MotoCynic on: Horsepower (How much do you really need?)

Horsepower. It is most likely the most asked about specification on a motorcycle, maybe next to weight. Certainally in certain crowds how much power your bike makes gets discussed a lot. It’s certainly come up with me pretty often lately. I’m in the midst of dreaming of a new motorcycle and talking to friends who just started riding. Discusing what makes a good first motorcycle, and also what makes a good second long term one. All these conversations have me thinking a lot about what I need in a motorcycle.

Which got me thinking about how many horsepower do I really need in a motorcycle?

Doesn't feel slow.

Doesn’t feel slow.

(In 2017 I wrote on this idea again.)

For reference: I’ve been riding my Ducati Monster 620 for years now, it makes a claimed 62 horsepower. I did ride a BMW F800S for a couple of years and it made a claimed 80 horsepower.
I’ve also spent a reasonable amount of time on my friends Ducati Multistrada 1000 which made a claimed 92 horsepower.

Now in all the miles on my Monster I’ve never (when riding alone) thought that I needed more power. Never. Not even when I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now and carrying luggage for camping last summer. Now if you know motorcycles you also know that 62 hp isn’t really that much. In fact you might be hard pressed to find a “middle weight” motorcycle making that little.

So, how much horsepower do I need? Well if I’m riding alone not that much. I’m pretty happy with the 60ish that I have now. However, that only works when I’m riding alone on my bike. Anytime I’ve had a passenger it’s been quite annoying when getting on the freeway or any other time you want good acceleration. Riding with a passenger was much nicer on the BMW. The extra 20 or so horse power was great and made taking a passenger much more enjoyable.

When taking all of this into account I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t ever need more than 100 hp, ever. Not if the motorcycle itself weighs less than 600 lbs. With 100 hp I’ll be able to carry all the luggage and wife that I can fit on the bike, and still make it to freeway speeds with shocking ease. More horsepower than this, would be wasted, and most likely just get me into more trouble.

So I guess I want a motorcycle with about 80 to 100 horsepower, which seems reasonable.  Now that I’ve figured that out I can get back to looking for my dream bike.

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About MotoCynic

I started riding motorcycles in 2006, and there is no going back. I've ridden more than 100,000 miles, most of it on a Ducati Monster, and despite setbacks and murderous BMW's I'm loving every mile.
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4 Responses to MotoCynic on: Horsepower (How much do you really need?)

  1. I started out on a 750 and found that it struggled 2 up. Eventually I progressed to 1000 then I rode a ZZR1100 (I think you guys called it a ZX11 NInja) for a while. It had a claimed 147hp. Great bike, plenty of power, and I thought that’s what I needed for comfortable 2 up riding. Wrong!

    I still ride a large capacity bike (1250 Bandit) but instead of going for ponies I went for torque, and have found that this is of more use than big hp. Less gear changes when overtaking, smoother and I don’t need to get it up high in revs to produce useful power.

    Cheers

    • MotoCynic says:

      Torque is king for street riding. I was trying to keep it relatively simple =)
      The Multistrada was great 2 up, because of all that torque.
      My monster is just sad two up and while I don’t do it that often (she has her own bike) it is nice to be able to do occasionally.
      I’m sure that bandit is loads of fun solo too =)

  2. Pingback: Motocynic on: Horse Power, How Much do you need? (revisited) | Motorcycles and the Cynic

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