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Motorcycle: The different types (Sportbikes, Crusiers, Dual Purpose) of Disciplines Explained.

Updated on June 27, 2013
Preparing to crash during a Mini-Moto session at AllSports Grand Prix in Sterling VA.
Preparing to crash during a Mini-Moto session at AllSports Grand Prix in Sterling VA. | Source

I am an all-season motorcycle commuter. Many a day, I’ll step into an elevator or office and someone will ask me, “What kind of bike do you have?” I look at them daftly and say, “I have seven of them, but currently I’m riding a {Insert Brand Here}.” They stare into the bright light, blink a couple of times, and then usually say either:

“Oh, my brother has one of those.”
“My dad has a Harley.”
“Why do you have so many?”

The first response leads me to smile and walk away, the second is always greeted with, “That’s the brand I hope to never own.”, and the third gets the, “It all depends on how and where you want to ride.”

This isn’t something that the average non-motorcyclist ever thinks about. They think we all put on ass-less chaps and black leather and ride from our suburban homes to a seedy bar and ogle women and perform burn-out contests. And yes, that is one discipline of motorcycling, but it’s the one that I don’t subscribe, but to give it a nickname, we’ll call it the Hardley Ablesons. (Thanks Lonnie!)

So, here’s a short list of motorcycle disciplines to help you understand the subcultures:

1. Hardley Ablesons

2. Metric Crusier

3. Interstate Touring / Full Dressers

4. Sport Tourer

5. Sportbike / Racer / Trackday / Stunta

6. Adventure Rider / Dual Purpose

7. Motard / Mini-Motard

8. Motocross / Hare Scramble (GNCC)

9. Trials

10. Flat Trackers (Hot Shoe) / Speedway

11. Standard / Retro

12. Rat Bike

Motorcycle Disciplines

1. Hardley Ablesons.

I believe that I covered the basics of #1, but there are upstanding members of both the Blue , White, and Grey-collared worlds that share the love of the American Classic “Potato Potato” sound of the Harley. Not all of them go to Sturgis, and find themselves at/on Full Throttle Saloon. These riders simply enjoy the wind-in-their-hair freedom that is offered by motors measured in inches instead of cubic centimeters. Unfortunately, this crowd is typically low on rider talent as they have one-year of experience repeated multiple times, rather than multiple years of riding experience. Bikes in this dicipline are any crusier/dresser made by Harley Davidson.

2. Metric Cruiser

The metric cruiser crowd appreciates the look and feel of a cruiser, but doesn’t necessary subscribe to having Tattoos or buying everything for a significant markup just because it has the company’s logo on it. It’s called a metric cruiser because the tools needed to work on it come in mm and not fractions. The metric cruiser crowd will often emulate the sound and/or look and feel of the Hardley’s, but the trained ear and eye can easily spot the difference. All of the non-American manufacturers make something to compete in the genre, and the bikes come in multiple sizes, shapes, and colors.

3. Interstate Touring / Full Dressers

The RVs of motorcycles, the long haul interstate crowd has large comfortable bikes designed for the open Interstate. With heated everything, radios, trunk space for two, and often pulling a trailer, this crowd travels across America covering hundreds of miles a day. Restaurants and Hotels are frequented on the trip. Honda Goldwing, Yamaha Venture, Harley Davidson Electra Glide

4. Sport Tourer

The Sport Touring crowd also likes to put down the miles, in comfort, but enjoys the road less traveled with a few twists and turns, thus the nimbleness sportier bike is appreciated. They like to carry enough gear to make it through multiple weather extremes or even camping gear and provisions.

5. Sportbike / Racer / Trackday / Stunta

Sportbikes are the hot thing with kids of all ages. With nicknames like “Crotch Rocket” and “Ninja” they’re sleek, fast, nimble, and cause the heart to race just looking at it standing still. They go 0-60 in less than 3 seconds and can corner like they’re on rails. Racers drag a knee around the corner to squeeze the maximum potential out of these bikes, and the agility makes it a great platform for the Stunta’s, too. (Folks that like wheelies, stoppies, and all the other crazy tricks you see, right before they crash the bike. Visit YouTube for a wealth of these videos.)

Sportbikes range from 125cc up to 1400cc, but the 600cc is the middle of the bell curve.

Switching Gears – The upright crowd
The previous classes of riders are typical sit in the seat, and maybe even hang off the side. The Upright Crowd often don’t use the seat and are regularly standing on the pegs to traverse adverse conditions . The bikes have a higher ride height and a suspension to compensate for rigorous conditions.

6. Adventure Rider / Dual Purpose

The Adventure Rider plans trips across the Baja Desert and dreams of competing in the Dakar Rally. These bikes are designed for off-road riding, with a comfortable standing position, but have larger engine cc’s for ripping across the open terrain at 60 MPH, but can also handle water crossings, trail riding, and mountain passes. They’re typically heavy, as they’re loaded down with spare parts, camping gear, photo equipment, and water. BMW GS1200, Triumph Tiger, etc.

The dual purpose ride is a much smaller, lighter, and nimble version of the Adventure Rider. The rider enjoys transitioning from street to dirt, but doesn’t plan to spend days to weeks riding, but maybe just a day trip into the mountains, and then back to the cabin for dinner and beer. Kawasaki KLX250S, Suzuki DRz 400S, Honda CR 230L, Yamaha TTR 225, KTM 300.

7. Motard / Mini-Motard

The Motard crowd uses the same bikes as the Adventure Rider / Dual Purpose, but they dedicate them to the street with larger street tires. These are excellent urban assault vehicles as there isn’t anywhere they can’t go, park, and fit. Ducati and Aprilia have some Hypermotards that make grown men weep in anticipation.

Forms of motard racing requires understanding how to setup a bike for road conditions, but requires understand dirt riding to master the skill.

8. Motocross / Hare Scramble (GNCC Enduro)

Motocross is the thrill of flying across jumps and mastering the skill of riding through ruts, whoops, and high speed berms. On any Sunday was a movie dedicated to the world of motocross, and delights the hearts and minds of many young riders to be a Motocross Superhero.

A Hare Scramble (GNCC Enduro) is modeled off a Fox Hunt, whereas a course is laid out through rough terrain, streams, and sometimes a motocross track to test multiple abilities of the rider. The same bikes as motocross and dual purpose are used, but are not setup to fly and land, and tire choices are more moderate to adapt to the terrain.

9. Trials

Trials bikes are so unique that they don’t even bother to put a seat on it. They are small, torquey, and are used for breath-taking stunts and outrageous hopping and climbing of rocks, logs, and/or man-made obstacles, with the trick being that the rider should NOT touch a limb to the ground while performing the aerobatics.

10. Flat Trackers (Hot Shoe) / Speedway

Oval racing comes in at least two flavors, Flat tracker and Speedway. Flat tracking consists of typically a Harley XR750 or XR1200, and the first to finish the laps of the oval track wins. The rear end is hanging out and the front is hucking and bucking and the rider puts their leg out to catch themselves when the bike trying to lay itself down. Nowadays, modern day single-cylinder 4-stroke machines, same as used for motorcross, hare scrambles, and dual purpose riding are setup for this form of racing.

Speedway is a different colored horse, whereas the bike only has one gear and no brakes. The bikes are thin and tiny and are wide open the entire race. It’s a must see, much like a trials competition.

Honorable Mention

11. Standard / Retro / Sidecar

The Standard, or now often referred to as a Retro bike, are those that look like they were made from the first 1880’s Otto-cycle to the late 1980’s. These bikes have a timeless style that manufacturers continue to emulate, and they’re great for zipping around, but aren’t known for great power, handling, suspension, or comfort. They’re just a motor on a cycle.

People have been known to affix a sidecar to one of these bikes, or even a purpose built Ural follows these traits. But, just about any bike can have a sidecar put on it, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

12. Rat Bike

Finally, we come to the bottom of the motorcycle food chain. To give you an idea of a rat bike, there are people that will take $500 and build a motorcycle. It has to have a motor, exhaust, brakes, two wheels, a seat, and handlebars. The source of these parts is open to any combination of make, model, size, color, and/or style. The method for which the parts are cobbled together is unlimited, and creativity is rewarded.

If you’ve ever watched Mad Max, then you’re aware of what a Rat Bike might look like in the apocalyptic aftermath. Some motorcycle clubs will use a Rat Bike as a form of punishment for their members. What they’ve done wrong, I have no idea.

Two-Wheeled Diploma

So, the next time you encounter a motorcyclist, please, don’t ask them, “What bike do you have?”, instead knock them for a loop and ask, “What disciplines of motorcycles do you own?” They’ll be amazed!


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    • waverider96744 profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Kaneohe, HI

      Dual purpose trail rider! Husky THE 449

      Fun Hub Clarke,