Engine configuration is a compromise, and for a motorcycle it’s a vital one considering its interaction with the rest of the machine – both in terms of package and dynamically. However, there’s clearly more than one way to do it since there are a wide variety of possible motorcycle/engine configurations that work well, with all of their creators claiming that they are the panacea. So let’s think about the advantages and disadvantages of some…
Width is probably the most important dimension regarding how a motorcycle feels, especially for the novice rider. Simple, then: let’s build a single or a V-twin. While this is good for width at the top of the engine, the gearbox is probably the widest part – getting the gears and the clutch on a single shaft dictates this. So a two-cylinder bank probably gives the minimum practical width. And a V-configuration is nearly always more expensive to manufacture than an inline one for any given number of cylinders, too.
Of course wel all like performance, and to generate it more cylinders always helps. This is because for the same capacity and bore/stroke ratio smaller cylinders give a shorter stroke, and this, within mechanical limits, gives the ability to rev. The Honda VFR800F engine has the same bore and stroke of the original 800 from 1998, which shared its bore and architecture with the Honda RVF759R (RC45) superbike, so it can clearly make power.