Single-cylinder vs Multi-cylinder Motorcycle Engines: With Pros and Cons

Single-cylinder vs multi-cylinder
Single-cylinder vs multi-cylinder (Image credit: Yamaha Motors)

Many people seem confused about the engine cylinder in the motorcycle. It is as important to check the cylinder as you check engine displacement, torque, max speed.

But, if there is a lack of knowledge about the cylinder then you can’t know what is suitable and what’s not. After stretching into long hours of researching on motorcycle cylinders. Here is what I found.

What is the difference between single-cylinder and multi-cylinder engines? Single-cylinder is used in low CC engines whereas multi-cylinder are used in higher CC engine. Multi-cylinder engines are more balanced and provide smooth power delivery than single-cylinder engines. Single-cylinder engines tend to vibrate more than multi-cylinder engines.

But, one should be aware that single-cylinder engines have their own advantages and multi-cylinder have their own. These both are used in the engine as required.

Example to understand the basic difference between single-cylinder and multi-cylinder engines

For instance, if there is a job that requires only one guy then it would be a waste of time and energy to involve multiple people. 

And if there is work that requires more manpower and you have only one man hired for that job. Even if you pay him double or triple, the time consumed would be the same by a single man for the job.

But, if you hired multiple numbers of labor for the work then the job can be complete in half of the time or even sooner. The same is the concept of single-cylinder engines and multi-cylinder engines.

If the motorcycle is made for a beginner and has a low cc engine then it is a wise decision to put the single-cylinder engine in it. 

And if the motorcycle requires more power, torque, and speed then it is better to use multi-cylinder engines.

That way the load will be less on the motorcycle and the vibration and noise will be less. It will increase speed and give a smooth performance.

These are the most simple words to convey my thought and tell you about the difference between single-cylinder and multi-cylinder engines. For those who were looking for simple definitions and differences, I have discussed everything above with a practical example.

Now we will delve into the details of the difference more and I will talk about some technical terms also.

What’s the difference?

Before going into the differences between single-cylinder and multi-cylinder. I am going to touch over the definitions and some examples to make clear every aspect of engines.

Single-cylinder Engines

A single-cylinder engine
A single-cylinder engine (Image credit: Yamaha motors)

The world single-cylinder is used because it works using only a single-piston. Thus, the cylinder that works only using a single-piston is called the single-cylinder engine. Many motorcycles, scooters, comes with single-cylinder engines like KTM 390, Royal Enfield Classic, Husquarna, etc.

Single-cylinder is more fuel-efficient and requires less maintenance. It is lightweight and easy to maneuverable.

Single-cylinder has one spark plug or some also come with two spark plugs for just one cylinder.

The single-cylinder engine is smaller, lighter, and easier to work on. It also produces a good low-end torque.

If you are gonna go fast with single-cylinder engines then the motorcycle will start to buzz and vibrate too much. Apart from this, the single-cylinder motorcycles are too light to have stability out on an open road at a higher speed.

It is great for beginners and entry-level rider who is gonna run around town a lot.

The good thing, nowadays motorcycle engine companies use rubber to counter the vibrations.

Pros

  • Simple,light-weight and less moving part
  • Single-cylinder engines are cost-effective than multi-one.
    Good for entry-level riders.
  • Single-cylinder is Low-weight
  • Low-fuel consumption

Cons

  • It suffers from non-continuous torque and vibration. 
  • If you gonna drive a single-cylinder engine at high-speed it gets a little imbalanced.
  • Single-cylinder engines are not good for high output performance.

What is the multi-cylinder engine?

The world multi-cylinder is used because it works using two or more pistons. Thus, those cylinders that work using more than one piston in an engine is called multi-cylinder engine.

It is used in high CC motorcycles and cruisers providing stability and performance. Multi-cylinders are also used in cars. Actually, cars only used multi-cylinder engines.

Multi-cylinder Engines

Multi-cylinder motorcycle Engine
Multi-cylinder motorcycle Engine (Image Credit: Yamaha Motors)

It is more powerful than the single-cylinder engine and thus used in higher CC motorcycles.

These engines are more balanced than single-cylinder engines. Multi-cylinder produces less vibration than the single-cylinder engine.

It can obtain uniform torque and provide mechanical balance. It is made to provide performance and speed without making buzz or vibrations in the motorcycles.

Multi-cylinder engines are much more stable even at high speeds.

Pros

  • The multi-cylinder engine has enabled higher displacement motorcycles.
  • A multi-cylinder engine can reach a higher top speed without making much vibration and buzz.
  • It is good for long-distance riding and touring.
  • It produces relatively low vibration during high-revolution than single-cylinder

Cons

  • Multi-cylinder engines require higher maintenance.
  • It consumes more fuel
  • Multi-cylinder engines are expensive

Why multi-cylinder engines are used?

Multi-cylinders are used to provide high-performance output and reliability in a motorcycle. In high-speed motorcycles start to get imbalanced and start to make buzz-sound or vibration with a single cylinder.

If you are gonna buzz around on an open highway and ride at a high speed that’s where multi-cylinders come into play. It will provide you stability, smoothness, and a balanced ride on a highway for long distances.

How do cylinders affect motorcycle performance?

The motorcycle performance depends on the cylinder in the engine. If the motorcycle has a single-cylinder then there is no doubt about the power delivery. But when it comes to increased speeds, the single-cylinder motorcycle starts to buzz and vibrate. Whereas the multi-cylinder engine will provide smoothness and a balanced ride.

Single-cylinder has one piston inside the engine and as we add more pistons inside the engine it starts to affect motorcycle performance. If we add more cylinders, then it increases performance, smoothness, balance, etc.

Which cylinder engine motorcycle should I buy?

To decide which cylinder motorcycle you should buy between single and multiple. You should first list out your requirements/needs or say “What kind of riding you’re gonna do”?.

For single-cylinder engine

Are you just looking for a run around the town or do some off-roading? If yes, then you should go with single-cylinder motorcycles.

Single-cylinder engine is

A single-cylinder engine motorcycle is good for beginners and entry-level riders. So, if you are a total noob in the area of motorcycle riding, you should go with a single-cylinder motorcycle. Because a single-cylinder motorcycle is generally a low-cc motorcycle and easy to handle.

For multi-cylinder engine

Now, If you are looking for a performance sports motorcycle then you need a multi-cylinder engine. If you are looking for a touring or cruising motorcycle for long-distance riding then you should go with a multi-cylinder engine.

If you are looking for speed, smoothness, and a balanced ride even at high speed then you should go with multiple-cylinder engines.

FAQs

Is a single-cylinder motorcycle good?

The single-cylinder engine is good for a run around towns and doing off-road riding. As it comes with fewer parts and thus makes the motorcycle light-weight to handle and maneuver in off-road adventures. So, off-road motorcycles like dirt bikes or enduro are equipped with a single-cylinder engine. That’s why single-cylinder is excellent for off-roading and some run-around in towns.

The basic goodness of a single-cylinder motorcycle, it provides better fuel economy, good torque, etc. Apart from this, single cylinders provide good torque in low RPM.

Is a multi-cylinder motorcycle good?

A multi-cylinder engine is good for long-distance riding on an open highway with full throttle. A multi-cylinder engine provides smooth power delivery and a balanced ride even at high speed. It also makes less vibration even riding at high-speed than a single cylinder.

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