Understanding the different types of motorcycle engine

Home > Articles > Understanding the different types of motorcycle engine
Different types of motorcycle engine
29 November 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Long story short: From single-cylinder to V-twin, there are various types of motorcycle engine. Learn about the different types and their pros and cons in this guide.

Motorcycle engines form the heart of a motorcycle, where all the ingredients come together and produce the energy to move the bike forward. However, technological advancements have resulted in drastic changes in engine architecture, and various companies are still developing innovative engine features. With rising fuel prices and stricter emission norms, companies are forced to make changes within the engine for the greater good. Several companies have brought different types of motorcycle engine in their business journey, and we have witnessed the same. Here, we will discuss the various types of motorcycle engine based on the number of cylinders and their configuration with examples and pictures.

Different types of motorcycle engines

The major engine types in motorcycles are as follows

  1. Single cylinder engine
  2. Two / twin cylinder engine
  3. Triple cylinder engine
  4. Four cylinder engine
  5. Six-cylinder engine

Single cylinder engine

Single cylinder motorcycle engine
Single cylinder motorcycle engine

As the name mentions, only a single piston provides the necessary power for your motorcycle. This engine type is present in entry-level and small-displacement motorcycles as it is inexpensive, compact, and lightweight. Performance from this engine is limited when compared to other engine types. Still, it provides enough performance for city rides and gives good mileage figures.

Example: Hero Hf 100

Pros of single cylinder engine

  1. Lightweight
  2. Fuel efficient
  3. Inexpensive
  4. Compact

Cons of single cylinder engine

  1. Limited performance
  2. Higher vibrations in top speed

Two cylinder engine

Within the two-cylinder engine, there are four types according to various configurations.

  1. Parallel Twin
  2. V Twin
  3. L Twin
  4. Boxer

Parallel twin

Parallel twin engine
Parallel twin engine

In a parallel-twin engine, both cylinders are arranged along a common crankshaft. This type of engine is generally present in medium and high-displacement models. Several 200-300cc entry-level sports bikes use parallel twin-engine configurations. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, etc., have many parallel twin engine models.

Example: Kawasaki Ninja 300

Pros of Parallel Twin Engine

  1. Excellent performance
  2. Lower vibrations
  3. Excellent torque

Cons of Parallel Twin Engine

  1. Higher vibrations compared to other premium engine types

V Twin

V Twin engine
V Twin engine

Here, two cylinders are arranged to form a V over a common crankshaft. The company that widely uses V Twin engines is the Harley Davidson. Most dedicated touring models use V Twin configuration as they provide excellent torque and comfort for long hauls.

Example: Harley Davidson Fat Boy

Pros of V Twin engine

  1. Excellent performance
  2. Lower vibrations
  3. Excellent torque
  4. Good comfort

Cons of V Twin engine

  1. Higher vibrations compared to parallel twin

L Twin

L Twin engine
L Twin motorcycle engine

Here, two cylinders are arranged to form an L over a common crankshaft with a 90-degree angle between cylinders. The company that widely uses L Twin engines is Ducati. Several Ducati models use L Twin to gain high revving capabilities.

Example: Ducati Scrambler Icon

Pros of L Twin engine

  1. Same as V twin engines
  2. Very low vibrations compared to V Twin
  3. Best for high revving

Cons of L Twin engine

  1. Same as V twin engines

Boxer / Flat Twin

Boxer engine
Boxer Motorcycle engine

Flat twin or boxer engines use a “boxer” configuration, where each pair of opposing pistons move inwards and outwards simultaneously like boxing competitors punching their gloves together before a fight. These engines are present on many BMW models.

Example: BMW R 1250 GS

Pros of Boxer engine

  1. ow vibration
  2. Excellent performance
  3. Superb air cooling
  4. No balance shaft is required

Cons of Boxer engine

  1. Less fuel efficient

Triple cylinder engine

Triple cylinder motorcycle engine
Triple cylinder motorcycle engine

A straight-three engine / inline-triple or inline-three is a three-cylinder piston engine with cylinders arranged along a common crankshaft. Triple cylinder engines are much smoother than a V-twin and are narrower & lighter than an inline-four. These engines are found mainly in Triumph motorcycles.

Example: Triumph Rocket 3R

Pros of triple cylinder Engine

  1. Low vibration
  2. Excellent performance
  3. Superb comfort

Cons of triple cylinder Engine

  1. Less fuel efficient

Four cylinder engine

Within the four-cylinder engine, there are two types according to various configuration

  1. Inline Four Engine
  2. V-Four Engine

Inline Four Engine

Inline 4 engine
Inline 4 engine

The straight or inline-four engines have all cylinders aligned in one row and no offset. Most premium racing models from Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, etc. come with inline-four engines.

Example: Kawasaki Z 900

Pros of Inline Four Engine

  1. Low vibration
  2. Excellent performance
  3. Superb comfort

Cons of Inline Four Engine

  1. Large dimensions & size

V-Four Engine

V 4 engine
V 4 engine

A V4 engine is a four-cylinder piston engine where the cylinders share a common crankshaft and are arranged in a V configuration. Ducati consists of several v2 and v4 engine models like Panigale V4S, Streetfighter v4, etc.

Example: Ducati Multistrada V4 S

Pros of V-Four Engine

  1. Low vibration
  2. Excellent performance
  3. Superb comfort

Cons of V-Four Engine

  1. complexity in construction
  2. Heavier

Straight six engine

Six cylinder motorcycle engine
Six cylinder motorcycle engine

Straight six engines are like flat-twin / boxer engines but with more cylinders. These engines are rare and rarely seen outside large touring models. Straight six engines have three cylinders horizontally on either side of the engine.

Example: Honda Goldwing

Pros of Straight six engine

  1. Excellent performance
  2. Superb comfort and smoothness
  3. lots of power and torque

Cons of Straight six engine

  1. Expensive
  2. Heavier
  3. Larger in dimensions

Which engine type has the most fuel efficiency or mileage?

The single cylinder engine has the highest fuel efficiency and is used in small displacement and entry-level motorcycles.

Is there a relation between the number of cylinders and mileage on a motorcycle?

Yes. The number of cylinders and fuel efficiency are inversely proportional.

Is there a relation between the number of cylinders and performance on a motorcycle?

Yes. The number of cylinders and fuel efficiency are directly proportional.

Which motorcycle engine type produces the most torque?

V twin configuration produces the most torque; within these, the V twin with the most cylinders produces more torque.

What is the advantage of the L Twin engine over the V Twin engine?

L twin engine avoids a lot of vibrations compared to V twin engines, which is a real boon for engines, especially while revving high.

Conclusion

We have discussed different and various types of motorcycle engines based mainly on engine cylinders and their configuration. Now, let’s summarize the different types of motorcycle engine.

  1. Single cylinder
  2. Parallel Twin
  3. V Twin
  4. L Twin
  5. Boxer / Flat Twin
  6. Triple cylinder
  7. Inline Four
  8. V-Four
  9. Six cylinder

If you have any other doubts or queries, email us at bikeleague2017@gmail.com. We are always eager to help and assist you. Also, here are several social media platforms of Bikeleague India to raise your suspicions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *