If you’re in the market for a motorcycle, choosing between a big bike and a small bike has probably come to mind. Despite being a relatively simple problem of choosing one or the other, many different factors may affect which bike may be best suited for you. For the sake of this article, and based on local motorcycling norms, motorcycles with a 400cc engine displacement or higher will be referred to as big bikes, and all else below 400cc will be referred to as a small bike.
Choosing a bike that will make you happiest will depend mostly on how well the bike suits your capabilities and preferences as a rider. How much physical energy are you willing to exert to ride your bike every day? Do you have an appetite for extreme power, or will usable power do? Where will you be riding your bike? How much of your money are you willing to set aside for regular maintenance and the upfront fee of purchasing a motorcycle?
All of these questions – and more are very important to ask when deciding which motorcycle to buy since there are many pros and cons to consider when purchasing a bike. So if you’ve found yourself in a dilemma on whether to buy a big bike or a small bike, here are a few things you may want to consider as you make your purchase.
Usage and practicality
What will you use it for and where will you ride it? Despite being straightforward, these questions are where many riders will find a struggle to connect expectation and reality. When we spend our time watching review videos, browsing online catalogs, and daydreaming about our next bike, we tend to think that we might be riding our next motorcycle a certain way, or in certain areas. However, thoughts do not always translate to reality, and many have fallen into the buyer’s remorse trap after learning that they are not willing to use their motorcycle in the ways that they have thought.
Big bikes are generally great for leisure and spirited riding. For those who live in and around the Metro Manila region, big bikes will provide you with the freedom to traverse the highways as needed. The additional power will also provide you with that exhilarating jolt at any twist of the throttle. If you’re putting down many kilometers during one day and would need to cover the distance comfortably at the speed limit, big bikes, with their abundance of power and stability at speed, will enable you to do so with ease. However, big bikes also come with their own usability drawbacks. Commuting through city traffic and managing a big bike’s size can be tiresome to many. With enough energy and strength, big bikes can do almost everything commuter bikes can too. However, not many riders are willing to put up with the inconveniences of using a big bike for these cases.
This is precisely where small bikes come in. Being relatively lightweight and docile when putting power to the ground, small bikes are generally much easier to operate and would provide the rider with a more comfortable ride for day-to-day commuting and rides to dense areas. Small bikes are also physically smaller, making tight maneuvers incredibly easy on any given day. However, small bikes may not be the most suitable motorcycle for those who enjoy spirited riding and access to highways. Small bikes are generally less stable than big bikes at speed due to the weight, tires, and suspension design. It is also very straining for the engine to maintain high speeds over many hours a day. However, if your desired rides are well within the limits and capabilities of a small bike, this choice may be right for you.
Big bikes are often heavy and can weigh anywhere between 180kg to 300kg or even more. This may make it difficult to ride a big bike through dense traffic and tight maneuvers. A slight lean when filtering through traffic may easily end up in a fall for the less-experienced rider, and while commuting with a big bike is certainly possible, it can get very tiring for many. That’s not to say that weight is always a bad thing. The increased weight allows big bikes to maintain superb stability when riding at faster speeds, whether it’s on the highway or through your favorite twisty roads.
Small bikes on the other hand are almost always very lightweight, ranging from 90kg to 150kg for the majority of small bikes locally. The lightweight nature of these motorcycles allows them to be very approachable to even the most novice of riders. Slight lean during riding can easily be saved by a planted foot on the ground and a bit of force from the upper body. While lighter weight can almost always be a good thing, it also prevents small bikes from maintaining stability at speed, making this a questionable option for the spirited and speed-loving riders.
Regardless of the choice, it is always important to understand how capable and willing you will be when managing the bulk of metal, gas, and oil below your body. Many riders will be happy to take a big bike through traffic in order to enjoy spirited rides on other days, while others may know that a smaller bike will meet their personal capabilities better.
Some riders may be happy with less than 20 horsepower to take them through traffic, while others may find this extremely lacking. Power plays a very significant role when choosing between a big bike and a small bike since the divide between the two is a fairly large one.
Big bikes often come with a lot of power and can range anywhere from 40 horsepower to 200 horsepower per bike. The abundance of power makes acceleration a very easy job for the big bike. At highway speeds, overtaking will be extremely easy making these bikes a perfect choice for highway rides. On top of this, the added power can excite nearly any ride – a small flick on the throttle will send you flying forward, leaving many with a grin on the face. While all of this sounds great, the abundance of power may also be a bit scary to some, if not detrimental to others. If you are not experienced with spirited riding, are a novice rider, or are simply not hungry for a lot of power, a big bike may not be the best next choice. Learning to master the throttle takes many hours on the saddle, and having a throttle and engine that may be too sensitive for you may be detrimental to your learning curve and your safety.
Small bikes on the other hand are more docile when it comes to putting power on the ground. Ranging from anywhere between 7 horsepower to 25 horsepower, small bikes require less caution on the throttle than big bikes do. This makes riding extremely manageable and less tiresome when puttering around on a small bike. Riders who are looking for an easy-to-manage engine will likely benefit from the docile nature of small bikes but may encounter some difficulties in other scenarios. Due to the decrease in power next to its big bike siblings, small bikes will struggle to provide a lot of power during scenarios where power may be needed. If you’re cruising at 70kph and will need to execute a quick overtake, this may be a struggle with a small bike. While this does not pose any direct safety risks, maneuvers where power is needed, like for overtaking, will need to be planned.
Understanding exactly how much you can shell for a bike, and all other costs that come with it, will be beneficial when choosing between motorcycles. Big bikes sell for more than small bikes do, and will sell for as much as a car would. On top of this, gasoline consumption will be higher due to the increased engine size, and maintenance can be costly especially when replacing parts. Despite this, you will often get what you pay for. Big bike engines and frames are engineered to perform better than small bikes, suspension and tires are of premium spec, and the electronics and rider comfort features are also usually better on big bikes. It’s important to know that your budget won’t just cover the upfront cost, but will cover ownership costs too.
On small bikes, budgets can be capped to the low 6-digit figures. Pair this with a more fuel-efficient engine and lower maintenance costs, and riders will be happy to know that it won’t be necessary to pony up many hundreds of thousands of pesos to enter the small bike market. While this may sound great, small bikes generally have shorter maintenance intervals too. Instead of paying with money, some owners may end up paying more with time by having to attend to engine oil changes, valve adjustments, and other simple maintenance tasks every few months. The good news is that many different shops around town can work on small bikes due to the similar and simplistic design of most small bikes. If the owner has enough time to attend to the maintenance, is getting the job done is easier than it sounds
Simply put, comparing small bikes and big bikes back-to-back is not as straightforward as it sounds. Both types of motorcycles have their own pros and cons, and to say that one is objectively better than the other is next to impossible. Riders can always take comfort in knowing that there is a bike out there that will surely suit each one’s preferences. Should you find a bike that is ideal for your usage and experience, your ideal weight and power characteristics, and your allowable budget, then there’s no making a wrong decision. Take a bit of time to find what suits you best, and you’ll be sure to find yourself smiling on the saddle of your next favorite bike.