Motorcycles can be pretty intimidating pieces of hardware. Some believe that you’ll need a certain amount of strength to ride them safely, which is true to a limited extent. You don’t need months at the gym to handle these beastly machines, but you will need to know their model specifications.
The average motorcycle weighs about 400lbs (181kg), though their range is quite large at 100-900lbs (45-408kg). This disparity is because motorcycles are made to specialize in distinct roles and will differ greatly between manufacturers, types, and materials. You can get a more constrained weight range by looking at specific variants. Weight mainly affects performance and can be separated into two broad categories: light and heavy.
Most of a motorcycle’s extra weight comes from the model and type of the vehicle. The wide range is due to different performance needs, which we’ll clarify below.
Common Motorcycle Types and Weights
|Type||Average Weight without Accessories|
|Dirt Bikes (Off-Road Motorcycles)||200lbs (91kg)|
|Sports Bikes||400lbs (181kg)|
|Touring Bikes||900lbs (408kg)|
The list above should serve as a general reference of expectations for motorcycle weight ranges. This is in no way complete due to the sheer number of different styles and iterations of motorcycles being developed, but most should fall under these umbrella categories. With that said, motorcycles are among the lightest pieces of hardware, especially when you compare them to forklifts and skid steers. In fact, the most lightweight motorcycles are comparable to the weight of six cinderblocks.
Dirt Bikes (Off-road)
Dirt bikes need to handle very rough, unpaved terrain. As a result, they often have lighter components and high suspensions. These normally fall around the 100-250lbs (45-113kg) range, and can easily be transported in the event of engine issues.
Because it’s often used in off-road tracks such as dunes, forests, and mud, dirt bikes must be agile and easy to operate. Extra bulk would only be a hindrance, so any space for amenities is stripped down and streamlined. Dirt bikes make for very light, fun rides, but may require municipal clearance if you plan to use them on public pathways.
These bikes prioritize performance over comfort. Most sports bikes boast very powerful engines within proportionally lightweight chassis. They provide great all-around performance when traveling short distances, but might prove strenuous over long trips. You’ll usually find sportsbikes floating around the 300-500lbs (136-227kg) range.
Cruisers are practically cultural icons at this point, with Harley-Davidson practically monopolizing public perception of the type. Also known as choppers, these motorcycles are designed for long, comfortable rides through town.
Not only are cruiser engines very powerful, but they also require structural support to accommodate. These accommodations are why their weight is usually quite hefty, falling in the range of 600-750lbs (272-340kg).
Their bulk has some perks, such as doubling for good protection against strong winds – some lighter bikes can be pushed off the road by turbulence, but choppers can easily brush it off.
Cruiser-type motorcycles came into fashion before lightweight materials were publicly available, and are prized for their vintage aesthetic – with all the weight that entails.
Touring bikes are readily known for their cross-country capability. Most of their weight comes from amenity accommodation – plenty of ergonomic space is available for luggage. An unloaded touring bike falls at an obscene 800-1000lbs (363-454kg)! This is comparable to the average weight of golf carts, which stands at 800-1200lbs (363-544kg). Touring bikes are superbly comfortable, but prove very challenging to right if tipped over.
Early touring bikes were initially modified cruisers. Eventually, this ended once dedicated models were produced to meet the new demand. Touring bikes are absurdly heavy and fuel-intensive but can get you where you want in style and comfort.
How Weight Affects Performance
Weight affects performance in several ways, and can generally be sorted into light and heavy categories. Both have their own sets of pros and cons, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Custom jobs are common because everyone has different preferences for their ride of choice.
Heavy Bike Pros
In general, more weight means your bike can deal with minor road obstructions like potholes and cracks better. Dirt bikes are a notably light exception – that kind of terrain will ruin rides not meant for off-roading.
They also have much greater carry loads and can fit passengers comfortably. Neither of these hamper handling significantly, which is a huge advantage. They also boast greater stability when traveling down highways or during crosswind conditions.
They’re also surprisingly cheaper than lighter models, as development costs to streamline production add up. While the materials are technically cheaper, manufacturers will charge you for developmental expenses incurred during research and development.
Lastly, selling a heavy bike is usually easier than doing the same for a lighter one, as the latter depreciates a lot more quickly. Most big bikes also have a timeless aesthetic to them, and might occasionally increase in value over time.
Heavy Bike Cons
Heavy bikes just aren’t novice-friendly. Their weight makes maneuvering a bit more dangerous, especially in crowded streets. They’re also slower to pick up speed and generally less responsive.
While you won’t feel too much of the weight while riding, attempts to park it will make the difference feel more blatant. Heavy bikes can weigh over 600 pounds, and you will feel all of that if you have the misfortune of fuel or engine issues. Trying to stand them up after a fall is a challenging endeavor, and you’ll almost certainly be left sweating by the end of it.
Heavy bikes just aren’t fuel-efficient in the long run. Maintenance efforts will set you back due to the engine straining under all those extra components. While initial cost will be lower than lighter counterparts, you’ll be paying a lot more to keep it running.
That’s not even getting into instances where your bike will fall flat on its side, jostling vital parts out of whack. A heavy bike falling over is a matter of when and not if. Every instance of this happening risks a premium in repairs.
Light Bike Pros
Light bikes have a lot to offer. They’re fast, sleek, and responsive. This is due to their very ergonomic design. Even engines that aren’t marketed for power do well thanks to lightweight chassis design. Manufacturing companies are constantly looking for ways to improve on this front.
Lighter bikes accelerate very quickly due to having less dead weight to slow them down. In tighter areas, being able to control your speed and direction is crucial. Even a fraction of a second’s difference could lead to accidents, and lighter bikes having the undeniable edge there.
There’s also less of an inconvenience when out of fuel. It’s not that hard to maneuver light bikes that aren’t running – at least comparatively. They’re much easier to walk with and stand, even for people that lack in the strength department.
Even if you can’t stand them up properly, light bikes can take falls pretty well. Their lower profile, compact frame, and reduced overall mass make falling less likely to damage vital components in your engine block.
Lastly, light bikes possess excellent fuel efficiency. Even if light bikes cost more upfront than their heavier counterparts, better mileage and easier maintenance keep costs under control. All of this on top of a fun ride ensures light bikes remain at the cutting edge of motorcycle development.
Light Bike Cons
Of course, there are plenty of drawbacks to innovation. One such weakness is desirability, which can lead you short a motorcycle if you happen to leave it in unsafe places.
Their light chassis and streamlined design make them very easy to steal. All it takes is five minutes and some elbow grease for someone to cart it off in a trailer, and you’ll never see your ride again. Companies try to combat this with anti-theft products such as locks and alarms. This just adds to the total cost of your ride, and most of them can be bypassed with time and effort.
Heavier motorcycles like choppers can’t be hauled off even with three pairs of able hands – they’re simply too impractical to steal, and there are fewer deterrents better than that.
Lightweight bikes are very susceptible to terrain issues. Something as minor as a crack or pothole in the road can render you frantically trying to take back control of the situation.
They also don’t have much loading capacity. This limits your kit options, and the space restriction can go as far as barring an extra rider on your motorcycle. Even unstrapped pouches can be difficult to comfortably carry, and you can just plain forget about hauling luggage at all!
Lastly, light bikes aren’t very good for long journeys covering a lot of ground. Their stability isn’t all that impressive, and constant vigilance will wear you down. Trying it anyway will likely leave you exhausted and severely underequipped.
Most riders would recommend picking your bike of choice and growing into it. While that does work for some, motorcycles just aren’t for everyone. They aren’t cheap enough to warrant that level of upfront commitment, and it’s a bad choice to force yourself into that lifestyle.
Just take slow steps to see if they work for you. Start with a rental motorcycle, if available. You could also borrow one from a friend to get the practice in. Work your way up until you can confidently handle your ride of choice.
When it comes to buying a dedicated ride, try to go for smaller motorcycles. You’ll probably be spending most of your time weaving through traffic, not highways. Small bikes are better for this. They’re also beginner-friendly, and you don’t have to worry about sluggish response times.
While light bikes are less capable of handling road obstructions, it shouldn’t be that much of an incentive – it’s best to avoid obstacles altogether.
Your motorcycle’s weight can fall between a very wide spectrum, and either end has enough perks going to make sure there isn’t really a bad choice. Whatever you purchase should boil down to personal preference, but it’s best to be fully informed on what both sides have to offer.