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Motorcycle Buyer's Guide: What's your type?


by Pascal Bastien ,

There are many points to consider when shopping for a new motorcycle. Affordability often tops the list, even though styling is what usually draws us to a particular model in the first place.

That being said, choosing the right kind of bike with the proper riding position is arguably the most important thing. presents its annual Motorcycle Buyer's Guide to help you sort out the various types of bikes available on the Canadian market. Hopefully, this will help you pick a model that perfectly fits your budget, your needs and your level of experience.

Also known as custom bikes, cruisers are very popular in Canada. Aesthetically inspired from vintage Harley-Davidson, Henderson and Indian motorcycles of the '60s, they rely on the latest technical advancements (ignition and injection systems, brakes, suspension, etc.) to deliver a striking blend of styling and performance. Here, designs dictate the riding position. Cruisers mostly appeal to riders above 30 who long for memorable rides on boulevards.

A line has been drawn over the years. On one hand, classic cruisers feel a bit more relaxed: You can keep your back upright and your legs somewhat loose. On the other hand, the aggressively styled, no-compromise choppers and ''muscle'' cruisers will stretch your body and reduce seat time.

2014 Indian Chief Classic
2014 Indian Chief Classic (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Street bikes
Street bikes include standard sport bikes (also known as roadsters) and naked bikes. They offer a natural riding position, with the chest slightly leaned forward and the feet directly below the butt. These machines deliver near-superbike levels of performance (acceleration, responsiveness, and handling) while providing more comfort and versatility. They also come with lower insurance premiums and registration fees. As superb all-around packages, they attract riders of all ages.

2014 Kawasaki Z1000
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 (Photo: Kawazaki)

Superbikes and super sport bikes
These championship-winning bikes target seasoned riders and thrill seekers alike. Blasting from 0-100km/h in less than three seconds, and featuring cutting-edge components and electronics, superbikes (1,000 cc and more) and super sport bikes (600-899 cc) are full-on racing machines. Compact and lightweight, they stand among the highest-performing production vehicles on the planet. The typical buyer is a young rider in good physical shape who can handle the massive power and extreme chassis.

Superbikes and super sport bikes provide very little comfort, and some countries actually require manufacturers to install a power restrictor. In Canada, and particularly in Quebec, they are also pretty expensive to register and insure.

2013 BMW S1000RR
2013 BMW S1000RR (Photo: BMW)

Dual-purpose bikes
The dual-purpose or adventure segment caters to a growing number of riders who like to tackle both dirt (actually, sand, gravel, mud, and the like) and pavement. Derived from European enduro races, these bikes feature all-terrain tires and, in some cases, fairings, engine shields, headlights, and luggage cases. They generally provide great comfort for long-distance trips, excellent agility, and lots of versatility thanks to an upright riding position and compliant suspension.

2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer XC
2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer XC (Photo: France Ouellet)

Touring bikes
Aimed at serious travellers, touring bikes are all about enjoying the open road with comfort and amenities to spare. They also know how to make a passenger feel at ease, with a dedicated backrest and grab handles. Most of them boast an 800-cc or larger powerplant, generous wind protection, a big fuel tank, a centre stand, as well as a cargo rack and a pair of saddlebags. Some even come standard with a stereo, GPS, and communication system.

Touring bikes include the sportier GT models and cruiser-derived ''bagger'' models. Because of their significant weight (around 350 kg), they usually find takers among larger-than-average riders who have some experience under their belt.

2013 BMW K1600
2013 BMW K1600 (Photo: BMW)