Motorcycle Basics: 5 Facts Every Rider Should Know

No matter what kind of motorcycle your ride, or how long you’ve been riding, you should know these 5 fundamental motorcycle facts! Test your knowledge below: 

5 Basic Motorcycle Facts Every Rider Should Know.

Real Power: Engine Displacement v.s. Horsepower

Motorcycle engine size (or “displacement”)  is typically expressed in terms of cubic centimeters (CCs). The cubic centimeter measurements refer to the total volume of air and fuel being pushed through the engine by the cylinders. The higher the number of CC’s that a bike has, the larger the engine size — but this does not necessarily mean that it has more power.  

Engine configuration, fuel injection, bike weight, and more factor into the actual horsepower output of a motorcycle. For example, the Honda CB600F (600cc’s) has a maximum output of about 100hp, while the Harley Davidson Fab Bob (1,745cc) has a maximum output of about 82.3hp despite having over twice the displacement.

How Weight Displacement Affects Handling

When it comes to handling, total weight isn’t as important as weight placement. Older bikes tend to have higher centers of gravity, making them feel less stable at low speeds. For example,  four-cylinder motors initially were installed in a more upright position, over time manufacturers began sloping them forward to lower weight. Today, modern four-cylinder motors are almost laying flat. 

Most modern bikes will have a low center of gravity, though some types, like Dual Sports, and some models like the Suzuki V-Strom, and still labeled as “top-heavy.” Ultimately good clutch and throttle control can overcome most weight displacement concerns. 

The Truth About Anti-Lock Braking (ABS)

There are 2 very distinct types of riders when it comes to ABS — those that love it, and those that hate it.  

ABS stands for “anti-lock braking system,” and it works by using speed sensors on both wheels to determine when the wheel is about to “lock up” (slide) during past-threshold braking, causing a dangerous loss of stability and traction. On an ABS bike, the braking hydraulic pressure flows through an ABS module-controlled pump with solenoid valves. The valves can open and close quickly, creating a “skid” braking effect which increases traction, brake application precision, and overall stability. 

In the early days of its development, ABS was unfortunately not as reliable or accurate as it has since become (causing many people not to trust it). Today ABS technology has advanced past those problems, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), ABS function was associated with a 31% reduction in the rate of fatal motorcycle crashes. 

Maintenance + Repair Differences by Model

At some point every motorcycle needs to be worked on, whether you’re repairing after a crash or simply customizing your bike or changing the oil. Motorcycle maintenance ease and part availability will vary greatly between brands. For example, rear fairing for a Honda CB600F may cost $50.00 USD, while on for a Ducati Panigale could cost closer to $800. 

Additionally, some bikes may be much easier to work on than others. Metric carbureted bikes like Hondas or Suzukis can be great “starter” bikes for the mechanically inclined or at-home mechanic, while more complex or high-end models like Harleys or BMWs may require you to drop off the bike at a dealership for maintenance and repairs. 

The Effects of Body Positioning 

Image: The Bike Market

Motorcycle body positioning is one of the most variable things about riding. Some riders feel more comfortable upright in a bicycle position, while others feel more at ease sitting further back in a more traditional cruiser seat. Typically as your body positioning becomes more aggressive (forward) the fork rake angle of the bike decreases. This means the bike will have “faster” steering, turning more quickly under you. 

Different body positions can change your ability to move with the bike and can stress different body parts as well. For example, aggressive positioning like most sportbikes feature can be uncomfortable for long distances, while most cruiser or touring positions aren’t suited to dual sport or ADV rides.

Having a good foundation in motorcycling knowledge is key to making good choices, staying safe, and enjoying the ride. Every rider, regardless of age or experience, should always be striving to continue to learn. 

Check out our Top Safety Drills and Best Motorcycle Safety Gear blogs for more crucial riding information, and sign up below to get great motorcycling content like this and product news delivered straight to your inbox! 

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