Jul 5, 2010

9 Dummies Guide to International Motorcycle Categories

Introduction to International Motorcycle Categories..

A few days back when Suzuki launched the GSX-R 1000 and the Bandit 1250S in India, I remember reading the following headlines in many places, "Suzuki launches two SUPERBIKES in India"..!!

Comments on whether the categorization (as seen by me) of the international motorcycles makes sense, suggestions, corrections.. are most welcome

For God’s sake, the Bandit 1250S is NOT a Superbike..!!

It’s obvious that not many Indians are aware of the different types of international motorcycle categories that exist. I therefore decided to prepare a "Dummies Guide to international Motorcycle Categories".

Posted below is the categorization of international street motorcycles as seen and understood by me. This chart has been prepared by me from whatever little exposure and knowledge that I have gained over the years about international bikes.

International Motorcycle Categorization

Please note that the categorization has been done only for street motorcycles. i.e those motorcycles which are used for riding on streets and highways. Dirt bikes (motocross and enduro bikes) have not been included here.

By keeping the form and function of the motorcycles in mind, they can be broadly categorized into 4 categories.

1. Standard

    Function: Commute, mostly confined to city streets

    Form: Basic form of motorcycle, styling elements inspired from the British motorcycles of the 1950’s – 1960’s. Conventional “down tube” chassis and suspension. Comfortable, upright riding stance

2. Sport

    Function: Ride with a sporty attitude, active riding

    Form: Stylish and racy form, modern chassis and suspension. Aggressive and more involved riding stance

3. Dual Purpose

    Function: Ability to ride on tarmac + on slightly bad terrain.

    Form: High ground clearance and suspension with a tall seat height to negotiate bad roads. Tall handlebars, so that one can hold on to the motorcycle even while standing on the foot pegs.

4. Cruisers

    Function: Cruise on highways with comfort, relaxed ergonomics.

    Form: Made for comfort and long distance cruising. Low ground clearance.

The main 4 categories can be further subdivided into sub-categories.

1. Standard

1.1 Retro

Styling is heavily based on the British motorcycles from the 1950’s-1960’s.

2010 Triumph Bonneville

Eg: Triumph Bonneville, Moto Guzzi V7 Classic, Royal Enfield Bullet Classic.

1.2 Standard Street Naked

They are slightly modern form of Retro motorcycles. They still retain retro touches like conventional down tube chassis, twin rear shock absorbers, round headlamps.

Honda CB Super Four

Eg: Honda CB Super Four, Yamaha XJR 1300.

2. Sport

2.1 Super Sports

These are basically race replicas of motorcycles used for track racing. 1000 cc ones are called “Superbikes”, 600 cc ones “Super Sports”. Collectively these motorcycles are called as Super Sports.

The philosophy behind these bikes is, "Lowest possible weight and maximum power from a high revving engine", high emphasis is also given on sharp handling round corners. The riding stance with low clip on handlebars and high rear set foot pegs is very aggressive, ideal for track racing but uncomfortable for regular street riding.

2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Eg: Yamaha R1/R6/R125, Honda CBR1000RR/600RR/125R, Kawasaki ZX-10R/ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R 1000/750/600, Ducati 748/1198, KTM RC8, BMW S1000RR

One category which I have not put on the above chart is the "Hyper Sports" category. This category has only a couple of motorcycles like the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Kawasaki ZX-14.

This is the reason why this category wasn't included in the above chart.

2.2 Sports Street Naked

These bikes are essentially stripped down versions of the Super Sport models, with the fairings and excess bodywork removed and raised handlebars for a more street friendly and comfortable riding stance.

2010 KTM 990 Super Duke R

Eg: Yamaha FZ1/FZ8, Honda CB1000R, Suzuki Bandit 650/1250, Kawasaki Z750/Z1000, KTM 990 Super Duke, Ducati Street Fighter

2.3 Sports Touring

These are designed specifically with long distance touring in mind. The riding stance is comfortable for long distance touring, yet slightly sporty and involved enough to be categorized under "Sports" Touring.

These models have tall fairings to protect from wind blast during high speed touring. They have torque rich engines for a relaxed ride and are also a bit heavier to provide for a stable highway ride. They even come with luggage carriers.

2010 Yamaha FJR 1300

Eg: Honda VFR 800/1200, Yamaha FJR 1300, Triumph Sprint ST

3. Dual Purpose

3.1 Light Weight – Dual Purpose

These motorcycles are most ideal for 50-50 usage on good and bad roads as well. Fitted with dual purpose tyres, these bikes come with strong suspension and chassis and are the closest cousins of dirt bikes. Their light weight makes them ideal on bad terrain.

But unlike dirt bikes, these dual purpose bikes are road legal and can be registered for on road use. They also come fitted with features that make them road legal like rear view mirrors, turn indicators, headlamp and rear tail lamps.

2010 Kawasaki KLX 250S

Eg: Yamaha WR250R, Kawasaki KLX 250S

3.2 Supermoto

These motorcycles are originally dual purpose bikes fitted with street spec (slicker and wider) tyres instead of dual purpose tyres. The wheels are also smaller (mostly 17 inch) and equal sized (front and rear).

Supermoto bikes get its name from the racing competition which was conceived for racing on modified off road/ dual purpose bikes fitted with street spec tyres. The race track for a Supermoto racing event usually is about 80% tarmac and 20% gravel.

2010 Kawasaki KLX 250SF

Eg: Yamaha WR250X, Kawasaki KLX 250SF

Recently bike makers have also started making specific factory supermoto models. Eg: Ducati Hypermotard, Aprilia Dosoduro, KTM 990 Supermoto. These factory supermoto bikes even though have long suspension, due to their heavier body are not that ideal on bad roads.

2009 Aprilia Dorsoduro 750

Supermoto bikes are becoming quite popular as Street bikes.

3.3 Adventure Touring

Light weight dual purpose bikes are not comfortable for long distance riding due to their relatively light weight body. The Adventure Touring bikes are bigger and heavier bikes and come with tall suspension and usually a tall windscreen. They even come with options for fitting luggage cariers.

2010 Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere

Eg: KTM 990 Adventure, BMW R1200 GS Adventure, Ducati Multistrada, Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere

Of late the Adventure Touring bikes are becoming more oriented towards good roads than bad roads (like SUVs becoming Soft Roaders)

4 Cruisers

4.1 Classic Cruisers

These bikes mimic the looks of the classic American cruisers like the Harley Davidson motorcycles and Indian motorcycles. These motorcycles have big capacity, torque rich engines which makes it easy to cruise on open highways.

The stance is also relaxed with low seating, feet forward foot pegs and wide handle bars.

2010 Yamaha V Star 650 Classic

Eg: Yamaha Star motorcycles, Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycles

4.2 Power Cruiser

Unlike the relaxed attitude of the classic cruisers, these power cruisers are meant to be ridden with an aggressive attitude. The engines are also relatively high revving than classic cruisers. Even the styling exudes the aggressive attitude.

2010 Yamaha V-Max

Eg: Harley Davidson V-Rod/Night Rod, Yamaha V-Max

4.3 Full dress / Luxury Touring

These bikes are made just with one intention in mind. i.e for heavy – long distance touring on smooth highways that too with utmost comfort. These bikes are so heavy that most of them have to be fitted with reverse gears.

The engines are massive with loads to torque. Even the pillion seat is very comfortable with carlike backrests.

2010 Honda Gold Wing GL1800
Eg: Honda Goldwing, Harley Davisdon Electra Glide Classic

Now what kind of bikes is the Bandit 1250S?

The Suzuki GSX-R 1000 is definitely a Superbike (can be also called as a Super Sports bike), but the Bandit 1250S is far from being called a Super Bike / Super Sports bike.

As seen from the photos posted below, the Bandit 1250S is a half-faired variant of the Bandit 1250. The Bandit 1250 is clearly a "Sports Street Naked" bike.

The Bandit 1250S can be categorized as a "Sports Street Naked" bike and can also be called as a "Sports Touring" bike, due to its half fairing with the tall wind screen.Suzuki Bandit 1250SSuzuki Bandit 1250

Comments on whether the categorization (as seen by me) of international motorcycles makes sense, suggestions, corrections.. are most welcome.

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


Anonymous said...

Amazing explanation/compilation. That one chart does a hell lot to explain things.

Payeng, I call this kind of writing A GREAT SERVICE. I don't recall any of the world-famous bike-makers, marketers or the famous publications have taken the pains yet to explain this to the biking fraternity of India.

Kudos friend.

Anonymous said...

Good food for mind. Thanx.
But where should we fit Honda DN01 within these categeries?

Payeng said...


thanks a lot for the encouragement buddy.

@anon (above)

The Honda DN01 is a quirky motorcycle, in fact someone might also like to call it a scooter. To me the closest category for it would be near to the "Cruiser" category.

Lakshminarayanan said...

I know that I'm little late to read this post. Yet I found this compilation to be very interesting & Payeng I have a question under which category do we place our Indian bikes? As per Siddharth's comment I really want to know why aren't we in India have categorized options. Always we have standard option 1. a million choices in 100-115cc bikes with typical Indian ideology of mileage. 2. Handful of bike enthusiasts(compared to Indian population) buying super bikes or super sport bikes.

Payeng said...


our Indian bikes are made with "commuting" in mind and also in terms of engine power/performance our bikes can't be compared with international bikes which are made with "recreation/hobby" in mind.

But slowly thanks to models like the Yamaha R15 and the FZ16, our motorcycles seem to be evolving at least in terms of styling and other purpose in mind apart from commuting.

Gautam said...

Hey you what about Off road bike: Enduro, TRAIL BIKE, agriculture etc

Unknown said...

in the minds of the "aam aadmi"...it was the price factor which decided the category of the motorcycles....the higher the price...the better the motorcycle...and hence the superbikes.....sadly the mentality with most other things in India, i.e. the higher the price, the better the product....but now....its actually heartening to know.....quoting Bob Dylan..."the times they are a changing".....

kudos for an excellent article and categorisation . good to know that people bother to know their shit :)

S.P - Biker Next Door said...


I have kept "Pure - Dirt Bikes" out of the above categorization.. I have included the "Dual Purpose" bikes though.

vishal Kumar said...

how to buy a international bikes

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