When you are looking to buy your first motorcycle you are going to quickly realise that the manufacturers put a lot of emphasis on the CC of their bikes.
What is CC in bikes? CC stands for Cubic Capacity and relates to the volume of the total number of cylinders the motorcycle has, measured in cubic centimeters (American bikes use cubic inches). For example, a 600cc twin cylinder engine has 2 x 300cc cylinder capacity.
Read on to learn how the motorcycle engines cubic capacity effects things such as speed and power output so you can choose a motorcycle that’s best suited to your needs and ability.
Does More CC Mean More Speed?
The engine capacity is not directly related to the speed of a motorcycle although it often helps.
The biggest factor in a bikes top speed is its power to weight ratio – Horse Power divided by weight gives you the power to weight ratio.
There are other factors such as aerodynamics, maximum revs per minute and number of cylinders but basically, the lighter a bike is the less power is required to push it through through the air.
The bigger the engines capacity, the heavier it is so sports bike designers are constantly aiming for the sweet spot. Most of the fastest motorcycles on the road fall into the liter bike category, a high powered 1000 cc machine with race bred aluminum frames, carbon fairing etc.
I ride a Triumph Bobber which has a 1200 cc engine and a top speed of 115 mph. The Triumph Trident 660 only has a 660 cc engine yet has a top speed of 135 mph. Why? The Trident weighs 189kg and has 3 cylinders (revs higher), the Bobber weighs 251kg and has 2 cylinders.
What is a good CC for a beginner?
Depending on where you live this question could be moot as your government may have made the decision on your behalf.
UK Motorcycle Laws
In the UK and mainland Europe once you reach 16 years old you are limited to a moped (49cc) that has speed restricted to 28mph. Once you reach your 17th birthday you can move up to an A1 license which allows you to ride a motorcycle with a 125cc engine displacement producing no more than 14.75 bhp.
Check out our selection of cool 125cc motorbikes.
Once you hit 19 you can move up the A2 licence which means you can ride any CC bike as long as it is restricted to 47bhp.
Check out our selection of motorcycles that are novice friendly.
After a further 2 years and as long as you have passed the various motorcycle tests and held your A2 license for the duration of those 2 years you can finally, at the grand old age of 21, ride any damn bike that takes your fancy.
Now, as a 16 to 20 year old youth growing up in the UK or Europe you almost certainly do not like the above restrictions but since being introduced they have definitely saved lives.
The idea is that you gradually get bigger and more powerful bikes so that by the age of 21 you are hopefully equipped with the skills and experience to handle something in the more mental naked bike class.
USA Motorcycle Laws
As far as I can tell there are no CC bike restrictions in the USA assuming you are over 18, have motorcycle insurance and a valid licence so the ball is in your court when deciding on which motorcycle you are going to buy. Most states require you to have a motorcycle permit if you are under 18.
To get a motorcycle license you will need to take a supervised road test. If you don’t have a drivers license you may be required to take a written exam before the road test to ensure you understand the rules of the road. A recognised training course is highly recommended.
Why doesn’t America restrict motorcycles for novice riders? I guess they don’t want to go down the nanny state rabbit hole that most governments this side of the pond ended up falling into.
You are trusted to purchase a bike based on your experience but it is asking a lot of an 18 year old to be ‘sensible’ when walking into the showroom!
Choosing Your First Big Motorcycle
So what is a good CC for a novice rider? Well, that depends on the type of motorcycle style you want to buy but whichever it is, it should be something you are confident on and that you can handle.
As you have already read, a motorcycles engine CC does not necessarily relate directly to a bikes speed or power output. Unless it’s a high end sport bike it does add to motorcycle weight though, the bigger the CC, the heavier the engine.
Heavy bikes are hard to handle at slow speeds, as a novice you don’t want a heavy bike unless you are looking at an American cruiser or Bobber bike.
If you are on a budget a second hand Honda Shadow 750 or the unintimidating Suzuki Boulevard S40 both make excellent choices as a first cruiser bike.
If you have your heart set on something sportier then start off with a mid-range machine such as the Kawasaki Z400 or the Honda Cb300 R and work your way up to a super sport. Don’t just go straight for a track weapon liter bike until you have some experience under your belt.
What is the use of High CC in Bikes?
The more CC a bike has, the bigger its cylinders are which means it is able to take in and burn more fuel and air on each stroke. The more fuel that’s used per combustion cycle, the more power and torque is produced.
Torque is what provides acceleration and heavy cruisers need plenty of it to get their bikes away from the lights.
More power when coupled with an aluminium frame and carbon fairing increases the power to weight ratio which is what high end sports bikes are constantly looking to improve.
When More Bike CC is Good
If you are considering a Bobber or a cruiser motorcycle don’t be put off by more CC. These bikes have a low seat height and centre of gravity so handling even at low speed is easier than lighter but taller bikes.
They are almost always geared or mapped to produce plenty of low and mid-range torque so they have good acceleration to keep you entertained despite their weight.
The Indian Scout Bobber is an ideal first big bike for example.