Understanding Motorcycle CCs

It seems the letters “CC" are nearly ubiquitous when it comes to motorcycle shopping. To the casual observer, there looks to be some connection between how many CCs a motorcycle has and how powerful it is... but what do those letters mean, exactly? And how could they affect your motorcycle purchasing experience?

What are CCs?

CC stands for “ cubic centimeters." What they measure is the volume of the cylinders in a motorcycle's engine. This is also called engine displacement.

Generally speaking, the CCs affect the power and smoothness of your ride, but are not necessarily a measurement of power. Instead, CCs are generally related to the size of the engine.

CCs and Internal Combustion

The cylinders in a motorcycle engine are where the internal combustion process—that is, how the engine generates power—takes place.

Most modern motorcycles have a combustion process, during which the engine will:

  • Suck in air and fuel.
  • Apply pressure to and ignite the gases.
  • Allow the air and fuel to combust.
  • Push out the exhaust.

The larger the volume of the cylinders (or the higher the CC), the more air and fuel the engine is able to suck in at once, and the more power the engine will be able to generate.

CC Benefits and Setbacks

In general, more CCs can offer you more:

  • Power.
  • Speed.
  • Smoothness.

However, a motorcycle tends to sacrifice fuel efficiency for higher CCs, as larger cylinders will deplete the amount of gas in the bike faster.

Conversely, a smaller CC number may generate less power, but likely increase the motorcycle's miles per gallon.

CCs vs. Horsepower and Torque

While CCs can help determine how powerful an engine is, horsepower and torque are truer indicators of power as they determine how quickly a motorcycle can accelerate. All are important measurements when considering which motorcycle is right for you.

Looking at the big picture, you must keep in mind:

  • How many cylinders are in an engine.
  • How quickly the combustion process can take place.
  • How much the bike weighs.

The power-to-weight ratio, which measures a motorcycle's horsepower against its weight, is a way to incorporate all of these factors when determining how bike a will perform.

CCs for Beginners

CCs are a big factor to keep in mind—especially if you're a beginner. You should always try to ride within your skill level, and a bike with too high of CCs could be dangerous if you're not ready for it.

However, the influence of horsepower can make a CC number deceiving. Because other factors help determine the horsepower of a motorcycle, an engine with a higher number of CCs might not necessarily produce more horsepower than a motorcycle with a lower number of CCs. It is important to consider all the specifications of your potential first motorcycle to pick the one that is safest for you.

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