Ask RideApart: What Advantage Does Displacement Bring?

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You ask, we answer, it’s Ask Rideapart. This week: What advantages do you get from buying a bike with a larger engine?

This question comes from Julio in Texas, who writes: “I have a Suzuki TU250x that I bought to learn basic skills and to commute on. Now, I’m looking at moving up in performance and learning more advanced biking. Looking at the Honda CB500f, I noticed that twice the engine size only amounted to about twenty miles per hour more in speed than my TU. So what else is that bigger engine going to do better than my 250?

“Also, unrelated to that question, can you learn advanced skills on an adventure styled bike such as the Honda CB500x in the same way as sport or naked style bikes?”

What do you think, dear readers? What advantage does displacement bring? Find all the responses in the comments section below.

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  • Wes Siler

    Well, I’ve ridden both bikes and while yeah, the TU250X can maybe, just about reach 80mph (downhill, with a tail wind), the CB500F can cruise at 80 all day, totally comfortable and even accelerate in 6th gear at that speed with reasonable urgency. It can haul luggage and a passenger too.

    The TU250X works great from zero up to about 45mph. The 500s work great from zero up to about 85mph and have a top speed of over 100mph.

    As for advanced riding skills? ADV bikes actually make great twisty road bikes. Longer travel suspension does a better job of dealing with real road conditions than tight/short sport bike suspension does. And that upright riding position and wide bars help with vision and control too. You could totally learn advanced skills on the CB500X. We’ve been riding ours pretty hard, wheelies, trail braking, peg dragging, you name it.

    • Tim Ketteridge

      Are you (Ride Apart) doing a feature on the TU250x soon?

      • Wes Siler

        Maybe. We were supposed to have one in right now, but got a little disorganized about picking it up.

        • David

          You can ride mine. Broken in with 4000 miles. I’d love to hear what you have to say. It’s a great bike for what it is. Not so great or what it isn’t. Payments are $70 a month. Insurance is $80 a year. Gas is 9-10 dollars for 250 miles. For a commuter it’s dirt cheap.

        • Stuki

          Can you even get it in CA?

        • Piglet2010

          Will Suzuki ever have GW250 test bikes for the US?

    • Randy Singer

      You can learn advanced skill on any motorcycle. I was a motorcycle training instructor (CMSP/MSF) for about 15 years. For the advanced course, riders used their own motorcycles. Folks showed up with huge cruisers, optioned-out tourers, big sportbikes…everything. All of them were surprised with what they could make their bikes do by the end of the day. (Given some of the bikes, I was often impressed myself.) All that it takes is training and practice.

  • Gordon Pull

    Being on a more powerful bike, especially for commuting reasons, will allow the rider to make traffic decisions easier and quicker and ultimately enable you to get away from those cagers. That TU is revved out and feeling like death while the CB is cruising. Drop a gear on the CB to make a quick lane change or pray that there is a nice tail wind to make the TU’s pass stick. Both bikes will allow you to do illegal speeds, but the drive-ability of the 500 makes it a great upgrade from a 250.

  • William Connor

    There is a diminishing returns on displacement, however when talking a 250 to 500 at double the displacement it’s worth noting that while overall tops speed may not be significant; how it gets there and how it maintains that speed is. Typically with that added cost for displacement comes other upgrades as well. Oftentimes coupled with better brakes, forks, shocks, etc… the advantage in the displacement is the ability to move the added features. AS was said already, carrying capacity for passengers, luggage is greatly increased as well.

    I find the ADV bike to be a great balance of do everything that not only is a great platform to learn all skills on but the fact that it does all of them you want to practice makes it a great bike. Dirt, street, track, slow speed, high speed the bike will do them all.

    • Guy

      I’m with you on displacement, but I’d say Standards/not so sporty naked bikes are the ideal do-it-all since dirt riding isn’t high on my priorities. I think most ADV bikes have a mostly road bias and don’t fare that well in dirt anyway, so again, I’d stick with standards. Also, ADV bikes generally have a pretty tall seat and that makes riding them everyday (especially on crappy city roads) a bit of a chore unless you’re covering a lot of miles and like the extra leg room.

      • CruisingTroll

        The tall seat matter really depends on rider size, and how tall the seat is… with a CB500X, we aren’t talking that much extra height. A R1200 GS Adventurer or a KTM 990, whole ‘nuthah story.

        • Piglet2010

          On the minus side, you do have to be more careful about footing and keeping the bike upright on a tall, heavy bike. On the plus side, you can drop a proper AT bike without breaking anything.

  • Kevin

    I have one bike that’s 1200 ccs and about 150 hp, and one that’s 800 cc and maybe 100 hp. Does the bigger one feel 50% faster? Nope. The VFR800 made me a believer in how more is not necessarily better. I’ve never felt like the VFR didn’t have *enough* power for what I’ve wanted to do. And I’ve ridden with a bunch of guys with VStroms who had no issues keeping up and having fun with their 650cc mills. I would say ride what you love and don’t pay attention to horsepower figures, most of us will never be able to use all of it anyway.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    How about cruisers and classic bikes (Triumphs/Guzzis) with larger displacement engines, but still kind of slow compared to naked and sports bikes? Does moving from a smaller 250CC to one of these make sense?

    • Wes Siler

      That’s a more complicated question as there’s some really terrible motors out there. In general, the idea is that the larger motor will be more relaxed at a given speed and be more able to haul additional weight. ie an 865cc Bonneville pulls pretty much as strong as a 1,200cc Hardly.

      • jonoabq

        And where in the powerband you make adequate torque and horsepower is also an issue, as well as how linear those curves are and where they intersect. If you have a broad relatively flat torque profile that starts in the lower rpms you can utilize it much more often than if it occurs high in the rpm profile and you have to wring your bike’s neck to access it.

        • Piglet2010

          The torque curve on the Bonneville resembles a pool table between 4000 and 7000 rpm – of all the bikes I have ridden with a manual transmission, it has the most accessible power.

          The dyno curve for a stock Sporty 1200 is just odd.

          • Guest

            I ride an SV650 after starting off with a Ninja 500. The difference in power was immediately noticeable. I feel i have more control in the corners than before and I attribute most of that to MOAR POWER. It’s not a whole lot more but that incremental step was enough to help me be a better rider. But it isn’t all about the horsepower, it is the torque that makes the biggest difference. I may never buy an inline 4, ever. I like V-Twins, although inline three’s (like the triumph triple or that new kawasaki) sound like they could be a winner. Power alone doesn’t make you a good rider in my mind, learning how to use it does.

            • Piglet2010

              I prefer parallel twins on a naked bike, since they look better than V-twins.

              I do have a V-twin bike (Honda Dullsville), but of course that bike has all the naughty bits hidden from view.

    • grb

      If by classic bikes you mean classic-style-modern-standard bikes, then I think its a great option to learn and perfect your riding skills, but if by classic you mean prehistoric bikes then I reckon its not a very good idea, worse with cruisers, their only good for what they were designed for, posing, you wont be able to work on your body position sitting like you do on a cruiser, which is essential for the actual activity of riding a motorcycle, so you cant learn nor perfect any basic riding skills on a bike like that. Get a proper bike that handles well, one that can actually corner.

      • Rameses the 2nd

        Yeah. I was mainly talking abour classic style modern standard bikes, like Bonneville.

        • Mark D

          Powerwise you’ll be good to go, but watch the weight. A Bonnie with a full tank of gas weights 500 lbs.

          • Piglet2010

            A Bonnie feels like a tank when you are pushing it out of the garage, but the weight is low and the tires narrow – my “base” Bonnie takes less effort to turn in than the F4i I had.

            • Mark D

              No doubt, but its still a step up from a lightweight like the TU250x. It’ll require a good day practicing in a parking lot to get low-speed maneuvers down.

              • Piglet2010

                I have to disagree – once I got the low-speed brake-torque riding technique down on a pre-gen Ninjette, doing the same on a Bonnie required no adjustment. And the low CG and seat height make it easy to catch the bike if one has to “bail”, unlike certain touring and AT bikes with high seat and high mounted luggage.

                Funny enough, the bike I have to ride that requires the best technique to ride at really low speeds is the TW200, due to the tiny friction zone in the clutch travel – I have unintentionally pulled small wheelies during low speed riding (the engine may be small, but has a huge amount of rotational inertia for its size).

                • Stuki

                  Quit stunting that darned TW, you hooligan; you’re giving responsible motorcyclists a bad rep……

                • Piglet2010

                  I almost put the TW200 through my garage door the first time I rode it. Turned off the ignition, released the clutch, and the bike jumped ahead a couple of feet – the engine takes about a second to stop turning over.

                • 200 Fathoms

                  What, pray tell, is “the low-speed brake-torque riding technique? Is this the “Ride Like a Pro” dude? I need to look into that. Would like to feel more stable on the Bonnie at low speeds.

                • Piglet2010

                  Also called “torque-triangle”. The basis of the technique is hold the clutch in the friction zone, steady throttle at about twice idle speed (maybe 3 times for smaller displacement bike), and control forward speed with the rear brake. The rotating engine works as a gyroscope, keeping the bike steady, and the rider keeps his/her legs against the bike and the upper body inline with the bike. This is the slow riding technique taught at most police riding schools (there is also the counter-weighting technique, where the rider leans against the turn to balance the bike). I had trouble learning to hold a steady clutch and throttle, so I practice by creeping up to red lights and 4-way stops.

                  Should not hurt any bike with a wet clutch in decent condition, or those with a high capacity dry clutch (e.g. BMW boxers, Moto Guzzi), but probably best not done for long on a dry clutch Ducati or similar. It does heat up the engine and brakes, so frequent “breeze outs” should be done if you are practicing your technique.

                  The technique even works on a 108cc scooter with a CVT, but is particularly effective with a large displacement engine that has a heavy crank and flywheel (e.g. H-D police cruiser). And it does work very well on a Modern Classic Bonnie.

            • CruisingTroll

              ?? Why would you push it out of the garage??? I just roll backwards down my driveway.

        • markbvt

          A Bonnie works great as a second bike. It sounds like you’ve started with something smaller, so you shouldn’t have any trouble moving up to the Bonnie. It’s a good-handling bike with more than enough power to cruise on the highway all day, without being twitchy or hard to control.

          • Piglet2010

            I find the Bonnie works even better as a 5th bike. :)

  • Daniel

    I’ll add that the torque that the 500 series brings is very useful around town as well. I almost never HAVE to wring out my F to get around.

  • M0t0Rider

    Along with Displacement….. comes a weight penality in most cases so stronger brakes and better suspension to cope with that weight naturally comes in to play.

    • Stuki

      As well as increased rotational momentum and reciprocating from heavier engine components and longer stroke. For those without rpm allergies, I’d always prefer a smaller engine (probably within reason) for those reasons.

  • grb

    “I noticed that twice the engine size only amounted to about twenty miles per hour more in speed than my TU. So what else is that bigger engine going to do better than my 250?”

    I dont know the difference and characteristics of this two specific engines, but talking engines in general, everything else an engine does is more important and relevant then the its top speed, acceleration, torque, fueling, reliability, etc. etc. etc.

  • John

    Effortlessness, so you can simply enjoy the ride.

  • Fresh Mint

    After about 100 HP – I dont think more power is very useful…. What I start caring about more is torque.
    Torque is a lot more fun than power after 100HP….Who cares if you can do 190 Mph while I can only do 150 – here in LA the nearest/biggest race track to me has a straight i barely hit ~135 on.
    I want more torque to drive out of the corners with.

    About 2-3 years ago i got bored with my 600RR – i was border line about to sell it and pickup a 1000 – then i realized I dont really care about the power, its the torque of the 1000 I wanted, I spent like 200-300$ and geared my bike down and to this day the 600rr is still ‘fast’ enough for me.

    • james

      Ride your bike further and go max it out in montana or some desert? fkn go ride man, just because you stay in the city doesnt mean the real riders do.

      • Piglet2010

        “Real riders” – you have ego issues connected with riding a motorcycle?

        • james

          no im just saying there are two types of rider, the kind that bought a bike mostly because it was a cheaper and faster way to get to work, and those that bought one to expand their life and experience the world through the fun and awesomeness that a bike brings.

          One group ride motorcycles, the other group are riders, to them motorcycling is a life style not just a way to get to work cheaply, it is so much more. The bond between a rider and his bike is like a soldier and his rifle.

          There are no ego issues mate thats just the way it is. i wouldnt expect a city rider to understand, if they did, they wouldnt just be a city rider.

          • Piglet2010

            Oh please – all this motorcycle “lifestyle” stuff has everything to do with group conformity, and nothing to do with riding.

            Commuting *every* day with a bunch of incompetent cagers is more real riding than anything else.

            • james

              Ok bro keep telling yourself that, i commute every day on my bike through a bunch of incompetent cagers in a very busy city. I also take it out every weekend for a group fast ride through local twisty roads, covering about 4-600 kilometers each ride, then maybe once every two or three months i will take it out for a big ride probably 2-4000+ kilometers of touring through extremely remote backroads, often riding solo, maybe with one or two other bikes.

              I can tell you, the commuting part of all that is the least interesting, not sure where you got group conformity from because i normally ride by myself and for myself, but like i said, i wouldnt expect a commuter to understand what its like to really ride.

              Let me know when you really start riding and lets see if you still think commuting is the best part of it….

              • Piglet2010

                See you are still into calling others less than real riders, so no point in continuing this discussion.

                • james

                  Yeah its normally a good idea to give up on your argument once you have lost the debate

                • Piglet2010

                  Declaring that you have won the debate, is a sure sign you have lost it. :)

                • james

                  Maybe, but the odometer readings on my bikes says otherwise.

  • Phil Mills

    Plain top speed is pretty much a non-issue unless you’re incredibly foolish or a dedicated track-day junkie.

    What displacement/power really buys the rest of us for day-to-day use (IMO) is “authority” at freeway/interstate speeds.

    My first bike was a ’99 BMW F650 – ~40hp 650cc single. It was absolutely great… right up until I’m on the interstate in 75-80mph traffic. At that point it was basically out of juice in top gear – if I wanted to pass somebody, it was going to have to be with some planning,a downshift and a really healthy buffer zone. That meant if I had to do put on some speed in an emergency, it probably wasn’t going to happen quickly enough.

    My current bike is a Yamaha FJR1300. 1300cc inline-4 pushing 140hp, 90+ftlbs. With that much available power, it doesn’t matter WHAT gear I’m in if I need to go faster on the freeway. If I need it, it’s there.

    It also buys me the ability to get up into the Rockies without being relegated to the slow lane on every uphill stretch – altitude gains mean power losses. If you’ve only got 30 or 40 HP to start with, those losses are going to matter quickly (doubly-so with the carburetor the F650 had – yay for fuel-injection).

    • El Isbani

      I noticed some popular dual sport have carburetors, I’ve been wondering where that might be felt. That’s interesting that you notice the loss of power being a mountain-dweller. Wonder what are the pluses of that kind of fuel system, as there are some pretty cool bikes out there with carbs.

      • Phil Mills

        You’ll notice that many popular DS/ADV bikes are pretty old-school in general – ugly as sin (KLR650), minimal stock electronics, engines that are antique by many standards… but robust designs, inexpensive, eminently repairable and highly modifiable.

        Carbs fit right in to that mindset. Cheaper, tweakable, field-repairable/replaceable by any mechanic this side of Mongolia, fairly bullet-proof once you have them set “right”. If something goes wrong, it’s something you can touch, adjust, fix and/or throw off the mountain to make yourself feel better. Fuel Injection systems are mystery boxes of magical smoke – not much you can do at those if it breaks except curse and start pushing (not that they’re likely to break, mind you – it’s all a mind-set thing).

        I’m not saying you can’t get a carb’d bike to do well in altitude. Mine was a lot better once I had a real shop work it over, but I feel that if you’re doing 5-8000′ elevation changes on your day’s ride, then a fuel-injected bike can adapt that a lot better since it *knows* how much O2 is available.

        • Phil Mills

          Late edit: I’m talking trying to keep up on I-70 when I’m talking about having issues in the Rockies.

          Get off the interstate and get the speed down and she was a lot happier – the same big-bore choppers I couldn’t keep up with on I-70 were loud noises in my rear-views when we got to the passes and switchbacks.

        • Mark D

          You can tweak your carbs in the mountains if you know what you’re doing. My EX500 was running rough in CO too, but something as small as adjusting the pilot screws to make it run “leaner” helped a lot. With a few spare jets and an old air-head, you’d never have any problems.

          • CruisingTroll

            Right. But, that’s not going to do you much good at all when you live in Pasadena and decide to ride the Angeles Crest Highway. 7,000 feet of elevation difference, 20 miles or so miles…. A bike that is dedicated to living within a narrow (2,000 feet or so) elevation range can happily be carbed. For somebody that will routinely face a much greater elevation range, Fuel Injection becomes a great friend. Not saying the carbed bike won’t work, simply that it will suffer much more outside of whatever its “happy zone” is.

  • Bones Over Metal

    The biggest difference that displacement brings is how much you twist your wrist.
    on a small 250 you probably have the throttle twisted all the way open a lot of the time. The bigger the engine is the less you have to twist the throttle to get the same response.

    So on any large displacement bike on public roads you will probably never twist the throttle much past half way, and if you do it won’t be for long.

    Sometimes riding a slow bike fast is more fun and engaging than a bike that will hit triple digits in first gear on the rear wheel.

    • El Isbani

      Ha, that’s true. Even truer as a newb because I stay w/ the throttle pinned back and feel like a bad @zz, right up till I notice the cars piling behind me!

      • FastPatrick

        Ignore them. You’re still having more fun.

    • Piglet2010

      If you like to ride with the throttle wide open, I recommend a 150cc or smaller scooter.

  • FastPatrick

    Displacement is flexibility. Take it a step away from bikes and think about cars: A good capable classicist GT car – a BMW, a Mercedes, an old Maserati – tends to have a sizable motor. In the same way, a Yamaha FJR or a Gold Wing or one of the new CB1100s has ample swept volume to make things more manageable in many situations.

    Pure speed is one thing, but displacement covers a broader spectrum. A powerplant with a good bit of displacement can face uphill climbs with greater authority, can lean on torque instead of calling for constant gear-lever dancing, can manage heavier loads, can feel more relaxed and understressed when on the move.

    This isn’t even about the insane power of a Hayabusa or Panigale, although that’s definitely there (in abundance and possibly to excess). This is about just having a machine with a sense of deep capability, something that does what you want it to do. That’s what was so earthshaking about the original Honda CB750: it was just that much more capable.

    I’m not that kind of speed junkie (yet). I intend to get the first CB500F that shows up at the local dealer, who pleads some sort of supply problem. But after a bit of experience, something with a bit more in reserve makes sense.

    • TheBoatDude

      I think your point does bring up the question of “how much is enough?” Now – some folks will always go with more is better and some of those folks will have the skills to handle the increased power that goes with big displacement. Contrarily, I’ve heard of guys “upgradign” to bigger bikes, but wind up riding slower (ostensibly, because the step change in horsepower scared the piss out of them, but they’re not talking).

      • FastPatrick

        Very true, but it sort of depends on what that displacement is doing. I’m trying to think past straight Superbike some is good/more is better/too much is just enough to go as fast as possible applications here. (Am also a huge believer in starting small regardless, so this is more about moving on to broader possibilities. And I loathe the peer-pressure motivation to quickly get to something stupid-fast at all costs.)

        Displacement is fun to consider because it can go so many different ways. One of the great things about the new CB1100 is that it’s got significant displacement, but is tuned for broad usability instead of hyper aggression. Or consider the necessity of a big motor for a BMW GS moving something that big and heavy (and likely well-loaded) with strength and grace.

        There’s also the Triumph Rocket III, but I guess that’s its own thing if not some sort of philosophical end point to the whole discussion. (That would be the 502-inch Boss Hoss.)

        So like so much else in life, it’s part what you got and part how you use it.

    • james

      Not that what your saying is innacurate but considering you dont even ride yet im assuming? and when you do it will be on a CB500F maybe its a bit stupid to go around giving advice. Here is a tip, if you dont ride a bike, dont talk, just listen, you probably dont know what your on about.

      • Piglet2010

        I weigh 17 stone, and my experience says a Ninja 250 is adequate for freeway use, and a TW200 is not. For lighter riders the single cylinder, liquid cooled 250cc bikes from Honda and Kawasaki may be fine (the WR250R/X are of course fine), while the air-cooled 250cc bikes will be very marginal on faster roads.

    • Jordan

      This is a really well written perspective and I think there are a lot of instances in motorcycling that prove what you are trying to say.

      One of the major attributes of the FZ-09 isn’t that it makes abundantly more power than a typical 600cc Super Sport or Street Triple, but its road friendly powerband supported by its larger displacement. Four cylinder liter bikes from the nineties and early 2000s made around twenty-thirty less peak horsepower than today’s models due to less bore and more stroke, but no one really seemed to mind because the 750s were the Superbike kings back then and the 1000s gave you a still-well handling bike with more grunt. In MotoGP, it would seem the racers prefer the 990 and 1000 cc displacements than the 800cc era because the power delivery was much smoother and predictable, yet there wasn’t some monumental shift in peak horsepower. The new ZX-6R didn’t get a massive boost in its output when you just look at numbers, but dynographs show how much more easy the bike is to live with compared to its direct rivals thanks to those extra few cubes.

      And if you really need any more evidence that more displacement isn’t a bad thing, take a look at all the XR1200 flat track bikes. The lazy power delivery and predictable torque spread makes them ideal for the conditions where racing traditionally lives in a world where bleeding edge technology reigns supreme in other disciplines of motor sports. At the DTX level, it would seem four stroke motocross bikes are favored 10:1 to their two stroke equivalent and you can probably imagine why given the subject matter of this blurb.

      And really, there isn’t an absolute, black and white gospel to how bikes should be engineered and ridden, just either finding the right tool for the job or taking what you have and making the most out of it for where you are riding. Maybe bikes intended for racing isn’t speaking in the same context of your post, but I think it goes to show it isn’t the displacement that defines an engine’s characteristics but its actual delivery of power. However, if someone intends to one-up Nick Sanders by crossing the globe on a TZ250, please be sure to film the results.

      • Piglet2010

        Uh, the H-D flat-tracker is the XR-750, not the XR1200. And the AMA has always bent over backwards in the post WW2 era to give H-D the advantage in racing; e.g. Buell got to run an 1125cc Rotax built Helicon DOHC, 4-valve/cylinder V-Twin against 600cc Japanese I-4 engines in Super-Sport.

        • Jordan

          You’re right, my mistake, I edited it.

          The year the Buell competed in the Daytona Sportbike class, Danny Eslick won the championship by five points against runner up, Josh Herrin on the Graves R6. If Herrin had collected points at Barber and Infineon races 2 and 1 respectively, then he probably would of won the championship from Eslick. Martin Cardenas was 47 points back by the end of the championship and had four races he hadn’t collected points from. I’m not going to pour over the rulebook for the class’s allowances for power/weight ratios, but the Ducati 848 and the Aprilia RSV1000R (the V-Twin bike) competed in the class as well. I don’t really think these facts makes Harley out to be the villain here, especially going back over the race time sheets, it doesn’t look like the Buell had an unfair advantage over any other bike. If anything, I think DMG was trying to incorporate the then defunct Formula Xtreme class and previous allowances for the Superbike class into the the Sport Bike class… with mixed results.

          I also don’t see how this changes the fact that the XR750 has won so many flat track championships or makes it a successful machine. I guess you could argue the banning of Kenny Roberts TZ750 might support some bias towards H-D, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch when the mechanic who helped build the Yamaha supported its banning.

          … I mean, even Valentino Rossi owns an XR.

        • CruisingTroll

          Not simply the “AMA bending over backwards” for H-D. FIMA does the same, albeit not to the same extent, with Ducati and Honda and Aprilia and KTM and Triumph and MV Agusta and ….. Huh?!?!????

          Engine displacement limits by class simply allow large displacements as cylinder count goes down. Which is why you see a 1199cc V-Twin Ducati racing against 1,000cc I-4s, 675cc Triumph triples going up against 750-850cc Ducs and 600cc Japanese I-4s.

          • Piglet2010

            OK, if we have 600cc I-4 and 675cc I-3 in Super-Sport, and 1000cc I-4 and 1200cc V-2 in Super-Bike and keep the same ratios to fill in the gaps, we end up with 725cc V-2 in Super-Sport*, not 1125cc.

            *And 1125cc I-3 in Super-Bike (attention Mr. Bloor).

            • CruisingTroll

              FIMA and AMA’s #1 goal when setting their rules is safety. Not impacted by the “Hog pass”. #2 goal is butts in seats. That means competitive racing that fans will care about. Which is why the Hog Pass existed, and why 2 strokes are gone. Most fans can’t relate to 2 strokes, but American fans can relate to H-D based bikes.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Personally, anything over 600 is just overhead allowing you to be a lazy shifter. As Wes stated a pillion is where you will notice the need for more grunt, specifically, a small bike will need much different clutch feed/throttle when you switch from one up to two up. So if you do that transition often, you learn to appreciate how the larger displacement usually brings torque and a more forgiving clutch takeup. Of course there are bikes over 700 lbs., and those won’t show much difference with a 100 lb. girlfriend.

    So what are the downsides to displacement? While it’s far from a hard fast rule, all other things being equal, more displacement usually bring a fuel efficiency penalty, but all other things are usually not equal, and you have to research each bike if mileage matters to you ( is a great resource )

    500 & 600s are great, and some marques use 750s and 800s as detuned, less buzzy, equivalents.

    I think the thing you’re more likely to notice coming off a 250 single to a 500 twin is the smoothness of the engine. Single’s, aka thumpers, are notoriously vibey. Parallel twins less so if they have a balancing shaft, but the exhaust note and feel is still often pop-pop-poppy, when you compare them to a 500cc or 600cc four cylinder, or 675cc or 800cc three cylinder. V Twins somewhere in between.

    My Ah-Ha moment was stepping off of my first bike XS-650 parallel (aka vertical) twin to a CBR F2. Like tractor to sewing machine, and not in a bad way. Now I ride a 675 triple and a GT550 2 stroke triple, for super smooth motor you’d find on a 4 cylinder, coupled with the torque normally found on a twin or single.

  • Darin

    Sell the Suzuki and get a ninja 300, it will smoke both the TU 250 and the CB500F, and it will outhandle both of them as well. its not much more in cost either.. The displacement of a bike doesn’t make much real world difference if its a good overall bike in general.. I have owned many bikes of different displacements, currently I ride a 2013 Triumph Street Triple R that I enjoy riding on the street more than my Ducati 1199. Its half the displacement and about 60 horsepower less than the Ducati, but overall the bike is such a cohesive package that for street riding its better than the 1199. For serious track riding its a different story even though the Triumph is no slouch there either. The way riding a good bike makes you feel is a very subjective thing that goes beyond numbers and spec sheets and affects you emotionally.

    • Wes Siler

      That couldn’t be less true. While the Littlest Ninja is a decent handler, it’s incredibly buzzy at freeway speeds and horrendously uncomfortable. The 500s are far more flexible and much more able to handle stuff like carrying a passenger or climbing a mountain.

    • LS650

      A Ninja 300 will ‘smoke’ a CB500f?

  • David

    I ride a Tux everyday between 50 and a hundred miles. Sure keeping it in the right gear helps, but I’ve not been in one situation where I wanted a bigger bike or rather, needed a bigger bike. It handles well, commuting is a dream, and I just took it through the Gorge yesterday. I am getting a bigger bike soon, because I WANT a bike that fits my riding style better. Has better brakes, has ABS, can handle rain better, and as more technology. I bought it because I thought I was going to cafe it, and because it gets 75 miles to the gallon no matter how I ride it. I have ridden it at 80 for long stretches, and even hit 90. If you want to go faster, this is not the bike. The rear is drum brakes, single disc upfront, and there is ZERO technology. Wire wheels, small lean angle, and doesn’t brake well. That’s why I want a different bike. That and my ego. The acceleration may not be great, but for a commuter it is awesome. Most people I know buy too much bike. I pass sport bikes and 1000ccs all the time. Because they’re too afraid of dying to do much else than hang on. And everyone else I know with a bigger, faster bike crashed this summer. Some of them will never ride again. Because of their injuries. The TUX is a great bike, beginner or not. Tired of this website putting it down. I love Ride Apart. But the bias towards the TUX should end. Especially when you guys love cyclewerks, a bike that is just as slow but poorly made.

    • Piglet2010

      I weigh 17 stone, and can do stoppies on a TU250X, so the brakes are adequate.

      But of course, the TU250X is more bike than one really needs – I did 90 miles through the country for the heck of after work today on an Elite 110. ;)

      • David

        I want to try, but my 250lbs is scared. Lol. I can do power slides. And on special days wheelies. You sir are amazing.

        • Piglet2010

          Well, not really – I just squeezed really hard during braking drills.

    • El Isbani

      Speaking of brakes, just rode the TUX 25 miles in stinging rain thru country roads, not that I wanted to, it just wouldn’t stop raining and I had to get home. Soaking wet, but a super good time nonetheless. Just as glad I didn’t have to really test those brakes.

  • Paolo

    No replacement for displacement!

  • Andrew Karmy

    Displacement is equivalent the ultimate luxury, effortlessness. I have a 225cc bike to commute around town it is fun to wring it’s neck, so long as I don’t have to pass with any authority over say… 45mph. Compare this existence to when, I got a chance to ride a 1200GS. What once took careful planning, gear selection, and a downhill run, is now a 1/4 turn of throttle and a hooligan’s grin. It’s a different kind of riding all together. But one that I could get used to very quickly…

  • Brett Lewis

    Wouldn’t the best way to see what advantages there are to pure increased displacement be; to compare 2 bikes that are basically identical save for the size of the motor? The GSXR 600/750 is good example. There are at least a couple of middle-weight sportbike comparos online that include both bikes. Also there are the Harley Sportsters 883/1200.

  • Joel Ness

    After riding an SV650, riding anything with smaller displacement seems trivial. I ride the SV after starting off with a Ninja 500. The difference in power was immediately noticeable. I feel i have more control in the corners than before and I attribute most of that to MOAR POWER. It’s not a whole lot more but that incremental step was enough to help me be a better rider. But it isn’t all about the horsepower, it is the torque that makes the biggest difference. I may never buy an inline 4, ever. I like V-Twins, although inline three’s (like the triumph triple or that new kawasaki) sound like they could be a winner. Power alone doesn’t make you a good rider in my mind, learning how to use it does.

  • kcavaliere

    I recently downsized to a Honda CBR250R ABS and I’m having a great time with it. I’ve never owned anything bigger than a 750cc. Unless I get a cruiser (not a chance), they’re a bit too big and heavy for my compact size.

    A modern 250cc though 500cc, will get you where you’re going quick enough. You learn a lot about riding when you actually have to work it a bit to be be quick and smooth.

    • Piglet2010

      Yep. Same reasons I downsized to a Ninja 250R for my track-day bike.

  • CruisingTroll

    “Now, I’m looking at moving up in performance and learning more advanced biking. Looking at the Honda CB500f,
    I noticed that twice the engine size only amounted to about twenty
    miles per hour more in speed than my TU. So what else is that bigger
    engine going to do better than my 250?”

    Welcome to the tyranny of aerodynamic drag. The faster you go, the more ADDITIONAL energy it takes to go even faster. I can’t remember if the drag squares with velocity or if it’s some other NON-linear relationship, so doubling displacement and/or horsepower and/or torque does NOT get you twice as much speed.

    What a bigger engine will do better is generally get you UP to a given speed quicker, allow you to haul yourself and someone else quicker/faster, and go faster. Plus, a bigger engine MAY have more cylinders, which allows the engineers to build a smoother engine. The downside to a bigger engine is more cost, usually more complexity, more weight, and uses more fuel.

    • Piglet2010

      The force of aerodynamic drag increases with the square of the speed, so the power requirement to overcome the drag increases with the cube of the speed. Rolling resistance coefficient can be considered constant with speed in most cases, so the power requirement to overcome it increases linearly with speed.

  • Piglet2010

    Try Iowa – 70 mph speed limit, 3% grades typical, frequent wind in the 20 mph range, and altitudes in the 600 to 900 feet MSL range. But yeah, I would want more than a Ninja 250R if I was riding up Loveland Pass every day.

    But I did ride nearly 20 miles today on 65 mph rural expressway on my Elite 110, which is governed at 50 mph and sags down to 45 mph or so uphill on a 3% grade. :)

  • Joe Bielski

    I’ve recently sold my first bike, the GZ250 which is basically a cruiser version of this bike and got myself an ole’ Ninja 500. It took some getting used to and quite a bit of parking lot practice to get the slow speed maneuvers, emergency braking and collision avoidance down but the jump in horsepower is GREAT. The GZ250 had about 18hp and this Ninja has roughly 50hp(?) and is still pretty light. It’s great being able to go on longer highway trips and not have to sit in the slow lane watching my rear views for traffic coming up on my butt (I can finally cruise over 115kph without the bike screaming bloody murder and shaking like Miley’s twerkin’ @ss). That being said, I LOVED, loved, LOOOOVED my little GZ. It was so quick and maneuverable in the city, where I do most of my commuting. If I could have afforded keeping them both, I totally would have…. *tears rolling down my face*

  • Thomas

    Here’s my TUX. I made some mods to it. Changed the front sprocket, power commander, and bigger tires. The sprocket and bigger tires lowers the RPM at 75-80. I can keep up with my friends DRZ400SM in twisties.. but he is probably just being slow to not make me feel bad lol.

    • Mark D

      Cool little bikini faring.

  • DucMan

    I absolutely LOVE my Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. With “only” 650cc she gets the job done. The only times I wished for the 1000cc version was while traveling on I-10 in west Texas on a hot day. With the speed limit at 80mph, fighting a head wind, with three Givi cases, at 2,000 ft above sea level, on an uphill incline, trying to pass an 18 Wheeler, on a 105 degree day, the 1000cc machine would have been safer, and more fun.

    Everywhere else, I will take the 650 with 55mpg and lighter handling.

    Two schools of thought: “Lean & Mean” or “Gimme the biggest engine I can get”

    One is better most of the time, and the other is better some of the time.

    Everything is a compromise.

  • Jeremy Alvarado

    i ride 2 up on my CB500F all the time and never have any problems getting around..