There are lots of different motorcycles out there, with lots of different styles, colors, and features. When choosing a bike as a beginner, it’s best to try and gain a full understanding of the engine size that’s right for you, especially if you’re choosing between a 300cc and 600cc motorcycle.
I’d recommend starting with a 300cc motorcycle over a 600cc bike if you’re a beginner. If you’ve got some experience though, you may find the power that a 600cc motorcycle provides is worth the bigger size and higher price point. It will largely come down to personal preference.
There are a lot of factors to evaluate when choosing a motorcycle, as well as a lot of riding differences between bikes with smaller and bigger engine sizes. I’ll go through some of these things below, specifically discussing how they should help you choose between a 300cc and a 600cc motorcycle.
300cc motorcycles are best for beginners. The smaller size of the engine makes it much easier to start riding on a 300cc. These motorcycles also tend to be lighter, which makes them easier for beginner riders to pick up and ride. Let’s go a bit more in depth on why weight and engine size matter for beginners.
Not all 600cc bikes are going to be heavier than all 300cc bikes, but most of them are. Simply put, there’s just more engine mass. In fact, for many motorcycles, the primary source of weight on the bike is actually the engine. Many motorcycle frames are relatively light.
A motorcycle is more or less the minimum amount of engineering required to get an engine to work in a vehicle. They are usually simple and without excess comforts like the doors, air conditioning, and heated seats that cars offer. Engines are necessary and heavy, so they comprise a large percent of the weight of a bike.
While occasionally you may be able to find 300cc bikes that are heavier than 600cc bikes, these examples are few and far between. The general rule of thumb is that if the engine is double the displacement size of another motorcycle, it’s probably a much heavier bike.
The weight of a motorcycle is a huge factor that affects how a bike feels. Bikes require a lot of movement and balancing, so if your bike is heavy, you’ll feel that weight much more than you would on a vehicle like a car.
This weight can make a huge difference for beginners. Learning to ride a motorcycle is not always an easy thing to do. There are lots of things to master, from balancing, to coordinating control inputs, to just moving in traffic correctly.
Going through this difficult learning process on a bike that is also quite heavy can be really difficult for beginners. A weighty motorcycle will be a lot to deal with for anyone, but especially for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with motorcycles.
Another reason that heavy motorcycles are often harder for beginners is the average speed of riding. Especially in the learning process, but still overall, a tremendous amount of riding is done at low speeds. While some riders may spend most of their time on the highway, many will do a lot of lower speed riding around town etc.
Now, at high speeds, just about anyone can really ride any motorcycle. The physical forces that allow a motorcycle to work in general are very balanced at higher speeds, so as far as physical effort is concerned, they’re not too hard to manage at higher speeds.
At lower speeds, however, especially very low speeds, bikes are much more prone to doing things like falling over. If you have experience with them you likely won’t have that issue, but a beginner will have less balance in this way.
Weight will also make a motorcycle much harder to pick up if it falls over or if you crash. When you’re learning to ride, something like this can certainly happen. Hopefully that crash or drop is at a low speed and without injury, but even if it is, having a lighter bike to pick up will make the experience much better.
So, in general, a heavier motorcycle is much better suited to someone with some more riding experience. This may not apply equally to everyone, but the vast majority of people will have a much better time starting on a 300cc bike than a 600cc bike.
The other reason that 300cc bikes tend to be better for beginners is that they’re less powerful. A lot of 600cc motorcycles have a lot of power for the amount they weigh. Motorcycles in general tend to have very good power to weight ratios, even the often cheaper and slower 300cc ones.
The result of this ratio is that it’s very easy for a beginner to start on a bike that’s too powerful and end up hurting themselves or someone else. The smaller 300cc bikes tend to have engines that are a good bit less powerful than 600cc motorcycles, so they’re much easier to learn on without riding beyond your skill level.
Many new riders often attempt to buy sporty 600cc bikes as their first motorcycle. While some do it successfully and safely, many end up injured or writing off an expensive 600cc bike because they weren’t willing to start on something smaller and slower.
No matter what your first bike is, learning how to ride is going to be a lot of fun. There’s no harm in upgrading to a bigger bike after you’ve mastered some riding skills. If you work on your skills safely on a smaller bike, you’ll have an easier learning curve if you decide you want something larger.
300cc motorcycles are almost always going to be cheaper than 600cc motorcycles. You can certainly find exceptions, but in general, having a bigger engine requires extra money. 300cc motorcycles will also usually cost less money to use, not just to buy.
Like any vehicle, motorcycles cost money to operate. The amount the bike itself costs is only part of the equation. There are lots of additional costs that occur after the point of purchase. The first main cost of any gasoline-powered vehicle is the fuel you need to run it.
Gas is a significant cost for most people, especially with increasing gas prices over the past few years. The miles per gallon your motorcycle achieves will play a huge role in how much money it costs to use it on a consistent basis.
While most motorcycles get pretty good mileage, they’re not all created equal. A 2022 Honda Rebel 300 averages around 80 miles per gallon, while a 2022 Honda CBR600RR averages around 45. In general, 300cc motorcycles will get much better mpg ratings, making them overall much cheaper to run.
Another factor to consider is insurance. While motorcycle insurance tends to be pretty cheap, you will see differences in insuring different types and sizes of bikes. 300cc motorcycles will tend to be much cheaper to insure than 600cc motorcycles, given their generally lower power output and lower original cost.
Beyond insurance and gas, you also need to factor in maintenance costs. In some cases, it may just be routine things like changing the oil or spark plugs. This is often a smaller cost, but 300cc bikes will tend to require less oil and fewer spark plugs, so some money may be saved there.
Beyond routine maintenance, if parts need to be replaced, acquiring them for a cheaper bike will almost always be cheaper. Again, the original cost of your motorcycle may factor into the general cost of replacement parts. Having a cheap and ubiquitous 300cc bike will yield cheaper part prices.
300cc motorcycles and 600cc motorcycles can differ tremendously when it comes to riding experience. Though there will be differences even among similar engine sizes, in general, the bigger 600cc bikes tend to feel bigger and more powerful, while the smaller 300cc bikes tend to feel more light and agile.
So, what are the characteristics that generally are the same among different 300cc motorcycles? 300cc bikes tend to be much lighter and more agile than their 600cc counterparts. Their low weight makes them much easier to throw around at low or medium speeds.
They generally have engines that are well suited for the speeds they are often used for. Most 300cc bikes will still feel quick, and a few may even feel very fast. Especially in the case of sportier motorcycles, you’ll be able to freely use much more of that engine powerband without speeding.
300cc bikes also tend to take much less effort to ride overall. Beginner or not, some bikes are simply more challenging and physically intensive to ride than others. Most 300cc bikes will be pretty easy and fun, and for many people, they may just not need the power that a larger bike will offer.
I think it’s important to stress that engine displacement is just one way to look at a motorcycle. 300cc is more of a class of bike than a category, and many 300cc bikes will exhibit highly different riding characteristics, so keep this in mind when you’re looking at bikes to purchase.
600cc bikes tend to be very different animals. Unlike the power of the average 300cc bikes, which could be described as “thoroughly adequate” or even “more than enough”, the power of most 600cc bikes will be crazy in comparison.
Again, this will depend on the specific bike, but many 600cc bikes have enough power for anything you’d want to do. Even a 600cc sportbike still won’t weigh that much in comparison to any larger vehicle, but a lot of them still have upwards of 100 horsepower.
The result of this is a powerful bike, and a powerful bike is a double-edged sword. If speed is your primary goal, perfect. This is a great class to look at. The power the average 600cc engine will have will be more than enough for your everyday riding and can be a lot of fun when you want to go faster.
The other side of this coin though is that most 600cc bikes, especially sportier ones, are going to be mostly underutilized in everyday riding. A 600cc sport bike is made to go fast, not slow, so if you want to stay remotely within legal speed limits, you won’t really be using the bike for its intended purpose.
A 600cc sportbike can propel you to triple digit miles per hour in a matter of seconds. That speed and power will always be there, available for you to use, and for many people who get into motorcycling at all, saying no to that option may be a difficult thing to do.
So, if you want to ride fast, a 600cc bike could be a great option for you. But, if you’re really just using the bike for everyday things, a 300cc frankly might be more fun. It’s much more fun to ride a slow bike and use 100% of its power than to ride a fast bike and use 50% of its power.
As I stated earlier, some bikes just don’t require as much effort to ride as others, whether you can competently ride them or not. In general, lighter bikes will usually have an easier learning curve, and are much more forgiving when trying to learn how to handle a motorcycle.
A scooter will simply require far less physical effort to use than a super sport. A 600cc bike may be very easy to use while moving on the highway, but using it in town will require much more focus and effort than a 300cc bike, so if you’re mostly riding in town, it may not make sense to have one at all.
This characteristic can also really depend on the situation. Different motorcycles are simply made for different types of riding. If you want a bigger bike to log some freeway miles and carve through country roads at higher speeds, a 600cc bike is a better choice. A 300cc bike may really struggle to keep up in these higher speed situations.
If you want a smaller bike with which to ride around in the city, a 300cc bike may be a superior choice. A 300cc bike is also a nice option for off-road and dual sport motorcycles, as it will have lower weight and more agility than the equivalent 600cc bike.
This category is an easy win for the 600cc motorcycles. If you want to go fast, 99 times out of 100, the 600cc will exceed the 300cc by a huge margin. This is not to say there aren’t fast 300cc bikes out there, but between the two there’s really no contest.
This matter comes down to displacement. Displacement refers to the measure of cylinder volume within any traditional motor. A 600cc motorcycle simply has twice the engine displacement of a 300cc, meaning the space in which fuel is combusted is twice as big. This translates to theoretically double the power output.
Not all engines are created equal, however, and there’s a wide variety of design characteristics that change the efficiency and amount of power that an engine produces. Different engines from different manufacturers make varying amounts of power, often at different points in the RPM (revolutions per minute) range.
The biggest easy determinant for the way an engine will make its power (aside from the displacement) is the number of cylinders. A bike with a single cylinder 600cc engine and a bike with a four-cylinder 600cc engine will feel incredibly different to ride.
In general, bikes with more cylinders tend to make their power higher in the RPM range. They like to rev, and make less low-end torque, but their top end power is much higher. The bikes with these types of engines tend to be sporty street bikes.
Bikes with fewer cylinders however make much more low-end torque, and usually make their power at lower RPMs. They won’t be able to rev as high, and usually don’t have that much top end power, but they have a lot of usable power near idle.
The bikes that have engines with fewer cylinders tend to be older motorcycles, classic style motorcycles, small motorcycles, and off-road oriented motorcycles. The low-end torque that fewer cylinders provide can be really useful for off-road applications, as you’ll be doing a lot of riding at low RPMs.
Which type of engine you prefer is really up to personal preference. Some bikes are better suited to different types of engines. The number of cylinders is a great way to gauge how a bike will feel before riding it, and it can help you understand how various 300cc and 600cc motorcycles will feel different from each other.
In general, especially if you’re comparing the same type of engine, a 600cc is probably going to have a much higher power output than a comparable 300cc motor. This means that the speed and power the bike achieves will likely be much greater. So, if speed is your goal, a 600cc bike is likely the best choice.
Choosing when to upgrade to a larger motorcycle is an important decision, and it will be different for everyone. It must be a natural moment where you feel your bike is underpowered for the type of riding you want to do, and you have mastered your current bike and riding quite well.
First of all, there’s no specific reason you should feel you have to upgrade to a larger motorcycle at all. Depending on where you live and what type of riding you do, you may not need to be riding a bigger bike. Like I discussed earlier, if you live in a densely populated city, you may find that a 600cc bike is completely unnecessary.
You Might Not Need To Upgrade
While a 300cc bike won’t be as fast in a straight line, it will be much more agile and quick, and a lot more fun to ride at lower speeds. It’s much more fun to ride a slow bike fast than to ride a fast bike slow. Depending on your needs, a 300cc motorcycle may be the perfect fit.
So, let’s say you’ve evaluated your riding style and desires, and you have decided you want to upgrade to a more powerful bike. When is the right moment to do so? Well, simply put, whenever is most convenient for you.
This moment will be different for everybody. You’ll just have to evaluate the riding you’re doing at the moment and decide what time makes sense. If you feel like you’re running out of power, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. If you feel comfortable with the amount of power you have, there’s no cost to waiting and considering if you need an upgrade at all.
So, to summarize, the situation to upgrade to a bigger bike is when you feel your current bike doesn’t have enough power, size, or stability to keep up with the riding you want to do. There may not necessarily be a perfect moment to upgrade, but if you’re always on the lookout for good deals, you can probably find a bigger bike for a nice price.
Engine Size Isn’t Everything
If you mention to people that you’re interested in purchasing a motorcycle, you will hear a lot of opinions, probably many of which will directly contradict each other. These views will range widely between being told that you shouldn’t ride at all because it’s too dangerous, to people advising that you buy a big bike because small bikes are for losers.
It’s good practice to take all these varying opinions with a grain of salt. Many people you may encounter will have different experiences with motorcycling, and their opinions should be taken seriously, but not necessarily blindly followed.
Motorcycles are a cultural icon in a lot of places. They represent freedom and danger and a lot of ideas that a lot of people find attractive. The result of this is that many people may have opinions about motorcycles or motorcycling that may not be the most helpful, so it’s important to contrast what they say with your own personal research.
While I’ve ridden many motorcycles that are 600cc and above, I think it’s very important that people upgrade the size of their motorcycle only because they truly desire a bigger bike, not because they feel obligated to do so by friends or by society.
Two wheels are two wheels. In my opinion, no matter if you’re on a 50cc Tao Tao Scooter or a Harley-Davidson Road King, you’re part of the club. You’re a member of this beautiful experience we’re all involved in. Excess ego should have no place in motorcycling. It has, can, and will lead to a lot of unnecessary injuries and deaths.
The most important thing to prioritize is picking a bike that works well for you, no matter what the engine size may be. If you’re a beginner I recommend starting with something small, but if you have some more experience, a bigger bike may be a perfect fit. Displacement is just one metric with which to evaluate motorcycles, and there are many others.
Motorcycling doesn’t have to be about the size of your engine. The point is to get out there and enjoy the world, the road, the sun, the sky. Have a bike that you really enjoy riding, and you’ll want to ride it as much as you can. Whether you do it on a 300cc bike or a 600cc bike, as long as you get out there and ride, that’s all that matters.
When comparing 300cc motorcycles to 600cc motorcycles, the 300cc bike is usually best for beginners. However, engine size isn’t everything. 600cc bikes tend to be larger and heavier than 300cc bikes, and the bike’s weight and riding experience are very important factors to consider.