If you visit pretty much anywhere in Southeast Asia, you’ll notice that a lot of the population tends to get around on very small motorcycles. Typically, the bikes you’ll encounter in this part of the world don’t have engines larger than about 250 ccs, with most bikes having engines of around 125-150 ccs.
In contrast, bikes sold in the U.S. and Europe almost always tend to have much larger engines than Asian bikes. Engines with a capacity of 500-750 ccs are way more common on Western bikes, and it’s also not rare to see Western bikes with engines displacing 1,000 ccs or more.
In this article, we’ll explain in detail why small motorcycles are so popular in Asia, and why they’re not nearly as popular in other parts of the world.
What Makes Small-Capacity Motorcycles So Popular in Asia?
There are several reasons why motorcycles with a small engine capacity are so popular in Southeast Asian countries.
For one, most of these countries are smaller than the U.S., as well as many European countries. As such, a lot of countries in Southeast Asia don’t have very many high-speed highways, and most of the driving people do tends to be on city roads. As such, there isn’t really a demand for large-capacity motorcycles in a lot of these countries.
Driving a small motorcycle in these countries is also a lot more practical than driving a car or a larger motorcycle. Consider a country like Vietnam, where the roads are always packed with all manner of traffic; it makes way more sense to have a small motorcycle that can easily zip around obstacles rather than a large motorcycle that is always getting stuck in traffic.
There’s also the fact that small motorcycles are obviously a lot cheaper than larger ones. While the economies in many of these countries are doing better now than they’ve ever been, there’s still a good chunk of people living in Southeast Asia who just don’t make that much money. For these people, a small motorcycle is really the most feasible mode of transportation available to them.
Why Aren’t These Bikes as Popular in the Rest of the World?
As for why these bikes aren’t nearly as popular in places like Europe or the U.S., the answer is pretty straightforward. Most roads in Europe and the U.S. are more suitable for higher speeds, which obviously makes bikes with larger engines more suitable for these roads.
Bikes sold in Southeast Asia also don’t have to conform to the same safety standards as European or American bikes. For example, ABS is mandatory on all bikes sold in Europe, but not on all bikes sold in Southeast Asia. Only a few countries in this region have laws regulating the use of ABS.
Finally, there’s the fact that motorcycles are more of a lifestyle item for Europeans and Americans than they are for people living in Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, motorcycles are generally the most practical and cost-effective way to get around, but in Europe and the U.S., far more people ride motorcycles just for fun.
Since more people in the West buy bikes for fun, it makes sense that they would gravitate more towards bikes that have a lot of power or are loaded with luxury features, and avoid bikes that are mostly just useful for getting around.