Where to start? The motorcycle engine is a diverse piece of engineering ranging in type from two-stroke to V-8’s (yikes!). What you can bet on is your motorcycle is a gasoline internal combustion engine, meaning it harnesses the energy produced from this internal combustion and uses it to move your rear tire, which propels your motorcycle forward.
Since engines vary so widely, we will define some typical terms to allow you to get a bit more familiar with the jargon associated with motorcycle engines. First thing to know is the engine displacement is the total volume of air/fuel mixture an engine can draw in one complete engine cycle. This displacement is the size of your motorcycle, motorcycles size can range from less the 50 cc to 6,000 cc. “CC” stands for cubic centimeters, the form of measurement used to define your engine displacement.
The next defining feature in a motorcycle engine is the cylinder(s) which houses the piston(s) which transfers energy from the combustion of gas to the crankshaft (and eventually to your rear wheel). Cylinders come in a variety of styles you can have one cylinder, two cylinders that are parallel, forming a V (V-twin), flat or tandem. You can also have three, four, five, six, seven or eight cylinders arranged in pretty much any conceivable pattern. When people use terms like “In-line four” you can know that means four cylinders…in a line or “V-twin” means two cylinders situated in a V.
Another thing to think about is how your engine is cooled which can be one of three ways; liquid, air or oil cooled. Make sure you know how your engine is cooled because if its liquid or oil, you don’t want to run low! Other components on or around your engine, but not related to the actual conversion of gas to energy are the clutch and transmission. The clutch disengages the clutch plates to allow for shifting of the gears. The transmission houses your gears, make sure you know how many gears total your motorcycle has.
If you want to learn more about your specific motorcycle’s engine, you should! It’s interesting and empowering to understanding how gas powers you through turns and down the highway.