Two Wheeler Types: Classification based on Body Types
In recent years, motorised two-wheelers or Motorcycles have become more specific and function driven. A variety of categories is derived from their usage and function. Gone are the days when motorised two-wheelers were segmented into three plain categories: Scooters, mopeds and motorcycles. The genres of two-wheelers have evolved into branches, which require distinct skill sets to handle them.
For a better understanding of the jargons used to describe the various styles of two-wheelers in the market today, here are the basic definitions for a few key types of bikes:
Sports bikes have powerful engines and are optimised for speed, acceleration and braking. They also have sharp styling and are often characterised by aerodynamic fairings (Motorcycle fairings are the plastic or fibreglass shells which surround a part, or all, of the front half of a motorcycle[i] They are primarily designed to reduce air drag[ii] and, also offer protection to the rider from wind and rain). They have exceptional handling, for even cornering on paved road. But, all this comes at the expense of comfort and fuel economy.
This category is dominated by Japanese manufacturers Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha. The other makes include Ducati (Italian), MV Augusta (Italian), Aprilia (Italian), Triumph (British), BMW (German), KTM (Austrian), etc.
These bikes are designed purely for performance and the ergonomic posture for this styling is an arms-forward posture, with tight handling. They are normally not advised for first time buyers or inexperienced riders. Some Sport-bikes also need technical knowledge for optimum use as they are based more on aerodynamic laws, as compared to other motorcycles.
Though most sports bikes are often seen only on the racetracks, today, several sport-bike models are being manufactured for less-experienced riders. This segment has exploded in recent years with smaller models that combine sport-bike looks with beginner-friendly power, ergonomics and cost. Here is a list of the popular models of Sport-bikes available in India:
A scooter can be vaguely described as a light two-wheeled open motor vehicle on which the driver sits over an enclosed engine, with their legs together and their feet resting on a floor board. They tend to have smaller, less powerful engines. They are light-weighted and are more affordable compared to bikes.
With humble beginnings in the 1960’s, scooters grew into popularity in the 1990’s. Cheap running costs, affordability, ease of use, frustration at urban gridlocks and introduction of new models were the main reasons for the increasing popularity of scooters. All manufacturers for the mass market have models of scooters, which has become the latest commute vehicle.
Scooter engine sizes can be as low as 50cc. Being fully automatic, there is no clutch or shifting required, which makes it the easiest-to-use two-wheeler. They have a fair amount of storage beneath the seating and have a body-type that allows the rider to step-through and sit without getting his or her clothes getting stained by oil. They are also small and easy to park and store. Scooters are also designed to have a fair amount of wind and rider protection. They are not made for long distance travels and definitely not highway friendly.
They are also extremely safe for women in India, where sarees are a traditional clothing. It is also a common sight to see children on the footboard while an adult parent rides the scooter. Due to their lower engine specification, they are often the choice for first-time buyers and riders. Thus, scooters are a very popular choice for the Indian market. Few popular models are:
Naked bikes in India came into popularity with the KTM Duke. The term “naked” refers to road bikes without a fairing to obscure the engine and frame, and little or no fairing over the handlebars. However, not all bikes without fairings are naked bikes. Exceptions include custom bikes, off-roaders and adventure sport bikes. Naked bikes are often un-faired sports bikes or modern bikes with a retro 70s styling.
Off-road motorcycles have a small fuel-tank for lightness and compactness and the long travel suspension allows the rider to take jumps at high speeds, with a comfortable landing. Dirt bikes generally refer to motorcycles designed for off-road riding and typically feature knobby tires, long suspension travel, and minimalistic frames and bodywork. Variants of dirt bike designs compete in Enduro, Motocross, and Trials events, among others.
Enduro Bikes are designed for long distance off-road competitions. Enduro bikes are usually equipped with headlights and taillights for night-time riding, and can be outfitted with timers and roll chart reading devices that aid riders with navigation and timekeeping. Though there are plenty of endure-style bikes that make it onto the road, true enduro bikes are race-focused machines.
Trial Bikes are specialized competition bikes are tailor made for trials events, in which motorcycles are maneuvered around off-road or man-made obstacles, and riders are penalized if their feet touch the ground. Extremely lightweight, trials bikes lack seats and feature stiffer suspension than most dirt bikes.
A standard motorcycle is built with an intention to do a little bit of everything. They are an optimal build with fuel efficiency, quick torque, light weight, and basic look. They have neutral ergonomics and provide a more natural sense of control and comfort.
Standard Motorcycle have an upright riding position in which the handlebar and foot pegs are positioned for comfort. From a styling point of view, they usually but not always are without fairing or windscreen. In India, there are numerous models of the Standard bikes. Owing to the high numbers of two-wheelers in India, due to the high fuel efficiency, the sales of these bikes are highest.
Some of the popular motorcycles that fall within this classification are:
For all those who dream of taking that once-in-a-lifetime bike road-trip, cruisers are mostly typified with the legendary brand, Harley Davidson. Harley’s aren’t the only name in town though, with Japanese bikes able to provide that custom look for a lot less cash but also less heritage. For many new riders, when they hear the word “motorcycle,” the image of a cruiser pops to mind.
As the name suggests, cruisers are used for cruising, in which the rider usually places the feet forward, hands up, with the spine erect or leaning back slightly while driving. Typically, cruisers have low seats, long wheel bases, loads of chrome and most importantly, a laid-back attitude.
The low seat lets rider get his or her feet down easily. The low centre of gravity offsets heft. Most importantly, engine is tuned for low-rpm power which makes the clutch/throttle coordination easier. Unless experienced, the long and low frame makes handling a bit awkward on some models for new riders.
The touring and adventure segments have evolved significantly in recent years. If you’re going to be travelling long distances, these bikes are the ones you should be looking out for. Touring motorcycles are the type that combines performance and comfort for covering long distances with ease and have luggage storage capacities. They also have higher capacity fuel tanks to cover longer distances.
Built for on-road comfort and continent-cruising ability, many tourers have large windscreens, generous luggage capacity, plush seats, driver/passenger intercom, and heated handlebar grips. They are very comfortable for both the rider and the pillion with good weather protection and backrests.
Some bikes, such as the 1500cc and 1800cc Honda Goldwing, even have reverse gears to help move their massive weight out of tight parking spots.
This guide differentiates the basic types of motorcycles, and is not limited to these types. The specialities of two-wheelers are increasing in numbers and a variety of sub-genres has evolved, bringing a nuanced skill set to particular types of bikes which are capable of tackling everything from the most extreme off-road scenarios to track settings and a wide variety of everything in between.