Warning... Motorcycle Geek info ahead. 🙂 Let take a look at different motorcycle engine type and their pro's & cons.
The only thing we love more than motorcycles themselves, is learning about them and sharing the knowledge with others.
After sharing riding tips, tools of the month and style of motorcycles, now it's time to dive into types of engines! Open that brain tank because here it comes some premium octane knowledge!!!
The type of engine a motorcycle features not only determines the way it performs, but also the way it feels and style of riding it will be the best fit for. The first model of our engine types saga is...
The only thing we love more than motorcycles themselves, is learning about them and sharing the knowledge with others. After sharing riding tips, tools of the month and style of motorcycles, now it's time to dive into types of engines! Open that brain tank because here it comes some premium octane knowledge!!!
A single-cylinder architecture is most commonly used on commuter motorcycles because it’s cheap to produce and easy to fix and maintain. A lonely piston does all the hard work here, but being an inherently unbalanced system, it’s prone to a lot of vibration, especially in the case of larger cubic capacities. So it’s optimal for small displacement motors (i.e. 100-200cc), as it keeps the reciprocating mass (piston) low, and is seen regularly on budget-friendly motorcycles like the Bajaj Discover 125, Honda CB Hornet 160R or the Suzuki Gixxer. That said, single-cylinder engines can also be found on performance motorcycles, such as motocross bikes or rally bikes, or even the world’s most powerful single-cylinder bike, the KTM 690 Duke. The engine block can be mounted sloping forward, at a 90-degree angle or in rare cases, even sloping backwards (as on the BMW G 310 series).
Parallel twin engines have an extra cylinder at their disposal. The main distinction of parallel twin engines is that they have these two cylinders placed parallel to each other and they share one cylinder block (unlike V-twins which require two separate cylinder blocks). This type of engine construction is often seen on entry-level sportbikes such as the Yamaha R3 or Kawasaki Ninja 300, but is in use even on large-capacity cruisers like the Triumph Thunderbird or even on mid-capacity adventure bikes such as the BMW F 850 GS. This layout is preferred for its compact dimensions and ease of construction. It’s generally a more balanced system compared to a single cylinder as the movement of one piston cancels out the movement of the other. So they offer smoother power delivery compared to V-twins.
An inline triple uses three parallel pistons housed within the same cylinder block. The main advantage of this type of configuration is that it offers somewhat of a middle ground between a V-twin and an inline-four engine. (So, a little more torque down low, but still a decent power hit at higher RPMs.) Triples have the tendency to rock end-to-end slightly as cylinders one & three are near the opposite ends of their strokes. Also, unlike an inline-four, the vibes cannot be cancelled out thanks to the odd number of cylinders. Bikes that feature this configuration include the Triumph Street Triple, 675R and the MV Agusta Brutale 800. Obviously, sometime is pays to be a little odd. 😜
Inline-four: Inline-four engines consists of four parallel cylinders within a single cylinder block. With an even number of pistons and thus naturally very well balanced. Inline Four’s are one of the smoothest running engines, which allows to rev very high without risking damage to engine components through vibrations. Also, these have some of the best power-to-weight characteristics of any motorcycle engine configuration. This is the go-to configuration for almost all 600-1000cc sportbikes. The Honda CBR600f4, Kawasaki Z900 and the BMW S1000R are some examples. This is the go-to configuration for almost all 600-1000cc sportbikes. The Benelli 600i, Kawasaki Z900 and the Honda CBR1000RR are some examples.
The boxer engine features two pistons laid out on opposite sides of the crankshaft. The firing order is the same as a 360-degree parallel twin; however, in this case, the pistons are moving away from each other rather than in sync. The complicated setup is expensive to manufacture, maintain and fix. Also, since their crankshaft is in the motorcycle’s longitudinal axis, these bikes are known to have a ‘torque reaction’, where the bike is pushed in the opposite direction of the crank’s rotation when the throttle is opened. But the advantages of this layout are that it keeps the bike’s centre of gravity low and allows for better air-cooling of the cylinders as they are exposed to more air on each side of the bike when in motion. Popular bikes with boxer engines are the BMW R nineT and GS.
Ah! the classic V-twin!!! The Harley Davidson's trademark. The arrangement of the two-cylinders forms a “V”. Manufacturers have tried different angles between the cylinder heads. Harley-Davidson runs with a 45-degree V angle on nearly all their bikes, thus getting loads of bottom-end torque and the distinct Harley sound. Ducati goes for a 90-degree V angle instead. Such configuration is also known as L-twin. While most V-twins are mounted with transverse crank layout (where the crankshaft runs perpendicular to the bike’s longitudinal axis), some manufacturers such as Moto Guzzi have chosen to go with a longitudinal crank layout (where the crank is laid out along the bike’s longitudinal axis). V-twin engines have an uneven firing order which gives them the angry "burbling" exhaust note and are known to produce a ton of torque at low revs, but are also known to have a fair amount of vibrations and require balance shafts to cancel them out.
A V4 engine is pretty much two V-twins stuck together. It has some of the smoothness of the inline-four mill and the raw bottom-end torque delivery of the V-twin. It also roars like a beast!
However, all that beauty and performance come at a high price-tag. The price tag comes from manufacturing two intake and exhaust systems, cylinder heads etc. Motorcycles that feature this engine include the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory and the Ducati Panigale V4.
flat-four and flat six engines are similar to a boxer engine, internally, but with more cylinders. These engines are smoother than inline-fours and maintain perfect power delivery rate.
Honda introduced the 1000cc flat-four engine with the Gold Wing back in 1975. It currently runs on a bigger 1,833cc flat-six motor. As you can see, it's a monster!