Understanding What CC is Considered a Motorcycle: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding What CC is Considered a Motorcycle: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to motorcycles, one of the most common questions I hear is, “What cc is considered a motorcycle?” Understanding the engine capacity, measured in cubic centimeters (cc), is crucial for both new riders and seasoned enthusiasts. It’s not just about speed and power—knowing the cc can help you choose the right bike for your needs and ensure you’re following local regulations.

In this article, I’ll break down the different classifications of motorcycles based on their engine size. Whether you’re eyeing a lightweight bike for city commutes or a heavy-duty machine for long-distance travel, understanding the cc can make all the difference. Let’s dive into the world of motorcycle engines and find out what truly defines a motorcycle.

Key Takeaways

  • Cubic Centimeters (CC) Explained: CC stands for cubic centimeters, a unit measuring engine capacity, affecting a motorcycle’s power and fuel intake.
  • Classification by CC: Motorcycles are classified into small-displacement (50cc-250cc), mid-displacement (300cc-600cc), and large-displacement (650cc+), each suited for different riding needs.
  • Legal Requirements: Licensing and registration depend on engine size, with smaller bikes often requiring less stringent licenses and lower fees compared to larger motorcycles.
  • Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums correlate with engine size; smaller engines (50cc-125cc) generally have lower premiums, while larger engines (750cc+) attract higher costs.
  • Global CC Standards: Different countries have varying thresholds for motorcycle classifications based on engine capacity, impacting licensing and road regulations.

Understanding CC in Motorcycles

What Does CC Mean?

CC stands for cubic centimeters, a unit measuring an engine’s total cylinder volume. It indicates the engine’s capacity and reveals a lot about a motorcycle’s power and performance. For example, a 250cc engine has a total volume of 250 cubic centimeters. This measurement is crucial for determining how much air and fuel the engine can intake, affecting its power output. Larger cc values generally indicate more powerful engines but often with increased fuel consumption.

How CC Affects Motorcycle Classification

Motorcycles are often classified based on their engine cc. Here are some common classifications:

  • Small-Displacement: These motorcycles range from 50cc to 250cc. Examples include scooters and entry-level bikes, suitable for beginners or city commuting.
  • Mid-Displacement: Engine sizes from 300cc to 600cc. These motorcycles often serve as sport or touring bikes, offering a balance between power and handling.
  • Large-Displacement: These bikes feature engines from 650cc and up. Examples include advanced sport bikes and touring motorcycles, designed for long-distance travel and high performance.

Different regions have varying regulations based on engine cc, impacting licensing and legal rideability. Understanding these classifications helps in choosing the right motorcycle for your specific needs.

Motorcycle Classifications by Engine Size

Mopeds and Small Scooters

Mopeds and small scooters typically feature engines ranging from 50cc to 125cc. These vehicles are designed for short-distance commuting and city riding. Most mopeds have a top speed of 28 mph (45 km/h), making them ideal for urban environments. In many regions, riders can use these vehicles with a standard driver’s license, although some areas require a specific moped license.

Examples of small scooters include the Honda Ruckus and the Vespa Primavera, both popular choices for their efficiency and maneuverability. These vehicles offer excellent fuel economy, often exceeding 100 mpg. Mopeds and small scooters excel in ease of handling for new riders due to their lightweight frames.

Standard Motorcycles

Standard motorcycles have engine sizes ranging from 125cc to 750cc. These bikes are versatile and well-suited for various riding conditions, from city streets to highways. The Honda CB500F and Yamaha MT-07 are classic examples of standard motorcycles that balance performance and practicality.

Riders favor standard motorcycles for their upright seating position, offering comfort during longer rides. With moderate power outputs, these motorcycles provide a good balance between fuel efficiency and performance. Standard motorcycles often serve as a stepping stone for new riders transitioning from smaller vehicles to more powerful motorcycles.

Legal Requirements for Motorcycle Classification

Legal Requirements for Motorcycle Classification

Licensing and Registration Based on CC

Licensing and registration for motorcycles vary by jurisdiction, but generally, engine size in cubic centimeters (cc) plays a significant role. Motorcycles with engine displacements of 50cc to 125cc often qualify for a different type of license than larger bikes. In several states, riders can operate these small-displacement motorcycles (e.g., Honda Grom, Yamaha Zuma 125) with a regular driver’s license or light motorcycle endorsement.

Motorcycles with engine sizes over 125cc usually require a specific motorcycle endorsement on the driver’s license, which often involves additional testing and training. For example, many regions mandate a motorcycle driving test and a written exam to qualify for this endorsement.

Registration fees also tend to increase with engine size. Smaller bikes (e.g., 50cc scooters) typically incur lower fees due to their reduced impact on roads and lesser safety concerns. Higher displacement motorcycles (over 500cc, like Kawasaki Ninja 650) generally command higher registration fees.

Insurance Implications by Engine Size

Insurance costs for motorcycles heavily depend on the engine size. Bikes with smaller engines (50cc to 125cc) usually attract lower premiums. For instance, insurance for a scooter like the Vespa Primavera 125 will likely be more affordable due to its lower speed and lesser risk.

In contrast, motorcycles with larger engines (over 750cc) tend to have higher insurance rates. This is due to their increased power and higher potential for accidents. Insurers consider factors like top speed and repair costs when determining premiums. For example, insuring a Harley-Davidson Street Glide (around 1,753cc) frequently costs more because of its engine power and higher repair expenses.

Riders benefit from understanding these legal and financial implications tied to engine size when choosing a motorcycle, ensuring compliance and cost-efficiency.

Global Differences in Motorcycle Classifications

CC Thresholds in Various Countries

Various countries have different thresholds for what constitutes a motorcycle based on engine capacity. In the European Union, motorcycles typically feature engines larger than 50cc. Mopeds fall below this threshold, having engines of 50cc or less. These distinctions affect licensing requirements and road access.

In the United States, a motorcycle usually has an engine size exceeding 150cc. Anything below this might be classified as a scooter or moped. Each state, however, can have unique regulations, making it vital to check local laws.

Japan specifies different classes: mopeds below 50cc, small motorcycles between 50cc and 125cc, and standard motorcycles above 125cc. This classification aligns with varying licensing procedures and road usage rules.

Australia distinguishes motorcycles based on engine size, with a moped categorized as having an engine capacity of 50cc or less. Motorcycles have engines larger than this, and licensing involves different processes depending on the engine size.

Understanding these global differences is essential for travelers and international buyers. Knowing the local specificities can ensure compliance and optimize riding experiences in different regions.


Understanding the significance of engine capacity in cubic centimeters (cc) is essential when selecting a motorcycle. Different classifications impact licensing, registration, and insurance costs. Global variations in motorcycle classifications highlight the importance of knowing regional regulations, especially for international travelers and buyers. By staying informed about these distinctions, riders can ensure compliance and enjoy a smoother riding experience wherever they go.

The term “CC” in motorcycles refers to the engine’s cubic centimeters, which indicates its displacement and overall power. Motorcycles typically range from 50cc to over 1000cc, with different classifications and licensing requirements based on the engine size, as explained in this guide by Motorcycle Cruiser. Understanding these classifications can help you choose the right motorcycle for your needs and ensure compliance with local laws, according to RevZilla.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is engine capacity in motorcycles?

Engine capacity, measured in cubic centimeters (cc), indicates the volume of the engine’s cylinders. It affects the bike’s power and performance.

How does engine size classify motorcycles?

Motorcycles are classified by engine size, ranging from small mopeds (under 50cc) to standard bikes like the Honda Ruckus (49cc) and Yamaha MT-07 (689cc).

Why is engine capacity important for motorcycle selection?

Engine capacity impacts the bike’s performance, the required license type, registration fees, and insurance costs, making it crucial for informed purchasing decisions.

What are the legal requirements for motorcycle classification?

Legal requirements include obtaining the correct license and ensuring proper registration and insurance, all of which depend on the bike’s engine capacity.

How do engine capacity rules vary globally?

Different countries, like those in the European Union, the US, Japan, and Australia, have unique classification systems affecting licensing and road access based on engine size.

How does engine capacity affect registration fees and insurance?

Typically, bikes with larger engines have higher registration fees and insurance costs due to their increased potential for speed and risk.

Why should travelers and international buyers understand global motorcycle classifications?

Knowing global differences in motorcycle engine classifications helps ensure compliance with local laws and enhances the riding experience in various regions.

Can a motorcycle’s engine capacity limit road access?

Yes, restrictions based on engine size can limit road access, especially for highways, where minimum engine capacity requirements often apply.