In­sight

The Aus­trian com­pany’s ab­sence from the two-wheel mar­ket has be­come con­spic­u­ous

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Aaron Richard­son

RO­TAX HAS SUP­PLIED pow­er­ful, stonere­li­able en­gines for any­thing and every­thing won­der­ful in the world. Air­planes, karts, snow­mo­biles, and water­craft have all ben­e­fited from power pro­vided by the sto­ried Aus­trian en­gine man­u­fac­turer. If it could thrill you, it could be pow­ered by Ro­tax, which is why the com­pany thrived along­side mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers, build­ing power plants for the likes of Aprilia, BMW, and KTM.

By the time Ro­tax helped Buell shake the yoke of Har­ley-david­son in the early part of this decade, it was build­ing four-stroke twins with bet­ter than 150 horses, and the 1,000cc V-twin it shipped Aprilia for its flag­ship RSV Mille liter­bike made close to 140 horsepower.

There was a le­gacy to up­hold, af­ter all. Those V-twins were de­scen­dents of brawny two-stroke en­gines built for some of the scari­est dirt bikes of the ’70s and ’80s. The Ro­tax Type 486, for in­stance. Named for its dis­place­ment, it was fa­mous as the only re­deem­ing qual­ity of the Can-am 500 MX. But that long run might have come to a quiet end.

En­gines made by Brp-ro­tax have all but van­ished from mo­tor­cy­cles. The hold­out is some­thing of a tech­ni­cal­ity: Can-am’s three-wheeled Spy­der runs a 1,330cc Ro­tax in­line three-cylin­der.

You can still find Ro­tax’s fin­ger­prints in the usual, weird places—and some new ones. BRP’S UTVS are ob­vi­ous homes for Ro­tax power, and the flat-four 912 line is a hit with the light air­craft com­mu­nity. Ro­tax might be missed by mo­tor­cy­clists, but the com­pany seems poised to thrill the pants off hu­man­ity for years to come.

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