600cc as a brightline???
May 19, 2009 at 2:36 am #2852owlieParticipant
A couple of times over the past few weeks, the idea that 600cc might not be the best metric for choosing a beginner bike has come up. The major point being that the displacement of the engine is not the only thing that determines the power/behavior of the bike. Bigguybbr has put the issue forward most eloquently:
“Submitted by bigguybbr on Fri, 05/15/2009 – 11:34.
Displacement is just a number. The style of motor is what makes a difference. While my girlfriend’s s40 (great starter bike BTW) may have a displacement of 652cc making it larger than my 600cc FZ6R, they are DRASTICALLY different. Her machine is running a single cylinder “Thumper” putting out 31HP and 33.6 ft.lbs of torque making peak power at 5,200 rpm, while my smaller inline 4 cylinder puts out 78hp and 44.2 ft.lbs of torque making peak power at 10,000 rpm. Big difference?
Think about the GSX-R600 that a ton of new riders (squids) on this site think is ok to start on. It may only have a 599cc displacement, but it’s inline 4 churns out about 109hp, and has a top speed of about 160mph!!!!!! Only slightly slower than the top speed of a Shelby GT500 (with the governer removed, otherwise the GSX is faster) or a Challenger SRT-8 (top speed of 170mph) However, it would beat both in a 1/4 drag with a time of around 11 seconds for the Suzuki, 12.5 for the Shelby, and the Challenger in last at 13.8. Still sound like something that screams beginner?
So don’t focus on displacement as a means of determining whether or not a bike is too much for you as it is a poor indicator. Look at the output of what that motor can do rather than how much space it takes up.”
So why am I rehashing this?
I guess for a point and a question (or two).
Point: For those of us who are mechanically inept (me! me! me!) having a simple metric (or two) to look at as we are choosing our first bikes makes it alot easier to determine if the bike might be a good beginner choice. No, not all engines/styles/widgets are the same, but knowing that if I pick up something with a number less than X I probably won’t make owlie-ka-bobs my first ride out adds to peace of mind.
Question 1: Are there any bikes below 600cc (round up for the sake of argument, the Gixer is out) that are inappropriate for the average new rider?
Question 2: What other metric or system do you think would be easy to understand and implement that would help a new rider judge the suitability of the bike?
OwlieMay 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm #18731
Not entirely sure what a brightline is…
Anywho, if you read far enough down on the “Why 600cc’s is too Much” guide, there is some spirited debate in the comments below it. Maybe you would just like to add your own comments to there. Maybe some of the moderators would like to add a new guide or revise their existing guide to give some more pointers.May 21, 2009 at 2:16 am #18777owlieParticipant
A brightline is a (generally arbitrary) guideline that there are some sort of consequence for passing. Speed limits might be a good example. (yes, there are safety/engineering reasons for most, but if anyone can explain to me why school zones can be anything from 10 to 25mph, I’d be happy to know. )
I’ll check out the comments in 600cc is too much guide for further discussion.
OwlieMay 21, 2009 at 11:00 am #18794eternal05Participant
Engine displacement is one of those things that everybody focuses on but that, like you’ve said, doesn’t mean jack in the long run. A few years ago, the MotoGP displacement limit for a four-stroke was 990cc, but now it’s 800cc. These 800cc machines are MORE powerful than their bigger ancestors as a result of being more advanced and more refined. You could also think of a 5-liter Hemi in a pickup vs. a 5-liter V10 in a Lambo. World of difference. Yet MSF, insurance companies, and your mom all care about displacement over anything else.
Well, here are a couple of other metrics for you. All of the following descriptions are aimed at the “mechanically inept,” so don’t get all nit-picky on me if you’re a professor of mechanical engineer.
Horsepower: you can think of HP translating to the ability to accelerate. All else being constant, more HP means your vehicle can accelerate faster. This is a great single-metric approximation for how “vile” an engine will be to a new rider. Horsepower is USUALLY more plentiful at higher engine speeds (more revs).
For your reference (in order of increasing displacement):
– Kawi Ninja 250R: ~26hp
– Suzuki DRZ400sm: 39hp
– Kawi Vulcan 500: 55hp
– Suzuki GSX-R600: 108hp
– Honda XL650V: 53hp
– Suzuki SV650: 72hp (or more, I could only find 2006 stats)
– BMW F 800 GS: 85hp
– Yamaha YZF-R1 (1000cc): 179hp
– Harley Night Rod (1130cc): 115hp
– Harley Road King (1584cc): 65hp (no joke!)
– Kawi Vulcan 2000: 103hp (twice the engine, almost half the HP)
As you can see, while displacement is roughly proportional to HP for “normal” bikes, as soon as you start getting sporty (read SV650, GSX-R600, R1, etc.), horsepower jumps off the charts.
Reasonable HP “brightline” for first bike: < 55hp Torque: is a measure of the rotational force generated by the engine. The object being rotated is, of course, the crankshaft. If you were to think of the personification of horsepower being an Olympic sprinter, torque in human form would be akin to a powerlifter. Torque is what allows a bus to still pull its weight at 3 mph up a hill, even if it tops out at 80mph. Torque is also what you feel at first when you floor it in your car. Generally speaking, “normal” bikes often have as much, if not more, torque (and in a lower rev range) than their race-oriented brethren. This makes them easier to ride as you don’t have to worry as much about what gear your in. If I were to try to head up a hill at 15mph in 4th on an R6, it wouldn’t put up with me. Try that on a big Harley and it will probably handle it fine, even if it would rather have been in a lower gear. High torque numbers will generally not reflect as negatively on the bikes user-friendliness. Torque is generally more plentiful in the lower rev ranges. Engine type/number of cylinders: Here’s a rule of thumb. More cylinders per displacement => more HP. Fewer cylinders => more torque. This is why a Xcc V-Twin (two cylinders) is usually considered to be more palettable for new riders than an Xcc inline-four (four cylinders).
First-bike brightline: NO MORE THAN TWO CYLINDERS. PERIOD! (Even then you can still buy a Ducati 1198 superbike, so this is clearly a flawed metric.)
Power-to-weight ratio: I’d argue this is the best single metric with which to judge a book by its cover, so to speak. You can get a sense of how responsive a bike is (and you can do this to find a “friendly” bike or a “fierce” bike, alike) by simply dividing the horsepower stat by the bike’s weight. My car has 210hp, and it weighs 3,300lbs. It’s pretty zippy, though it’s no supercar. It’s just a tad slower to 60mph than my Ninja 250. A superbike (i.e. 1000cc sport bike) will usually have around 175+ horsepower, but can weigh almost TEN TIMES LESS. This is great evidence that power specifications alone don’t tell you how the vehicle will perform. Alright, enough beating of that dead horse. You get it. Some examples in increasing order (I used dry weight):
– Volkswagen Jetta (compact car): 170hp/3,230lbs => ~0.05 hp/lb
– Kawi Ninja250: 26hp/333lbs => ~0.08 hp/lb
– Harley Road King: 65hp/783lbs => ~0.08 hp/lb
– Audi S5 (sports car): 354hp/3,891lbs => ~ 0.09 hp/lb
– Kawi Ninja 650R: 71hp/390lbs => ~0.18 hp/lb
– Ferrari Enzo (supercar): 651hp/3,009lbs => ~0.22 hp/lb
– Yamaha R1: 179hp/381lbs => ~0.47 hp/lb
This is a perfect way to see how absolutely ludicrous supersport bikes are. A $12,000 Yamaha R1 (1000cc) has more than TWICE the power-to-weight ratio of this $650,000 Italian supercar:
Reasonable brightline for power-to-weight: < 0.18 hp/lbMay 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm #18796
Awesome post man. Exactly what I have been yammering on about, just more coherent!
Although I just might have a point of contention about no inline 4’s…
This brings up another good topic that there really is a gray area into where some bikes fall as either beginner/intermediate bikes (and thus generating 3/4 of the posts on this site).
I’m sure with some searching, someone could, or already has put out a listing of bikes that are commonly agreed upon beginner and intermediate level bikes. There is a review here and there on this site for a specific bike, but I have yet to see a listing of a “top ten” for getting started (both classic and new models) and also a top ten for an intermediate or first ‘moving off a 250’ bike. Could be really helpful to the users new to this siteMay 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm #18797briderdtParticipant
“- Suzuki SV650: 72hp (or more, I could only find 2006 stats)”
My 2005 puts out more… because it’s yellow! (I kid, I kid)May 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm #18802LanceDParticipant
Great post, and I agree that power/weight is a good ratio, but torque is also important for a new rider. Before the controls become second nature to you, it’s pretty common to tweak the throttle at the wrong time (like when someone pulls out of a blind driveway in front of you *surprise!* ). Too much torque might just plant you squarely in the trunk of that car. Just something to consider.May 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm #18804Clay DowlingParticipant
Everybody knows that red bikes are faster.May 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm #18809briderdtParticipant
I said it puts out more power. Either way, I will lose my nerve WAY before the bike does…May 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm #18810
Everyone knows black is the fastest!!!!!May 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm #18813Clay DowlingParticipant
Well, expect I have the same problem that briderdt does: the top end on my bike is way beyond what I’m comfortable doing. Maybe if I had a track or a long stretch of closed highway, and a racing suit.May 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm #18814jojobeans316Participant
SORRY BUT ILL TAKE THAT ENZO OVER ANY BIKE! ANY DAYMay 21, 2009 at 7:43 pm #18811
So how do we compile a list of bikes with a low power to weight ratio?May 21, 2009 at 11:30 pm #18818eternal05Participant
You just say “Yo! Eternal, make that list already!” Then I go and make a list of bikes, their horsepower, torque, power-to-weight, engine type, etc., and then forty people tell me “You forgot this bike” or “You forgot that bike” and so I add those too.
Then we go through and we argue incessantly about ones we think would be good beginner bikes, the mark a few others as “maybes” depending on the rider (things like the Ninja 650R / SV650 / YZF-M1…ok ok kidding on that last one). Then maybe we can offer it up to a moderator or something.May 22, 2009 at 12:04 am #18820MunchParticipant
lol…with or without rider?
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