Welcome to the blog. We'll be writing about different motorcycling segments like sport, cruiser, adv and off-road as well as sharing tips on motorcycle riding and safety. You'll also find insider 411 on hot motorcycle parts & accessory brands. We encourage you to interact with us by sharing our content on social media and commenting on the posts with what you think! Have at it!

First Motorcycle: Start with 1000cc, 600cc, or 300cc?

It's part of the age-old question for new motorcycle riders, one that I asked my father back when I first became interested in riding--which bike should I use when I'm learning? Common sense dictates the least amount of power possible. Some would even say to start off-road to build up riding skills and throttle control.

I'm hoping today I can tackle one particular question that comes up frequently among novices--how many "CCs" should that engine on a first bike have? 

Beyond that, we'll try and answer questions like "What type of first bike should I buy?".

All great questions.

To answer, we'll have to break down a few motorcycle terms and take a look at the common wisdom about learning to ride. For the purposes of this article, we'll be focusing on the road-sport-race segment.

First Things First: What Are CCs?

The short and sweet of the matter is this--the abbreviation "CC" stands for cubic centimeters, a measure of the volume of a motorcycle engine's cylinders. Alternatively, it may be referred to as "engine displacement," but the main idea is the same:

"Generally speaking, the CCs affect the power and smoothness of your ride, but are not necessarily a measurement of power. Instead, CCs are generally related to the size of the engine."

So, in broad terms, the higher the CCs on a bike, the larger the cylinder volume. Larger cylinder volume can equate to more air and fuel entering the engine, which means the more the bike can generate more power, more speed and will ride more smoothly (at the detriment of fuel efficiency).

Common wisdom goes that beginner riders should start out on less powerful bikes so they can hone their skills on a more forgiving machine. Therefore, fewer CCs equals a more appropriate choice for a newbie. Much like learning to drive a car, a "tame" one makes for the best training experience (the common refrain here would be: you wouldn't learn to drive in a GTR, would you?).

CCs are not the only indicator of how powerful a bike will be, however, which makes answering our initial question more complicated. Horsepower and torque also play a large role in a bike's power, to the degree that some bikes with a lower CC number can be more unforgiving to beginners than those with higher CC numbers when different engine configurations are taken into account.

With that in mind, the "common wisdom" referred to earlier still rings true to a degree. CCs are important, and generally speaking, beginners should start on bikes at the lower end of the spectrum. They should, however, also weigh horsepower into their decision to ensure they aren't biting off more bike than they can chew.

Delving Deeper: Why Would A Rider Start With A More Powerful Bike?

In the United States, riders can buy whichever bike they like as their first, and there are several arguments used to justified the purchase of a larger, more powerful engine.

There's the "argument of freedom," that other novices have learned successfully on 600cc bikes (or higher) and that any other rider should be allowed to do the same if they so choose. Some bigger or taller novices might feel that they need a more powerful bike so that they don't look "silly" while starting out. Others still might feel there's too much hassle involved in buying a bike that they know they'll have to trade for a newer one down the line.

The list goes on, but nearly all of these arguments go against the sage advice of experienced riders who have seen and done it all before. Lurk on just about any forum discussing the topic, and you'll see that almost all of the advice dispensed advocates starting with a less powerful bike.

In particular, this lengthy forum post from the R3 Forums lays out all of the cogent counterpoints. While it's a bit much to summarize in its entirety, there's one piece of wisdom that sums up the crux of the debate nicely:

"Yes, a new rider can start on a 600cc sportbike. It is NOT RECOMMENDED!"

Learning to ride is about sharpening your motorcycle skills in the safest manner possible. To help mitigate risk, getting a bike that is easy to handle is paramount. As for other arguments, like not wanting to trade a bike in, it's worth noting that very few riders stick with one bike for their entire riding career.

It's common--just like with cars--to change every few years or so. Furthermore, "beginner bikes" tend to hold value, making trading one in less burdensome than might be perceived. Novices should prioritize learning first on a less expensive machine, then move up when they are ready to do so  - remember,  safety first.

The Payoff: Which Bike To Go With?

As mentioned, there are a host of factors that go into determining how powerful and easy to handle a bike will be. Beginners should weigh them all and shoot for a bike that will not overpower them while they are still learning and making mistakes.

Two cylinder bikes that come in under 600cc are a good starting point, with many smaller off-road bikes being solid options. Bikes designed for racing should be avoided. Motorcycles in this range make for a beginner riding experience that is fun and manageable for the novice rider. When you're ready to make a move up a class, sell your used bike and trade up.

We put together a quick guide for the best beginner road motorcycles that's worth a peak as well as a general guide for anyone looking to get started with riding that covers the different types of protective apparel.

Also, if you're considering modifying and upgrading your new ride with some aftermarket motorcycle parts, it'd be wise to pick a more popular model that'll have more parts available for it. Confusing as it is, many motorcycles that fall into this 'starter bike' range often do not have a ton of performance upgrades available.

By Daniel Relich

How To Adjust Motorcycle Chain Slack

Chain drives are one of the most popular methods of putting the engine's power to the wheels. It's seen on multiple riding segments from mx, off-road and road/race. Chains require a bit more maintenance than say a belt or shaft drive but they're usually less expensive and easier to maintain as well as being lighter in most cases.

Aftermarket chains and sprockets are widely available at your favorite online moto store for customization and utilizing sprockets in a motorcycle's drive system will allow you to change the number of teeth in order to mod the drive ratio - a favorite of performance riders. Riders with smaller displacement engines are probably very familiar with the phrase "520 conversion". All in all, there's a ton more flexibility with a chain and sprocket drive system.

There's absolutely a few important things to consider when maintaining your motorcycle chain. Aside from the obvious 'clean and lube your chain' advice that's often thrown around, I really want to go into specifics surrounding adjusting your motorcycle's chain slack in an effort to keep things in optimal working order.

So why chain slack is such a big deal? What are steps involved with setting it up correctly?

It is Cool? Maybe not. Is it informative and needed? You bet. Read on:

Why Bother With Chain Slack?

I'd rank monitoring the chain near the top of the routine motorcycle maintenance checklist, along with changing the oil and checking tire pressure.

Riding around with a loose, saggy chain is a recipe for disaster. In addition to creating an undue amount of wear on the sprockets, it can also create an alarming amount of noise and driveline lash that will cause a bike to jerk about when accelerating and decelerating. It might also cause the chain to jump from its sprockets. The end result of this, oftentimes, is an unprepared rider careening to the ground -- a scenario most would like to avoid, given the chance.

Having the chain too tight isn't nearly as typical, but it's also inadvisable. When a motorcycle chain is too tight, it will wear more quickly on the sprockets and also interfere with the proper functioning of the bike's rear suspension. It can also cause the chain to overheat - an equally unfortunate scenario.

It is for these reasons that keeping a bike's chain slack within acceptable parameters is paramount. Depending on the motorcycle in question, though, there may be some tools involved in the procedure.

What Tools Are Involved?

The necessary tools aren't anything particularly fancy, but they are essential to making sure the process goes smoothly. At the minimum, adjusting chain slack will require something to measure the chain to determine the current slack (like a tape measure or metric scale) and a wrench to work the chain adjuster.

While not absolutely vital to adjusting chain slack, having an extra stand to position and steady the bike will also come in handy. Whether an additional center stand or rear stand is more appropriate for the job will be dependent on the kind of bike. Checking the owner's manual for details on proper bike orientation during this procedure will help provide insight on which is better suited for the chain slack adjustment process.

The (Condensed) Step by Step

1) Before laying a finger on their bike, riders should first consult that owner's manual. The manual is the go-to source for learning about the intricacies that might apply to a particular motorcycle, along with the exact figures for the correct amount of drive-chain slack (usually somewhere between 30-40 mm).

2) Riders should always follow these instructions verbatim, as they come directly from tireless engineers and designers who created the bike and will cover most, if not all, of the nitty-gritty minutiae. That being said, there's still a general process that applies broadly to adjusting the slack on most chains, which goes as follows.

3) With the bike's engine off and the bike itself secured firmly on a stand, the first step is to take some measurements of the chain. Making sure the chain is at its lowest point, measuring should start at the halfway point of the chain, between the front and rear sprockets.

The goal here is to note the distance between the full-slack and no-slack positions. This can be achieved by pushing the chain up to a no-slack position and observing the measurement between the two points. If the measurement falls outside of the recommendation in the owner's manual, it might be necessary to tighten (or loosen) the drive-train to achieve the appropriate amount of slack.

4) Before going through the process of adjusting the chain, riders should ascertain the chain's and sprocket's overall levels of wear. If it's looking like the drive is past the point of no return, then replacing the entire thing might make more sense. If things are salvageable, though, then it's time to start adjusting.

5) To accomplish this, riders will need to get to work on the bike's chain adjuster. Typically, on bikes with lock nuts, a wrench will allow riders to hold the adjuster in place while loosening the nut. Once the nut is loose, riders can use the adjuster bolts to alter the level of chain slack. For many bikes, there's one on each side of the motorcycle's swingarm. It's important to adjust them slowly (about a quarter-turn at a time) and equally so that the alignment on the rear wheel stays proper.

6) Riders must continue this process, measuring all the while, to return their chain slack to appropriate levels. Once complete, they should tighten the axle lock nut back to its correct position (the owner's manual will provide direction on this) and confirm that the rear wheel is still in alignment, and the task is complete.

One final note. For riders who really love their chains, it might also be a good idea to give it a good cleaning beforehand. It's not always a necessity, but it's definitely something to consider for riders who want to keep their drive-chains running smoothly for as long as possible. There's plenty of chain cleaning chemicals available - including the grunge brush - that'll help you tackle this task.

By Daniel Relich