How many CCs?Posted: January 9, 2010
Someone on one of the women-only motorcycle forums I hang out on wanted advice on how many CCs is enough for comfortable Interstate riding. She wanted to make short and long trips fun and also wanted to keep her first bike for four to five years. She was afraid to outgrow her bike as her skill level increased. These are valid concerns, and very confusing for the novice to sort through, to say the least. I remember going through this with my second bike. The first I wasn’t agonizing over too much, since I was hell-bent on owning and riding a Harley-Davidson to fulfill one of my life-long dreams. I just needed to find one that ‘sat right’ to me, and at that time had no clue as to how to actually ride it. I threw in my $0.02 and thought it would be nice to repost my answer here, too. Mind you, this is my view on things. Oversimplified and generally non-scientific. As I remember correctly, too many technical details give you a tension headache from hell and makes the whole process of finding ‘that perfect bike’ a little more painful than it has to be. These are big decisions… especially when you consider the financial commitment that goes into buying a first bike. Then there’s that whole paper vs. street, theoretical vs. applied gap. A dyno chart isn’t necessarily a true representation of real-world performance, after all. However, it will definitely give you a really good idea of what to expect. To really know, you’re going to have to ride the bikes under consideration, but that is at best difficult. It’s not like we can go to any dealer and test ride a few and compare, like we can with cars. And if you’re a newbie on top of everything else, you can’t really test ride one, even if they offered. Best to have some help from some folks who’ve been there done that. Collect some information and try to make the best-informed decision one can make under the circumstances and hope for the best. ☺ Here we go with my post:
Although this reply is a bit late, I’m gonna throw it out there anyway: My Sporty weighed 581 pounds stock, had 1200CCs and approximately 65 horses (although Harley likes to keep the HP figures a big secret for some odd reason). She was my first bike, I learned on her. I wanted an 883, but my hubby talked me into getting the 1200, because we were going to share a bike (that plan definitely changed rather quickly tho LOL) and he’s a big guy, he wanted the extra torque. I’m glad I did. CCs aren’t the only part of the equation: There’s weight, of course, and then there’s horsepower and torque. All four of these make up the ‘power personality’ of your bike.
Oversimplified: HP is responsible for top end speed; torque for low end grunt (power in the lower RPM range, felt as ‘how she pulls’). Torque and horsepower meet somewhere in the middle, and that’s true with any bike. I think it’s around 5500RPM, or close to that. (Look at dyno charts, you’ll see how HP and torque graphs intersect, they always criss-cross)
If you’re talking about a bike in the 600-pound range I would not go below 1000CCs, or you’re going to regret it later on the Interstate getting vibed to numbness because the bike’s wound out tight and working too hard. Best case would be to stay in the middle RPM range at 70mph, which makes for a comfy ride.
H-D Sportster: 581 pounds, 1200CC, 65HP, 79 ft-lb torque, top speed: 112mph (tested that one personally)
Suzuki Hayabusa: 573 pounds, 1340CC, 198HP, 114 ft-lb torque, top speed: 186mph [electronically restricted]
Kawasaki Concours 14: 679 pounds, 1352CC, 156HP, 100 ft-lb torque, top speed: 155mph
BMW F800ST: 461 pounds, 798CC, 85HP, 63 ft-lb torque, top speed: 140mph
Different bikes, different power personalities, with the exception of the Beemer, I’ve rode them all. This might give you a sense of how the four numbers play together, especially once you’ve rode them and could compare what it translates to in real life on the road. The Connie and the Hayabusa are pretty close on paper. But they are a world apart in reality and a good chunk of that comes down to the power-weight ratio. Other than that: Heavy bikes are harder for beginners since they are more difficult to control at slow speeds (parking lots, turning from stops, etc.) other than that, weight doesn’t come into play once you’re above let’s say 15mph. 😀 I hated my Sporty at slow speeds, she was top heavy and a bit piggish in the parking lot (but so is the Connie, and I hate riding her slow, too). Believe it or not, the Hayabusa is easier to ride than the Sporty, especially at slow speeds.
It comes down to this: You need a good weight-to-power ratio if you want a comfy ride on the Interstate at speeds of 70-80mph for longer periods of time. I couldn’t ride my bike at 11K RPM for more than 5 miles, my butt would be numb and I wouldn’t be able to feel my fingers anymore, which makes clutching and braking interesting to say the least.
My Sporty did fine on the Interstate (but not for long periods of time, the vibrations were just too much), whereas my hubby hated riding on it with his Vulcan 900, because the thing was wound out tight and he said he could feel his teeth chatter and his lips going numb, it also made him sneeze at around 65mph ROFL Don’t ask, that’s what he said… But he weighs 255 pounds… and rider weight is added to bike weight in the power-weight ratio equation. That’s why he talked me into the 1200 to begin with. 🙄
Hope this helps to at least get you started in your research to find a good LD bike with Interstate comfort. Don’t forget about the ergos… those are very, VERY important. The bike has to fit you or be made to fit you, with different seats, handlebars, risers, lowering kits, etc. The longer the trip, the more importance they gain. 😉
Oooooh, I almost forgot: err on the side of power, if you’re unsure. The throttle does go both ways, and the heavier bikes are more forgiving when you hamfist the throttle than, let’s say a Ninja 500 😮