Ever wondered what that “cc” number on motorcycle specs actually means? The cc designation is one of the most common specs used to categorize bike engines, but what exactly does it refer to?
We’ll take a deep dive into cracking the code of cc ratings. From the basics of engine displacement and how it relates to power, to the various cc ranges and what they mean for performance, we’ll give you an inside look into exactly what’s under the hood when it comes to your motorcycle’s cubic centimeter specification.
- CC stands for cubic capacity/centimeters, a measure of engine displacement
- Displacement is the volume inside cylinders the pistons can fill
- More cc means more potential air/fuel mixture and usually more power
- CC is calculated from bore/stroke dimensions using a formula
- Common cc ranges vary by bike type like 600-750 for sport, 800-1200 for cruisers
- Higher cc doesn’t always translate to top power due to weight, design, year
What is CC in Bike Engine? What Does It Stand For?
When getting into the technical details of a motorcycle’s engine, one of the first specs you’ll need to understand is the cc rating. But what exactly does “cc” refer to in the context of a bike’s cubic capacity?
The cc abbreviation stands for cubic centimeters. In other words, it’s a measurement of an engine’s displacement or volume in cubic centimeters. Cubic centimeters is a unit used to express the internal combustion engine’s piston displacement.
Put more simply, the cc figure tells you how much air and fuel the engine can squeeze into each of its cylinders during the combustion cycle. Engines with a higher cc displacement, such as a 1000cc Harley, have more room inside their cylinders to burn fuel compared to a smaller 300cc sport bike.
When you see a cc figure listed in a motorcycle’s specs, it’s referring to the engine’s cubic centimeter measurement. And the cc specification is one of the primary ways manufacturers communicate the displacement capacity of a bike’s powertrain to buyers and riders.
What is Displacement/Capacity in a Motorcycle Engine?
Now that we’ve covered what cc stands for, let’s take a closer look at displacement itself. Displacement refers to the maximum volume of air-fuel mixture that can be squeezed into the engine’s cylinders during each cycle.
To understand displacement, it helps to know how a basic internal combustion engine works. Inside each cylinder is a movable piston connected to the crankshaft by a connecting rod. When fuel ignites, the expanding gases push the piston down, turning the crankshaft. The piston then returns to the top, intake opens to fill the newly made space, and the cycle repeats.
This up-and-down piston motion creates the “displacement” specification. Simply put, it’s the total volume the piston can move throughout its stroke.
For example, a Harley-Davidson Softail has a 1340cc engine displacement. That means the combined volume of all its cylinders adds up to 1340 cubic centimeters that the pistons can displace during each cycle.
This real-world displacement amount directly impacts factors like torque, power output and acceleration feel. Riders notice the difference between, say, a 250cc Honda Rebel and 1000cc Suzuki Cruiser – the Iron Horse has over 4 times the cubic capacity, translating to noticeable gains when twisting the throttle.
How is cc Calculated?
How do engineers actually determine a motorcycle engine’s cc rating? The calculation comes down to two key specifications: bore and stroke.
The bore is the diameter of the cylinder, while the stroke refers to the distance the piston travels inside the cylinder. To calculate cc, you use the following formula:
Bore x Bore x Stroke x Number of Cylinders x 0.7854
For example, let’s look at a popular Big Twin: the Harley-Davidson Road King. Its milwaukee-eight engine has a:
- Bore of 4 inches
- Stroke of 4.38 inches
- 2 cylinders
So using the formula, the bike’s cc is:
4 x 4 x 4.38 x 2 x 0.7854 = 1,450cc
Performing this standard bore/stroke calculation tells technicians and buyers the exact 1,450cc displacement that makes the Road King rumble.
How Does Higher cc Relate to Engine Performance?
So it’s clear that a larger cc figure means greater displacement capacity inside the engine. But how does this directly affect how a motorcycle performs? Simply put, more cc allows an engine to burn more air and fuel during combustion.
With increased displacement, a given cylinder can now hold a larger charge of the air/fuel mixture. When ignited, it generates more pressure to push the piston down. This pancake-flattening force translates into tangible advantages riders feel everyday.
For instance, a 1800cc Honda Gold Wing produces a whopping 125 lb-ft of torque thanks to its huge cylinders. Riders enjoy effortless acceleration from a stoplight and can leisurely pass cars on the highway without downshifting. Meanwhile, a 300cc Kawasaki Ninja likely produces less than 30 lb-ft, feeling zippy but requiring revving out shifts when merging onto the interstate.
The cc-power relationship also holds true for peak horsepower. A 1000cc Ducati Monster develops over 150hp, giving it neck-snapping acceleration. By comparison, the same style bike with a 650cc engine offers sporty performance but not the top-end rush of more cubic capacity.
So in summary, more cc does equal more torque and can equal more horsepower depending on engine design.
Common CC Ranges for Motorcycle Engines
Now that we understand the basics of cc and its effect on performance, let’s examine typical displacement categories riders will commonly see.
- 300-600cc for beginner/entry bikes like Kawasaki Ninja 300
- 650-750cc for intermediate machines good for both riding styles
- 1000cc+ for top power focused on track performance by Ducati, Yamaha, etc.
- 800-1200cc is typical displacement of Harley-Davidson and Indian models
- These deliver boatloads of low-end grunt for highway cruising
- Larger Softails, Road Glides sometimes exceed 1500cc
- 650cc is the sweet spot offering decent roads/dirt ability like Kawasaki KLR650
- 800-1000cc meant for touring two up with gear like BMW R1250GS
- 1200cc+ maximize power for ultralight duty on Africa Twins, GS Adventures
- 500-650cc streetfighter models balance power and weight like Yamaha XSR700
- 750-900cc maximize acceleration over handling in Ducati Monsters
Understanding these typical categories can help determine the best engine size match for your intended use.
Does Higher CC Always Mean More Power?
While generally true, it’s important to note that cc alone does not determine how much power a bike makes. Other design factors play a big role.
For instance, two Ducati Monster 696 bikes may have the same cc count, but one from 2008 made 70hp and the other from 2015 pushes 86hp thanks to engineering refinements. Technology advances allow more to be squeezed from the same size engine block.
Some examples that disprove the simple cc=power linkage:
- KTM 390 Duke (373cc) produces more power than Royal Enfield Classic 500 (499cc) due to weight difference.
- Honda Africa Twin (1000cc) only makes 100hp but huge torque due to application as an adventure bike.
- Yamaha R1 (999cc) smokes liter+ cruisers in horsepower because it is engineered for track performance over low-end grunt.
Additionally, a bike’s power-to-weight ratio is important. A 650cc hypernaked may feel faster than some 1000cc touring machines due to carrying less bulk.
So while cc is a baseline, considering factors like technology, weight, and purpose-built design provides a fuller picture of true performance abilities between bikes.
FAQs About Motorcycle Engine CC
What’s the highest cc production motorcycle engine?
The highest cc production motorcycle engine is the 2,500cc Triumph triple cylinder engine that powers the Triumph Rocket 3. It was first introduced in 2020 and is the largest production motorcycle engine ever built. The engine is capable of producing 167 PS (123 kW) of power at 7,000 rpm and 221 Nm (163 lb-ft) of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Do larger cc bikes always cost more?
Not necessarily, sometimes older/used bikes provide more displacement for the dollar compared to new smaller offerings. Engineering plays a role too.
What’s the point of high-revving small cc sportbike engines?
While low on displacement, precise engineering allows skinny bore/long stroke engines to produce decent power through a large rpm range rather than bottom end.
Do electric/hybrid motorcycle motors have a cc rating?
No, as EVs lack pistons and internal combustion, manufacturers specify motor size in watts or horsepower output instead of combustion engine displacement measurements.
How do turbo/superchargers affect cc specs?
Forced induction allows smaller engines to perform like larger naturally aspirated motors. However, manufacturers still list unmodified displacement for reference.