Do CCs Matter When Choosing a Beginner’s Motorcycle?

I am sure if you have tried to do any research on the ‘net about beginner motorcycles you have run into multiple articles and forum discussions declaring that a newbie should only ride something with 250cc’s or under 500cc’s or some other statement about the number of cc’s the engine should have. Here’s the thing, cc’s are just one piece in determining the speed/power of a motorcycle. There are many folks out there that either don’t understand motorcycle engines or have a very strict view of the choices others should make. I hope after reading this article you can get a better understanding of what to look for in an entry level motorcycle.

First, here is a basic explanation of what cc’s even mean. CC’s refer to the engine displacement or capacity. In other words, how much space is inside the the cylinders. On motorcycles this is usually measured in cubic centimeters (cc’s) or sometimes cubic inches (ci’s). On cars it is often measures in liters. Most common motorcycles have 2 or 4 cylinders, although some have 1 (aka “thumpers”), 3, 5 or even 6. Usually people talk about the cylinders in conjunction with the position of the cylinders, for example a “V Twin” or “Inline Four.”

Most modern motorcycles are “four strokes,” meaning the engine goes through four steps to produce power. 1) Sucks in air and fuel, 2) Applies pressure and ignites, 3) The mixture combusts, 4) exhaust is pushed out. This process is referred to as internal combustion.

So you’ve got your two, four or some other number of cylinders of a certain size (cc) going through the four step process to combust your fuel/air mix and make power. Yes, bigger cylinders will be able to hold more air/fuel mix to combust at one time but the number of cylinders and how fast they can fire also plays a big role here. You can have a big ole cruiser with a 1200 cc engine that produces its power slower than a 600cc super sport motorcycle.

Of course weight is also a factor. The 800 lb. cruiser has twice the weight to pull of the 400 lb. sportbike. You’ll hear people talk about the power/weight ratio of a motorcycle, which is the horsepower (hp) /weight of the bike.

Let’s look at some examples

In the 250cc class you have your two standard beginner recommendations. The Kawasaki Ninja 250 and the Honda Rebel 250. Despite the 250 next to their names the bikes have nothing in common. The 2010 Ninja puts out 32 horsepower compared to the last generation of the Rebel which put out 17 horsepower*. Clearly these bikes are not comparable.

Think around 600cc’s sounds good? Let’s compare two: 2011 Kawasaki zx-6r and the 2011 Suzuki Boulevard S40. The zx-6r has a 599 cc engine and the Boulevard has a 652cc. Which one do you think would be more beginner friendly? Hopefully you guessed the Boulevard. The zx-6r, which happens to be an “inline four” puts out about 108 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Compared that to the single cylinder Boulevard’s 30 horsepower* and 8 second zero to 60 mph time. :-O You certainly can’t compare these bikes that have similar cc’s!

And to think about the weight factor a current generation Toyota Corolla puts out 132 hp and has a zero to 60 time of about 9 seconds!

Toyota Corolla
1800 cc (1.8 liter)
Four Cylinder
132 hp
0-60 mph: 9 sec
Weight: 2,745 lbs.
Power/Weight: .05
Suzuki Boulevard s40
Single Cylinder
30 hp
0-60 mph: 8 sec
Weight: 381 lbs.
Power/Weight: .08
Kawasaki ZX-6r
Inline Four
108 hp
0-60mph: 3.6 sec.
Weight: 454 lbs.
Power/Weight: .24

So if I can’t go by cc’s, how can I tell if a bike is good for a beginner?
- Horsepower – Check the horsepower on a bike. Under 60ish hp might be a good place for a newbie.
- Physical Size – As a new rider you want to find a bike you can easily balance and move around as well as sit comfortably on for a few hours.

I’m not going to recommend a specific bike as the “best bike for a beginner.” As humans we are not all the same and there is not right answer to that question. I would just recommend new riders be informed on the basics of how motorcycles work so they can make informed judgments when buying a bike and listening to the “advice” of others.

My personal opinion: Riding a slow bike fast is more fun than riding a fast bike slow.

*Some manufacturer’s do not publish the horsepower of their bikes so these numbers are taken from riders who have done their own dyno testing.


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  1. CSS BUSA says:

    Hello Veda

    I absolutely agree with your article beginners without prior riding experience should start out on a smaller bike anything lager then 600 will seriously get you hurt.

    I own a Suzuki Hayabusa and this bike is way to fast and too heavy for a beginner.

    • luis says:

      Did you even read the article?? he just said that referring to a bike’s power just by cc’s isn’t an accurate way to do it.

  2. VSTarLady says:

    When selecting a bike one might want to consider accident statistics – new riders on large bikes don’t bode well. Don’t let anyone talk you into a larger than you are comfortable with. Anyone who’s been riding for a long time will tell you that in the 70′s it was common place to cross country on a 250 and a 650 was a big bike. Truth is – a 650 still is a big bike and comfortable enough to cross country, yet light enough to manage.Don’t feel pressured to cc impress.

  3. Bruno says:

    Now this is a good article!
    I started and still have an Aprillia Rs 125 unrestricted and God knows the acceleration power on that. It has helped me through thick and thin and developed my skills in riding motorbikes. There have been a couple of near accidents but thanks to the motorbike specifications I have never had an actual accident. Basically, what I am trying to say is, everyone has a different riding style and the motorbike you choose affects your riding abilities development. I done my CBT in some cruiser style motorbike; I hated it so much I could barely drive it, however, as soon as I got my grip on the Aprillia, it was like I was a completely new rider.
    Moral of the story; think what you would like to have, experience the ride before buying the product and just make sure you are comfortable with the motorbike as a whole.

  4. Mike says:

    I started off on a Yamaha verago 920 and it was fine for me.I hadn’t been on a motorcycle since I was like 12 riding a family friends motorcycle around the trailer park lol but when I got my Yamaha it took some getting used to..the first day I kept killing it and I was intimidated but I woke up on day 2 and said I’m gonna learn to ride this bike today if it kills me..2 slow trips around the block and I couldn’t get off of it..had to sell bike due to financial situation but I sure do miss it and I’m looking to get bike number 2 very soon I hope..that summer was the best summer of my life!

  5. Mike says:

    Wow just realized how old this article is..I’m a few years too late on the comments.

  6. Megha says:

    Which one is good …yumaha facino or hero pleasure ? Plz answer
    I want to buy one of them &I’m confused .

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