Top 10s

Top 10 biggest motorcycle engines 2018

Because there’s no substitute for cubes

IS bigger really better? Is there truly no substitute for cubic inches? The saying tells us so but how many bike manufacturers take note?

We’ve done a rundown of the biggest production bikes ever made before but that was back in 2013 and things have changed since then. Not least, we’ve seen the introduction of new emission rules that have killed-off some of the biggest.

For this list we’re looking purely at bikes that will be on sale in 2018, and which meet the Euro4 emissions rules. That means that our previous winner, Triumph’s 2294cc Rocket III, is currently ineligible; it’s still on sale, but doesn’t meet Euro4. so unless Triumph releases a re-worked, cleaner version, its days are numbered. Any other bike that’s currently still in dealers but lacks Euro4 certification has been left out as well.

Other big bikes from our previous list have also either been killed entirely – like Kawasaki’s VN2000, Victory’s 1731cc V-twins and Honda’s VTX1800 – or dropped in Europe, like Yamaha’s XV1900.

But plenty more have come in their place, including the new Milwaukee-Eight powered Harley-Davidsons.

Overall, though, the list shows that there’s a downsizing trend in bike engines – the entry threshold to make the top 10 in terms of capacity has dropped significantly. Having said that, the average power made by the bikes in the 2018 list is higher than last time, so there’s a good sign of progress.

We’ve also stuck to a strict definition of 'production motorcycle' here; they’ve got to be type-approved, road-going bikes with no more than two wheels. No trikes allowed, or we’d have to include the Can-Am Spyder, Rewaco and Boom Trikes models, and even the Morgan 3-Wheeler. All are legally considered motorcycles, but don’t really fall into our remit.

Of course, we don’t have a complete list of 2018’s bikes just yet, but here's our top 10 coutdown of the biggest we know about so far, starting with...

10. KTM ‘1290’ models: 1301cc

Last time we did a list like this, the 10th place spot went to a 1699cc machine – which we won’t name yet as it’s making an appearance again in the 2018 line-up. The fact that a 1301cc bike is the 10th-biggest-engined model on offer next year shows how much bikes have been downsized over the last few years. The 1290 Super Duke R, 1290 Super Duke GT and 1290 Super Adventure all use the firm’s biggest, 1301cc V-twin to jointly make the last spot on the big engines list for 2018.

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE.

Want more top tens? Check out...

Top 10 motorcycles of all time.

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Top 10 pre-1978 bikes.

Top 10 winter hacks for under £2,000.

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Click here for even more Visordown top tens.

Guzzi’s 1380cc V-twin is used in the California, MGX-21, Audace and Elorado (pictured) and makes 96hp and 89lbft of torque. While it’s actually quite small for a cruiser engine, those figures are in line with the power of some of Guzzi’s bigger-engined rivals.

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE MOTO GUZZI ELDORADO.

It might only make 8th place on the capacity chart but Kawasaki’s 200hp ZZR1400 is the most powerful bike in this line-up by some margin. It’s also the only four-cylinder model to make the list.

We’re bundling all three K1600 variants – the GT, GTL and K1600B (pictured) – into one since they all use the same six-cylinder, 1649cc motor. With 160hp it’s the second most powerful engine here. It’s not the only six-cylinder, though, as we shall see. Again, the BMW wouldn’t have been big enough to make the cut last time we rounded up the largest-capacity machines on offer.

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE BMW K1600B.

Last time we did a ‘biggest-engines’ list, the Thunderbird just squeezed into 10th and last place with its 1699cc parallel twin. Now it’s well up in the midfield, again showing that bike firms are moving away from the biggest-capacity engines. With a couple of exceptions, that is. Of course, there is a bigger Triumph; the Rocket III is still in the line-up with its 2294cc triple. But it’s not Euro4-approved, so must be removed from sale by the end of 2018 unless a revamped, compliant version is made.

The 107 Milwaukee-Eight engine (107 cubic inches), as featured in the 2018 Street Bob (pictured), is actually the smallest version of Harley-Davidson’s newest engine design. But even so it makes the top five in this list. Given that there are larger variations of the engine also available in 2018, no prizes for guessing that there are more Harleys to come. For 2018, the Milwaukee-Eight has taken over from the Twin Cam in all Harley’s Softail and Touring models.

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE 2018 HARLEY-DAVIDSON STREET BOB.

We’re past the 1800cc mark now, with the Indian Thunder Stroke 111 (111 cubic inches). The engine has been somewhat overshadowed recently by Indian’s more modern Scout models, with their water-cooled, DOHC motors, but the Thunder Stroke 111 still powers the lion’s share of the firm’s range. The Chief, Springfield, Roadmaster and Chieftain (pictured) all use it.

READ ABOUT INDIAN'S 2018 RANGE.

It’s the second six-cylinder bike on our list, and the newest machine. At the time of writing it’s not even been officially unveiled, but leaked pictures and details mean there’s little mystery left around it. The engine is still a flat six and steps up by just 1cc from the old Gold Wing’s 1832cc to 1833cc.

SEE LEAKED PICTURES OF THE 2018 HONDA GOLD WING.

When the Milwaukee-Eight engine first emerged the larger 114 cubic inch version only appeared in a handful of CVO models. For 2018 it’s being offered as an option in most of the firm’s touring and Softail models, including the Breakout (pictured). Notably, it’s bigger than the 1802cc Twin Cam 110 that was Harley’s biggest offering last time we did this list (and which could only make it 6th place!)

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE 2018 HARLEY-DAVIDSON BREAKOUT.

The last time we did this list Harley couldn’t even make the top five. The fact that the newest Milwaukee-Eight 117 – used in certain CVO models in 2018, including the CVO Limited (pictured), but surely set to spread more widely across the range in future – seems to put the firm back in the position you’d expect. After all, if you asked the average punter which firm made the biggest motorbikes, there’s a 90% chance they’d guess it was a Harley. Of course, we’ll repeat that this list is provisional; if Triumph manages to get Euro4 certification for its 2.3-litre Rocket III, which is still in production but can only be sold using an ‘end of series’ period of grace in Europe, then the British firm could regain the number 1 spot. However, Rocket III sales might not be strong enough to make Euro4 updates worth the R&D investment.

READ ABOUT HARLEY-DAVIDSON'S 2018 RANGE.

What more top tens? Check out...

Top 10 motorcycles of all time.

Top 10 Chinese bikes.

Top 10 pre-1978 bikes.

Top 10 winter hacks for under £2,000.

Top 10 production café racers.

Top 10 best ever Hondas.

Click here for even more Visordown top tens.

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