, ISSN  0277-9358, retrieved 31 October 2010
  19. ^ Edstrom, Christian (November 30, 2007). "To Save the Polar Bears, Ride a Cub". New York Times.
  20. ^ "Chassis". Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  21. ^ a b c Brown, Roland (2002). Classic Motorcycles. Joanna Lorenz. ISBN  1-84038-433-6.
  22. ^ "The Wild One". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  23. ^ Timothy Shary; Alexandra Seibel (2007). Youth culture in global cinema. University of Texas Press. p. 17.

External links