With so many options, models and engine sizes available, shopping for your first motorcycle can be an intimidating task. An easy way to determine how much dike you can handle is to examine how many CCs a bike’s motor has. But don’t be swayed into the “bigger is better” attitude, as choosing a bike that is beyond your skill level can be more trouble than it’s worth.
“CCs”–or cubic centimeters–are a term of measurement used to measure the total volume, or displacement, of the cylinders of a motorcycle’s engine. Generally speaking, the larger the displacement, the faster or more powerful the motorcycle will be. For example, a 250cc single cylinder dirt bike will fill with 250cc of air/fuel mixture before compressing.
Displacement equals power
As the cylinders fill with the mixture of air and fuel, combustion begins forcing the motor’s pistons through the revolution, propelling the motorcycle forward. With a larger displacement motor, a larger amount of air/fuel is required, producing more force.
Benefits and Limitations
While the benefits of a larger displacement motorcycle are increased power and speed, the motorcycle will weigh more, consuming more fuel in the process. On the other hand, smaller displacement motorcycles lack power, but are economical and practical for commuting.
The Cubic Inch
Generally used to measure displacement in automobiles, the cubic inch (or ci) is used by Harley-Davidson and other American motorcycle manufacturers to denote displacement. The Twin Cam 88 cubic-inch engine (or 1,450cc) is the largest motor produced by Harley-Davidson.
Moped, scooters, and youth dirt bikes generally are in the 50cc to 125cc and normally don’t require a motorcycle license. The most popular dirt bikes and some light duty street bikes are available between 150cc and 250cc. Most U.S. States require a 150cc or larger engine to be able to operate a bike on a highway. Bikes with 500cc engines allow for a balance between performance and practicality and are suited for commuting and first-time riders.
Motorcycles from 600cc to 1,000cc are commonly seen in–but not limited to–sport bikes. Most bikes in this category are better suited to intermediate and advanced riders. Bikes with 1,000cc and higher are not recommended for an inexperienced rider; high-displacement bikes are generally used for touring or high performance.