Engines & Styles
As well as the style and appearance of the bike different engine configurations offer a variety of characteristics. Some people prefer in-line fours and others won't feel at home on anything but V-twins. Much of an engine's character comes from the number of cylinders.
Types of Engine
Singles Most mopeds and small capacity motorcycle's have a single cylinder. With higher capacity singles you get a lot of vibration because there's just one big lump of metal - the piston, flying up and down. They deliver punchy, easy-to-use power but are not flexible because they stall at low revs and can't manage very high revs.
Twins Most new twins these days are in a V-twin configuration.They are characterized by flat torque curves that give the feeling of strong pull from any revs. They are not as vibey as singles but not as smooth as triples and four-cylinder bikes.
Triples Most modern Triumphs are 3-cylinder engines although they have moved to an in-line four for their Supersport 600. Triples lie somewhere between the grunt and character of the v-twin and the top-end performance of the in-line four.
Fours In-line fours are the most common configuration for large capacity sportsbikes. Their small cylinders allow them to rev higher than engines with the same capacity. This means they can make more power. They are smooth and responsive but that smoothness is often called "lack of character". These engines provide little torque.
Fairing or No Fairing?
Fairings do three jobs. They keep the weather off the rider, they help
stop road muck plastering the engine and they improve the aerodynamics
of the motorcycle. That's why all high-speed sportsbikes have them.
If you plan to do long journeys then it's well worth considering a motorcycle with a fairing because its far more relaxing than having to brace yourself against the wind for hours on end but some people prefer to have the motorcycle engine on show.
Chain/Shaft or Belt Drive?
Most motorcycle's have the power delivered to the rear wheel using a
chain. Chains require lubrication and tension adjustment about every 500
Km or so, this depends on usage and the weather and can be a chore.
Some riders prefer bikes with a shaft drive which is totally enclosed and requires no maintenance just oil changes every 20000 Km or so. Shaft drives are not found on sports bikes because of their weight and the affect they have on handling but are popular on bikes designed for high mileage like tourers. B.M.W have embraced the shaft drive on nearly all their motorcycle's , weight reduction is an ongoing focus for B.M.W with lighter and lighter motorbikes being made every year.
Belt drive is also becoming increasingly popular with manufacturers due to fact that its nearly maintenance free. In general it does not require attention for at least 50,000 Km!