Top 10 biggest-capacity motorcycles

How big is too big?

THE argument over whether bigger really is better is one that we’re going to leave alone for the moment – but there’s no doubting that over the last decade or so bikes have been growing ever larger.

At the turn of the millennium, a 1500cc Goldwing was considered huge, but our list of the top 10 biggest-capacity bikes shows it’s merely a tiddler these days – you need 1700cc to gain entry here…

First, a couple of ground rules. We’ve steered clear of one-off machines; there’s no point in a list full of homogenous 2000cc S&S powered customs. Besides, the Leonhardt Gunbus would be an easy victor with its 6728cc aircraft-derived V-twin. So, just proper production bikes in showroom spec here. Second, we’re avoiding car-engined machines; even if, theoretically, a 6200cc Boss Hoss is a ‘production’ motorcycle, its engine comes from a Chevrolet car, so it’s out.

Anyway, here’s the list. Do let us know what, if anything, we’ve missed out.

10: Triumph Thunderbird Storm – 1699cc

While the base model of the Thunderbird, with its 1600cc engine, is too small to make the cut, the bigger 1699cc Storm scrapes into last place. It's interesting for two reasons. First, it breaks the cruiser mould by being a parallel-twin instead of the usual V-twin. Second, it's the only parallel-twin on the list, making it the biggest in production.

9: Victory – 1731cc

Doesn’t matter which model you choose, the Victory ‘Freedom’ V-twin, at 1731cc, is enough to get in on the top-10 action. We’d be surprised if the firm doesn’t make changes and move its motor higher in the rankings in the near future though.

8: Suzuki M1800/C1800 – 1783cc

Only three in and already we’re talking about bikes that list themselves as “1800”. Strictly speaking, the M1800/C1800 motor is just 1783cc, but even at that size it still passes an important landmark – in the UK, the average car engine is 1740cc, making the Suzuki the first bike on the list to be bigger than most cars on our roads.

7: Honda VTX1800 – 1795cc

IT mightn’t be in production anymore but Honda’s VTX1800 was a trend-setter in the cruiser market, starting the ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ battle that continues to this day. Don’t be surprised if Honda re-enters the massive cruiser battle soon, though, as a Goldwing-powered cruiser is widely rumoured to be on the agenda.

6: Harley-Davidson CVO bikes - 1802cc

Harley’s CVO machines – its biggest and most expensive offerings – these days come with the firm’s Twin Cam 110. That’s 110 cubic inches, or 1802cc. As usual with Harley, power figures never get a mention, but that’s not really what this engine is about; if you can claim to have the ‘biggest Harley’ then in the eyes of the average non-motorcyclist, you’ve got the biggest bike on the planet. Even though it’s actually only number six in the list.

5: Indian Chief – 1811cc

The new Indian provides a perfect example of one-upmanship, having been launched a few months ago with the firm’s Thunder Stroke 111 motor. That’s 111 cubic inches vs Harley’s 110. In the words of Nigel Tufnel “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?”

In real - European cubic centimetre - terms, the new Indian motor is 1811cc.

4: Honda Goldwing – 1832cc

Finally! After more than half the list being dominated by twin-cylinder cruisers we get a bike that’s neither a cruiser nor a twin. In fact, if the challenge was to have the most cylinders, the Honda would be vying for a win with its flat-six motor. At the launch in 2000 it was the biggest production bike ever, and it’s still no tiddler with 1832cc.

3: Yamaha XV1900 – 1854cc

Back to cruiser again, and V-twins, with Yamaha’s whopping 1854cc XV1900. The same engine powers a wide range of Star-branded machines in America, but over here it’s XV1900 or nothing. As usual in the cruiser class, size doesn’t equate to power – there’s only 90bhp here, making it the biggest capacity bike you can legally restrict to the 47bhp A2 licence class.

2: Kawasaki VN2000 – 2053cc

The VN2000 isn’t made anymore but at its launch in 2004 it aimed to be the biggest production bike on the planet – and was only beaten to the punch by our number one machine, which debuted the same year. Still, it’s the biggest twin and a pretty spectacular motor, mimicking traditional Harley-style design right down to using pushrods instead of overhead cams. Shout about the 2053cc capacity, but don’t mention the fact it only adds up to 103bhp.

1: Triumph Rocket III – 2294cc

While it’s no surprise to see two Honda engines in this list – after all, Honda’s the biggest engine manufacturer in the world – it’s refreshing to see Triumph is the only other manufacturer to feature twice. As well as being the biggest here, the Rocket’s 146bhp inline triple is easily the most powerful. It’s got the most torque, too, at 163lbft, and its three-cylinder design means its only the second engine here to have more than two cylinders. It’s arguably the most ‘interesting’ proposition, too, with its inline layout running longitudinally in the bike (inspired by old Indian four-cylinder machines) and has performance that will render every other bike on the list a tiny dot in the mirrors. A worthy winner, which looks likely to hold its ‘biggest engine’ title for a few years to come.

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