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The BIG CC Question - Are You A CC Snob?

Blog date October 2016

I think people worry too much about the size of their CCs. For those who worry I would like to reassure you that it is not the size that counts but the way you ride that matters most. 

So worrying is ok, you can seek and get reassurance. I do not have a problem with those who worry, the problem I have is with CC snobs.

An awful lot of bikers seem obsessed with the size of their CCs. The majority opinion being that bigger is better. Lets be honest it is not just bikers that are obsessed with size. The bigger is better mentality extends to the the size of your house, your car, your bank balance, your TV screen, your biceps, your boobs and even now your lips. But all that is a debate for somewhere else my concern is bikers and their CC snobbery.

Triumph's 2.3 litre Rocket 3
The largest capacity production motorcycle - in the world!

I often read posts about bikers struggling with the size and weight of their bikes. This tends to be mainly a female thing due to our smaller stature but not exclusively. They claim to have lost confidence due to either dropping their bike several times or being nervous on cambers or loose chippings etc. I know that feeling all to well myself so I fully empathise and understand. 

What I fail however to understand is when they then ask for advise on what bike could they get to help rebuild their lost confidence they almost all state that going down in CC is not an option. They usually state being able to "keep up" with the bigger bikes that their partners or friends have is the reason they simply can't drop any CCs.
But modern 250/300 CC machines have in reality no problem keeping up with bigger bikes on UK roads with such heavy traffic and speed limits. Take my own Kawasaki Z250SL for example. It cruises with ease at 70mph on the motorway. Even at 70 it has no problem finding instant aCCeleration to manage an overtake. I have seen claims that it can reach 100mph, I can't claim to know that for sure but lets just say from what I have done on mine I can well believe it. It is more than capable of losing you your licence. So do we really need to be terrified that a smaller CC bike will leave us standing? No the evidence says not. I am not trying to say a smaller bike is as fast as a bigger CC bike. That would be ridiculous. But I am saying that they are more than capable at normal speeds of keeping up. Today's 250/300 CC bikes are tuned to get the best out of all of the horses they have.

Sharon's 250 in a field surrounded by tents and bikersA 250 can go anywhere and do things everyone believes you need a much larger bike for.

Another fear is that you can't have fun in the twisties with a smaller CC bike. Again this is a nonsense. The twists and bends are where skill, confidence and  the ability of the rider count more than CCs. It is also where the bike's unique balance, stability and design come into play. I do not consider myself the fastest rider out there of course I do not. I tell you too often about my lack of  natural ability to believe that of myself. But I know for a fact that sometimes on those good days when my confidence is high that I have gone faster around bends and twisties on my little 125CC than others on their bigger bikes have, leaving them behind rather than the other way around.  

So lets busts those myths -
"I wont be able to keep up with bigger bikes" - Yes you will (Unless your riding buddy goes everywhere at 100mph no matter where you are and never stops at junctions or traffic lights).

"I will stop having fun on the twisties" - No you wont. (In fact if your confidence improves on a smaller bike you will be faster and have more fun it the bends and twisties).  

Another thing you often hear is that riding a bigger bike is just all about confidence. You will get advised to go for more training. HMMMM. Yes that winds me right up that does. This is where the snobbery come in. If you ride a smaller CC bike you must be lacking in someway. Lacking in finances or more likely confidence and skill. Yes confidence is important and new skills are needed for each new bike we acquire. I had to build up my own confidence up on my 250. However if 3 years down the line you are still scared of your bike and you realise you are riding it less and less and certainly less that you were riding your 125 all those years ago, then maybe it is time to accept you have the wrong bike. Many people do accept this and I congratulate those who do because accepting we made a mistake is never easy. Moving to a lighter bike of the same CC might indeed be the answer to some peoples problems. Moving to a bike with the same or even higher CC but with a lower centre of gravity may be the solution for others. If that works for you then great.

But for some people no matter how confident they are that confidence is not going to grow their legs. It is not going to turn a 7 stone slim person into a 20 stone hulk who can lift their bike with one hand and tuck it under their arm when they come to a dead end on on a farmers track. So do not be a CC snob. Do not assume a smaller CC bike equals lack of confidence. For some a larger CC bike can sometimes equate to Confidence Crusher where as a lower CC bike may equate to Confidence Creator. A person with a lower CC may actually have enough inner confidence to be aware of and be happy with any limitations they may have. 
It may also be a personal choice due to how and why they ride. Fuel economy may be important to them because maybe they do 10,000 miles a year rather than some riders of bigger CCs that do little more than 1000 miles a year. Nothing wrong with riding so little if that is your thing, just remember not to be a CC snob and I will not be be a miles snob. Maybe because it is how and where they ride. If you are small and slight on a heavy big bike you must constantly plan ahead, your routes, where you can stop or not. You must constantly scan the roads for potholes and harsh cambers. You could not consider a trail for the unknown could leave you and your bike stranded if you can't turn around in a tight spot. So you may chose a lighter and lower CC bike so as to take on trails and dirt tracks. 

Sharon on her 125 down a narrow lane with a deep ford125cc is more than enough to go exploring and turning around in a dead end is so easy.

A smaller CC  bike comes with certain limitations but so does a bigger heavier CC bike. So what I am saying is this - If you are struggling with the size and weight of your bike and it is sapping your confidence do not be a CC snob. Dare to consider dropping some CCs to gain less weight and add more confidence. A reduction in CC  is not a reduction in the size of your balls be they of the male or female variety.

I have had people come over to admire my Kawasaki Z250SL only to drift away looking either disappointed to find it is "Only" a 250 or they try to sympathise with me for my lack of CCs and ask when will I be getting a bigger CC bike.  

It is not what your bike looks like that matters. It is not the brand name that matters. It is not the size of your CCs that matter. What matters is how you ride that bike. What matters is how the bike makes you feel. What matters is how much fun and joy and passion that bike gives you. If you love your big CCs then great just do not be a bike snob and disdain other peoples size. After all I said it at the beginning and I say it again  - it is not the size that counts but the way you ride that matters most. 

Sharon sits smiling on a tiny kids electric off road motorcycleRen - The Ed - come on Sharon, some bikes are too small even for you!

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
Excellent Sharon.

When I took enforced early retirement around 10 years ago I decided I wanted a modern bike, and having had British bikes most of my life went for a Triumph Tiger to replace my Norton Commando which I'd owned for 30 years.

It took me some weeks to come to terms with its height, weight and perhaps most important high centre of gravity. The 995ccs and 105 bhp were, quite frankly, grotesquely in excess of any "real world" requirement. I did once see 110 mph on the speedo with loads more to come but it was just far too easy to let the speed creep up like that.

After several years of enjoying the Tiger, I did realise that either it was getting heavier and taller or I was getting weaker and shorter - to the extent that it was, as you suggest, putting me off taking it out for a ride. It was fine once rolling but getting it out of the garage, slow speed manoeuvres, parking etc all needed considerable thought.

I liked the adventure type styling with its upright riding position so replaced it with a 650 V-Strom which was better but still bigger than I needed or wanted. A 650 SLR Honda followed and now I have the CB400 Super Four I've mentioned here before.

I am quite sure that is ample for my needs and have no problem envisaging a point when it in turn may be too much. Fortunately, there are many 250s (and even 125s although that might be a step too far!) which look quite attractive.

The only way the Tiger scored over the subsequent machines I've had was that its extra weight did make the ride quality superb as it just floated over bumps, ridges etc.

I must admit that having been brought up on a diet of asthmatic Villiers powered horrors I would never previously have considered a lightweight but the current crop are entirely different. Although I do have a nagging desire for an Ariel Arrow.......
29/10/2016 14:27:42 UTC
Bob said :-
A lot of the cc snob problem comes from the fact that for the majority of riders these days a motorcycle is toy, a leisure activity. It's a lot easier to live with a bike which is too big, too heavy and too powerful if you have no intention of taking out in the rain or in winter. These ludicrous behemoths are what we see parked up on a sunny weekend at our local biker haunts - the riders strutting about dangling their cc's and horsepower between their legs (apologies for the ugly metaphor). This is when real riders, those who ride all year can start to feel inadequate as we park our small lightweight manageable sensible bikes. Come winter and where are all these horsepower heros? Tucked up warm at home.
The trick is not to care what anybody else thinks!
30/10/2016 09:52:35 UTC
Stuart said :-
I use my motorcycle to go to work all year round. I also like to have another bike to use as a leisure thing. As my journey to work is short (5 miles) I started off by using a Zip scooter (the first time I had ever ridden one of these). It was great, 50 mph from 50cc so I could break ever speed limit from my house to work, if I wanted. I never did of course.

That was replaced with a cg 125 which did the job as well for about 3 years but wasn't much quicker then the Zip.

I started to look around for a replacement as it was getting a bit long in the tooth but couldn't find a small cc bike at a reasonable price. Later CGs seemed to be up about the £1,000 mark I'm guessing as these must be sought after for people taking their tests, so ended up with a Kawasaki ER5 for £600.

So for me it's not a cc snob but more a price thing. I know it's not sensible to use a 500cc bike for such a short journey and in the long run the 50 / 125 cc would be more economic but I do use the ER for longer leisure rides as well. I did over 300 miles in a day on it and had a great time.

My full time leisure bike is a 1200 Bandit that I have had for about 18 years and that is great to ride as well.

Regards. Stuart.

30/10/2016 18:06:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I'm 5 feet 8 inches tall and as such I fall into that "average" bracket for a UK bloke. I have access to a wide choice of bikes that will fit me. I'm averagely strong so I can handle most average weight bikes too.

Once upon a time I sat on my 6 foot 7 friend's bike, a KTM adventure of some capacity and I had zero chance of reaching the floor. Imagine then if I'd set my heart on owning this model. I would have to have it lowered and even then I would have struggled with the high centre of gravity.

My point is some bikes are too big for me. If a person, male of female, is 4 foot tall no matter how skilled or determined their choice of motorcycles is limited without adaptations. As Ian has said height is not the only issue. Strength, agility and age are also a factor.

And yet like Sharon I continually read ridiculous comments suggesting that a person's height or strength are not the issue it's their lack of skill or confidence.

Tanni Grey-Thompson has won 11 gold medals and is a baroness. She must have endless skills, determination and confidence but I doubt she could stand up for the national anthem. We all have our limits.
31/10/2016 08:18:00 UTC
Sharon said :-
I have no problem with big CC bikes. If that is your thing that is great. If you enjoy a big bike then all the best to you and your bike.

If you are 5 ft 1 inch and ride a 1200 with zest and love it..go you.

The only problem I have is as I have said the snobbery that some, certainly not all, folks have regarding CC size. That and the response you can get if someone tells you their bikes scares them and is too heavy etc and you dare suggest dropping some CCs. It is taken as the biggest insult in the universe. It can cause the kind of fury you will usually reserve for someone calling your child ugly. They are aghast, demeaned, disemboweled.

My mouth can get me in trouble too often. I do not set out to hurt any ones feelings. The main problem being if someone asks me a question I often say do you want an honest answer? They assure me they do but on giving it..well errr that may be the last time we speak. I like debates and I argue my side usually very well...maybe I bit too well which does not always win me friends.

So let me be clear here I am not saying if you ride a big CC I think your a tosser. I am saying only that the idea of a smaller CC is not an insult to anyones entire self worth. It is a reminder only that the mentality of my dad is bigger than yours needs to be left in the playground where it belongs.

Small can sometimes be beautiful and hell if a particular CC size fits you, your size, your needs, your budget, your lifestyle ride that CC. Yes just ride.
01/11/2016 13:37:37 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I don't feel that anyone should feel offended by what you wrote, which seemed eminently sensible to me.
01/11/2016 14:52:31 UTC
Doug said :-
If anything, I'm an inverted CC snob - I'm much more impressed by people who do more with less. Back in the days I had a GPZ750R (with a GPZ1000RX engine) I used to get completely and utterly owned by a guy who had a ratty GPZ305 if it wasn't a straight line, and I learned it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it :-)
01/11/2016 17:53:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Doug. There was an old chap, an ex bike racer from back in the day, who used to complain about 1000cc sports bike riders getting in the way when he was riding his MZ301 along the country lanes.
01/11/2016 18:02:12 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Ah, but MZs do handle very well (as long as not fitted with the original Pneumant tyres). Plus the brakes weren't very good so you couldn't slow down for the corners.....

They were the sort of bike that seemed to make such good sense that I had to have one. When I did I realised why they were so cheap, with their marginal electrics, refusal to idle, kangaroo progress if not on full throttle and other foibles. And as for the left hand kickstart...

Having said that, I did buy a second one after a gap of a few years so must not have learnt much from my first mistake.
02/11/2016 16:13:46 UTC
TonyW said :-
Could it have someting to do with the modern licence system? As I was learning a couple of years ago there was a definite attitude of the A licence lets you ride a "proper adult bike". It seems the age limits did had an effect on peoples attitudes.

When I passed my test and said I was getting an A2 complaiant 500cc bike I certainly had an odd look from one of the instructors!

Can you buy a big bike these days without so many rider aids that its almost on auto pilot? Launch control, traction control, anti wheelie, the list goes on. Big bikes it seems are so powerful you need a computer to ride them and stop you crashing. Only because of the aids your probably travelling faster when you crash!

Smaller CC bikes are cheaper and with less computer interferance so I would say you actually RIDE them and have a lot more fun in the process.

Maybe one day I might grow up and buy a 1000cc rocket. Then again maybe not :)
03/11/2016 19:40:11 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi TonyW. The attitude of "proper adult bike" and funny looks off instructors when you dare to suggest NOT buying at least a 600 is precisely the snobbery Sharon's talking of.

There are those whom due to physical size or perhaps disability have little choice but to ride small capacity bikes. Sharon is too small to reach the floor on my 500 and 125 Tony who's KTM review is on here has a disability that limits his strength. They're not soft in the head, they're not scared they're just dealing with the limits placed upon them by fate and life.

When you're physically big and strong enough to ride a 1,000cc rocket and you CHOOSE not to then some people believe really freak out. I find I have just as much fun if not more so on the 125 than I do big bikes. You hit the nail on the head - "you actually RIDE them and have a lot more fun in the process."

I once asked a riding friend "When was the last time you had your bike throttle wide open?" It seems there are occasional moments when he briefly, momentarily can open the taps. I can keep the 125 wide open for miles and miles!

As for MZs Ian Soady. Nasty 2 stroke smelly things. I recall they did a 4 stroke super motard thingy a while back, that looked like fun. But 2 stroke...really.
04/11/2016 15:10:30 UTC
Latchy said :-
I am 5'7" and getting on in years now, I don't like sports bikes because I just simply can not ride them for more than a few minutes, they are that uncomfortable for me.
The 1000 cc brigade are light though and the power delivery gives such an exciting ride, this is the thing I want from motorcycling.
I don't like the power delivery from 600 cc sports bikes, I once tested a zx6r and nothing seemed to happen until it was screaming at 10,000 rpm, totally useless anyway on the road because you need useful torque low down, and by then you are speeding when the useful power chimes in.
So I owned a 1200 bandit for 6 years which I found good to ride. The only problems were fuel consumption and the weight of the machine which wore me out on full day rides.
I had a couple of big bore machines after that bike and when I reached my late 40s I got myself a 750 v twin (aprillia shiver) and realised I enjoyed riding it more because it was less than 200kg, and did corners so much easier, stopped quicker and accelerated almost as quickly as a bigger bike, it also did more mpg.
Then two years later I came down in cc yet again and bought a street triple 675 which was evjen lighter, and easier to ride well, has really good midrange power (not outright bhp) and because it is so light goes and stops like one of those 1000 cc sports bikes, I am having the time of my life on it, for me it is the perfect compromise between outright power and weight, and is ver comfortable indeed.
Who knows, the bike manufacturers might make a 500 or even smaller which is lighter still than my triumph, and goes just as well.

If they do I will be interested.
05/11/2016 10:13:53 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"Getting on in years! - late 40s? Give it another 20 years.......
05/11/2016 11:06:33 UTC
Latchy said :-
55 now Ian so half way through the 20
05/11/2016 13:20:50 UTC
Sharon said :-

I know we all pull your leg over how much you love your bike but it really is great that you found a bike that suits you so well.

Regardless of CC size that bike gives you everything you want and need. That is what counts in the end how each bike fits each individual.

May yours keep you smiling x
06/11/2016 21:01:23 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Had to pop to work in liverpool this morning from hyde. 44 miles each way. The cb500x handled it with ease. As i used to have big bikes in the past i think modern bikes give you more fun and flexibility per cc than even 10 years ago. A 500 is probably as good as a 650 was not so long ago.

If your smiling when you get off the bike it is the one for you.

07/11/2016 13:31:29 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I started riding in the days when a 500 was a big bike (with maybe 35 bhp if you were lucky); a 650 was for coffee bar cowboys and tugging a sidecar, and anything bigger was almost exclusively pulling a chair - often a massive Child/Adult - except for that rare breed the Vincent Twin owners.

I think 50 bhp (and often less) is quite adequate for any "real world" use although I must admit the surge from my Tiger with twice that was quite exciting. But the times when it was needed? Never, in truth.
07/11/2016 14:47:08 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
There's a yawning chasm between "need" and "want". You only need 1 horsepower to actually get moving. You only need a 125's 11-15 bhp to flow with town traffic and sort of keep a reasonable pace in the countryside. You only need a 250's 25 bhp to keep up and often times pass all but the most aggressive drivers.

I think 125 is "enough", 250 is always sufficient and everything else after that is a bonus. We may want 1,200 bhp but we sure don't need it. At 47 bhp the CB500X is plenty.

If you like 100bhp plus then fabulous and good for you. Just don't try to convince me you need it.
07/11/2016 16:39:09 UTC
Bob said :-
For me the minimum "need" is to, as I read somewhere, "dominate the traffic". I need to be able to ride right to the front of a queue and be confident that when the lights change I'm gone in an instant. I need to be able to overtake confidently on a national speed limit road, see a gap and go.
My current bike is 39HP and 40ftlbs, that's enough. Any less an I'd feel that I was thrashing the hell out of it all the time. Admittedly that's personal preference - I want to do all the above and feel that the bike is doing it effortlessly. I guess you could do all of the above with less power and torque (torque being the most important) if you're not worried about wringing your bike's neck to do it.
08/11/2016 11:53:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ahh...need. If you rode a less powerful motorcycle that can't out-accelerate the traffic with certainty - like my 125 - then you simply alter your riding. I don't go right to the front of the queue because I know I may struggle to get away. I try to ride to the limits of the machine my ass is sitting on.
08/11/2016 12:37:17 UTC
Bob said :-
Indeed, when I'm out on the KE100 I do ride differently - but also I ride in different places. The best roads to ride the KE are those without lines down the middle, if I venture anywhere near a main road I just end up with an Audi 4x4 sitting on the pillion seat.
08/11/2016 13:08:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ahh yes, that can be a problem. Either executive or 4by4 Audi/BMW trying to "push" you along. While it's scary there is some satisfaction to be gained from the knowledge they'll be 0.0035 seconds late to their golf match.
08/11/2016 14:19:41 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Lines down the middle - like these?

09/11/2016 12:18:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Now that's my kind of road Ian. I ain't man enough for real off roading but these lanes are usually very quiet and lead to some fascinating places.
09/11/2016 13:10:24 UTC
Sharon said :-
I attended my first adventure bike rally on my little Chinese Keeway RKS 125cc. I was quite nervous. What would a load of tough around the world guys on big bikes think of a girl on a 125cc? To be honest I was ready for sneers.

What I got was a lovely warm welcome and acceptance. They were fascinated to hear about what I could do and where I could go on a 125cc. One guy summed it up perfectly he said "Sharon do you have an adventure when you ride your bike"? I nodded yes. "Then you are riding an adventure bike. Any bike can be an adventure bike. It is what you do with it that counts."

I have found the people that have roughed it on their bikes riding through far flung destinations to be the most open-minded and kindest bikers I have met. Maybe travel does indeed expand the mind.
09/11/2016 13:31:13 UTC
Bob said :-
Ian, that looks very nice - it'll look even nicer when the tarmac finally gives out!
There's nothing better than having a narrow twisty lane to yourself, so you can set your own pace.
10/11/2016 13:18:25 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
... till you meet a spiky tractor coming the other way....
10/11/2016 16:52:24 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
I've had 125 right up to 1700 and hand on heart, the most fun Iv'e had over the years was on 400's. Light, compact, fast and fun. From the old 400/Fours to the V4 NC30 to the VTEC Superior.

Trouble is, I look like a pea on a drum! And due to recent changes in my life, I find myself carrying a pillion 95% of the time. So now I prefer the effortless power of big cc bikes.

No matter what bike I own, I'm happy to ride with anyone, on any bike.
31/01/2017 23:46:06 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Oops! VTEC SuperFour
31/01/2017 23:47:13 UTC
Andy said :-
I see a point in both.
Very often, you will hear people wax lyrically about being able to do everything as well on a small bike as you can a bigger one, and for me, that's just not the case.
I'm not a snob.
Just an old fart with 35 years on the saddle, on everything from old MZ's, to full on sports bikes.
I love riding my 250SL.
It has turned my weekly commute into 30 minutes of sheer joy.
I also love taking it around the country lanes where I live.
However, would I choose it over my BMW 1100cc or Yamaha 1000cc for a two up fully loaded trip down to Austria, which is where I'm going this year.
No sorry.
Not a chance.
I think we need to watch out for double standards here.
Whilst it's true that there is a lot of snobbery in relation to small bikes, a lot of small bike enthusiasts look down on people with larger capacity machines too.
Personally, I like having both.

16/02/2017 19:31:26 UTC
Mark said :-
First up, I am loving your blog. Thank you for writing it. Re cc snobery - let me set th scene: I've been riding 25yrs. Here was my ride progression: 500cc, 600cc, 916cc, 750cc, 1000cc. I bought an R1 in 1998 and held onto to it for 16years. But I got bored of it. Why? Because there was too much power. You could never really enjoy the really twisty roads (1st gear was a liability and 2nd&3rd would still spin the rear and lift the front without trying-and that is too much "fun").

I swapped her for a mint 20yr old 400cc bike. I have never had so much fun on a bike. I've toured on the 400 (yes, Kriega kit is brilliant!) she is ace. I now have another bike as well, but here I didn't choose the top of the range model that made 200+bhp simply because I knew Id have more real world fun on one that was revvier and made less power.

People though, they still assume that I've only just passed my test and the 400 is a stepping stone...couldn't be farther from the truth!

Riding a slow bike fast is much more rewarding than a fast missile slowly!

My 400 on tour
03/11/2017 08:22:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Mark.

"Riding a slow bike fast is much more rewarding than a fast missile slowly!"

Yeah, couldn't agree more. RVF400, now there's a piece of kit and to be fair it sure as hell ain't slow now is it.
03/11/2017 09:50:36 UTC

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