Which Cruiser Engine Layout: A V-Twin Or Straight 3?
The Two Biggest Motorcycle Engines In The World Face Off!
It's time to strap on your best helmet, put on your full leathers, make sure your life insurance is paid up, and go out and compare the two biggest production motorcycles on earth.
In this corner, weighing 704 pounds dry, is the British champion and current world record displacement holder at 2294cc, the Triumph Rocket III. In the other corner, weighing 751 pounds dry, is the Japanese champion and current world record V-Twin at 2053cc, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000!
This shootout is between the two Goliaths of the motorcycle world. Not more than a few years ago, the biggest motorcycle you could buy was a Harley Davidson 1340cc V-Twin, an engine which is now dwarfed by these amazing motors. To put it into an even greater perspective, most cars sold in Europe these days have smaller engines. Some more perspective? The Smart Car has a three cylinder engine like the Triumph, but its displacement is 698cc, which means that the motorcycle engine is more than three and a quarter times larger!
To place such overwhelming engines on two wheels takes a combination of chutzpah and cojones. Riding one takes the same combination.
The V-Twin engine has been a staple of motorcycle engineering for over a century. The vast majority of American motorcycles have always been V-Twins and had a general engine layout very similar to the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000, a narrow angled, single carb, pushrod actuated Vee. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Harley Davidson's cruisers are all based on exactly the same engine layout and philosophy.
When the British engineers at Triumph wanted to come up with their own particular take on what constituted the world's largest cruiser, they went into a drastically different direction. They drafted a three cylinder motorcycle, set in line with the frame in much the same way that the old Henderson fours were, but with one cylinder lopped off and the rest massively increased in size. Triumph is proud to point out that the pistons from their motorcycle are the same size as those found in the Chrysler's Viper.
If it's any satisfaction, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000s pistons are larger still. They're the size of the pistons in the mid-70s vintage Cadillac Eldorado 500 cubic inch V8!
With this amount of gasoline and air mixture blowing up between your legs several thousand times a minute, it's a good thing that both the Kawasaki and Triumph engineers saw fit to water cool their beasts to keep those massive heads at a reasonable operating temperature.
The engines are absolute monsters power drunk demons direct from Hades. The Kawi's V-Twin manages 97 BHP and 121 ft./lbs. of torque, while the Triumph cranks out 140 BHP and 147 ft./lbs. of torque. The Triumph's dyno numbers are almost identical to those of a base Jeep Wrangler!
When you have this much ooomph driving a single track vehicle, the results have to be nothing short of eye-flattening and that they certainly are. Right out of the dealership, the Rocket III can rip a quarter mile in 11.2 seconds. The Vulcan is no slouch either, with a 12.3 second time through the trap lights. And keep in mind that these motorcycles are not dragsters or race bikes, but meant to be staid cruisers. You can just imagine what a great tuner like Yoshimura could do with these motors.
When it really comes down to it, the choice has to be personal. Both of these motorcycles will do anything you ask of them and not even breathe hard. There is no doubt that under any form of absolute measure the Triumph carries the day. You just can't disagree with the performance figures that the big triple generates. But if you ask me which one I'd want to ride out of the dealership, there is no question whatsoever. The Triumph is butt ugly. Gimme the keys to the Vulcan.
Check out Hal's latest Hubs:
Also don't miss Hal's many other Motorcycling Hubs!
- An $85,000 Diesel Cruiser. But It Gets Great MPG!
- Could MPG Alone Get You On A 250 Cruiser?
- Nothing Exceeds Like Excess: Boss Hoss
- Same Bike, Different Name: Suzi Boulevard Vs. Kawi Vulcan
- The Biggest & Meanest: 2007 Kawasaki 2000 Vulcan
- The Wacky World Of Mini-Choppers
- Which Cruiser Engine Layout: A V-Twin Or Straight 3?
- 2007 Factory Choppers Buyer's Guide
- 2009 Yamaha V-Max VMX17: The wrong bike at the wrong time
- All the Fuel-Saving Devices that do nothing but rip you off
- American Vs. Metric Cruisers
- CanAm Spyder: 3-Wheel Cruiser Or Roadgoing Snowmobile?
- Finally! 2009 Official EPA Harley & Yamaha MPG Figures
- Hal's Master Motorcycle & Scooter MPG Reference Hub
- Harley Davidson's Outrageous Pricing Ripoffs
- Honda Fury vs. Yamaha Raider: Perfection Meets Grotesquerie
- How You Can Ride Captain America's Panhead
- Hypermile your motorcycle up to 179 MPG: No snake oil, no scams!
- Is it time to retire superbikes?
- Motorcycle Ergonomics: Getting That Kink Out
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: BMW
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Ducati
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Harley-Davidson Big Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Harley-Davidson Sportsters & Below 1201 cc
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda Boxers & Sixes
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda Off Road
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda Street Singles
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda Transverse Fours
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda V-Fours & CBRs
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda V-Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Honda Vertical Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Kawasaki Ninjas
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Kawasaki Singles
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Kawasaki Vertical Twins, Fours & Sixes
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Kawasaki Vulcans
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Suzuki Singles & Vertical Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Suzuki Sports & Fours
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Suzuki V-Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Triumph
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Yamaha Sports & Fours
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Yamaha V-Twins
- Motorcycle MPG Guide: Yamaha Vertical Singles, Twins & Triples
- Motorcycle nostalgia items I would gladly pay $$$ for!
- MPG Guide: The Fuel Economy Of 700 Top Selling Motorcycles
- MPG Guide: The Fuel Economy Of 250 Top Selling Scooters
- Pugang 125: The motorcycle built by starving slave laborers
- Revolutionary Harley Trike Has 2 Front Wheels That Lean
- Riding Your Bike For Maximum MPG
- R.I.P. XLH: How Could Harley Kill Off The Traditional Sportster?
- Sportster Iron 883: The Bike That Won't Save Harley
- Styling: Why Harleys Look Right & BMW Sedans Look Wrong
- Suzuki 350 runs on water. Pigs fly. Film at 11.
- Suzuki-ENV Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycle?
- Suzuki's 2008 1300 And 1800 Deformed Emetogenic Mutants
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Sportsbikes
- The 25 Wackiest Motorcycles Of All Time
- The Current State Of Solar Powered Motorcycles
- The new 123 MPG Champ: Yamaha Zuma!
- There's no zen in the art of motorcycle maintenance
- Top 10 Japanese Street-Legal Bikes Of All Time
- Top 10 Ugliest Motorcycles Of All Time
- Top 10 Tips For New Motorcycle Riders
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Bizarrobikes
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Current Cruisers
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Golden Age Bikes
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Hypermotards
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Naked Bikes
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Older Cruisers
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Supermotards
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Tourers
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Vintage Bikes
- Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles In History - The Ultimate List!
- Top 50 Best MPG Motorcycles
- Tri Glide Trike Leads Harley Davidson's 2009 Lineup
- Why Motorcycle Manufacturers Missed Out On MPG Mania
- Why the VMX17, Hayabusa And Similar Bikes Should Be Off The Streets
More by this Author
A reliable, fun, street legal brand new 100cc Honda that gets 100 mpg and costs under $1,000? If Honda was smart enough to bring it from India to North America, they'd sell by the thousands!
This is the definitive guide to the fuel economy of the 250 top-selling motor scooters from 50cc to 800cc expressed in mpg and km/l.
The one and only real Braciola: a slice of prime, lean mega-pounded beef, filled with the most delectable mixture on Earth; rolled, browned and then simmered in sauce all day long! Yum!