Types of Motorcycle Engines

The engine is the heart of any motor vehicle. It is something that undoubtedly impacts performance and something that must be operating at peak condition to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.

For motorcycles, you may have noticed there are multiple types of engines used in bikes. But what makes one engine better than another?


Whether you ride competitively or just as a mode of transport, it is useful to get familiar with motorcycle engines and understand the differences between the various types. This will help you get more from your bike and may also help find your ideal next bike.

In this article, we summarise everything you need to know about different types of motorbike engines and try and provide some guidance as to the type of engine that may best suit your requirements.

If you are looking to get more from your motorcycle, browse our online shop here at Venhill to upgrade cables, lines and other components. We also have a useful Part Finder, to help make it easy for you to find the necessary equipment for your specific bike.

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Types of Motorcycle Engines

Below, we highlight some of the most common types of motorcycle engines.

Inline Engines

Inline (straight) engines are perhaps the best place to start. This group of engines comprises of 4 main types – single, parallel twin, inline triple and inline four.

Single Cylinder

Single cylinders are the cheapest and simplest type of engine. They use a one-cylinder engine to produce power, which results in high vibrations (so a larger flywheel and counterbalances are usually necessary).  

Nevertheless, the simplicity means they are lightweight and easier to fix.

Single cylinders lend themselves better for smaller bikes, such as motocross or if you just want a bike to whizz around town in. They are probably not as suited for long tours or high-performance racing.

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Parallel Twin

Parallel twin engines are similar in approach to single cylinder engines but use two pistons instead of one. This helps create more stability in power generation.

Parallel twin engines have better balance than single cylinders, yet still suffer from high vibrations.

Inline Triple and Four

The inline triple uses three cylinders, and the inline four uses four. These offer a smoother and more balanced ride than the single or twin engines. The inline four starts to get noticeably heavier than a single cylinder so is suited to different purposes.

These engines are powerful and comfortable, resulting in their widespread popularity.

V Engines

V engines are characterized by their “V” shape and popular types include the V twin and the V four.

V Twin

The V twin is quite an iconic engine type and has been popular for decades. It creates a distinctive sound when revving the engine.

The V twin is powerful and well balanced.

V twin engines are used in most cruisers.

V Four

The V four comes with many of the benefits of the inline four but in a more compact form.

It is usually reserved for higher end motorcycle models due to the additional manufacturing costs and expense. In essence, it is two V twin engines stuck together.

The result is a smooth, balanced, powerful ride, with many considering this a great option for performance motorcycles.

Flat Engines

Flat engines are also often referred to as “boxer” engines, with the flat 2 (boxer twin) and flat 4 being most popular in the range.

Flat 2

The flat 2 offers great cooling and good balance, but due to the set-up is quite a complex engine, resulting in a higher price tag and harder to fix.

Flat 4

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The flat 4 offers a smoother option to inline 4s and offers a great power output.


This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are other engine types with loyal followings.

This includes types such as straight 6, V8, and a flat 6.

It should be highlighted that in recent years, electric engines are becoming increasingly popular, following a similar trend to that of cars.

As technology advances, manufacturers are able to get more out of the engines and new innovative designs and features are likely to keep adding new engine types into the market.

Choosing a Type of Engine

Motorcycle manufacturers will often have their preferences and use certain types of engines. Each manufacturer may have their reasons for a particular type of engine selected for each model and this means that when browsing motorcycles, you are likely to see some common themes from each manufacturer.

This also means if you are set on a specific engine type, it may impact the model/manufacturer you opt for.

It’s always worth seeking advice from an expert or directly from the manufacturer if you looking to replace an engine on an existing bike. Upgrading to a powerful engine isn’t as simple as it sounds, as this may mean the brake system is not adequate anymore. Insurance policies may also have clear instructions on replacing engines.

Here at Venhill, we are a leading supplier of cables and hoses for brands such as Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha. This means whatever brand and engine you choose, we have the cables, hoses and components to make the most out of the vehicle.

Learn More About Venhill

At Venhill, we have a whole host of products designed to optimise motorbike performance. Our range of replacement parts, including throttle cables, clutch cables and hydraulic braided brake hoses, are all specifically designed to fit seamlessly onto your bike.

Whether you own a classic, modern or vintage motorcycle, you can be rest assured all Venhill parts offer improved safety, performance and durability.

Browse our online shop today and get inspired.

If you need any support or advice on what products are best suited to your bike, simply get in touch with our expert team.

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