600cc Vs 1000cc Motorcycles

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At some point in life, you’ll be faced with the age-old dilemma: 600cc vs. 1000cc motorcycle. You’ll need to know the facts. You’ll need the truth. Here it is.

Now before you begin leaning towards an answer based on stereotype, ego, or caveman virility, let’s start with a clean slate. We are tossing aside the “bigger is better” American-culture ideal and any preconceived notions of what you believe a 600cc vs. 1000cc machine is to you. If this is your first foray into this debate, I want to enlighten you with facts and experience, not what your co-worker Buck has told you over a beer after work.

The difference between a 600cc motorcycle and a 1000cc is more than just horsepower. The answer depends on context: your personality, preference, and lifestyle. Most importantly, you need the right information, or your choice may ultimately cost you.

The 600 vs. 1000 debate is an old one dating back before the Civil War. Ok, maybe not that far back, but it feels like a Civil War when discussing it among friends. If you’re not careful, the winner of which is better can be based on narcissistic tendencies fueled by the incredible power that propels not only the back tire but your ego as well. When giving into this cultural phenomenon of “more” you may leave in the dust the actual enjoyment of your ride. You could limit the experience. Read on to find out why.

I’ve owned a 250cc, 450cc, 600cc, 1188cc, and 1284cc bike. Each one had its own unique personality, and my experience with each one was never based on power. It was based on context. Yes, today, I wouldn’t be as thrilled on my 250, but I was back in the day. It was enough. Today, my life has the context of a family with children, and until they are out of the house, I limit my risks. Your context will answer this 600cc vs 1000cc question, but I’m willing to bet it won’t be based purely on power. If you’re a beginner, or interested in trying something new, you’ll want to base your decision on my research of the best bike sites, forums, spec sheets, and thirty years of experience tearing up the asphalt on the two-wheeled monsters that I consider dear friends.

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What is a 600cc Engine?

Depending on the type of engine: single vs. twin-cylinder, the 600cc will produce between 55 to 80 Horsepower. The more efficient motors that belong to the sportbike family often have 4-cylinder engines and can reach between 80 to 130 HP. For instance, an SWM Super-Dual X has 54 Horsepower, a Suzuki GSXR 600 has 104, a Honda CBR600RR has 113, a Kawasaki ninja ZX6R tops out at 127 HP.

Cubic capacity or “CC” refers to the amount of volume in the engine’s chamber. You measure this by measuring the cylinder to find its displacement which is called Bore and Stroke. The more capacity in the piston chamber, the more air and gas can be compressed and ignited to create the piston’s power.

The 600cc engine has the potential for creating different units of power depending on the number of pistons, angle of pistons, and other dynamic forces. This is all measured by horsepower which mathematically, is the force needed to move 550 lbs one foot in one second. Torque is measured by the amount of force needed to twist something a certain distance from its axis of rotation. The torque (twisting motion) of the engine is multiplied by the RPM (revolutions per minute) of the engine and then divided by 5,252 to give you the horsepower.

What is a 1000cc Engine?

Keeping in mind the above formulas for measuring horsepower, the 1000cc engine will have a greater capacity or volume in the cylinder for more air and fuel to be compressed. The Bore and Stroke will be greater and more horsepower will be produced. While the weight remains nearly the same with only a 6% difference, the 1000cc engine is 68% larger which produces 78% more torque than the 600cc. That’s quite a difference. It’s enough to lift your front tire off the pavement with a quarter twist of the throttle and can leave you on your back in a heartbeat.

The 1000cc motorcycle with a twin-engine can produce 80 - 100 horsepower and a 4-cylinder engine can produce 180 to 310 horsepower of pure racing speed. Some examples of this size of engine displacement are an Indian Scout Sixty which has 78 horsepower, a Yamaha YZF-R1 which has 197 horsepower, a BMW S1000RR which has 207 horsepower, a Honda CBR1000RR which has 214 horsepower, and a Kawasaki H2R: 310 horsepower which is not street legal and can reach speeds of over 240 MPH.

600cc vs. 1000cc Power Differences

As you’ve seen above, the measurement of overall torque and power is quite different. But what does that difference feel like? What riding experience do you expect when making this critical decision between the two engines?

Many people like the larger engine for everyday riding around town because there is less shifting due to more low-down torque. In fact, you can hit 90 MPH in first gear on some 1000cc bikes. Whether it’s laziness or enjoying the feeling of almost unlimited power in low gears, many prefer the larger engine even at lower speeds. By the way, that same feeling of less shifting can be experienced on a gearless electric motorcycle that is equipped with a twist-and-go throttle.

Others prefer the actual shifting experience of a motorcycle. Running through the gears with the sound, the feel, and the graduated movement of the engine is something many look forward to on their bike. So you have to ask yourself: do you like the traditional biking experience? Wasting gears because of a surplus of power isn’t a traditional biking experience. You’ll have to know yourself well to know what kind of riding experience you want.

Of course, the obvious issue at hand is the surplus power you will have at your disposal. In my opinion, unless you are a professional biker, you will never experience the full capacity of the power you own … certainly not tooling around town. If you are legally commuting, pleasure-cruising, or even spirited riding down a back road, you won’t need half your gears. If you find private property or a track to really open up the bike’s true potential, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. It takes years of practice, experience, and training to harness this type of unleashed chaos under your seat. From the front wheel lifting to coming out of a corner too wide, the possibility of ending your ride in a hospital room or worse is real.

Even the 600cc engined bike is too fast for the normal US highway when revving up to maximum power. Unless you’re on a track, you’ll never hit 7000 RPMs in high gear and feel this engine’s full power. At 4000 RPM in an upper gear on a 1000cc bike, you’re way past the speed limit. The point is that you have to be willing to use great restraint on a 1000cc which is more difficult than it sounds. It would be necessary to find private roads or track raceways to open it up fully. And this can be very, very dangerous to the novice or even the fairly experienced rider.

So the question remains: how much power do you really need and how much power are you willing to waste?

600cc vs 1000cc Handling Differences

Even though the 1000cc bike will leave the 600cc bike in its rearview mirror on a straight light, it doesn’t mean that the bigger motorcycle will win in a race. Handling is vital for the professional track. Unless you race for a living, the ability to lean into a corner and accelerate out of the turn will always be easier on a 600cc. It’s a lighter more nimble bike. Confidence will be higher and your lean-ins will be smoother and faster. You’ll also be able to open it up sooner coming out of the turn without fear of lifting a wheel or spinning out and laying the bike down.

When cornering, the 600cc will turn in at a higher speed and use that momentum throughout the turn, while a 1000cc rider will need to cut speed earlier, turn sharper and then use the torque to accelerate hard coming out of the corner to make up the difference.

My personal dilemma on the 1000cc was always how much to push. It has scary speed. While we all want to experience that at least once in a lifetime, the risk is high. I’m not sure that I’ll ever need to do it twice because I know past a certain speed, recovery from a racing calamity is not a certainty. Only a very small percentage of riders will have the training and skill to out-ride the 1000cc bike.

Factors like bike height and weight, tire type, and style of the bike have a lot to do with the handling of your machine, but for the majority of riders, the 600cc will outperform the 1000cc around corners and the multitudes of road changes that riders experience.

600cc vs. 1000cc Price

Sometimes the decision between the two bikes comes down to a purely practical one. Are you willing to spend the money on ccs that you may only use once or twice? The price comparison isn’t off-the-charts ridiculous, but the thousands you’ll save on a 600cc may be better spent on aftermarket accessories or trips to more challenging riding experiences across this beautiful country.

Here are some real-world price differences:

Honda CBR600RR: $12,800        Honda CBR1000RR: $16,800        Difference: 32%

Yamaha R6: $12,200                Yamaha R1: $17,400                        Difference: 36%

Suzuki GSX-R600: $11,400        Suzuki GSX-R1000R: $17,700        Difference: 38%

600cc vs. 1000cc Enjoyment

When comparing the two bikes over mountain passes, busy city streets, and on back country roads, there is something compelling about going through the gearshifts. I’m sorry, but it’s just a lot more fun for me to feel the engine move through the gears when needed. The unbridled power of the 1000cc almost becomes boring in slower passes and city riding.

Another way of putting it is that it’s more fun to ride a smaller bike fast than a larger one slow.

A motorcycle is supposed to engage you, and underutilizing a massive engine feels like wasted energy and a wasted experience with less energy and less overall enjoyment of the bike.

When you do get the opportunity to open it up and really fly, the adrenalin pump is like no other. Everything you hope for from a powerful engine is there. But unless you want to make a career in bike racing, it takes a lot of training and skill to do it consistently without fearing loss of life and limb. I might suggest renting a bike for that heart-stopping experience, and then living with the one that you can get the most out of day to day. For me, speed is not a weekly hobby that I demand on a weekly basis. As I said, once was enough for me.

About THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Rathbun

Benjamin Rathbun

Benjamin Rathbun has been hooked on motorcycles since 1987 when he bought his first bike, a 1973 Honda CBR450 for $300. Since then he has been through countless bikes and continued his two-wheeled hobby passing it down to his 21-year-old son who rides with him on the weekends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Benjamin believes that nothing clears the mind faster than flying 26 inches above the asphalt on his Harley-Davison.

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