As motorcycles vary greatly in design, there are several different types of motorcycle racing contest, including:
- Road racing in its purest form is racing on public roads, such as the Isle of Man TT course, the Macau Grand Prix and some courses in Ireland. Due to the inherent dangers that these street venues often carry such as narrow lanes, curbs, and adjacent walls, most road racing is now carried out on purpose-built tracks.
- Circuit racing where specially designed racing bikes or modified "production" bikes race each other on specially designed road circuits. MotoGP and Superbike are the top level racing and production classes.
- Classic Racing is where participants race heavily modified bikes from an earlier era - usually pre mid '70s bikes.
- Motocross and its cousin supercross are held on dirt courses, usually featuring large jumps in which motorcycles are launched over considerable distances.
- Supermoto is a crossover motorcycle racing between road racing and motocross. The motorcycles are mainly motocross types with road racing tires. The racetrack is also mixed between road and dirt courses, mostly handcrafted.
- Motorcycle speedway and ice speedway are held on oval circuits where riders slide their machines around turns.
- Grasstrack or Track Racing is held on oval tracks usually 400m+ utilising a machine very similar to a speedway bike.
- Motorcycle enduro racing is over long, unmade tracks, often through isolated terrain (e.g. Dakar Rally and Six Day Endurance race).
- Motorcycle endurance racing or rallying is based on a points system and doesn't focus on absolute completion time. Rallies cover many days and many thousands of miles, with bonus points being awarded for visits to remote destinations. The Iron Butt Association provides such rally coordination.
- Motorcycle trial is where participants ride specially-designed motorcycles at very slow speeds over a variety of obstacles.
- Motorcycle drag racing (also known as "Sprints") is where two participants line up at a dragstrip with a signaled starting line. Upon the starting signal, the riders accelerate down a 1/4 mile long, two lane, straight paved track where their elapsed time and terminal speed are recorded. The rider to reach the finish line first is the winner.
- Hill Climb is where a single rider climbs or trys to climb a dirt hill. The rider with the highest mark, or the quickest time to the top of the hill is the winner.
- Land Speed is where a single rider accelerates over a 1 to 3 mile long straight track (usually on dry lake beds) and is timed for top speed through a trap at the end of the run. The rider must exceed the previous top speed record for that class or type of bike for their name to be placed on the record books. See— for an example.
Some of the most popular categories of circuit racing include: