At their most basic level, all motorcycles have a reasonable amount of things in common. Most have two wheels, handlebars, and some sort of seat for the driver and maybe an additional passenger. But when you look beyond the basics of the bike, you’ll find a variety of different styles and subcultures that have developed over the years. Consider the following:
A sport bike is a motorcycle that is built for zippy acceleration and amazing speed and cornering on paved roads. While in the past there weren’t that many different types of sport bikes, since the 1950s there has been a marked increase; for example, the Honda CB750, introduced in 1969, was the first time a sport bike with a significantly more powerful and fast engine was available to the general public. By the 1990s, improvements in both design, braking and suspension took place, resulting in a bike that looked and performed much like a racing motorcycle. Today, sport bikes are a bit more diverse in their appearance, with some riders preferring a streetfighter bike to the traditional road racing style.
This bare bones, stripped-down and customized motorcycle gained popularity in the 1940s and early 1950s, when servicemen returning from World War II wanted to have the same type of military-style bike they rode over in Europe. While original bobbers were modified or homemade, modern-day companies like Harley Davidson now make bobber style bikes, including the Street Bob, which sports the classic look and feel of the original bobber bikes. In addition, mash-up bobber bikes are also popular today, including the “bobber chopper.” Overall, riders who prefer to be part of the bobber subculture value independence and the ability to customize their motorcycle in a minimalist and economical way.
This term is used to describe motorcycles that copy the design of American models first produced back in the 1930s through the early 1960s. Cruisers typically include bikes made by Henderson, Harley-Davidson, and Excelsior. Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha jumped on board by the 1980s, creating cruisers that looked like they rolled right out of the past. The rider will often lean back a bit in the seat, with his or her feet towards the front, with the handlebars up higher. Because of this less-aggressive rider position, cruisers do not tend to perform as well out on the road, and turning can be dicey.
In many cases, cruisers provide nostalgic motorcycle aficionados with a project that allows them to modify the bike as they wish. They may purchase OEM bike parts at an online store like MotoSport and spend hours happily transforming their motorcycle into a two-wheeled machine of the past. Cruisers are also one of the most popular motorcycle subcultures; as Rider Magazine notes, this style of bike accounts for about 32 percent of all motorcycle sales in the United States. One reason cruisers are so prevalent, notes The Daily Nebraskan, is that they are so comfortable to ride, and they appeal to people who want a motorcycle that is reliable and looks great, as opposed to boasting an enormous engine and high performance.
The café racer subculture originally came about in Britain in the 1960s, particularly among rockers who were looking for a quick way to get from one coffee shop to another. This term and style of bike was also popular throughout other parts of Europe like France and Italy. The café racer is a lightweight machine that has an emphasis on handling and quick acceleration rather than comfort. They typically include a longer fuel tank — including purposefully-added dents where the knees can rest — low handlebars and a long seat meant for one. Today, the café racer subculture likes to take features and other elements from old British rocker bikes and combine them with modern styles and parts to create a café racer that is unique to them.