What Is a Motorcycle?


A motorcycle is a two-wheeled motor vehicle steered by a handlebar from a saddle-style seat. Powered by a gasoline engine that converts reciprocating motion into rotary motion, motorcycles use a transmission system to drive the rear wheel. Most motorcycles also have a front wheel for steering purposes. Motorcycles must be leaned in order to turn, and the rider leans the bike by adjusting the position of the handlebars. This leaning effect can be confusing to novice riders, especially when combined with the fact that a motorcycle has a lower center of gravity than cars or trucks.

Motorcycles come in a wide variety of styles and sizes, with subcategories within each major group. For example, there are street motorcycles designed for urban riding and tarmac roads, sport bikes for canyon carving and track racing, cruisers for leisure rides, dual sport bikes that offer equal road and off-road capabilities, and dirt bikes for offroad racing. Each of these categories contains a number of models with varying features and specifications.

In addition, there are scooters, mopeds, and other small motorcycles with a more upright riding position and step-through design for easy entry. They may have a single or double-cylinder engine and typically feature a chain drive.

While the majority of motorcycles have a gas engine, there are also a growing number of electric models with rechargeable batteries for powering the wheels. They are available in a wide range of styles, and offer the advantage of zero emissions and quiet operation.