Motorcycle; simply say the word, and immediately people will have thoughts of their teen years while others have visions of some motorcycle movie made during the sixties and early seventies. Some think rallies, Hells Angles, or choppers ridden by motorcycle gangs and clubs. The motorcycle has given us many models and dreams to dream.

Depending on whether you count a steam engine as a “true” engine, the first motorcycle was either built by Sylvester Howard Roper, an American, who built one powered by a two-cylinder, coal powered, steam engine, in 1865. If you do not consider steam a “real” fuel, then Gottlieb Daimler, automobile industry giant, built the first motorcycle in 1885, when he attached a gasoline-powered engine to an ordinary bicycle.

Motorcycles have changed, a lot, throughout the years. There are now three basic types of motorcycles: touring, cruisers, and sport motorcycles.

Touring motorcycles are exactly that—motorcycles built for touring the country. Touring motorcycles can as many features as some automobiles, including audio, windshields, and even small trunks. On many touring bikes the back passenger seat has a high back that is rounded, and may have armrests.

Motorcycles such as those ridden in “Easy Rider” and other motorcycle movies are called cruisers. “Choppers” or “Hogs”, have the seat far back, the handlebars high up in the air, and the foot controls close to the front of the bike. The rider looks almost as if he was driving while lying down with his arms and legs stuck straight out in front. A cruiser’s design tells one that this motorcycle is not meant for staid, safe riding down a country road or freeway. Instead, this motorcycle almost has an attitude of its own, which says, “Come on, let’s have some fun!”

Sport motorcycles are those that are intended mainly for racing or off-road riding. You will see many sport bikes used on the road moving their rider from Point A to Point B. These motorcycles are smaller than either touring motorcycles or cruisers, and are styled for speed and aerodynamics. In sport motorcycles, the driver’s feet are further back and tucked under the driver. The handlebars are short and straight, and close to the body. The motorcycle is meant to be ridden with the rider leaning over the front gas tank tucked behind the windshield. The riders position reduces wind resistance and allows for greater control and stability when negotiating tight turns or launching the motorcycle over inclines or ramps.

Motorcycles can be much fun, and many a young man’s first “vehicle” was a motorcycle. Motorcycles are not cars, the rider is not surrounded by metal like in a car, and even the largest touring motorcycles or cruisers are still not as big as average-sized cars. Riders should always protective gear including helmets, gloves, and special boots and suits if racing. In most states, helmet laws are in force, but even in those states which “let the rider decide” they can be the difference between life-and-death. Special gloves and jackets have building in protection to prevent skin and bone damage in a crash. Be safe, ride often, and have fun. Also, when working on motorcycles make sure they are properly secured in the upright position so they don’t fall on you. It’s important to use specially made motorcycle stands. Most racing bikes don’t have a built in stand so they need front or back stands or lifts.

There is a ton of fun to be had when touring, cruising, or racing a motorcycle. The right bike for you and the right equipment can turn an ok experience into an awesome own. Stop dreaming of days gone by and get out there and ride.