There are three major types of motorcycle, street, off-road, and dual purpose. Within these types, there are many different sub-types of motorcycles for many different purposes.
- Choppers: Highly customised motorcycles based on a cruiser-style frame with long rake (longer front forks) and wild paint jobs. These are created more for show than ridability.
- Cruisers: A range of small to large motorcycles designed for comfort and looks with a relaxed upright seating position. They are notable for their heavy use of chrome and are often highly customised.
- Electric motorcycles: Nearly silent, zero-emission electric motor-driven vehicles. Though electric motorcycles are emission free during operation, producing the electricity that charges the batteries in them can be a cause of pollution. Operating range and top speed suffer because of limitations of battery technology. Fuel cells and petroleum-electric hybrids are also under development to extend the range and improve performance of the electric motors.
- Mini bikes: Very small bikes designed to be simple runaround fun for both children and adults. Generally they have no hand-operated clutch or gearbox to simplify operation. Also known as Mini Motos. Not street-legal in most countries and jurisdictions. May be used for racing by all age levels.
- Mopeds: Small, light, inexpensive, efficient rides for getting around town. Usually started by pedaling (motorcycle + pedals = moped).
- Underbones: Small motorcycle which is a crossover between a scooter and a true motorcycle with step-through frame, popular in Southeast Asia. While the fuel tank for most motorcycles are tear-shaped and located at the top and just behind the instrument panel, the fuel tank for an underbone motorcycle is located under the seat.
- Naked bikes/Standard/Street bikes: Naked bikes have a riding position midway between the forward position of a sports bike and the reclined position of a cruiser. Unlike touring bikes, naked bikes often have little or no fairing (hence the title). Luggage capabilities are often an optional extra. Naked bikes are popular for commuting and other city riding as the upright riding position gives greater visibility in heavy traffic (both for the rider and to other road users) and are more comfortable than the hunched over sport bikes. Note that naked bike and standard are not fully interchangeable terms. Naked refers to the lack of bodywork and standard refers to the upright riding position.
- Scooters: Motorbikes with a step-through frame and generally smaller wheels than those of a traditional motorcycle. Can be ridden without straddling any part of the bike. Available in sport, commuter, and touring models.
- Sport bikes: Fast, light, sleek motorcycles designed for maximum performance, for racing or spirited road riding. They are distinguishable by their full fairings and the rider's tipped-forward seating position. They are also called "race replicas" because of their connection to the racing category for production motorcycles known as Superbike racing. The power to weight ratio of the 900 cc+ models typically matches or exceeds one bhp of power for every one kg of mass. (Slang terms for sport bikes include "suicycles" and "crotch rockets".)
- Racing bikes: Motorcycles designed for circuit or road racing, including mass-production motorcycles modified for motorcycle racing or sport riding.
- Street customs: Highly customised motorcycles with wild paint jobs also built for show, but constructed from a sport bike frame instead of a cruiser-style frame.
- Touring motorcycles: Touring bikes are designed for rider and passenger comfort, luggage carrying capacity, and reliability. Cruisers, sport bikes and some dual-sports can also be used as touring bikes with the addition of aftermarket luggage and seats.
- Motocross bikes: Motorcycles designed for racing over closed circuits, often with jumps, over varied terrain of gravel/mud/sand. Sometimes simply called "dirt bikes" when not being raced, they can also be used for informal off-road recreation, or "mudding."
- Supermotos: Beginning in the mid-1990s, motocross machines fitted with street wheels and tyres similar to those used on Sport bikes began to appear. These are known as "Supermotards", and riders of these machines compete in specially organised rallies and races.
- Trials motorcycles: Motorcycles made as light as possible, with no seat (as they are designed to be ridden standing up), in order to provide maximum freedom of body positioning and stunt capability for use in observed trials competition.
- Dual-sports: Road-legal machines offering a compromise in highway and off-road performance, durability and comfort. Since the requirements are often conflicting, the manufacturer has to choose one or the other, resulting in a great variety of bikes in this category.
- Enduros: Road-legal versions of a motocross machine, i.e., featuring high ground clearance and copious suspension with minimal creature comforts. Highly unsuitable for long distance road travel. The features that differ from the motocross versions are the silencers, the flywheel weights and the presence of features necessary for highway use.
- Adventure Touring: Closely related to dual-sports, adventure tourers are motorcycles with lighter weight than just about any other bike considered a tourer, but heavier than any traditional dual-sport. Adventure tourers can handle with aplomb rough dirt paths such as fire roads however, for their weight they are generally not suited for anything more strenuous than that. The advantage is their increased number of luxury features and larger engines which make on-road riding much more enjoyable.