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Why do big bikes cost so much?

You get what you pay for.

Yamaha YZF-R7

One of the great things about the motorcycling world is that riders are provided with countless options in the market. Apart from the various body styles available, riders can also choose to own motorcycles from a broad spectrum of engine displacements: from about 110cc to 1400cc. The broad spectrum of choice doesn’t just apply to the body style and engine displacement but also applies quite greatly to selling price as well—where many fantastic motorcycle options above 650cc typically cost well above half a million pesos.

As motorcycle prices begin to approach automobile territory, one can’t help but wonder why some big displacement motorcycles sell with hefty price tags. That being said, there certainly is a lot more than meets the eye with many of the big bikes in the market. Specification sheets and numbers don’t paint the whole picture when it comes to owning a big displacement motorcycle—and here’s why.

Research and development

2006 Yamaha R1

Behind any motorcycle is a thorough research and development process. Motorcycle engines and frames typically have high costs due to the amount of time and expertise it takes to develop these intricate and expertly engineered components. If manufacturers are looking to reduce costs to make certain motorcycles more accessible to the market, engine and frame platforms can be reused across multiple motorcycles. We see Yamaha’s trusty 155cc single-cylinder engine being used on the Mio Aerox 155 scooter, the WR 155 dual-sport, the YZF-R15 sportbike, the XSR155 neo-retro naked bike, and more. The KTM 390 Duke’s basic frame and engine platform is also used in the 2021 KTM 200 Duke, RC 390, the RC 200, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401, Vitpilen 401, and Svartpilen 200.

For more premium machines, however, manufacturers also keep in mind that owners want to feel like they are owning something special and unique. This is why we don’t see the Honda CB650R’s inline-four engine being shared across many current platforms, nor do we see BMW’s R 1250 GS frame being shared with other motorcycles in their lineup. It’s also important to remember that as an engine gets more powerful and as a chassis is designed to be more rigid, more resources have to be put into the research and development process. Manufacturers know that owners will be looking for a more premium look, feel, finish, and sound on a more expensive motorcycle, and considerations around research and development have to adjust for the more premium and exclusive demands of big bike ownership.

Materials, build quality, and technology

Yamaha YZF-R7 Gauge

On top of all this, big bikes are often known to be toys or luxury items to many of the riders out there. People are not often buying 650cc inline-four motorcycles or 900cc adventure bikes to commute to and from work. Manufacturers know big bike owners will be purchasing these motorcycles for leisure instead of being used as utilitarian machines. Because of this, manufacturers are more inclined to spend a bit more on production refinement and technology. Painted steel could just as easily be used for body panels on motorcycles, but materials like brushed aluminum or titanium would provide a more elegant product for hobby and leisure than if more utilitarian materials were chosen—and the same can be said for the materials used for the frame, seat, handlebar, fuel tank, and every other part of the motorcycle.

Many of the large displacement motorcycles are also used as platforms to test out new technology for the industry. Cornering ABS, adjustable traction control, heated grips, Bluetooth connectivity, and many other premium features are not always needed for commutes around town and are instead used to elevate the riding experience for leisure. As such, big bikes are often the playing ground for new developments in the realm of motorcycle tech and are a strong reason why motorcycle prices in this tier can also be quite high.

Quality control

Triumph 765 Engine

Given that manufacturers are investing quite heavily in the research, development, materials, and technology of these big displacement motorcycles, manufacturers will also have to ensure that the entire motorcycle is put together properly in order to ensure that the final product is released as planned. Apart from that, big bikes are also often produced in low volumes and do not need the manufacturing scale typically set up for more utilitarian two-wheelers. Because of this, manufacturers of big displacement motorcycles typically keep very few production plants worldwide in order to properly manage quality control, and big displacement motorcycles are often shipped into the country as a whole motorcycle which will inevitably increase shipping expenses for the manufacturer.


Royal Enfield Continental GT 650

If you are searching for a motorcycle with a very premium fit and finish, high-quality materials, and an over-engineered engine, the many large manufacturers from around the world have got you covered. You often get what you pay for with big displacement motorcycles after all, and while prices of these big bikes are often justified for many different reasons from planning to production, owning a relatively large displacement motorcycle doesn’t always have to put a huge hole in the wallet. Motorcycle manufacturers like CFMOTO, Royal Enfield, and Benelli have large displacement motorcycle models that won’t break the bank. No matter your choice, know that you will more often than not be getting what you paid for—a good thing to keep in mind when you hunt for your next two-wheeled machine no matter the engine displacement or price.

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