Motorcycle Monthly - - Knowledge -

Lay­out: A sin­gle bar­rel and pis­ton. Ben­e­fits: Strong low-down torque, sim­ple de­sign, light and com­pact.

In 1894, Ger­man man­u­fac­turer Hilde­brand & Wolfmüller (H&W) be­came what is ac­knowl­edged as the first se­ries man­u­fac­turer of mo­tor­cy­cles. As with the steam-pow­ered bi­cy­cles that had come be­fore it, the H&W was pow­ered by a sim­ple sin­gle-cylin­der en­gine.

Easy to pro­duce and af­ford­ably man­u­fac­tured, the pop­u­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion has been utilised by al­most ev­ery two-wheel man­u­fac­turer ever since. As early as the 1920s, more vi­brant en­gine de­signs started to chal­lenge the sin­gle’s uni­ver­sal ap­pli­ca­tion, but some man­u­fac­tur­ers per­sisted longer than oth­ers, in­clud­ing Rudge, which went on to pro­duce a 750cc sin­gle.

Most Bri­tish bikes pre-Sec­ond World War were pow­ered by sin­gles, with many man­u­fac­tur­ers sim­ply al­ter­ing the stroke of the bar­rel – while main­tain­ing the bore and pis­ton pre­vi­ously used to in­crease the ca­pac­ity of the mo­tor.

Honda re­leased the sin­gle-cylin­dered XBR in the 1980s, but it never won over the mar­ket as in­tended. Nowa­days, most sin­gles are re­lated to lower ca­pac­ity ma­chines, with a par­tic­u­lar ori­en­ta­tion to­wards off-road mo­tor­cy­cles.

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