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250cc vs. 650cc Motorcycles (Which One Is Right For You)

When it comes to motorcycle ccs, things are never easy. There are just so many different options to choose from that one can easily get overwhelmed.

If you are here, you probably wonder how 650cc motorcycles and 250cc motorcycles compare to each other.

In this articles series, I compare the most common motorcycle engine ccs to make things a little easier. By the end of this article, you will have a good idea of what these motorcycles are capable of and which one may be a better option for you.

Let’s take a look.

An overview of 650cc motorcycles

As a result of their larger engine displacement, 650cc motorcycles are fairly fast and have good acceleration. The better acceleration and top speed capabilities allow 650cc motorcycles to be a lot more versatile and appealing to most riders compared to 250cc motorcycles.

Most 650cc motorcycles can comfortably reach average speeds of around 100 to 135 mph. That being said, 650cc motorcycles can go very fast, reaching as much as 150 mph in certain cases.

The Honda CBR650R and the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 are two good examples of 650cc motorcycles that can reach up to 150 mph. And the Suzuki SV650 is usually capable of reaching between 120 to 130 mph.

The time it would take most 650cc motorcycles to get from 0 to 60 mph can vary between as little as 3.33 seconds up to 7 seconds or more.

For example, both the SV650 and the CBR650R can do 0 to 60 mph in about 3.3 seconds. The Ninja 650 does 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The 

Kawasaki Vulcan S does 0 to 60 mph in 4.21, and the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 does 0 to 60 mph in 5.53

On average 650cc motorcycles can be a little heavier, depending on the type and model, but usually, they are fairly light, very nimble, quick, and easy to handle and maneuver. Most 650cc motorcycles can weigh between 385.8 pounds up to 496 pounds (or 175 kg to 225 kg). The average weight of 650cc motorcycles is around 450 pounds (or 204 kg).

An overview of 250cc motorcycles

Generally, 250cc motorcycles are not very popular among some riders due to their smaller engine displacement, which results in lower top speed and slower acceleration. This gives 250cc motorcycles a more limited application compared to 650cc motorcycles. However, 250cc motorcycles are still very fun to ride.

Most riders would consider 250cc motorcycles small, slow, and fairly boring. And although 250cc motorcycles are indeed not very powerful, they may not really deserve such a negative image.

The average speed of a 250cc motorcycle is about 65 mph. However, most 250cc motorcycles should be capable of comfortably reaching 70 to 85 mph, depending on the type of motorcycle, riding conditions, and mods installed (if any).

A good example of a great 250cc motorcycle is the Ninja 250, which can cruise comfortably at 70 to 80 mph and even reach 100 mph if necessary. (A Ninja 250 has a top speed of about 105 mph.) And it can do 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. 

The CBR250 is another 250cc motorcycle that is capable of reaching speeds of 87 to 91 mph.

Most 250cc motorcycles can accelerate reasonably fast. For example, the Ninja 250 can do 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds.

Due to the smaller engine displacement and the motorcycle’s overall low weight, 250cc motorcycles are normally very nimble, quick, and easy to handle.

Most 250cc motorcycles usually weigh between 280 and 410 pounds (or about 127 to 185 kg). The average weight of 250cc motorcycles is around 350 pounds (or 158 kg).

What is the difference between 250cc and 650cc motorcycles?

The difference between 250cc and 650cc motorcycles is in power. Most 250cc motorcycles are not very powerful but can be taken on highways if necessary. In comparison, most 650cc motorcycles can be comfortably ridden on highways because they can reach higher top speeds compared to 250cc motorcycles.

Top speed and power

Most 250cc motorcycles can reach average speeds between 65 to 100 mph, while 650cc motorcycles will often be capable of comfortably reaching speeds between 100 to upwards of 130 mph.

In terms of horsepower, typically, 250cc motorcycles have between 22 to 35 hp. In comparison, 650cc motorcycles usually have between 35 and 94 hp.

Beginner-friendliness

Both 250cc and some 650cc motorcycles can be great beginner motorcycles. However, 250cc motorcycles are considered more beginner-friendly, safer, and forgiving compared to some 650cc motorcycles.

Some riders may also find heavier motorcycles more difficult to ride and handle.

An important disclaimer here.

Not all 650cc motorcycles are created the same.

While the SV650 is often regarded as a great beginner motorcycle for responsible first motorcycle owners, other 650cc motorcycles like the CBR650R are often not considered beginner-friendly. The CBR650R comes with an Inline-4 engine that is more powerful compared to the V-twin of the SV650. Inline-4 engines are also not beginner-friendly, and many experienced riders advise against starting on an I4 engine. Depending on the year of the motorcycles, we can easily be looking at a 10 to 20 hp difference in favor of the Honda CBR650R.

See article: What CC motorcycle should a beginner get?

Highway commuting

If you are looking for a daily highway commuter, 250cc is about the lower you should go.

Highway riding is not an issue anymore with most newer 250cc motorcycles. Most of the new 250cc motorcycles can ride fairly comfortably at highway speeds without that causing any safety concerns, discomfort, or vibrations, depending on the speeds you need to travel at.

That being said, 250cc cruisers will feel significantly underpowered compared to 250cc sportbikes.

A 250cc motorcycle will usually be enough for short highway trips and should be able to keep up with the rest of the traffic in a reasonable way. The majority of 650cc motorcycles will perform a lot better at highway speeds and are usually considered better and safer when it comes to highway commuting compared to 250cc motorcycles. 

See article: How many cc do you need for the highway?

Since 250cc motorcycles also tend to be fairly lightweight, they will also be affected by crosswinds and headwinds. Heavier motorcycles are not affected by winds as easily. A lighter motorcycle can even be easily tipped over by winds while being parked outside.

Fuel efficiency

Because of the large engine displacement, 650cc motorcycles may generally have worse MPG compared to most 250cc motorcycles.

Most 650cc motorcycles usually get 47 to 73 mpg (19 km/l to 31 km/l), while 250cc motorcycles typically have slightly better fuel efficiency and can get between 40 to 150 mpg (17 km/l 64 km/l).

Prices

Most 250cc motorcycles will be significantly cheaper than the majority of 650cc motorcycles. For example, some 650cc motorcycles can sometimes be between 10 to 100% more expensive than some 250cc motorcycles.

Safety

When it comes to motorcycle safety, things can be a little trickier.

Since 250cc motorcycles are a little slower, they can be a lot safer. A motorcycle with a bigger and more powerful engine is usually considered more dangerous and less forgiving, especially for beginners.

However, in certain situations, underpowered motorcycles can also be dangerous.

A 650cc motorcycle is capable of accelerating faster. Since it can also reach a higher top speed, this makes it safer than most 250cc motorcycles when it comes to avoiding dangerous situations on the road. For example, riding a 650cc motorcycle on the highway allows the rider to accelerate faster and get out of dangerous situations a lot quicker if and when necessary without redlining.

In addition, sometimes motorcycles with smaller displacement engines can have underpowered brakes, which translates to less stopping power.

Touring and long-distance travel

Long-distance commuting and trips can be very tough and tiring on 250cc motorcycles. They are just not ideal for long-distance trips, while generally, 650cc motorcycles do a lot better.

Versatility

Generally, 250cc motorcycles are not the fastest ones, and although some can be taken on the highway, they are not the best performers. In comparison, 650cc motorcycles are a lot more versatile.

Payload capacity

You may have heard the notion that 10 lbs gain equal to losing 1 hp. In other words, for every 10lbs the motorcycle has to carry, it losses 1 hp. This rule of thumb is connected to the motorcycle’s power-to-weight ratio, and generally speaking, a lighter motorcycle will always move faster than a similar but heavier motorcycle.

With low displacement engines, the rider’s weight and any additional weight can have a notable impact on the top speed the motorcycle can reach, its acceleration, and handling.

Maintenance costs and taxes

Both 650cc and 2500cc motorcycles can have low maintenance costs. That being said, 650cc motorcycles will have slightly more expensive maintenance costs than 250cc motorcycles.

Typically the main difference in costs will be the insurance costs and road taxes, which will be slightly higher for 650cc motorcycles compared to 250cc motorcycles due to the bigger engine capacity.

Is a 250cc or a 650cc motorcycle right for you?

Both250cc and some 650cc motorcycles can be good beginner motorcycles. They will do great as introductory motorcycles and be used for daily city commuting. However, 250cc motorcycles are may not be the best choice for people making a lot of highway travel and long-distance trips, and there is the possibility of riders quickly outgrowing them.

Experienced riders may find 250cc motorcycles sluggish, slow, and boring—especially at longer straight sections and long-distance riding.

In comparison, 650cc motorcycles are often considered the golden mean, and there is a good chance that even experienced riders may not really feel any need to go beyond 650cc, making them excellent long-term motorcycles.

Overall, it depends on how the motorcycle will be used and the rider’s daily commute and needs.

Many 250cc motorcycles are more than enough for riding around the city and making short highway trips. Generally, 250 cc motorcycles can be very fun as they are very nimble.

If your daily commuting involves city roads, backroads, and areas with higher and faster-moving traffic, where you may need a motorcycle capable of cruising comfortably at speeds between 40 to 80 mph, a modern 250cc that can motorcycle may be more than enough.

However, suppose you will need to go on highways and travel longer distances. In that case, a 650cc is definitely a better and safer alternative. These motorcycles will allow the rider to keep up with traffic. 

So, as long as the rider understands the capabilities of 250cc bikes and does not mind them, then a 250cc motorcycle may be a good choice.

Other factors that should be considered

Although we can draw some conclusions by looking at the engine size, judging a motorcycle based on this factor alone is never a good idea. Other factors can also influence the handling of the motorcycle, its capabilities, maintenance costs, riding comfort, and fuel efficiency.

The factors that will affect the performance and behavior of a particular motorcycle are, but not limited to:

  • The type of the engine: That includes two-stroke vs. four-stroke, the number of pistons, and more. Sometimes a 250cc motorcycle may be more or less powerful than anticipated. The same applies to 650cc motorcycles; some can end up being fairly underwhelming and slower than expected. The number of pistons can also impact fuel efficiency and overall maintenance costs.
  • The actual engine displacement: Although some models are touted as 250cc or 650cc, there can be some slight discrepancies or variations.
  • Mods and customizations
  • Model-specific differences: This includes the dry and wet weight, overall design, aerodynamics, built quality, and other unique features.
  • The payload: This includes all the extra load expected to be carried by the motorcycle, including the rider(s).
  • The type of riding
  • The weather conditions

Now I cannot overlook the psychological factor, too.

When somebody is making a purchasing decision, they need to feel comfortable and happy with what they buy.

In order to avoid any regrets, think for a moment about whether or not purchasing a 250cc motorcycle or purchasing a 650cc motorcycle will make you feel self-conscious and whether it meets your needs. A bigger motorcycle is not always necessary, and many riders will never outgrow a smaller 250cc motorcycle, while others will. In some instances, in order to avoid any regrets about buying a motorcycle, a different type of motorcycle may be more appropriate as long as it is appropriate for the rider’s skills.