The motorcycle was invented in Germany by Gottlieb Daimler and Paul Maybach in 1885. It was designed and built essentially as a small bicycle with a wood frame utilizing two wooden wagon type wheels as well as a pair of small lower side wheels for stability. It was powered by a small primitive 264cc 1/2 horsepower gasoline engine and would move at a top speed of approximately 7 mph.
Since those early days, many motorcycle companies have come and gone however the Indian and Harley Davidson Motorcycle Companies survived the great depression and became the dominant American motorcycle manufacturers. Since those days, modern motorcycle design has become much more sophisticated.
Motorcycles are classified by the following categories: Touring, Power Cruiser, Sportbike, Custom, Dual Purpose, Motocross, Dual-Sport and Off-Road Trail Motorcycles.
Touring motorcycles are relatively heavy and can weigh up to approximately 900 pounds but are designed to be very comfortable to ride and handle well at low speed city riding, back country road and interstate highway speeds. They are designed to comfortably carry one passenger who sits behind the driver. Many of these touring models are manufactured from the factory with cargo bags to carry personal items on a long trip. Examples of these touring motorcycles are the Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic and the Honda Goldwing.
Power Cruiser Motorcycles
Power Cruisers are motorcycles that weigh less than the touring bikes and are designed and manufactured for riders who desire a lighter more sporty bike and do not wish to own and operate the larger touring motorcycles. These motorcycles are usually not manufactured with cargo bags, however, the owner can purchase these bags from a motorcycle manufacture’s dealership or an aftermarket source. These motorcycles are more nimble in handling than the touring models due to their lighter weight. They are also designed to carry one passenger who sits behind the driver. Examples of these motorcycles are the Harley-Davidson VROD and the Yamaha Warrior.
Sportbike motorcycles are designed for high performance street riding and paved off-road racing. They have high performance high horsepower engines, are lighter in weight than the power cruisers and are designed for more aggressive high speed riding. The owner can remove the head, tail and signal lights, replace the engine coolant with pure water, if the engine is water cooled, wire all of the engine fluid plugs and transport the motorcycle to a race track such as Virginia International Raceway and race the motorcycle during track days if he or she holds a valid motorcycle amateur racing license. Some of these motorcycles can have top speeds of approximately 200 mph right out of the crate and are the ultimate in high performance street motorcycles. Examples of these motorcycles are the Buell 1125R, Honda RC51, Suzuki Hayabusa 1300 and the Kawasaki ZX14.
Custom motorcycles are expensive and exotic motorcycles that are considered by custom bike builders to be rolling works of art because they can incorporate expensive and exotic paint jobs, chrome, custom painted or powder coated accessories and parts, exotic frame designs, exotic wheel designs and exotic front end designs. Custom motorcycles are designed and built on two basic platforms: the Chopper and the Pro-Street. A Chopper is a street motorcycle that utilizes a high neck frame and has a long wheel base that can be approximately 85 inches or more. The motorcycle’s frame neck where the front end is mounted utilizes a radical raked out design while utilizing hydraulic front forks or springer front forks. The high neck frame is designed to position the fuel tank at an angle where the upper portion of the fuel tank near the handle bars is located at the rider’s shoulder height when sitting on the seat. The seat height is usually low, and the bottom of the frame is only a few inches from the ground. The Pro-Street motorcycle utilizes a low neck frame that positions the fuel tank in a more standard horizontal position but has all of the other attributes of the Chopper. Both the Chopper and Pro-Street motorcycles can come equipped with a wide rear tire up to approximately 14 inches (360mm) in width. Both motorcycles are manufactured with large displacement air-cooled V-Twin engines such as the Harley-Davidson, S&S Super Sidewinder Plus™ or S&S X-Wedge™ engines. These motorcycles can be uncomfortable to ride on long trips and are designed mainly for show and quick acceleration. Both the Chopper and Pro-Street motorcycles usually don’t handle as well as a standard production motorcycle due to their long wheel bases, longer front end trail measurements, raked out front ends of 38° or more and low ground clearances. These motorcycles are designed and built by such companies as American Ironhorse, Big Dog Motorcycles, Big Bear Choppers, Bourget, Orange County Choppers, West Coast Choppers and can range in price from approximately $25,000 to $100,000.
Dual Purpose Motorcycles
Dual Purpose motorcycles are designed to perform well on both paved road, dirt road and light off-road surfaces. They are designed and manufactured with higher ground clearances than the power cruisers and sportbikes, are generally lighter in weight and come equipped with tires that can perform well on all three of these surfaces. Two such motorcycles are the Buell XB12X Ulysses and the BMW F 650 GS.
Motocross motorcycles are designed purely for motocross racing on off-road surfaces and do not come with legal equipment for road use such as street tires, head, tail and break lights and a license tag mount. These motorcycles come from the manufacturer with high performance two and four stroke engines, off-road knobby tires to grip dirt surfaces and also have long suspension travel, a higher ground clearance and have fenders mounted high over the tires to give greater tire-to-fender clearance all for riding over rough off-road terrain at high speeds. Examples of these motorcycles are the Honda XR650R, the Suzuki DR-Z400E and the Yamaha YZ450F.
Dual-Sport motorcycles are similar to off-road dirt motorcycles and are designed to be ridden on both paved roads and off-road surfaces. They are designed and equipped with legal equipment for road use such as special on-road/off-road tires, head, tail and break lights and a license tag mount. These motorcycles also have long suspension travel, a higher ground clearance and have fenders mounted high over the tires to give greater tire-to-fender clearance all for riding over rough off-road terrain at high speeds like their off-road dirt motorcycles counter parts. However, dual-sport motorcycles come from the manufacturer with engines that are not high performance all-out racing engines but are designed so they can be safely ridden on city streets and highways and off-road trails and performance well on both Examples of these motorcycles are the Husqvarna TE 630 and the Honda XR650L.
Off-Road Trail Motorcycles
Trail motorcycles are designed for off-road trail riding only on off-road dirt surfaces. They are not designed and equipped with legal equipment for road use such as special on-road/off-road tires, head, tail and break lights and a license tag mount. These motorcycles have dirt only knobby tires, long suspension travel, a higher ground clearance and have fenders mounted high over the tires to give greater tire-to-fender clearance all for riding over rough off-road terrain at high speeds. Trail motorcycles do not come from the manufacturer with high performance all-out racing engines but are milder engines designed so they can be safely ridden on off-road dirt trails. Examples of these motorcycles are the Honda CRF-450X and Kawasaki KLX-140.