Saturday, January 16, 2021

A thousand, or not a thousand: The dilemma in choosing the right motorcycle size for you | Motourismo

By Inaki Jose

Kawasaki NINJA 250cc is a good starter bike.

I was chatting with Bing Basit of The Big Ride, a very good and longtime rider friend of mine, and one of our topics was; Is it wise to upgrade from a 400cc to a 1000cc ? When is the proper time ? Is it advisable to jump to a litre bike immediately or go to a 600cc first? 

Tough questions needing smart answers. I'm not an expert rider nor claim to be, I'm not a professional racer, but I can say that I'm an experienced rider, having logged thousands of hours of saddle time on the streets and in my humble opinion, the first thing you have to ask yourself is : 

1. Do I have the proper mindset and preparation for this ? Do I know how to ride, or to operate a motorcycle ?

When I'm talking about proper mindset, this includes proper attitude, restraint and respect for the bike. The first thing you need to do before anything is respect the power of the bike, NO MATTER WHAT SIZE IT IS. Like most new riders, they treat a 125 cc or a 150 cc as a small bike. More often than not their basis of comparison is a bicycle. 


Benelli 302 is also a good beginner bike.


Once they can reach the ground and tip the bike upright, most beginners think that they can handle the motorcycle and underestimate the power it has. I always tell newbies if you can stop a 50cc engine at idle with your hand, then I believe you when you say you can handle the motorcycle, otherwise you can't, and never make the mistake in comparing a bicycle which is pedal power to a motorcycle which has a combustion engine that produces horsepower. 

Respect the bike and it will take care of your riding no matter what size it is. Next is go to riding school and acquire riding skill sets, and not operating instructions. There is a big difference between a rider that knows how to ride and a rider that only knows how to operate. 

Operating a bike is in the manual, while riding a bike takes proper skill sets and technique to keep the bike under control. Having these skill sets will help you develop respect for the bike and when you have respect for the bike; discipline, attitude, and proper mindset will follow and help you survive on the streets.


Kawasaki NINJA 250cc is also a good starter bike.


2. You have to exactly define the level of your riding skills.

There are a few things to consider in defining your riding skills, to be able to do this, you have to do an honest assessment of your knowledge and application in riding. To be able to ride fast or top speed on a straight line does not make you a good rider, as it is only one small part. 

Skills involved to be considered a good rider are dynamic skills, it is in constant evolution because the learning never stops. It includes how well or how fast you can react to a dynamic situation where anything can change within a split second on road situations. To break it down, skill involves how quick you can counter steer  and make the bike go where you want it to go, how quick can you make the bike stop, or how quickly you can determine the correct power, you are giving the bike to safely overtake a car on a two lane street.

In short, the riding skill set is how good your command over the bike is. When you go from 400cc to 1000cc, everything more or less triples. This means three times more power, three times more acceleration, three times more stopping distance, and three times more effort to control the bike . If all of these are already muscle memory for you, then you are ready to consider upgrading to a litre bike.


KTM Duke 390, a recommended intermediate bike.


3. The last and most important factor is confidence. 

To be able to answer this, you need to consider saddle time on all rides, short, long and where it counts, street rides. Every ride , long or short, will go through 3 or 4 towns or cities where hazards and obstacles are always present in human form or machine. This is the time where 90% of accidents happen maybe because of another machine, a human and even an animal. So it is very important that you are able to use your riding skill set that you acquired in time confidently. With all this said and done, you are now ready to upgrade, to  what CC ? It's all up to you. 

Buying a 1000cc bike as your first bike is a recipe for disaster, even upgrading from a 400cc to a 1000cc is a huge step. That's why I would not recommend it normally. But it is also a rider to rider basis. In my case I went from a 250cc to a 750cc because during that time 600cc's were not easy to find. 

But if I had the chance, I would go 250cc to 400cc to 600cc to 750cc then to a 1000cc. I would surely be a better rider than what I Am today in terms of skill set. If the rider thinks he has made most mistakes on his 400cc then yeah go for it, go for the litre bike. But it all boils down to you being in command of your bike, and not the other way around. 


Kawaski H2 a 1000cc super charged sport bike is a recipe for disaster for new riders.


You control the power of your bike because you hold the throttle and the brakes. If you feel scared on a 1000cc, or if you are struggling on a 1000cc, do not upgrade. It has to be your own comfortable decision, so do not decide based on misguided reasons and peer pressure. 

I strongly recommend that beginners learn from a small bike first, trust me, you will learn how to ride quicker. Pricing is also a big factor, learning from a smaller bike is cheaper; cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, cheaper to fix, and on a stop a 200cc Duke 200 can give you a more manageable lean angle compared to a 1000cc ZX10R, when a rider unintentionally tip the bike a little on a stop. Most new riders won't be able to stop a 1000cc bike from tipping over.


Kawasaki ZX14R, NINJA H2, ZX10R, I will not recommend these to newbies, in fact I will tell them to stay away from these bikes.

So, if you are a new rider or even planning to upgrade from a scooter to a bigger bike, do it gradually and properly. I also recommend that you take riding classes from a reputable riding school.

Ride safe. Ride smart. Ride aware. 

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