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The beating heart of any motorcycle is its engine, the configuration of which determines the bike’s whole character. This makes it a massively important consideration when choosing a bike.

ENGINE TYPES

In the beginning, we had big singles. Save for a few exotic twins, big thumpers were the bike engine of choice for yesteryear. The idea of a single cylinder sports bike seems ridiculous now, but their modest power was ample for the suspension, brakes and tyres of the era. But the fact that chassis technology has advanced unrecognisably from the days of Nortons, BSAs and Velocettes doesn’t mean that single cylinder engines are obsolete.

Husqvarna’s Nuda took single cylinder performance to a whole new level.

SIMPLE SINGLES

In fact, there’s a lot to like about single cylinder engines; they’re simple, compact, light and easier to maintain than multi-cylinder engines. The low engine speeds that singles work best at also keep internal friction down, adding to the frugal nature of single-pot motors. These characteristics make singles the engine of choice for light, nimble machines, exemplified by off-road bikes. Apart from Aprilia’s SVX twin, you’d be hard pressed to name a successful competition off-road bike with more than one cylinder. The low and midrange torque offered by singles make them ideal for dirt bikes, as does their simplicity and superior cooling ability at low speeds.

For big fat mingers, singles take some beating.
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