By RALPH COUEY

FOR THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT



The purchase of a motorcycle should be a carefully thought-out decision. There are several factors to consider, such as budget, how the bike is going to be used, and the experience and skill of the prospective rider.

Motorcycles come in several different liveries and prices ranging from $4,000 scooters to $30,000 full-dress tourers.

For reference, here’s some basic information on types of street-legal bikes:

Scooters: Usually small displacement (less than 250cc) although Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki offer scooters with engines up to 650cc. They have automatic transmissions, small wheels and a “step-through” type frame. Gas mileage is usually excellent, 50 to 60 mpg, and maintenance requirements are relatively minimal.

Dual-Sport/Adventure Tourer: This is a fairly recent type that combines the utility of off-road riding with the safety and comfort of street riding. They are built “tall” and can be identified by the combination of the high fenders and ground clearance of the off-road bikes, along with all the lights, mirrors, hard luggage and other equipment required by law for on-road operation.

Examples: BMW R1200GS, Triumph Tiger and the Kawasaki KLR-650.

Standards: Also referred to as “naked” bikes because of the lack of body panels. These bikes cover the entire power spectra, ranging from entry-level machines, such as the Honda Nighthawk 250, all the way up to the “hooligan” machine, such as the legendary Yamaha V-Max, and the Ducati Monster.

The mid-range of these machines (around 750cc) is a good place to start if you’re a new rider. They are among the least expensive of the street bikes and are also very affordable to maintain.

Cruisers: This quintessential American design has become the most popular design in the world.

They are characterized by a naked appearance, with long, low frames, usually a lot of chrome, large, fat tires, heavily padded seats and usually powered by a V-twin engine with long, chrome exhaust pipes emitting a low, rumbly sound.

Engine size can range from Honda’s 250cc Rebel to Triumph’s mastodonic 2300cc Rocket III.

Examples: Harley-Davidson line, Honda’s VTX1800, the Yamaha Star and the Suzuki Boulevards.

Sport bikes: These bikes are powerful and fast. Usually patterned after professional racing bikes, they can be readily identified by their low, sleek profiles, bright, vivid colors, the bent-forward position of the rider (the handgrips will be lower than the top of the gas tank) and the characteristic scream of their high-revving engines.

These are dangerous machines for the novice rider because of their tremendous acceleration and high-speed capabilities. They are exhilarating machines for experienced riders for those same reasons.

Examples: Honda CBR’s, Yamaha’s YZF R1, the Ducati 996 and Suzuki’s GSX bikes, including the Hayabusa, the fastest mass-production motorcycle in the world at 196 mph.

Touring: This class is split into two types, full-dress and sport tourers.

Full-dressers typically have full fairings and saddle bags. Some have top boxes and come equipped with all the comforts of home, including radios and CD players, GPS navigation consoles, plush heated seats and handgrips and large windshields.

Honda’s 2006 Gold Wing even comes with an airbag.

These bikes are very heavy, starting at about 700 pounds and can be a handful for an inexperienced rider.

They also are among the most expensive.

Examples: BMW K1200LT, the Harley Road King, the Yamaha Royal Star Venture and Honda’s opulent GL1800 Gold Wing.

The sportier halves of the touring family are the sport-tourers.

These bikes are smaller, lighter, quicker and more maneuverable than their full-dress cousins.

They still carry saddle bags and some have top boxes, but their milieu is winding, twisty roads where their quick acceleration and high ground clearance allows their maneuverability to shine.

Examples: BMW R1200RT, Honda ST1300, Yamaha FJR1300 and Kawasaki’s Concours.

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