Why are motorcycles faster than cars?


Motorcycles are faster than cars on average due to their high power-to-weight ratio and their small profile which results in less wind resistance and a low drag coefficient. Due to their lightweight, motorcycles also have less momentum at the same speed that a car is travelling, which makes accelerating more effective.

Overview

In this article, we discuss why motorcycles are faster than cars on average and also, which cars could be faster than motorcycles if they have the right conditions. This question can be answered in a few different ways depending on how you look at it or in which way you are comparing them.

We will discuss the following:

  • How we define “fast” when talking about motorcycles and cars
  • Why the average motorcycle is faster than the average car
  • How motorcycles compare to cars in their top speeds
  • How motorcycles compare to cars from 0-60 mph
  • How motorcycles compare to cars in lap times
  • Is it better to buy a fast motorcycle or a fast car?

How we define “fast” when talking about motorcycles and cars

Ultimately, we can define “fast” in two ways that are similar, yet, not exactly the same. This is important to note since this means that there are two possible ways in which you can state that motorcycles are faster than cars.

Fast

(adjective)

  1. To reach a high speed. Moving or travelling at high speeds.
  2. To complete a task in a relatively little amount of time. Moving from one place to another in a relatively little amount of time.

So when we say “motorcycles are faster than cars”, this could either mean that motorcycles can reach a higher top speed, or it could mean that motorcycles can get from one place to another or by performing a task in less time.

For example, this could be like getting from the starting line to the finish line in less time. An example of completing a task would be like doing a lap on a race track in less time.

Why the average motorcycle is faster than the average car

As we have concluded earlier, there are two ways in which we can look at how motorcycles are faster than cars. First, we will discuss why motorcycles are faster than cars in their top speeds. Thereafter we will discuss why motorcycles are faster than cars on tracks or circuits. Lastly, we will discuss why motorcycles are faster when accelerating.

Why motorcycles are faster than cars in their top speeds

There are a few reasons why motorcycles can reach a higher speed than cars. So we will look at the contributing and preventing factors of a higher top speed on motorcycles that are superior to that of cars.

Contributing factorsPreventing factors
Motorcycles have higher engine speedsMotorcycles have less wind resistance
Motorcycles have a lower drag coefficient
Motorcycles have less rolling resistance on their tires

Now let’s look at the contributing and preventing factors of a higher top speed on cars that are superior to motorcycles.

Contributing factorsPreventing factors
Cars have more engine power

As you can see from the tables above, motorcycles have a lot of advantages of a car. For a car to be faster than a motorcycle, they would need an enormous amount of engine power and increase the efficiency of its preventing factors (like its aerodynamics and the resistance that the four tires have on the road).

From this, we can say that motorcycles are naturally faster than cars when referring to the top speed. But this is only comparing the average motorcycle to the average car.

Why motorcycles are faster than cars on tracks or circuits

Before we go into this, you should note that cars can be faster than motorcycles on a track if the track has enough corners and less straights. This is because cars are naturally more stable on four wheels in comparison to motorcycles that need to maintain stability on only two wheels.

By this, I mean that if a car’s wheels start sliding, they will still be able to recover without crashing. A motorcycle, on the other hand, will fall and crash if its wheels start sliding in a corner.

(The results would look much different if a car had to compete without letting its wheels skid, but that wouldn’t be a real-world scenario).

This is a huge advantage that cars have over motorcycles on a track that has many corners. So it really depends on which track they are riding and you can’t say for sure that motorcycles are faster than cars on a track if you don’t specify which track they are competing on.

Why motorcycles are faster when accelerating

Motorcycles also have an advantage over cars when accelerating. Because they are light-weight, they have less momentum at the same given speed so they need less power to bring them up to that speed. This power to weight ratio is what makes motorcycles do much better in drag racing where they only need to travel in a straight line.

How motorcycles compare to cars in their top speeds

If we were to take the top speeds of every car in production today and compare it to every motorcycle in production today, we would have a huge amount of data. While this may be a good way in which we can measure the average top speeds of both cars and motorcycles, the information isn’t as useful as you may think when comparing them.

Instead, we will take the top speed of an average motorcycle and the fastest motorcycle and compare them to the top speed of an average car and the fastest car. For this comparison, we’ll use only ICE motorcycles and cars.

MotorcycleTop speed
Yamaha MT-07/F-07133 mph / 214 kph
Kawasaki Ninja H2R240 mph / 386 kph
CarTop speed
Volkswagen Jetta/Bora127 mph / 204 kph
Bugatti Chiron Super Sport305 mph / 490 kph

How motorcycles compare to cars from 0-60 mph

Most motorcycles would easily accelerate faster than the average car and even beat some of the exotic cars that are ten times their value in price. We’ll compare the same motorcycles and cars we had in the previous section. You can check and compare the times of just about any vehicle you are interested in on zeroto60times.com.

Motorcycle0-60 mph
Yamaha MT-07/FZ-073.3 sec
Kawasaki Ninja H2R2.5 sec
Car0-60 mph
Volkswagen Jetta/Bora7.6 sec
Bugatti Chiron Super Sport2.4 sec

How motorcycles compare to cars in lap times

Motorcycles generally much higher lap times. When comparing MotoGP motorcycle lap times to Formula 1 car lap times on the Circuit of the Americas, the difference is 33.429 seconds on each ones best lap. You can view the full list if you want to compare other riders and drivers.

VehicleLap time
Honda RC213V (MotoGP)2:02.740
Ferrari SF90 (Formula 1)1:36.169

Is it better to buy a fast motorcycle or a fast car?

Fast motorcycles are generally much cheaper than fast cars. So, it just makes sense to buy the cheaper one. Below is a table with examples of what you would pay for a fast motorcycle and a fast car with similar top speeds.

VehiclePrice (USD)
Ducati Panigale V4$ 28,395
Ferrari 488 GTB$ 252,800

Final words

While not everyone can afford a Ferrari, including myself (obviously), you might still be able to save up and buy a Ducati to have the fasted wheels on the block. I’m still saving for mine…

I always try to keep my articles interesting and informative. And I’m always thankful when they are shared on social media platforms or Pinterest.

Two Motion

I don’t see myself as an expert in every topic of motorcycling but my articles usually relate to new experiences that are relevant at the time of writing.

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