Moto-Myths, Part 1 (Size Matters?)

There are a few common (and understandable) misconceptions both new and old riders tend to have about our favorite pastime…ahem, I mean, responsible means of transportation… Here, the first in our mini-series is the question of engine size…

“How Big is Your Engine?”

Pop quiz: True or False

  1. A 650cc motorcycle is faster than a 599cc,
  2. A 800cc will easily outrun a 250?
  3. A 1200 Harley has more power than both a 600 and 1000cc sportbike…

The correct answer to all of the above is…”False!”

Most 600’s are much faster than most 650’s; Ninja 250’s post very similar times to 883cc Harley Sportsters; and a 1200 Harley twin (which puts out 70hp).

Just the way you can’t tell how sporty a car is by the “cc’s” of automobile engines, you can’t tell how fast a motorcycle is by its engine size…(think about it, most minivans have “bigger” engines than a Lotus Elise)

“How come? ” Like automobile engines, motorcycle engines come in a variety of different configurations… For example a 599cc (we round up and call then 600’s) sportbike is usually a high revving in-line 4 cylinder that produces over a 100hp. But 650cc bikes are usually low-revving v-twins that produce a little over 70hp (comparable to the output of Harley 1200cc cruiser engines).

Not only are there different engine configurations, but motorcycles can also drastically differ in weight. A 250 weighs around 300lbs, whereas a Harley Sportster weighs aroung 600lbs… You can do the math. Even though a Ninja 250 has less than half the horse power of an 883, it also has half the weight which makes up for its lack in power. I’m not saying the Ninja 250 is “better” than an 883 Harley, it’s not…but it’s just as fast. And if you had to take them to the racetrack, I’d put my money on the 250. Also, this is why, even though you can buy the flagship Kawasaki 1400cc (190 hp!) sportbike, or a 1300cc Hayabusa for the street – the fastest MotoGP race bikes manage to do more with 500-990cc (over 250 hp!)…

So let’s put this Moto-Myth to bed – especially for street bikes: it’s not the number of cc’s, it’s what you do with it. Really.


One response to “Moto-Myths, Part 1 (Size Matters?)

  1. Good article. I would look at some advanced riding schools such as Total Control by Lee Parks and Pridemore’s racing schools to show that technique and safety mean much more than a motorcycle’s performance on paper.

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