Dear MOby,

I have been an inline-Four man for the last 30 years. Recently I have had the opportunity to sample some Twins and three-cylinder machines. Whilst all the bikes sampled were naked with over 100 hp and similar to my personal ride, the most obvious difference I noted was a lack of weight with bikes of fewer cylinders.

Whilst power output would dictate size of components and corresponding weight, is it necessarily true more cylinders must equate to more weight? If one can obtain same power with a lighter and fewer-cylinder engine (probably larger displacement though), why bother with a multi? Where light is right, I am questioning my faith of the inline-Four.


Motorcycle manufacturers and MOrons alike have been trying to answer the same question for over 100 years now. Basically what it comes down to, or used to come down to, is the more cylinders you have, the more power you can make. Splitting 1000cc, or any displacement, into four small cylinders means the engine can spin faster, potentially process more air and fuel by spinning faster, and make more power. That’s one reason why MotoGP bikes all have four cylinders lately: With their excellent traction (and riders), they need all the power they can get. Some of them might have more cylinders if the rules allowed it; Honda’s RC211V had five before the rules changed.

Stepping down one rung in the roadracing pecking order to World Superbike, however, shows us that Ducatis with two cylinders are also highly competitive, but only if they’re allowed to have 20% more displacement than the Fours. Still, a Ducati hasn’t won the WSBK championship since Carlos Checa did it in 2010. The last five years have been all Kawasaki and Aprilia Four-bangers.

Currently, it seems like all MotoGP bikes can make more power than tires and physics can handle; hence traction control, wheelie control, etc. Without electronics, we’d see many more high-side crashes – and the advances in materials and engineers’ brains mean those levels of power, reined in and subdued by sound and emissions regulations, have trickled down to our street machines. A BMW S1000RR won our Six-Way Superbike Shootout back in 2015, with the help of its class-leading 999cc four-cylinder spinning out 182.9 rear-wheel horsepower at 13,100 rpm. Given our usual rule of thumb that driveline losses in a chain-driven bike eat up about 10% of hp as power makes its way from crankshaft to rear wheel, the BMW is a true 200-hp motorcycle (BMW claims 199).

I bet there’s a thing in the BMW that tells you how open the throttle is. With me on it on Laguna Seca’s front straight, it’s probably laughing.

I bet there’s a thing in the BMW that tells you how open the throttle is. With me on it on Laguna Seca’s front straight, it’s probably laughing.

I, for one, would’ve refused to ride it around Laguna Seca without the electronic security blanket engaged, and I don’t think many street riders would ever spend much time at all at wide-open throttle on the BMW.

The same applies to the 1285cc Ducati Panigale 1299S which was in the same shootout and pumped out 175 horses at 10,400 rpm – but would probably be even more challenging to ride without its electronics thanks to its massive torque output: 92.5 pound-feet at 8900 rpm to the BMW’s measly 79.9 at 9600 rpm.

Around Laguna Seca, every pound matters, and the BMW weighs 451 pounds gassed up – 24 pounds more than the Ducati. With a 160-pound rider, then, the BMW has a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 3.338 hp-per-pound to the Ducati’s 3.354 hp/lb. In technical terms, we refer to that as “a wash” – but of course there’s more to it than power-to-weight unless you’re only going in a straight line. When it’s time to turn, the lighter motorcycle has the advantage. Meanwhile, the bike we called the winner was the 175.8-hp, 456-lb, 1000cc V-Four Aprilia RSV4: 3.503 lbs per hp.

If we’re talking more streetable sportbikes, there are even more excellent options, a couple of our favorites being the KTM Super Duke R (which just got remodelled this year) and the BMW S1000R. Last time we got them in a room together, the Super Duke R won (and was our 2014 Motorcycle of the Year), but it was a near thing. The KTM made 156 hp at 9100 rpm, the BMW 155.3 hp at 11,200 rpm. Like the Ducati, the KTM was a terribly grunty thing, producing 96.5 lb-ft at 8200 rpm to the BMW’s 79.7 at 9500 rpm.

On the official MO scales, the BMW registered 459 lbs, the KTM 469, for power-to-weights of 3.985 and 4.032 lbs/hp respectively. Then there’s the Buell EBR 1190 SX Twin, which is lighter than the BMW Four at just 449 lbs. With 156 hp, it has a p/w ratio of 3.903. These bikes are all nipple-inverting fast.

When the tachometers are wound all the way up, there’s not much in it between Four and Twin, but at a less all-out pace, the Twins do produce more midrange torque that seems to propel them along with less gearshifting; it’s kind of a matter of what you like.

If we rank our nine contestants in order of best Pounds-per-Lb-ft of Torque, we get: Panigale, Super Duke R, EBR 1190, S1000RR, S1000R, Aprilia RSV4, Speed Triple, FZ-09 and MV Agusta – which is almost exactly the same thing as ranking them in order of engine displacement. (If I’d included the Aprilia Tuono 1100, which is 1077cc, it would’ve finished ahead of the BMWs.)

We love Triples too, but since no factory’s trying to race one lately, there’s no really light, powerful naked version to trickle down. The closest are the Triumph Speed Triples, which use a 1050cc engine to produce 124.2 horses at 8900 rpm. At 478 pounds (with our 160-lb rider), they’re pushing 5.136 lbs per hp; 76.1 lb-ft of torque makes the Speed Triple feel faster, but in this crowd it’s neither lightest or fastest. It’s still ridiculous fast.

Wait, there is one factory trying to race a Triple, and it’s MV Agusta and its World Supersport contender F3 675. Jules Cluzel won two races on it and finished second in the WSS championship last season (other 675s finished 7th and 8th; three out of 10 ain’t bad for a tiny Italian company). Lucky for us, there’s a stroked, 800cc version of that Triple MV rates at 148 hp and 381 pounds dry. Add 26 pounds of gas, give MV the benefit of the doubt, reduce claimed power by 10% and you’re looking at a torquey Triple in the 420-lb range: a p/w of 4.36 isn’t far off the literbikes. The Brutale naked version we rode here is rated at just 116 hp, but it also feels plenty fast. At the rear wheel, that should be about par with the Yamaha FZ-09, whose 847cc Triple put out 106.2 horses last time we dynoed one, and weighed a wispy 419 lbs: 5.46 lbs/hp.

The MV Agusta F3 800 RC.

The MV Agusta F3 800 RC.

Sorry for blathering on, but the point is, yes, buy what you like the sound of! The Twins and Fours are neck and neck in terms of speed and weight, with a few expensive outliers, and the Triples aren’t far behind, especially if you go shopping in the middleweight class. Some would argue that the only thing that sounds better than a Twin or Triple is a Twin or Triple turning a bunch of rpm…

Why are there no MV Agustas in my garage?

Direct your motorcycle-related questions to, though some say we’re better at non-motorcycle-related ones…

  • Max Wellian

    You need to correct the hp/lb to lb/hp in this paragraph:
    “Around Laguna Seca, every pound matters, and the BMW weighs 451 pounds gassed up – 24 pounds more than the Ducati. With a 160-pound rider, then, the BMW has a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 3.338 hp-per-pound to the Ducati’s 3.354 hp/lb.”

  • Max Wellian

    The problem with looking at the lbs/hp is its only at the peak as John alludes to in his “midrange torque” comment. It bugs me that motorcyclists say this as if it’s something different than power. Engines produce power. The one that produces the most total power over its range is the most powerful…not the one that produces the most peak power.
    IOW, it could well be that that Aprilia makes more total power than the other bikes despite making less peak power.

    • Andre Capitao Melo

      Yup, torque/power curves are the only way (short of taking them for a ride) to differentiate engine characteristics.

      • Max Wellian

        And the torque curve is superfluous as it is merely a component of power. No useful info to be gained there. The torque at your rear wheel is governed by the gear you choose. The engine’s power isn’t affected by gears.
        To do a proper power to weight comparison, it should be the total power of the engine over its rev range vs weight NOT the power at any particular rpm vs weight.

        • Roger

          I disagree Max. Available torque is governed by the engine revs. You should be in the right gear at the right time. I would argue that available torque is more important than BHP on the street as I have yet to see anyone ride up a high street at near max RPM where most BHP is produced. (not saying that ppl don’t, but it’s not realistic to ride at peak BHP revs) My K1300S produced 3/4 of it’s power at quite low revs and for normal street use the claimed 175BHP was irrelevant and never used.

          • Max Wellian

            Roger, you’re describing how you’ve been mistaught. It’s not an insult, just an observation from reading motorcycle press for decades. An engine’s power is available everywhere in the rpm band. An engine’s torque is a component of that power. power is proportional to rpm*torque in a rotating source.
            In an ideal source, the engine’s power would increase linearly across the rpm range. Mathematically, that requires the torque to stay constant (flat) across the rev range. So when you hear someone say that a bike has a flat torque curve, what they’re telling you is it makes linear power i.e. no dips or surges. They aren’t wrong, that the bike has a flat torque curve, just making things unnecessarily complicated as saying the engine produces linear power is the same thing.
            When a bike is tested on a dyno, it’s deriving the power generated at the rear wheel of the motorcycle. The torque at the rear wheel is a result of its gearing. In different gears, it spins the cylinder at different speeds. The power from the engine doesn’t change when shifting gears. What gears do is trade rear wheel torque for speed. In first gear, you have a lot of rear wheel torque and not much speed. In sixth gear, you have a lot of speed, but not much torque. Regardless of gear, when you multiply the speed by the torque it will equal the power the engine makes at any rpm in any gear.
            Once the computer ascertains the power number from the speed of the spinning cylinder and the torque applied by the rear wheel, it attributes that value to the engine (though there are many losses in the drivetrain). The computer can then calculate the “engine’s torque.”
            IOW, engine torque is a derived quantity, not something different than power, but a mathematical component of power.
            Physically, if one could increase the torque of an engine while maintaining its total power, what would happen is it would simply not be able to spin as fast. One could do this by increasing the throw of the crank, all else being equal.
            The important thing to take from this is:
            1. power is proportional to rpm(speed)*torque
            2. torque and speed are interchangeable through gearing.
            3. an engine’s torque curve provides no information to a rider that it’s power chart doesn’t already tell them. Just makes it seem more complicated and causes people to say a lot of incorrect things that are painful to the ears of those of us who appreciate physics and math.

          • Roger

            Thanks Max, I need to read this a few of times to get my head round it. I have had Diesel and petrol engines and driven building site dumpers that pull like a train at a few revs. I can understand torque (rotational weight/power of explosion x distance) but get lost at power being the amount of strength required to stop an enging rotating which sounds pretty much the same thing.

          • Max Wellian

            You’re welcome. My point wasn’t to make it more complicated though.
            Think of it like your electric bill. Even though, far away, there is some turbine generator that has a torque associated with its physical structure, as a consumer, it’s of no use to you. You pay your bill based on the power you use. If the electric company decided to put their generator’s torque values on the bill, it would not give consumers any useful information and only serve to confuse them.
            Torque is actually a static rotational force. If you stand facing a wall with your feet and nose against it. You can apply force to the wall with your arms. That force acts as a torque. If you press hard enough, you will fall backward around the pivot of your feet. The motion is energy. In this case, kinetic energy that is being imparted to your body via gravity. Power is simply the amount of energy expended per unit of time. In the case of an engine, it’s the amount of chemical energy that can be extracted from fuel in a given unit of time.

          • Andrew Horton

            Max, if I understand what you are writing correctly I think you are confusing the way a rear wheel dyno works in practice as a measuring instrument and the physics of power & torque.

            In physics, power is the rate of doing work. i.e. P = W/T This is why we measure engine activity as revolutions per minute. Each combustion stroke produces work (piston displaced along the path of the cylinder) and this work is applied via a lever to axially accelerate a crankshaft & flywheel. If a four stoke single is running at 1000 revolutions per minute (rpm) it has 250 work events per minute. These acceleration pulses and the reverses that come from the other 3 strokes are averaged out give an overall torque figure (axial acceleration force) on the crank & from this when a time period is specified power is calculated. Power itself doesn’t exist, its an abstract measure of work over time. Our model four stroke single can make 100kW revving at 1000rpm in four minutes or or 100kW in one minute revving at 4000rpm. It will do the same amount of work & consume the same energy doing so irrespectively. Only the rate of doing the work has changed between the two examples.

            You are correct in seeing a gearbox as a torque multiplier. But like when you ride a pushbike the gears are there to help keep the engine in its most efficient operating speed at different road speeds. In the active rolling road dyno scenario that you mentioned the dyno has a crank speed sensor, usually off #1 spark plug & the dyno then can calculate the mechanical advantage of the gearbox to factor it out of the calculation. The fact that a dyno measures work at the rear wheel expressed as power does not mean torque suddenly becomes an abstract concept mathematically derived from power. Its just a description of the working method of the instrument used to measure the work the engine is capable of.

            Back to your opening example the statement “The one that produces the most total power over its range is the most powerful…not the one that produces the most peak power” is wrong. Peak power is just that. Maximum possible work an engine can do running at optimal crank speeds for a specified time, usually a minute.

            What you are alluding to is how impractical an engine tuned for peak power is in use with peaky, narrow torque curves. One pathway to solving that problem is a gearbox with a serious number of gears (12 speed Honda tried in the ’60s I think) or ideally a CVT transmission to hold engines at peak power & infinitely vary ratio to match road speed. Not much fun to use though & banned in racing. The common option is to sacrifice peak torque potential ( and thus peak power) to flatten & broaden the torque curve to make the engine more flexible in use. How far this process goes depends on end use – race bike, full dress cruiser barge, commuter bike, super motard etc. But as soon as you modify an engine to be more flexible it will be less powerful, but more useful .

          • Max Wellian

            Forget torque curves. Unless you’re in the business of designing gearboxes, they don’t matter a whit. And even if you are in the business of building gearboxes, you can calculate out the torque easily enough from the power curve.
            And you are completely wrong in thinking that peak power is an engine’s total power.
            The contention you appear to be making is that a bike that has a peak hp of 100 hp is more powerful than a bike that makes 99 hp. Even if said 99 hp bike makes its power linearly up to say 10k rpm and the 100 hp bike makes power linearly up to 9k rpm where it makes 9 hp, then comes on the cam and rockets to 100 hp in the last 1000 rpm.
            If you have any money you want to place on that race bet, I’ll be happy to take it.

          • Andrew Horton

            Nigel Mansell famously said of the Maggotts chicane at Silverstone ” first you turn left at 3G, then you turn right at 3G and with gravity that makes it a 7G corner” Its the same with your concept of “total power” An engine might make 99kW power @ 10,000rpm & 30kW @ 5000 but you cannot say it makes a “total power” of 129kW because its impossible to run an engine at two different crank speeds at the same time. Its even sillier to use that spurious figure to compare it with another engine that has 100kW @ 10,000rpm & 28kW @ 5000rpm for a “total power” of 128kW and on that basis call the second engine less powerful.

            Its ironic that the perception of power that riders feel & you are alluding to is actually the feel of the torque curve. BTW do you change gear on your bike? See gearboxes are not so irrelevant.

            And to the race challenge. When the limits of understanding are reached its knobs on the table, eh?

            OK, these are the terms. I’ll pull my old Suzuki RGV250 track bike out of the shed. Being a two stroke it makes reasonable power – 65 bhp in your old style feudal measures – but its delivered over a 1500 rpm powerband between 9000 & 10500 rpm. You can have the latest Harley – Ditchpump 48 with 59 bhp at the wheel according to the latest Motorcyclist dyno test. Only a 5 speed gearbox? Who cares ‘cos you got a nice flat torque curve & linear power band. The venue? Phillip Island GP circuit. Bring ya cash.

          • Max Wellian

            Why would you need to run two different crank speeds at the same time?
            When you go to the grocery and buy 5 items, does your cashier only charge you for the most expensive of the five or does she require you to pay the TOTAL cost of all five items?
            I never said gearboxes were irrelevant. I never even implied that rear wheel torque was irrelevant, though probably not very useful info for most (unless maybe they’re hauling trailers). I was only referring to the engine torque that motorcyclists get their panties in such a wad over.
            Gearboxes simply trade torque for speed at the rear wheel. Regardless, of the ratio selected, that torque and speed will ALWAYS be proportional to the power its engine is providing it at any given rpm.
            As to the race, the engines are a fair enough comparison, but you have to weight your bike with sandbags to make them equal. A short drag race like this should prove the point.

          • Andrew Horton

            “Why would you need to run two different crank speeds at the same time? ” You can’t, thats why your concept of “total power” is fatally flawed.

            Back to basic physics. Ride your bike – at a constant velocity, say 100km/h, along a flat & straight piece of road. It will require a certain amount of work (energy consumed) to overcome rolling resistance & wind resistance. Remember power is the rate of doing work. If you ride for one minute at this velocity, you may need 20hp. This you will achieve on a partial throttle – unless you are WOT on a small scooter. If you now wish to travel at 120km/h you will have open the throttle to increase the torque the crank is subject to in order to change its rotational speed to the rpm matching a road speed of 120km/h. The more you open the throttle to produce more torque than what is needed to produce sufficient power for steady state cruising the faster the bike accelerates. This application of torque beyond what is needed to maintain steady speed is what many describe as a surge of power. Those folk are mistaken. It is an excess of torque.

            Back to your bike travelling at 100km/h. Because your bike has more than one gear ratio you will have 5 or 6 different combinations of crank speed & throttle opening useful for generating 20hp per minute. You could be screaming its nuts off in first gear, sitting at peak torque revs in third or lugging in top. In each case the combination of the size of the individual firing pulses and the number of events per minute gives us the 20hp per minute needed for a stable cruise at 100km/h. Need to progressively accelerate to 130km/h. All three situations could give us the same result (if you have no mechanical empathy). Need maximum acceleration? WOT at peak TORQUE revs will give the maximum rate of acceleration, not peak power. In an vehicle with a discreet gear ratios they should be stepped that each change taken at peak power drops the engine speed to just below peak torque to maximise performance.

            Back to your race challenge. You contended “As to the race, the engines are a fair enough comparison, but you have to weight your bike with sandbags to make them equal.” Why should I need the sandbags? If that is the case then in return for the sandbags the Harley – Ditchpump 48 gets a camshaft so lumpy as to narrow its power band to 500rpm The reality is in some situations the advantages of choosing a high output, narrow power band, engine far outweigh the disadvantages. My RGV 250 was a right royal pain in the arse to ride to the shops but it comes into its own on the track. OTOH a Hardly – Ditchpump 48 isn’t the worst choice for a trip to Wal-Mart but is shit on the track despite its nice gentle power production.

            And that video? Tragic. Hardly scientific conditions or practitioners. Limit the “race” to 50 meters & the shitbox has a chance. Over 500 meters the CBR would cream it. Over a lap of Assen the CBR would be in another timezone. On the other hand limit it to 5 meters & I can beat both of them. On foot. Hilariously good example why drag racing is dumb though.

          • Max Wellian

            “This application of torque beyond what is needed to maintain steady speed is what many describe as a surge of power. Those folk are mistaken. It is an excess of torque.”

            No, they are not mistaken. Power ~ Torque * rpm. If the torque rose over some band of rpm, the power rose proportionally. It’s simple math. If you can’t see that from the equation, you’ll never understand that you’re wrong.
            From the same equation one can also see that torque can remain the same and rpm can increase which also increases the power proportionally. IOW, a motorcycle capable of making 50 ft*lbs of torque at 10k rpm will go MUCH MUCH faster than a motorcycle only capable of making 50 ft*lbs of torque at 1k rpm. It’s because the first motorcycle’s engine is FAR more POWERFUL.
            Carry on. The world won’t end just because motorcyclists keep babbling about torque.

          • Andrew Horton

            Ahh, the blind that choose not to see.

            “From the same equation one can also see that torque can remain the same and rpm can increase which also increases the power proportionally” If torque remains the same what additional force accelerates the crank?

            I suggest you read further. US author Kevin Cameron has written some interesting books, Four Stroke tuning by English author John Robinson ISBN 0 7506 1805 1 is worth some time too.

          • Lee

            Apples to oranges is the Harley warmed his tires up before each run and the Honda didn’t. The Honda rider probably didn’t know he was being had or didn’t know how to warm his ties up. And/or the two bikes had radically different types of tire compound.

          • Andre Capitao Melo

            I’m not gonna argue with you what the Dyno measures first because it doesn’t matter, and I don’t know enough about Dynos to make an argument, although at least all the roller dynos that I’ve seen calculates the torque first.
            And as you said yourself, torque is a mathematical component of power, AND vice-versa. The way I see it and like to analyze the power and torque curves is that with the torque curve it’s easier for me to know how the engine character is at low/mid RPM, and use the power curve to know the max performance available from the engine. IMO, both curves have their place.

          • Max Wellian

            Dynos calculate the torque at the rear wheel NOT the engine’s torque.
            The torque curve tells you NOTHING that the power curve doesn’t. If you want to know how much power an engine makes at low/mid rpm, look at the power at low/mid rpm and compare to whatever other power curve you like at low/mid rpm.

          • Andre Capitao Melo

            Yes, they measure torque at the wheel and “demultiply” to get the torque as measured at the crank. And as I said, it’s easier to see the nuances at low/med RPM with the torque curve.

          • Max Wellian

            There is no such thing as “demultiply.” Their computer knows how much force it takes to move the dyno cylinder. That’s a torque. It knows who fast it moves. That’s an rpm (speed). Knowing those two variables, they know the power generated at the rear wheel for many readings across the rpm range of the engine. That power is then plotted against the engine’s rpm which can be directly measured and attributed to the engine.
            To get the engine’s torque curve, they take the power attributed to the engine multiply by a scale factor (5250 IIRC) and divide the engine’s rpm. IOW, engine torque is a value derived from the power calculation at the rear wheel. It is not something measured directly nor something you feel. The torque you feel is wholly and completely a result of the gear you select and the ratio they made it.

          • Andre Capitao Melo

            If the dyno know the gear ratio (via user input or it can measure it using the roller speed and engine RPM) it CAN measure the torque as seen at the engine. If it in fact does it or not, I don’t know, never used a dyno before.

          • Max Wellian

            No it can not directly measure the torque of the engine. You just said yourself it measures what is happening at the rear wheel NOT what is happening to the crankshaft. The fact it knows the gear ratio or can calculate it is beside the point. The point I’m making is that even if it could measure it directly, so what? It still doesn’t tell you a thing that the power curve doesn’t tell you.
            A torque is a force times a distance. Do you want to see curves of those too? A force is a mass times and acceleration. Would graphs of those also help you get a sense of the engine?
            Why make things more difficult than they need to be? Engines make power. We use power. End of story.

          • Andre Capitao Melo

            You know what I meant by torque at the engine.

          • Lee

            If I were as smart as you I’d be rich. I hope you’re rich. Lots of good data here.

  • mick

    If your riding on the street it’s got to be a triple. My favorite bike out of several hundred that I’ve owned is a Laverda 3C breathed on.

  • Andrew Horton

    Couple of quick dot points.
    – The actual reason MotoGP bikes are 1000cc 4 cylinder engines is that MotoGP rules restrict engines to only that format. The other restriction is that the minimum bore for each 250cc cylinder is greater than the maximum bore allowed in WSBK for each 250cc cylinder in 4 cylinder 1000cc engine. This ensures MotoGP engines will always out power WSBK IL4 1000cc engines. (Both series owned by Dorna)
    – The equiliviency factor in WSBK is not based on capacity but on maximum piston speed as a cost containing measure. For a given maximum velocity in engines of the same capacity the greater number of cylinders, the greater the RPM ceiling as each piston has to travel a shorter distance per crank revolution. This advantage can be derived mathematically & compensated for mathematically by varying capacity to allow engines with two, three, four or even more cylinders to compete equally.

  • Kenneth

    In the end, for street riding for me, it primarily comes down to the sound and feel of the engine. I’ve ridden my counterbalanced twin beside inline-4 riders, and end up feeling I would hate to always have the high-frequency sound and buzzy vibrations of an I-4. ‘Never ridden a triple, but that seems like a great compromise for power and powerband width, with fours being better suited to a track.

  • Patriot159

    How many cylinders needed? At least one and it’s all good after that! I have a single, 90 deg. twin and IL4 and this past year have had the most fun on my DR650 single!

    • Jon Jones

      Always loved singles.

    • The dude

      Thumper love.

    • Lee

      If only my KLR didn’t feel underpowered.

  • Larry Kahn

    I’ve owned and enjoyed them all, and very generally for me, twins on the street, fours on the track. High rpm vs low/mid rpm.

  • Mark D

    I really prefer twins for street riding, but I ride like an old man and love the feeling of a strong torque pull at low RPMs. At 70-80% riding paces (i.e., how any reasonable person should be riding), its more fun to just leave a big twin in a high gear and twist your way out of corners.

  • john phyyt

    If you are buying only for sound quality. Surely a BMW 1600 six should be on your shopping list.
    I looked for the video of Troy ridding away from the camera . Perhaps others could furnish a link. . What a sound!

  • Michael

    Interesting question with a whole bunch of right answers and, most likely, no wrong answers.
    I rode 4 cylinder bikes for 20 years. Some old ones, some new ones. Then I test rode a (then new) VTR1000. Compared to the CBR1000F I owned at the time it felt like a “chook chaser” (that’s aussie for a big single 4 stroke dirt bike). I bought one of those VTR’s and, the next time I bought a new bike, I bought another VTR.
    I now have 4 bikes.
    All have 2 cylinders… Ducati Monster, KTM SD, HP2 Sport & Husqvarna Nuda.
    I can’t ride fast enough to enjoy one of the 1000cc bikes and, honesty, they just don’t interest me. Great bikes, no doubt… just not for me.
    But my bunch of twins are ALL awesome!

  • allworld

    This article seems to skip the differences between parallel and V twins, inline 4’s and V 4’s…..I prefer triples……
    I have owned Triumphs, both 1050cc and 675cc. I have to say triples work for me. I have a 800cc Brutale RR which is both light and quick.
    It would seem the better choice is somewhat dependent on the type of riding you prefer.

    • Andrew Horton

      In terms of the shape of the power & torque curves, plus their peak values, a parallel twin will be identical to a v-twin of equal capacity (assuming equal bore/stroke ratios and technology levels) The same holds true for IL4 vs V4.

      • allworld

        Probably could have put that little tid bit in the article….

      • Lee

        I thought there was more difference than that, something about crank rotation. If they’re the same, how does a manufacturer decide on configuration? Doesn’t configuration determine how the engine sounds?

  • Wally

    I’m curious how a Motus MSTR without bags, would fit in with all of the figures presented.

    • allworld

      Motus with or without bags has plenty of grunt. If you haven’t taken a test ride you should.

      • DickRuble

        Why don’t you buy one, if it’s so great?

        • allworld

          I would love to, but at the moment I can not afford one. I am working on it though, maybe next year.

  • Vrooom

    Great article just for the chart. 133 hp and 420 lbs is absurd. Never mind the liter and larger bikes performance. I’m simply not a good enough rider to use all of that, and few of us are. If you’re using 98% of that handling and power and thinking “this just isn’t enough bike for me” I certainly hope you’re being paid to ride.

  • JMDonald

    Light weight usable torque fairly high revs comfortable ergonomics tell me that the Speed Triple is plenty-o-bike for me. The liter bikes of today have more than enough Hp/Torque. The power to weight ratios might mean something more on the track than on the road. Theoretically a rider can use all the bike has to offer on the track. I doubt my riding skills are good enough to push any of these modern machines anywhere close to their limit even with all the electronic goodies that help manage the unmanageable. Life is good in the modern motorcycle world regardless of engine configuration. I have owned them all and loved them all. Great article.

  • Josh

    Love my 3 cylinder

  • Emptybee

    I like my twins – currently a liquid-cooled BMW R1200GS. It’s as fast as I need to go.

  • Roger

    All of this article is based on the erronius fact that riders need the maximum power they can get. Your table shows the fastest bikes available. How many people genuinely use their bikes at the revs where peak BHP is produced? I would guess that 90% of bikes never produce the maximum power they are capable of. I would also say that if you can’t ride a bike without the aid of a computer to dumb it down, you shouldn’t be on it. (I never really understood why you would make a bike that produces a gazillion horse power, then retard it to a few hundred to make it ridable, why not make it to the few hundred and give it better characteristics elsewhere )

  • DickRuble

    The answer is very simple, Six. In-line or V6. Either works fine. 🙂

  • ManfredtheWonderDog

    Triples are the best. Smooth and powerful. If my old (1980) Yamaha 850 had better ground clearance and fuel economy, I would still be riding it.

    • Lee

      You’re kidding, right? Gas under 2 buck a gallon in VA and you’d sell a bike you like because of gas mileage? People buy motorcycles based on gas mileage? That’s like choosing a spouse based on whether they have a front-loader or top-loader. Ground clearance is another matter. That’s like choosing a spouse based on how many positions he/she likes.

      • ManfredtheWonderDog

        That bike got about the same mileage as my car. And the ground clearance (making left sweeps) was worse. I like a bike that handles well, is reliable, and gets better gas mileage than a sub-compact car.

        • Lee

          You should have seen the look my face the hot summer day I was on the interstate between Charlottesville and Richmond getting pretty good mileage (50) on my 1200 Sportster, it was so hot you couldn’t even breath, I passed a Prius and realized the guy was air-conditioned, listening to tunes, taking a hit, and getting better mileage than me. Not fair! Bring Jimmy Carter back!

          • ManfredtheWonderDog

            The man known as Obama made Jimmy Carter look good! A phase change cooling vest is a wonderful thing to have on a hot day on a bike.

          • Lee

            Good. I’ll get one. Then maybe America will be Great Again.

  • mel mackinnon

    I prefer thumpthing lighter and simpler.

  • Angelo Trianta

    I like the smooth power delivery of an inline four but a healthy dose of low and midrange grunt that twin cyl’s offer, is much more important for street riding.

    An inline three must be a good compromise. I have yet to ride one.
    Liking the Yamaha three banger and the three banger MV is sex on two wheels.