Information about getting the right motorcycle
The right engine capacity for you
This can range between 50cc and 1800cc. Generally, bigger capacity means big power, big weight, big fuel bill and big bucks.
Anything below 250cc is considered a small motorbike. Anything from 250cc to 650cc, mid range; 650cc to 1200cc is a big bike while anything bigger than that is a monster!
Bikes bigger than 300cc are not suited to radical off road conditions as they are too heavy.
Pillion passengers should not be accommodated on anything less than 500cc if distance is involved.
Screaming, nimble performance is found between 650cc and 1000cc
Comfortable long distance road touring is found between 900cc and 1200cc
Comfortable long distance off road trial riding is found at 600cc.
Anything bigger than 1400cc is all style and attitude and is only found in cruisers. In cruiser design, big engine capacity does not translate into huge power or acceleration.
How many cylinders?
You have a choice. You can either have the "growl, grunt and thump" or you can have maximum performance - but you cannot have them both. Fewer cylinders sound great and are associated with biker attitude and popular cruiser culture. Fewer cylinders however limit the motorcycle’s maximum rpm. This impacts performance, acceleration, horsepower and torque at the top end of the rev counter. At lower revs however there is little to choose between 2, 3 and 4 cylinders - in fact 2 cylinders delivers more torque at low revs.
The fewer the cylinders in the engine, the more the bike is suited to trails, off-road and MX conditions because of the need for more torque at low revs.
The more cylinders there are, the more the bike is suited to long distances on tar road due to the increased smoothness of the engine.
Vibrations generally decrease with an increase in the number of cylinders. Important for long distance touring.
A cruiser style tourer with a V twin engine. Note the tank bank and the leather and studs panniers. The large bag at the rear attaches to a vertical steel frame bolted to the bike - convenient, but ensure that only the lightest of items is in the top half of the bag.
Suspension is a complex topic and varies greatly from bike to bike.
Off road bikes have suspension systems with a lot of travel, maybe 27cm on the rear wheel. Street bikes have about 12cm of travel while some cruisers have very little offering a hard ride especially at the tail end.
Sportbikes have complex adjustable suspensions systems to match a variety of variables including tyre choice, weight of the rider and road surface.
More modern systems have a single adjustable monoshock at the rear while more conservative motorcycle designs have dual shocks with little or no adjustments possible.
Motorcycles designed for fast acceleration have 5 or 6 speed gear boxes with gear ratios closer together. This includes small Motocross bikes as well as sport bikes. These bikes have to be driven hard with frequent gear shifts.
Bikes designed for a more leisurely pace like tourers, cruisers and even dual sport bikes have a 5 speed box with the gears spaced further apart.