About motorcycles

What makes a motorcycle unique

Motorcycles are manoeuvrable and convenient vehicles.

They’re different from other motor vehicles because, being on 2 wheels, they must be kept in balance by the rider. They also have a smaller area of tyre gripping the road, so any loss of grip can have more serious consequences than in a car.

It’s important to know and use safe riding techniques.

Types of motorcycles

Step-through scooters

Many small-capacity scooters are called step-throughs. This is because the petrol tank isn’t located in the usual position ahead of the saddle, and you can step through the vehicle.


A moped has 2 wheels with an engine capacity of no more than 50cc or an alternative power source, such as electricity. It can’t go faster than 50km/h. 

This also includes 3-wheeled vehicles registered as mopeds before 10 May 2011. Mopeds aren’t legally defined as motorcycles, and can be ridden on a class 1 or class 6 licence.

Street or road bikes

Street or road bikes are designed to perform well in traffic and on the open road. The tyres are designed to grip the road surface well and the brakes are usually more powerful than those on trail bikes. The engine and gearbox are built to handle traffic speeds.

Touring and cruiser bikes

These have bigger motors, bigger petrol tanks and extra features like large fairings and luggage containers. Some have anti-lock braking systems.

Off-road trail bikes

Trail bikes have longer suspension, deeper tyre tread, higher ground clearance, and are lower geared than standard motorcycles. They’re designed to be used both off-road and on-road, and have indicators and a headlight for street use.

Trail bikes aren’t built to perform as well as road bikes in city or highway traffic. The brakes may not be as powerful and off-road tyres don’t grip wet or slippery road surfaces as well as most road tyres.

Sport and competition bikes

Competition bikes are designed for motocross or track racing, hill climbing and other forms of two-wheeled sports.

Some sport bikes are used purely for competition purposes. These bikes may not have indicators or headlights and many can’t be registered for use on the road.

Farm bikes

Farm bikes are similar to trail bikes but are designed for farm work. Some have single triangular seats, to allow greater carrying space.

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)

These vehicles have 3 or 4 wheels and may have motorcycle controls. Designed for off-road use, they have an engine capacity of more than 50cc and weigh less than 1000kg. You may also ride an ATV on a class 1 licence. Because they have different handling techniques than other types of motorcycles, you’ll need special training to ride them.