How to Choose your First High Displacement Motorcycle

Grabbing Life by the Handlebars

For many people, being on two-wheels is a necessity; to others, a passion that transcends gender, race, age, and even social status. Whether it’s to beat traffic, make our commutes more interesting, or purely the love of taming an unruly beast on our roads, there’s no denying the fact that motorcycles are a huge part of our world. There’s also no denying the influx of established manufacturers who keep pumping out new bikes and technologies that cater to the needs of a worldwide desire to ride. Over the past few years, we’ve started to see bikes that blur the “big bike” terminology, with 200cc and 300cc motors that redefine the idea of a motorcycle. We are truly spoilt for choice, and getting behind a brand because of looks, heritage, exclusivity, technology, and value are all very valid points. In this feature, we’ll be tackling the different forms of motorcycling, their riding styles, different displacements, and their accompanying lifestyle, all in the hopes of helping you make that jump into the exciting world of two-wheels.

No Replacement for Displacement

With a plethora of engine types, engine sizes, different configurations, and varying types of moving parts, we’ve decided to keep thing simple: anything expressway legal, which is 400cc at the minimum. Of course, it’s best to start out on lower displacement bikes to gain experience in handling the faster ones, since speed, traction, and ultimately, rider skills, are all factors. Starting low and working your way up is a great way to not only build experience and a solid foundation, but also helps you appreciate the joy that each step brings.

400cc

Great for beginners and those not looking for more power, the 400cc category is home to some great bikes. Take the naked and standard bikes like the KTM Duke 390 and Honda Super Four, for example; comfortable, still quick, yet not a handful to maneuver through traffic. Trademarks of this category are expressway legality, a great market for second-hand bikes, since most owners are always moving up in engine size, and they’re still fast enough for most people. A great stepping-stone.

600cc

While 600cc bikes may have been the cheaper and slightly safer option to 1000cc bikes in the past, technology and features from the big boys have trickled down into this category over the years. These bikes can prove to be a handful in inexperienced hands, but can also be keepers for life when their potential is fully realized. Great for everyday use, and racetrack time, especially for those sport bike 600s, mainstays of this category are the Yamaha R6, Suzuki GSXR 600, Kawasaki Ninja 650, Kawasaki Versys 650, and the Honda CBR600RR.  Splitting hairs in performance with 1000cc bikes in some cases, the 600cc class is a formidable displacement. Fast, and with a slight bit of accessibility.

750cc-800cc

Back in the day, the 750cc-800cc class was regarded as a huge step towards the bigger bikes. Packing more punch and more technology than the 600cc class, these bikes can be track weapons, your commuting buddy, and your date for a weekend of canyon carving. This displacement cuts across almost every manufacturer out there, so rest assured that there’s something for everyone. Bikes that come to mind in this category are the Suzuki GSXR 750, Kawasaki Z800, BMW F800, Harley Davidson Street 750, and the Ducati Scrambler. Just shy of 1000cc motorcycles, yet the final and aspirational choice for many people, this category is home to extremely fast bikes.

1000cc and above

Regarded as the pinnacle of power and engineering for manufacturers, the liter bike and beyond class is ripe with choices. Touring, cruisers, adventure bikes, and street machines are readily available for buyers in this category. Offering the best that the manufacturer has to offer in terms of technology, safety, and performance, these motorcycles can be extremely fast, versatile, and refined. Prime examples of this class are the Yamaha R1, BMW GS 1200, Ducati Multistrada, Suzuki VStrom 1000, and the Ducati Panigale. The pinnacle for many, aspired by most.

What Kind of Rider are You?

While, on the surface, it may seem that scooters and low displacement bikes are the norm, there are a handful of motorcyclists who take their rides on a daily basis. Whether to commute to work, or meet up for coffee with fellow riders, or to just unwind at the end of a long day, there’s a label for any type of rider.

The Commuter

If you fall into this category, you’re looking for a motorcycle that ticks the following boxes: engine size of 400cc and up to tackle the highways in our country, comfortable seating and ergonomics, easy to take through traffic, and able to handle some practical accessories, such as top boxes, panniers, and tank bags.

Ideal motorcycles:

  • Standard or naked bikes with fairly upright and comfortable riding positions
  • Sport touring bikes with commanding road presence and height, and ripe for all those soft or hard cases
  • Cruisers for all-around comfort

The Weekend Rider

If you have a hectic workweek, and your idea of a breather is to tackle a few twisties with some friends, then you fall into this category. Speed and control are key aspects, traits that can mostly only be found in 600cc and 1000cc sport bikes. That’s not to say there’s no middle ground, as standard and naked bikes are a great choice for when you want to keep up, but still come home without aches and pains from a more aggressive riding position. Cruisers are popular as well, maximizing comfort while looking and sounding awesome.

Ideal motorcycles:

  • 600cc and 1000cc sport bikes with aggressive riding positions for maximum control
  • Sport tourers with the grunt and flexibility to handle any weather or road condition
  • Cruisers for relaxed riding and classic styling

The Traveling Motorcyclist

If you dream of traveling the country or even the world, you definitely fall into this category. Naturally a category for sport touring and adventure motorcycles, there’s no stopping any bike from traveling the same distance, just keep your expectations in check. Luggage options are a must, so is auxiliary lighting, and some off-road crash protection for when the paved roads end.

Ideal motorcycles:

  • Adventure and touring motorcycles with their powerful engines, myriad of luggage and lighting options, plus the bonus of excellent creature comforts
  • Sport touring motorcycles with their sportier yet road-focused characteristics, but still able to haul a weekend’s laundry around
  • High displacement cruisers, while heavy, offer great luggage options and stability for eating up those kilometers

Final Words

Research, research, research! You want to head off on your bike knowing full well that the purchase you made is worthwhile, enjoyable, and will bring excitement for the years to come. There is nothing worse than dropping close to a million pesos on a motorcycle, only to find out that it isn’t for you. Schedule a test drive at the dealers you have canvassed, ask other riding buddies, and post on forums about the motorcycles that interest you. Be aware of your limits as a rider and always wear ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). Trust me, there’s no better feeling than waking up each morning to the sight of a motorcycle that just beckons you to ride, with no destination in mind and for absolutely no reason at all. Keep the shiny side up!