How Much Power Do You Need

From CycleChaos
Revision as of 19:58, 12 March 2007 by Pi3832 (talk | contribs) (Formatting and added section to fill in later)
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How much power you need in a motorcycle is dependent on what you will be using the motorcycle for, obviously. If you're going to be racing down at the local dragstrip, you'll need as much horsepower as you can possibly afford.

But most folks are only going to be riding on public roads. That's what we'll talk about.

The Minimum

For most riders, and especially beginning riders, all that is needed is enough power to safely ride on public roads. And that really isn't that much power.

A motorcyclist needs to be able to go at least as fast as the cars around him or her, or perhaps a little bit faster. He or she needs enough power to get out of trouble, and to stay out of the way of trouble.

Since motorcycles weigh so much less than automobiles and other vehicles on the road, it doesn't take much in the way of horsepower to have a higher power-to-weight ratio. And the power-to-weight ratio is what determines how quickly a vehicle can accelerate.

Let's call the power-to-weight ratio P2W and define it as horsepower per 100 lbs. (This gives us numbers that are relatively easy to compare.)

P2W: cars vs. motorcycles[1]

The P2Ws for some sutomobiles are[2]:
  • 2007 Nissan Versa (S): 4.49
  • 2007 Toyota Camry (CE): 4.84
  • 2007 Cheverolet Corvette (Z06): 16.12
And the P2Ws for some motorcycles[3]:

As you can see, even a "small" motorcycle can out-accelerate all but the fastest of cars. A motorcycle designed for speed can simply leave them all in the dust.

To ride safely on public roads, almost any street-legal motorcycle has more than enough power.

Advantages of More Power

Dangers of More Power

References and Notes

  1. Note: A variety of makes were referenced. This was not intented to imply that a given make is, in general, faster or slower than another. Rather, it was intended to hopefully correlate to the personal experiences of a wider range of readers.
  2. Data from
  3. 200lbs was added to the published (dry) weights of the motorcycles, to account fluids and for the rider. This wasn't done for the cars, since curb weights are published and the driver's weight is not as significant.