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.
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