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Pipeburn Poll: What’s Your Favourite Engine Configuration?

Posted on October 8, 2011 by Andrew in Other. 60 comments

Ariel’s weird-ass Square Four configuration. It seemed like a good idea at the time

There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “art is a science with more than seven variables.” Now correct us if we’re wrong, but we think what it’s getting at is that after the seventh level of variation in a particular system, things get so complex that it’s impossible to study rationally and you just have to sit back and enjoy the arcane beauty of it all. Much like choosing a particular motorcycle engine. One of the most amazing things about motorbikes is that there’s a genuinely impressive amount of engineering experimentation going on. And each time a manufacturer decides to shake things up a little with a strange new array of flailing pistons, we all benefit with a whole new riding experience to enjoy. Different power delivery, noise, vibrations, torque curves, idle – the list is almost endless, as are the smiles. But we’re not here to be vague, we’re here to be specific. Damn specific. What’s your favourite engine configuration?

(Update: Only 30 more votes to make this our most popular poll ever. Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time! Feel free to mail us with your own poll ideas if you think you’ve got a good one.)


  • Awesome Poll! I can't wait to see the results of this.

    Once I did it with twins I was hooked (Hilarious!)

  • Hmmmm, silly you left Vincent and Brough (J.A.P.) out of the V-Twins… Still, my heart yearns for Triumph. Edward Turner's legacy in motion.

  • Daz

    Nothing better than hot twins between your legs. ;P V or parallel.

  • jj

    Anyone who didn't pick v4 has never ridden one!

    • Paulo G


  • junkie

    Theres plenty of those i havent ridden, but plenty i have. and they all have theyre own charm for theyre own given purpose. i love all the twins especially boxers i'm a bmw/harley tech. but ive ridden many v-twins Harley(MANY of them) , Aprilia, Suzuki, Ducati… And theyre just the most well rounded of all i think. Aprilia is the favorite for me (that 1000 just screeeaams). But ill say ive never been on a V-4. i can only imagine it would be an incredible trip JJ.

  • DindarTheGrey

    This question is too hard to answer ! I own 4 motorcycles, a lusty 500 single, a charismatic 650 V twin, a mental 2 stroke parallel twin and a magical TBS triple. Each has its own character , each makes me grin like a loon.
    Please dont make me choose !

  • Anton

    V4 baby, you no other way to do it

  • Glenn

    V3 2-stroke comes pretty close.

  • Jano

    I have a poor man's ducati (a suzuki) V twin and love the feeling of the bike trying to slide forward underneath me as the torque reels in the horizon! The sound it makes while doing this is the cherry on top.

  • It's not my favorite bike but it is my favorite engine. V-Max.

    Ride it before you die.

  • Joey

    I love how slow my 52 Ariel VHA Red Hunter accelerates Thump thump thump……..

  • Joakim

    Parallel twin, followed very closely by single cylinder and transverse V-twin. Norton 500 cammys are the sex and Moto Guzzis are charasmatic as hell!

  • Geoff

    DindarTheGrey , I am pretty sure God loves you.

  • Matthias

    I voted flat-4, but not the honda kind: BMW K 100 engines are a fantastic piece of engineering with a lot of power that will last near forever!

  • Robert

    I have also been privileged to have sampled many various engine configurations. The untamed nature of 90 twins are so addictive they must receive my vote.

  • Drillmastertommy

    Had Vee's, got boxers, working on a p-twin but would gladly drop it all for a chance at an NR750.

  • Kurt Perth WA

    Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow…. .Singles BOOM BOOM BOOM

  • What the heck is a v-five?

  • Hardman

    A favor? Please share your little 4-Square image? I NEED it for my desktop at the moment.

  • bikebuyer

    Parallel twins is showing a high percent in this poll yet there are few bikes with this motor config offered in N. America…the bike companies just don't get it.

  • Generic1776

    A V-five is exemplified by the Honda RC211V, a 990cc experimental motor for world grand prix racing. Probably the most wicked powerful (Grand Prix) bike made, it made over 250 HP and could top 210 MPH on some race tracks.

    It competed directly against the 500cc two stroke GP bikes in 2001.

    Valentino Rossi (racer) added pivotal input through its development cycle, but when he didn't get "his way" at Honda after becoming world champion, he left Honda and went to Yamaha, paying for his entire crew and crew chief in the transition, to develop a competing motorcycle; which he did, and won over the Honda.

    In 2006 Nick Hayden road the RC211V to win the world championship victory over Valentino. After this, the engine format was determined to be too powerful/destructive/costly and they lowered the engine size limit to 800cc. Since then only racers the size of Russian ballet dancers have been successful in world grand prix racing.

    Don't worry, next year they are upping the engine size limit to 1000 cc. Racing will be good again.

    Oh… I would have said v-twin, but that is only because of the SV650. Otherwise, the inline triple has my favorite, sound and power delivery.

  • g

    Ghhaaa! I can't decide!

    I love my parallel twin (KZ400) I love my V twin (sportster 1200) but I desperately want an 84-85 honda VF750 (V4) and I really want a late 90s Triumph Thunderbird 900 (inline tripple).

  • L-twin not V-twin. Which is what the Duc's and the SV's actually ARE not V-twins.

  • TomGBDA

    Small, single cylinder 2-strokes. A Honda NSR 75 that is street legal (on an island that only allows up to a 150cc 4-strokes) will do what you want, provided your confident enough to keep it on the power band and ride everywhere WOT. With a huge expansion chamber it sounds so sexy. I know you V-twin guys or whatever will swear by your own choice, but in Bermuda, a 2-stroke single is the way to put a smile on your face.

  • GuitarSlinger

    Got to be honest . Though I voted for V-Twin ( Vincent , Brough , Ducati , Buell , Moto Guzzi etc ) its the Boxer twin of late that really has my attention .

    Partly because the prices of the Vincents I lusted after are becoming stratospheric and partly because I am loving the Mods and Hop Ups that are being done on BMW's of late . A nicely modified classic Beemer complete w/sidecar looking better by the day .

    So its the V-Twins I lust after , but the Boxer that'll wind up in my garage .

    Such a quandary .

  • Damo

    transverse V-twin for me please. They help keep the knees warm in winter.

  • Trav

    You totally forgot all two-strokes. I'm sorry, but a 2-stroke single and a thumper are not nrealy the same thing. I have one of each, plus an I4 and a triple. The triple is the best, by the way. It seems assumed we are talking about 4 stroke engines….

  • davmo

    Horizontal singles. Try driving the snot out of a small, overpowered, lightweight bike. Even experienced large bike guys will start smiling and laughing the minute they start riding one. Thumpers most definitely, if fun is your aim.

  • Andrew

    @Trav – Understand yr point, but 13 choices in a poll is more than enough choice. If we started adding two-stroke variations to that, it'd get seriously unwieldy. And then what about crossplane cranks and other phase variations? You get the drift…

  • BB

    Great idea for a poll. Parallel twin powered desert racer for the street is my choice.

  • paul

    I love sitting at the lights and hearing a late model Duke with a good set of pipes and the destinctive dry clutch splitting through the traffic next to you.

  • @Hardman – Original Four Square image here.

  • Robert

    Yay for all the acknowledgement towards SVs. My 2003 1000n was a sweetheart.

  • Robert


    This bike would sell in the USA. I'm drooling brother.

  • Charlie

    Am I to count the boiler in my nuclear-steam-powered bike?

  • Andrew

    @Charlie – Weirdo.

  • Big fun with twins…
    but i wish i could try some radial engine or a wankel one maybe…

  • Bertus

    I love these polls. I think the v-twins should have been divided into the sports type twins, cruiser type twins and the transverse (motto guzzi) type twins. Then again, if you want to include every single configuration out there you gonna be at it for a while. For instance, a v-twin harley is nothing like a v-twin Suzuki TL which is nothing like a Suzuki RGV250.

    Hmmm… I'm making this too complicated aint I? Anyway, I chose in-line fours (I know I'm boring) 'cos I'm hoping my next bike is a GSX1400. Then again I also want a Kawa KLR650 and SV1000 and a BMWR100rs…and…and

  • Christophe

    Can't go on the dirt with anything other than a thumper! Especially with the noise from a 90's Honda XR250+. Sexual.

    • Pete. We’re currently in discussions with Honda Australia regarding a review of the CB1100. I know that won’t help you guys get yr hands on them, but maybe it’ll give you something to read while Honda USA come to their senses…

  • Bobdor

    I own a small single, an mid-size inline-4, and a fat inline-6. I have ridden thumpers, zingers, big air-cooled cruiser Vs, sport Vs, vintage parallel twins, V4 muscle bikes and the best engine configuration I have found (so far) is hands down the one that's cradled between 2 wheels.

  • konrad11

    Just look here for really innovative construction from Poland –>
    It's 500 ccm four-cylinder two-stroke engine!!!
    They are building up this thing, its not just design concept and 3D pictures (

  • @Bobdor – 😀

  • Raúl Vicente

    An SV650 throbbing in my heart, hoping it never dies… Hoping to get on it's way to become vintage in my mitts, along with a grey beard! I love inline fours but they're too smooth for me, I prefer the low revving power of a middleweight twin planted on a naked frame. And long live humankind's infinite sea of possibilities! Great poll!

  • scott

    Where are all the boxers out there? Help me out Hugo! Almost a hundred years of service with hardly a redesign, a monkey can service it in a sandtrap, and it comes with a nearly maintenance-free shaft drive into the bargain!

  • Gronk

    Oh what a quandary! I have ridden all except the illustrated square four and the V5 and like a previous commentator stated, they each have their charm and appeal. These days I race enduros and hare scrambles so more often than not I am straddling a thumper, thus perhaps I am a bit biased, but I really do enjoy the pureness of one cylinder firing repeatedly at a decent clip. In my free time I run my KTM 540 dual-sport on high-speed logging roads and the sound of that big RFS at full song is pure aural adrenaline. Simply beyond comprehension it is that a motor that sounds like a tin of marbles in a paint-shaker at idle can just be "right" at 8000RPM under load.

  • Timbob`

    square 4 two stroke (suzuki) or V twin two stroke (RGV250)…… 450 – 650 singles.

  • generic1776

    My SV died somewhere around 120,000 miles; the crank case broke around the tip of the shift shaft. Looking at the inside of the case, that was probably the only weak point in there, everything else is rather solid.

  • I have to go classic, nothing like a good ol' Panhead V-Twin

  • PETE98

    I like p-twins.

    ** I'd also like to buy one of those new Honda CB1100s but for some unknown reason Honda isn't bringing them to North America….too bad, they're beautiful.

  • rafe03

    I’ve ridden singles, flat 4’s, II twins, 2 strokes, dirt bikes, boxers, III triples, thumpers, sceamers, little ones, big ones, slow ones, beautiful duds, ugly rockets, & the occasional joke bikes. Some were tightly focused racers, others multi use tools. But all had some fun, maybe even overflowing with mad hilarity. Most with 2 wheels, some with 3. All worth a place in some bike lovers garage.

    But the best bike I’ve ever had is the one between my legs right now! Whichever one that may be!


  • Joe Crow

    i’ve just counted back over my 14x bikes in 30 years, and realised that i’ve had a real fondness for singles and off-roaders: altogether 10x singles (6x 4-stroke & 4x 2-stroke japs & indians); 1x parallel twin (2-stroke jawa); 1x v-twin (transalp); 1x straight-4 (honda-4); & 1x flat-4 (goldwing). my current rides are a trials spec 500 enfield bullet and a 650 transalp…and i have never owned or ridden a sports bike. obviously, i need to try more bikes!

  • As an interesting follow-up to the poll, I just read a piece in a mag that quized hundreds of European journalists (print journalists, I’m guessing – so you’ll have to assume they might be a bit behind the times, but still) asking what their favourite engine was. Triumph’s triple came out way ahead of anything else. Note to self – test ride new Speed Triple asap…

  • SuzukiDagfinn

    Do not underestimate the power of the Suzuki SV V-twins, which literally go to 11 – thousand RPMs that is – combining the V-twin grunt and bass sound with screaming revs when that’s what you want.  

  • triplemad

    Love my Daytona 675 and its triple….its sooooo buttery smooth.  rode a couple of  thumpers, a para twin, a couple Vtwins, several inline 4’s….but none can compare to the triple and its sound, feel and best all around power delivery.

  • CharlieHamilton

    As a multiple goldwing owner, I’m surprised that the boxer fours don’t get more love!

    I’m also surprised the V-twins have that much of a lead and the inline fours are behind thumpers and parallel twins.

    I guess the majority of people here would probably hate my blog:

    There’s a lot of OldWings and CB750’s but there are a couple of XS650’s in there too.

  • Augustus

    I really like Japanese inline 4s.  I love American V twins.  However, when Judgement Day comes I’ll  be on a V Four.  Nothing else sounds as good, and their bite usually live up to their bark.  I’ve owned VFRs in the past, currently ride a VMax, and if there were room in the garage and bank account, I’d have V4R Tuono sitting right next to it.