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Motorcycle 101: what exactly does “cc” in a motorcycle mean?

A higher cc doesn’t usually mean a faster motorcycle. Read on to learn more.

What exactly does “cc” in a motorcycle mean?

In the world of two wheels, especially here in the Philippines, the stigma of motorcycles and the number of “ccs” they have, is oftentimes the deciding factor for folks looking to purchase a new motorcycle. Surely, it’s established that motorcycles with at least 400cc are considered “big bikes,” while those with smaller engines are considered “small bikes.” While there is indeed an ounce of truth to this, there’s much more than just the “number of ccs” to consider when trying to determine how fast a motorcycle is. 

Ducati Motorcycle Engine

So, what exactly is “cc” when it comes to motorbikes? Well, technically speaking, CC stands for cubic centimeters, which is essentially a unit of measure pertaining to displacement. So, when you say that a motorcycle is categorized as a 400cc model, it simply means that its engine displaces 400 cubic centimeters of volume. More specifically, the engine, across all of its cylinders, can compress 400 cubic centimeters of air and fuel mixture. To understand things a little bit more simply, 1cc is usually equivalent to 1mL, so 1,000cc is equivalent to 1 liter, hence the nomenclature “liter bike” for motorcycles with 1,000cc engines.

So, does a higher cc engine mean a faster motorcycle?

KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Here’s where things get a little bit confusing. As with all things in life, size isn’t everything. We’ve often come across first timers having the misconception that motorcycles with massive engines, say a Harley-Davidson cruiser with 1,800cc of displacement, would undeniably be faster than a bike like a Yamaha YZF-R6 with a 600cc engine. Sure, the Harley may have triple the displacement of the R6, but it makes its power in a very lazy manner simply because of how heavy the internals of the engine are, as well as its relatively low compression ratio. This means that a heavyweight engine such as that of the Harley will struggle to rev past 5,000 rpm.

On the other hand, the Yamaha YZF-R6, with its high-compression 600cc, inline-four engine, can easily rev beyond 13,000 rpm. In fact, the R6 makes its peak power at 14,500 rpm, with a max output of 122 horsepower. This means that the Yamaha R6 can accelerate faster, and ultimately achieve a higher top speed than the Harley-Davidson, thanks to its engine configuration.

At the end of the day, sure, engine displacement is a good barometer in determining how fast or powerful a motorcycle is. However, it isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to gauging motorcycle performance. If you’re in the market for a new motorcycle, there are definitely tons of other things to consider. Luckily, here at MotoDeal.com.ph, we have dozens of reviews of the latest and greatest motorcycles big and small, to give you a better idea of the bigger picture when it comes to certain models.

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