engine size poll
January 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm #4305
Here’s a quick poll, I’d like to see if public opinion has changed any in the recent years.
Disregarding the rider’s skill (considering only the bike), how small do you think an engine can be before it’s too small to be ridden safely on a highway? Do you need to be able to pass people quickly at 80mph?January 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm #29008
500cc (i.e., GS500, Ninja 500)
I prefer to have a 600 I4/650 twin, or bigger/more powerful engine, to comfortably cruise in the fast lane.January 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm #29009
Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
125cc two-stroke or 250cc four-stroke are the minimums for 75 mph riding with a reasonable amount of passing power still left. The 250cc Kawasaki Ninja has a top speed of about 95 mph, with no passenger and a rider that weighs 200 pounds or less.
With a passenger, the safest minimum for 75 mph would be a 400cc Suzuki Supermoto, although the narrow seat would be rough after about 35 miles, or the 500cc Suzuki or Kawasaki.
In China, a lot of people ride across the country on 50cc scooters, but there is a lot of other slow traffic besides them. A few do the same here on the more rural roads, with some added risk from tailgaters and road rage.January 7, 2011 at 10:52 pm #29011
By highway do you mean like a 6 lane interstate as opposed to a 2 to 4 lane highway?
I tend to agree with Gary although I sometime use the left lane on my Vulcan 500. If I am going to stay there for the whole ride I rather take my Ninja 650. I have test rode the Ninja 250 but it would depend on the highway and traffic pattern there for me to decide.
I guess I would answer 500cc but I don’t have extended time on the Ninja 250 which might be my exception.January 8, 2011 at 12:19 am #29013
I visit China a lot and was told that motorcycles are NOT allowed on the freeway there. They’re also banned in many major cities. The small displacement bikes and scooters are mostly for local transportation in smaller towns. For long distance, most people take trains/busses. Riding across the country, i.e., long distance touring, especially on a small bike, would be pretty hard logistically.January 8, 2011 at 2:35 am #29014
For 1 up riding only and being a lightweight I feel highway comfortable on a 350cc multi or a 500cc single. For 2 up 500cc multi is minimal and 750 or liter bikes are considerably safer.
As the question was “how small do you think an engine can be before it’s too small to be ridden safely on a highway?” My response of 250cc is based on the fully faired Honda CBR250RR four cylinder, which is undeniably highway capable and the smallest displacement motorcycle to merit that status.
Engine: 250cc 4 stroke inline 4
Top Speed: 180-200km/h (110-120 mph)
Power: 40-45 PS (29-33 kW)
Transmission: 6 speed
Curb Weight: 157kg (350lbs)
1986 and 87 models were equipped with twin front disk brakes
1988 and later models were equipped with single disks and speed limiters set to 185 km/h
1990-99 had aluminum frame upgrades, but retained or increased the power restrictions to further detune the performance of the original engine design.January 8, 2011 at 3:50 am #29015
You would have to categorize it…
My first reaction was 400cc, since the Ninja 400R is quite hiway capable as was the old Bandit 400…if you are talking cruiser, a 650cc twin will do it, but to pass quickly you probably need 750-800cc…and if it is a single, probably a 650cc…the KLR does okay on the hiway…but maybe not with good passing power at 80mph…
@Trials: was that Fireblade available in North America, or was it a European only model?
Later.January 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm #29016
For a single, not-too-big rider, a 250 is fine. I commuted for more than a year on my Ninja 250R, and I’m 6’4″ and almost 200 lbs. Not only is it totally fine getting to freeway speed quickly, but it’s also perfectly capable of gunning up to 80 to make a pass. It’s easy to be spoiled after riding a bigger bike, but the Ninja 250R is about as capable at legal speeds as my car, and while it’s no Maclaren F1, it has 265hp.
It’s another thing to ask “could you be more comfortable on a bigger bike?” It’s another thing to ask “is it good for long-distance touring?” But is a 250 “freeway capable”? Absolutely!January 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm #29018
Once again Honda N.A. failed to grace us with a superlative model, but a good number of them found there way here just the same. They do show up used in Kijiji.ca on occasion.January 8, 2011 at 5:01 pm #29019
I honestly think that considering engine displacement alone is a poor measure of a motorcycles highway suitability and ‘highway’ is a relative thing, worlds apart if you live right next to 401 Expressway or Pacific Coast Hwy#1.
Say you’re traveling from Montreal to Detroit, do you need to pull 80mph to pass a transport truck that is spilling gravel or spewing chunks of retread down 401? It’s either that or drop way back and get ready to experience traffic tailgate and imminently faced with second hand road debris.
A full fairing and sportbike rider position makes more difference in the real world. Wind is the greatest enemy for sustained highway speed and if you are wind slippery like a Ninja significantly less HP is required. Legal speed yes, but if you ride with arms splayed and pant leg parachutes, a 250 with tall bars and highway pegs will never pull 80mph passes.
BTW, it’s a demonstrable fact that a standard bike with a handlebar windshield is actually slower than a naked bike with the rider tucked in.
…alas, I have to go plow snow nowJanuary 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm #29020
Ninja 250 on the freeway, probably fine (never ridden one but its top speed would suggest this).
Honda Rebel or Nighthawk 250 on the freeway is marginal though. Although capable of 80 mph flat out, down hill and with a wind behind you, it’s very buzzy at high speed and you’ll soon have to change down a gear just to maintain an indicated 65 mph when you encounter a long uphill slope.
Same is probably true of most other non sport-bike 250 c.c four strokes (which is most 250s).
Trialsrider is correct, engine displacement is not a good indicator of speed, acceleration, power, etc. as there are other variables which come into play.January 12, 2011 at 2:46 am #29028
Curious. That’s about what I was expecting, but this board is probably friendlier to small bikes than many forums, given who we have around.
I was interested because I ride a CBR125R, and I’ve heard a lot of people say that it can’t be highway capable. While I certainly wouldn’t take it on a six line interstate (I live on Vancouver Island, we don’t have those . . .), I’ve had it on four lane highways with logging trucks before. I won’t pretend it was a joyride, and I won’t pretend I could pass someone in 2 seconds at those speeds, but it was just fine and it got me home safely. I’ve periodically had debates about passing at 120+kph (which I would be effectively unable to do), I contend that you really don’t need to.
I’ve never seen a situation on a road that you simply must get in front of on a highway (any idiot will blow past you if you let them), and at parking lot/intersection speeds the little bike still has plenty of juice. I usually (even when driving a car) prefer to drop behind a dangerous driver than race in front, so that I’m not forced to stay in front. That’s just my opinion though, and I’ve been wrong before.January 12, 2011 at 5:34 am #29031
The first time I felt my GS500 was underpowered was during a group ride. We came out of the hills and turned onto Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway). Everybody on bigger bikes just took off. I had my throttle pinned and wished for more power.
Another time, on a freeway going against a stiff headwind, it topped out at a steady 75 mph, at 6,500 rpm in 6th gear, with the throttle wide open. It would not go any faster. That gave me a real lesson on aerodynamics, wind resistance and horsepower. Before that, I never expected or experienced drag-limited top speed at only 75 mph. I guess if the headwind was blowing at 35 mph, my relative speed against the air was 110 mph.January 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm #29032
That is exactly my experience with the GS500…strong head wind, steep hill…75mph (120kph) is all it can manage, and I found that you sometimes need 5th gear to maintain…if you drop it to 4th you can accellerate, but not quickly…and you are revving the nuts off it…I wouldn’t want to maintain that for any length of time…that’s the limitations of 47bHp (I think it is near 38 RW Hp). I think it is a perfect bike for commuting and around town, but on the hiway you “hit the wall” so to speak. On a calm day you can rip through traffic and pass decently on the hiway, but wind and hills show you the limits of the bike quickly.
I thought if I had an F model it may help with aerodynamics, but I don’t think it helps much…
Later.January 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm #29033
That’s really what it boils down to…a Honda Shadow 650 (V-Twin) or a Suzuki S40 (650 single) will get to 80mph (130kph) but it doesn’t happen fast…a Ninja 650R (Twin) will do it pretty quick and keep going…a Suzuki GSX650F (inline 4) will do it even quicker and keep going farther…then you get into the CBR/GSX-R/R6 type bikes (race inline 4) they will do those speeds in second gear, maybe even 1st…and they have less engine to work with…compression of the engine, restriction in the air intake and exhaust, design of the heads, grind of the cams, weight of the crank/piston/con rod assy…that will apply to 250cc bikes just as easily as a liter bike…
I know the guys in here all harp on about 250cc being the ideal bike to start on, but even at that there can be big differences…a Honda Rebel vs a Suzuki DR200 vs a Kawasaki Ninja 250…the cruiser would be the most beginner friendly…low seat, low power, low speed…the DR200 would be a step up (no pun intended)…a higher seat height, similar power but the gearing is lower so it will seem to have more, and it will get to top speed quicker (but probably similar actual top speed…fastest I could get one going is 55mph-90kph)…then the Ninja 250…it would seem like a race bike in comparison with the other two…seat height in between the two, twice the power and almost twice the speed…so in reality…a 650cc cruiser with mild tune is comparible to a 400cc dual sport which is comparible to a Ninja 250…and all this is assuming you are average height, build/weight…
There are so many variables…there is no real “right” answer…since the answer will be different for almost every person.
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