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There are many factors to consider when buying a motorcycle, either as a beginner rider or an expert motorcyclist.
Motorcycle engine sizes, indicated by a bike's cubic capacity, remain among the most significant aspects for riders to consider in a motorcycle.
In our article today, we discuss motorcycle engine sizes to give you a detailed overview of how they are determined, how they affect your bike, and what engine size you should go for, especially as a beginner.
What is CC in Motorcycles?
The CC in motorcycles means cubic centimeters, a measure of the motorcycle's engine displacement. The engine's displacement refers to the amount of air the engine pistons move in one revolution.
Motorcycle engines require a mix of air and fuel for combustion to produce the power that propels the two- or three-wheeler.
A higher CC equals more air and fuel intake, more combustion, more power, and even higher bike speeds (holding other factors constant.)
However, higher motorcycle CCs are not better for beginners at all times because they translate into reduced fuel efficiency, lesser bike control, and compromised motorcycling safety.
Motorcycle Engine Sizes
Motorcycle engine sizes range from 50cc to as high as 2,500cc for the world's biggest motorcycle engine size of the Triumph Rocket 3.
For this article, let's discuss some of the most common CCs ranging between 50 and 1500cc.
Types of Bikes with This Engine Size
Mopeds, Scooters, Motocross
Scooters, Motocross, Dual-sport Bikes
Sportbikes, Trials Bikes
Sportbikes, Street Bikes, Cruisers
Sportbikes, Dirt Bikes, Cruisers
Cruisers, Sports Bikes
50cc motorcycle engines are on the lower end of the spectrum. They are usually used in scooters, mopeds, and small bikes with maximum speeds of 30mph.
For example, the general legal definition of a moped is "a motorcycle whose engine does not exceed 50cc and reaches 28mph as the maximum speed".
In most states across the US, you must have a motorcycle endorsement or motorcycle license (usually renewed every eight years) to ride a 50cc motorcycle.
Despite their small engine size, 50cc motorcycles are allowed on the highways in some states.
50cc motorcycles are best suited for young riders aged around 16 years as learner's bikes. People looking to enhance technical racing skills also find them a safe bet.
A young motorcyclist requires all the forgiveness they can get out of a motorcycle, which calls for one with less power and speed to ensure they remain in optimal control for high safety levels.
A 200cc motorcycle reaches speeds between 65 and 90mph, higher than 150cc motorcycles due to the larger engine displacement. The speed depends on other factors, such as the riding conditions and bike type.
The acceleration of 200cc motorcycles happens faster because of the larger displacement.
200cc motorcycles weigh an average of 154kg.
200cc motorcycles are also a good option for beginner motorcyclists. It's advisable to use them only on backroads and less busy city roads, although they are still suitable for highways.
In the past, most people haven't been buying 250cc motorcycles as their first bike, making them a lot less available even as pre-owned models.
However, the situation is changing, thanks to the realization by many beginners that they have better learning chances on low-capacity bikes before proceeding to bigger ones.
A 250cc motorcycle weighs about 280 pounds on the higher end. Most models weigh between 230 and 250 pounds.
250cc motorcycles are best suited for beginners because of their lower weight. As a beginner, you have greater chances of successfully learning how to ride using a smaller bike than a bigger one.
300cc motorcycles weigh between 100 and 150kg (220-330Ibs) and can reach speeds of up to 112mph.
Because of their lower attainable speed of around 110mph compared to 170mph for 600cc bikes, 300cc motorcycles are considered a better bet for beginner and amateur riders.
Motorcycling experts recommend that you go for a 300cc bike at most as a beginner to learn the ropes of easy riding as you climb up the ladder to use bikes with over 600cc.
Most 650cc bikes are heavy, moderately potent, unpredictable, and hard to use for beginners. The larger weight makes them less forgiving for a beginner. 650cc bikes usually achieve high speeds between 130 and 150mph, but some models hit 175 and higher.
650cc motorcycles are a better option for intermediate riders rather than green beginners.
As an intermediate motorcyclist, you have probably used a lower CC bike for a long time to learn basic bike maneuvers. Soon enough, you outgrow the low-cc motorcycle and feel the need to upgrade to a more powerful one.
A 1000cc bike usually maintains top speeds of 188mph, but some can run up to 200mph and even higher, depending on the model, riding conditions, and the rider's experience.
The general speed limit for 1000cc motorcycles is 186 to 188mph, and the industry-standard speed achieved by the bike's rev limiter restricts the maximum speed to this range to protect the motorcycle's engine.
While 600cc and 650cc bikes are usually used by intermediate motorcyclists moving up from 300cc, 400cc, or 500cc bikes, 1000cc bikes are best suited for expert riders that have mastered the art of riding heavy motorcycles that are a lot less forgiving.
1500cc bikes can reach 350-400kmph speeds. However, most manufacturers limit the speed to just 300kmph to ensure the rider remains safe and doesn’t get tempted by the speed thrill to ride at dangerous speeds above 300kmph.
Because of their high speeds, 1500cc motorcycles are most suitable for expert riders and sports bikers who usually engage in competitive motorcycling sports where top speeds are necessary to set them up for better winning chances.
How to Calculate Motorcycle CC
To calculate motorcycle CC, you need to find the bike's stroke and bore specifications on the user's manual.
For example, to determine the CC for a bike with a bore of 78mm and a stroke of 78mm, and two engine cylinders, use the following steps.
- Multiply the bore by itself, then by the stroke, then by 3.141593.
78 by 78 by 78 by 3.141593 = 1490849.241336
- Divide the above result by the number of engine cylinders.
1490849.241336/2 = 745424.620668
- Divide the above result by 1000 to obtain the CC, rounded off to the nearest whole number.
745424.620668/1000 = 745.424620668, which is 745cc when rounded to the nearest whole number.
What Size Motorcycle Engine Do I Need?
Although motorcycle size is not the only or best way to determine what motorcycle you need, it is a commonly accessible and easier-to-understand concept for most people than torque and horsepower.
Here are some key factors to consider when choosing the best motorcycle size.
Your Level of Riding Experience
As a total beginner, you are better off practicing and learning to motorcycle using low-cc models between 100 and 250cc. Low-cc bikes are more forgiving for beginners and offer you the chance to keep honing your skills at lower power before branching out to higher CC bikes.
A 300 or 350cc bike will be a good fit as an amateur rider, even with the higher motorcycle weight.
Intermediate riders are better off riding 350-650cc motorcycles as they have by now learned how to maneuver a more powerful and heavier bike safely.
If you are confident enough of yourself and the skills you have learned over time, a 1000+ CC bike should not be a problem for you.
Your Physical Size
Consider your physical size relative to the load capacity of the motorcycle. A heavy rider should go for a bike with more CC as it can accommodate more weight.
While there is no hard and fast rule for checking your weight against the bike's load capacity, you can try sitting on the motorcycle to see how its shock absorbers behave. A motorcycle with strong absorbers should be able to accommodate more load.
If you plan on carrying a pillion passengers or goods on the motorcycle often, you should go for a bike with a higher CC for more riding power to comfortably ride under the total weight.
You should be able to simply explain how you plan to use your motorcycle. If you are looking for a simple day-to-day motorbike for regular riding, consider one with a low CC enough for regular riding needs.
A CC above 1000 is a good choice for a cruiser, while a sports bike for competitive motorcycling should preferably be 1500 to 2000cc.
For prestige, the 2500cc Triumph Rocket 3 is a good option.
Motorcycle CC Comparisons
Now that you know what motorcycle CC is and how to determine what bike size you need, let's look at some basic motorbike CC comparisons for a broader understanding.
Motorcycle CC vs HP
Motorcycle CC and HP are close terminologies for describing the ability of a motorcycle. While CC stands for Cubic Centimeters, HP stands for horsepower.
Motorcycle CC measures a bike's engine capacity, while horsepower refers to the motorcycle engine's power, its work capacity per unit time.
A motorcycle's CC remains constant, but its horsepower is variable. Most experts agree that horsepower is an even better parameter than CC to consider when buying a motorcycle.
You can convert CC to HP by dividing the CC value by 15. For example, for a motorcycle with a CC of 1200, divide 1200 by 15 to obtain 80 as the bike's HP.
It's important to note that the HP of a bike may vary slightly below or above the theoretical value, based on how well the bike's engine is tuned when you test it.
300 CC vs 600 CC Motorcycle Engines
300cc motorcycles are best suited for beginner motorcyclists because they have a weaker engine with less power and are more forgiving. A 600cc bike is a better choice for intermediate riders looking for higher speeds.
300cc bikes are cheaper than 600cc bikes, generally costing twice as less as the latter.
While 600cc motorcycles are heavier, 300cc motorbikes are compact and lightweight, making them the better choice for beginners.
A 300cc bike has better fuel efficiency than a 600cc bike because the latter takes in more air and fuel for more combustion to maintain the rider's and bike's weight in motion.
800 CC vs 900 CC Motorcycle Engines
Other than the slight difference in CC (and consequently, horsepower) between 800cc and 900cc bikes, purchase costs, maintenance, and fuel consumption differences come into play.
However, seeing that the two CCs are quite close, the above aspects overlap easily rather than remain different or similar.
For example, the fuel consumption differences may be negligible between 800cc and 900cc bikes from different brands but significantly profound between the two CCs for bikes from the same manufacturer.
The former will most likely be out of pure coincidence, but the latter will be more deliberate as the specific brand seeks to differentiate its various CC bikes based on aspects like fuel consumption.
Purchase costs for 800cc and 900cc bikes from different brands may overlap, but the prices would remain well-differentiated for same-brand bikes as the manufacturer will market the higher CC model as more advanced and costlier than the lower CC model.
The same concept may not work for the maintenance costs. 800cc and 900cc bikes from the same brand will have near equal maintenance costs since some models will share parts.
800cc and 900cc bikes from different brands will have profoundly varying maintenance costs as each brand uses parts unique to itself.
Motorcycle engine sizes range from as low as 50cc to as high as 2500cc. While the engine size you go for depends on your level of experience, the purpose the bike is intended for, and your physical size relative to the bike's load capacity.
As a general tip worth noting, a higher CC is not always better for you despite the increased bike power. As a beginner, you had better buy a low CC model less than 600cc because you need all the motorcycling forgiveness you can get at this point.
People Also Ask
Motorcycle engine sizes are a concept people throw around a lot, making it quite confusing for beginner motorcyclists who have to float questions to many experts before finding satisfactory answers to their questions.
Here are some common questions people ask about motorcycle CCs.
Do CCs Matter When Choosing a Beginner's Motorcycle?
Motorcycle CCs matter when choosing a beginner's motorcycle. As a newbie rider, you'll want to use a highly forgiving bike that won't lead you into problems such as skidding, dropping, or wheelies.
A bike with a lower CC is more forgiving for a beginner than one with a higher CC. It's also worth mentioning that a bike with a high CC has a heavier engine, meaning it is heavier than a bike with a lower CC. Go for a lighter bike for easier control as a beginner.
Can a 300CC Motorcycle Keep Up to Highway Speeds?
You can attain and sustain riding speeds between 55 and 75mph with a 300CC motorcycle on a highway. Depending on the bike and its functionality condition, most bikes can hit 85-120mph, though the acceleration is not so good at 70-80mph.
How Many CCs Require a Motorcycle License?
In most states, a motor-driven cycle is identified as any motorized vehicle with two or three wheels meant to cruise at speeds higher than 20mph and has an engine size of 50cc and over. For this, you'll require a motorcycle license.
Some of the states where the license is needed include Arkansas, Alaska, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
What is the Minimum CC Motorcycle Allowed on a Highway?
A 50cc motorcycle is the minimum allowable on a highway in most states across the US. Some states do not allow bikes below 125 or 150cc on their highways.
What is the Highest CC Motorcycle?
Triumph Rocket 3, produced by Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, is currently the world's highest CC motorcycle at 2,500cc. It is a 3-cylinder, water-cooled engine, an 18-liter fuel tank, and a maximum torque of 221 Nm at 4,000 RPM.