engine configurations and their sounds

Discussion in 'General Discussion / News / Information' started by KZ, May 2, 2011.

  1. There are lots of different engine configurations available out there - from singles to all kinds of twins, triples, inline-fours, V-4s, flat six and now even BMW's inline 6, a repeat of the old Hondas, Kawasakis and Benellis of the seventies.
    Now we could debate the merits and disadvantages of these configurations, but I'm mainly interested in the sound.
    I like singles. I loved my XR650L with a Supertrapp, and the intake sounded even better. One mechanic told me that he could hear "the angry beaver" in the air box. But singles also sound a bit 'simple'.
    Inline-fours can sound great but I don't care much for them because they are everywhere and I grew up with the sound of four cylinders - in cars.
    Triples are cool! I had a K75S and put a Supertrapp on it. But the sound wasn't really what I wanted, it only sounded cool at low revvs around 3000rpm; then it sounded like an old 6 cyl inline english roadster, like a Triumph or a Healey. Here in Phuket I hear triples every day; unfortunately they are 900cc Daihatsu engines in the little tuk-tuks and sound lame.
    I had lots of expectations when Honda came out with the flat six - with a cool exhaust system I expected it to sound like a Porsche. But it didn't even come close.
    V4s have potential; I had an old 750 Sabre which sounded quite impressive. Not many V4 on the market these days.
    That leaves us with twins, and there are lots of them. BMWs boxers come to mind. But I've never heard a BMW that sounded as cool as an old brit-bike. V-twins are my favorite engine configuration, but no narrow-angle cruisers, even though Harleys sound good. Nope, it's got to be 90 degrees. Great sounds from Ducati and Moto Guzzi! But Suzuki SVs and Honda's 1000cc bikes never sounded as good, even with after market exhausts.
    Parallel twins I like the least, sound-wise. Sorry, Kawasaki Versys owners, but even with a cool can the short-stroke parallel twin may sound better than stock, but doesn't pull the fish off the plate. You may disagree, but I'd leave the stock muffler alone and spend the money on other accessories.
    Only the older long-stroke parallel twins sound alright, like Triumphs, Nortons, even an old XS650. The new W800 sounds promising with its way long stroke.
    Which configuration sounds best to you?
  2. I have to agree with you, my Versys has a kind of Japanese coffee-machine sound. But I not really care about the sound or look of a bike.
    But I did like the sound and feel you my Yahama XT250x and TW225e.

    Chang Noi
  3. Funny enough, the best sounding bike for me personally was my 750SS Ducati from 1978.
    However a good test is to fly past horses or cattle in a paddock.
    The noise that stirred them up the most while riding with mates on Harleys and sports bikes was my Triumph Speed Triple with a sports pipe on.
    It sounds like a big primeval cat.


  4. Well now that I have the reaper tip exhaust installed on my Fury I haven't heard anything sound better. There is just something about the single pin crank in a VTween.
  5. I had straight-through end pipes on the only cruiser I've ever owned, an Intruder 1400. The headers were hand made, both coming out on the right side of the bike. Bought some Harley end pipes which had only a wall inside which had three big holes - nothing else in there! Harleys sound better but those long-stroke 680cc cylinders were quite impressive. I put a drag bar on it and a Corbin seat, but later sold it when I realized I'm not the cruiser type.

    Attached files
  6. Triples have a unique sound, I'm glad that Triumph produces some great sounding bikes! Not only the Speed Triples but also the big Rocket - it should sound wild with the right exhaust!
    Check out this video with Kevin Carmichael riding the wheels off a Triple:
    Here's a Street Triple R going through the rev range on the Isle of Man - too bad you can't see much of it!

    This Speed Triple doesn't sound bad, either:
  7. I have an in line four with a racing Akropovic. I have a street triple with an Arrow exhaust.
    If I had to choose, I would much prefer the sound of the in line four.
    I especially do not like the sound of the Aprilia V4 at the track. It sounds like it is labouring.

    V twins also sound boring. Harleys to me sound like a big Lister diesel engine on a water pump.

    The 16,000+ RPM screaming Jap 600’s sound the best of the lot at peak revs, however, having said the above, I don’t really like loud exhausts and I always use the latest helmets that have the least noise intrusion and moulded ear plugs to deaden the noise.
    Especially on the race track.
  8. I agree that a high reving inline four, still sounds the best to me with the right pipe. I remember attending my first Formula One race back in 1983 at Long Beach when the BMW M12/13 engines were cranking out 1300 HP from boosting 1.5 liter fours to 5.5 bar. Insane power back in those days when F1 was basically an unlimited class. The sound of a four at full tilt at 15K will stand my hair up every time.
  9. Hay Hay Now water pumps are cool
  10. "Harleys to me sound like a big Lister diesel engine on a water pump." - Harleys are typical American engines. They make a racket, they huff and puff, they draw attention but when it comes down to it, they're old fashioned, unreliable and have a terrible hp/cc ratio. They're very entertaining, though.

    I turn my head when I hear a modified single, twin, triple or V4. Sport bikes are "just another inline four".
  11. Ok all the talk about listers got me thinking of the old John Dears tractors. I loved being around the farms and listening to them Coughing and Popping away and I suppose most of you would hate it.
    Well there is something to be said about multi cylinders to. Stand next to a 24 cylinder EMD or a 12 cylinder Wickman engine and I do Like that to and they don't sound like the Lister Harleys but that is getting away from bike engines

    Well I think I would love listening to this to and at full RPM has got to sound good at lest to me.
  12. That's quite a contraption, there. I've googled "radial engine in motorcycle" and got a nice clip of a motorcycle with a star engine on a drag strip. Interestingly they did install the engine the "wrong' way. Must've been Americans.
    But the funniest project I've seen in a long time is this radial engine in an old german 250cc "Goggo" mini car from the 50s!
    Notice the beer and barbeque in the foreground:
    Here it's at the drag strip:
  13. KZ That is hilarious. I disagree about the Americans of course. I think that is all German engineering.
  14. Okay, strike the 'unreliable', then. It takes time for the word to spread once you have a bad reputation.
    There's the old joke: "What does a Harley Davidson and a hound dog have in common?" - "The 'H' and the 'D'." - "Yes. And the fact that they both spend half of their lives in the back of a pick-up truck."
    Several countries had HD police bikes, but not for long. Even in the US the coppers would ride Kawasaki, then BMW. I wonder when they will ride HD again.
  15. Highly dangerous and hardly driveable were the common interpretations in my youth for the HD moniker of Harley Davison’s

    When you press the starter on a Harley the whole bike goes into convulsions as the motor tries to rotate. The whole bike vibrates and jumps around. This is the first sign that this motor cycle is a relic of the thirties and hasn’t improved a great deal since then.

    The exhaust sound is like a long stroke diesel pump engine. Uninspiring in terms of potential perform available for the rider. Just a lazy lump, lump of a sound and once under way and riding the asthmatic bike, the power is very underwhelming. However I will concede that it has very good torque that would pull stumps out of the ground.

    It seem that most Harley riders love the loudest exhaust pipes they can find and I note that many are constantly blipping the throttle when arriving at a stop such as a petrol station to announce their arrival and gain attention.
    Once they are ready to go again it is the same ritual. Start the motor and blip that throttle as many times and produce the loudest noise they can. Not all Harley riders behave this way. Some retain the original exhaust but they are not noticed due to the muffled sound.

    The Western Australian police tried Harleys for two years and quickly abandoned that experiment due to endless failures of the bikes. My neighbour and good friend was a police riding trainer. He told me the bikes suffered from oil leaks, many had batteries that cracked open due to the constant shaking but the biggest problem they had was a large increase of single rider crashes due to the weight and ground clearance.

    I have only ever ridden a Harley twice in my life. Once was in the sixties on a 1928 model with a wooden box side car with foot clutch and 3 speed tank mounted gear box change.
    I was offered a ride on an almost new Harley in the eighties by a friend and I dropped it at first corner I came to. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of ground clearance and i lifted the wheels by bottoming the exhausts trying to lean at what i considered a normal angle. Cost me a packet to get it fixed.
  16. I never had the chance to ride a Harley so I stick to listening to the sound. Of course I also listen to people talk about Harleys and decide what to believe. A mechanic who worked on police bikes in the US told me that you would have to rebuild the engine about every 20,000 miles. That was in the 80s.
    If Captain Slash writes that his Harley holds up I believe that, too. It probably has something to do with the fact that his and his friends' bikes are newer models. Didn't Harley come up with a 'clean-sheet' design for a new engine in 1999? Thought I remember reading something about a new engine with bigger bore, shorter stroke and bigger cooling fin area. And no parts can be traced back to 1936...
    Then again if you do a lot of maintenance almost every bike holds up. If you adjust this and that and tighten the bolts down every weekend.
    "It's reliable if you fix it all the time", that sort of thing.
    But I like the sound - especially if it's a BUELL, sounding like an alpha male gorilla beating his chest in the jungle...
    Wonder why they switched to Rotax engines in the end.
  17. KZ
    I need to point out to 1 little fact about harley's. 98 percent of all Harley Davidsons are still on the road. The other 2 percent made it home.
    All kidding aside i do like Harley. I don't think I would own one any more. I don't like the stigma that is attached to them. But all the bikes that I like are still V twins wether it is Kawasaki Honda or Yamaha
    Yes I like loud but I am not one that pulls into the gas station Blipping the throttle for attention. I have that with the fury when it was quite. Now that I have changed the pipes I have noticed a big difference riding down the road and overtaking other bikes and cars. They are now aware that I am there before they didn't. For that reason alone is good enough for me and I like the sound.
  18. When I was young I stood leaning on a wall and watched Agostini and Hailwood go racing past. Their bikes made a nice noise. I also like the sound of Manx Nortons, especially when they are being warmed up. I haven't been to a modern GP but I wonder what the Honda V5 sounds like. I quite like the sound of Harley with quiet pipes. To me it is a comforting noise like a compressor giving light or pumping water out of the bilges of a boat.
  19. the modern MotoGP bikes sound like a smaller and not as noisy version of a F1 car.
    they miss and gargle under full throttle at Phillip Island like they were about to blow up,but it`s just the traction control cutting the power while they are on their side for the majority of a lap there.
    they bang and pop when they back off the throttle as well.

    i`ve always liked the exhaust note of a triple with an after market pipe.
  20. Talking about V5 engines - why aren't there any bikes with in-line 5s? In-line four, in-line six, but no in-line five.
    Okay, as BMW showed, you can get 180+ hp out of a 1000cc in-line four, so why build five.
    Five cylinders have always been 'unorthodox'; when I grew up cars had four or six cyl.
    But Volkswagen and even traditional Daimler Benz built five cylinder in-line engines. I had an old 300D with an in-line five, based on the four-cylinder 240D. It sounded quite interesting, not as 'normal' as a four but also not as smooth as a six, kind of in between. As it should.
    A 1500cc five cyl based on a 1200cc four would make an interesting bike!
    But the Japanese seem to prefer building fours from 250 to 1400cc.
  21. I swapped a BSA 650 for an old Goldwing, one of the first models. I had to change the original pipes and put on a pair of Marshall Deeptone exhausts. One evening, I gave it a good blast down a straight and into my village. I got waved down by one of the locals and he said he knew it was a flat four coming from the noise it made and how much he liked the sound. I was impresed at how he knew and happy he liked it. I used to hear him burbling through the village on a genuine ex- Hailwood Ducati and I liked that sound. Should have tried for a swap.
  22. I've searched youtube for a video with a 1800cc flat-six sound but didn't really find anyhting I liked.
    But several old flat-fours sounded great!
    Maybe you should trade that old Goldwing back for the BSA.
  23. How about this one...

  24. What a mean sound! But not my cup of tea! A 250cc in-line 6 cylinder that revvs to the moon. Only 41cc per cylinder - that would make an 18 cylinder 750!
    It's amazing what you can come across on the internet; the BRM race car with a 1500cc V16 sounds wild, too.
    Some interesting sounding Audi 5 cylinders. They should build a 1500cc in-line 5 bike, just the sound should be worth it.
    After all, they build 2000cc V-twins and 2,3L triples!
  25. Back in oz I had a moto Guzzi lm1 and my mate had a Ducati 900 ss. Both bikes had the Ducati conti style mufflers on with their spiral louvre baffle inside. We used to ride down the freeway side by side, match the revs and you could hear the sound come in sync like a twin engine plane you may have heard. That was close to heaven and we would ride along like that grinning at every opportunity.

    I just bought some new pipes for my triumph from the states. Yep, they have spiral louvered baffles inside. I cant wait to hear them!

    Gunning a Ducati, moto Guzzi or triumph engined bike with loud pipes throuh the hills is still one of my favorite pastimes....

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