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MD First Look: Motus MST Sport-Tourer

When I hear the phrase “new American motorcycle,” I usually roll my eyes and groan—how many chrome-laden, raked-out customs does the world really need? But when I saw pictures of the new Motus MST I knew there would be no eye-rolling here—unless it was from the ecstasy of being punched back in my seat by the 161 horsepower and 122 ft.-lbs. of torque promised by its unique V-Four powerplant.

Katech Engineering, a supplier of top-shelf racing engines, designed the KMV4 motor. It uses pushrods and a V configuration, but that’s where similarities between this bike and any other motorcycle built in the USA end. Sure, it’s dripping with good ol’ USA traditions—it’s essentially a scaled-down (and chopped in half) version of the famous LS7R motor from the GT1 Corvette, complete with two-valve per cylinder heads with hydraulically adjusted lifters and the aforementioned pushrods—but it’s also packed with 21st-Century high tech. Fueling is by direct injection—something becoming more common in cars but not seen before on a production motorcycle—which means fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder head for optimum power and efficiency. Displacement is 1650cc, and the very compact mill weighs in at just 130 pounds. The power peak is at 8000 rpm (blame the pushrods and hydraulic adjusters, but with that much torque, who’s complaining?) and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a particularly orgasmic exhaust note.

The chassis is also something not often (okay, ever) seen on American bikes. Developed by the uber-engineers at Pratt and Miller (developer of many winning racecars and engineers to aerospace and military clients), it’s a Ducati-ish chromoly steel trellis design that uses the KMV4 as a stressed member. With dual counterbalancers to smooth out secondary vibrations, it should be smooth as butter pudding, which means a lighter frame, which means a lighter bike. In fact, the bike should be around 550 pounds with its six-gallon fuel tank topped off. The wheelbase is a sporty 58 inches, and final drive is by a good ol’ chain. Suspension is fully adjustable, and brakes are monstrous rotors with radial-mount, four-piston calipers. An MST-R will also be available with full Öhlins suspenders and Brembo brakes. And carbon-fiber bodywork, of course.

Speaking of bodywork, the Motus’ is minimalistic, but functional. It’s enough to keep the wind off the rider, but not enough to conceal what may arguably be the coolest motorcycle powerplant ever made (suck it, Morbidelli!). There’s also a pair of big Givi sidecases and a wide, scooped-out saddle that’s extra-narrow at the front to let any rider firmly put both feet down.

So this looks like good news and bad news. The good news is it may be the ultimate sport-tourer for all us aging gearheads. Smooth, torquey, good-handling and packed with cool details. It’s the kind of motorcycle I’d imagine airline pilots would ride. With ergonomics “almost identical to Yamaha’s FZ-1,” according to  Motus co-founder Brian Case and that giant gas tank (which should provide a genuine 300 mile range, if the claims of great efficiency are to be believed), the MST may be hard to beat as a sport-tourer.

The bad news is that it’s not really a mass-market bike. According to a New York Times blog post about the bike, Case says Motus will build just “hundreds of bikes per year, not thousands.” Bad news for those of us looking for performance and comfort. I’m guessing the bikes won’t be cheap, either. Nor should they be. It’s pretty clear that demand for a truly American sportbike is small, which means small numbers and big prices—just look at Erik Buell Racing, Roher and Fischer.

Case and Motus President Lee Conn will now be taking the bikes around the country to drum up public support and possibly some dealers. Let’s hope MD gets offered some seat time when they reach the West Coast.

155 Comments

  1. Mackle says:

    I like it. It’s a start. Motus: get a hold of Mackle, send me one of these like the one in the picture and we’ll get you selling these.

  2. Frank B. says:

    You either like it or you don’t. I like it and would like
    it more if it had belt drive. I’m sure they will address
    the heat factor or they won’t sell any. But, it would make
    night and cold day riding more enjoyable. For the hot 90°+
    days, I’ll stick to anything air-conditioned anyway. I’m
    glad that not everyone likes it, because otherwise we would
    all be riding the same thing, how boring would that be?
    Or there would be a long waiting list like Packers season tics.
    The real question is: what will it cost and will it be
    durable enough to stay out of the shop.

    Report this comment

  3. JN says:

    Nice bike! But if it is a limited production (thousand per year), they may as well shut it down. For 20K a pop, I can see the new 2011 BMW R/K series is more appealling. The livelihood of getting parts and after-market support is zero; thus, the life expectancy of the bike is very much short. It is a fail business model from the start. They may as well do custom chopers.

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  4. Tom Barber says:

    After taking a second look at this, my thought is that even given the starting assumption to use this particular engine, I would have been strongly motivated to try and make it work with the engine rotated the other direction. Given the intent to use a chain drive and the need for the transmission to be oriented transversely, the 90-degree bevel gear between the transmission and the engine would have been avoided if the engine had likewise been oriented transversely. The torque reaction effect “flywheel effect” would also have been avoided. And it just looks to me like this would have allowed the transmission to move a little further forward, tucked alongside the crankshaft and kind of in under the rear pair of cylinders, with the exhaust plumbing routed over the transmission.

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    • MikeD says:

      WEll, if they intend to keep it chained or belted…yes, by all means Transversal.
      Only thing i see it would be a bear could be the HOT exhaust rauting off the rear bank and the Shock location (a longer swing arm to house the routing and shock ?), A WHOLE different frame…meh…maybe is one of those ” let’s not open another can that “could be full” of worms” case thats best to leave it alone as is now.

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      • Tom Barber says:

        Well yes, the frame would have to be different, and the swing arm might change, and the shock. Don’t know if it would be hotter. Maybe. But the chassis was designed around the engine and the decision was likely made early to orient it this way, and to orient the transmission the other way, and put a 90-degree bevel gear between them. It would be interesting to know their reasoning when they made this decision. It just looks to me like the transmission is located a good bit further to the rear than it would be if the engine had been turned the other way.

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  5. Glenn says:

    the front end kind of resembles the old boxer R1100RS

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  6. Vanson1200R says:

    USA! USA!

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  7. Home Skillet says:

    Finally, an American motorcycle manufacturer that is not stuck to a V twin engine.

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  8. Irv H says:

    The chain drive is probably a temporary measure until they get emissions, fit and finish sorted out. The basic idea is good: GM spent billions on engine design, and the parts are sitting on a shelf waiting to be used. If they had started with a single cylinder dual-sport/ scrambler concept(or parallel twin), they could have got to production much sooner.

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    • MikeD says:

      WOW, NO…is not like that. It’s components are similar but not the same to the point as to go to any GM dealer with a GM Part# and ask for “drop-in” replacements.

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      • Irv H says:

        so Motus is going to redesign the piston, conrod, valves and pushrod? Why not start from scratch? Anyway, this is nothing new. V-twins based on pushrod v8s have been around for a while. This is what HD should have done instead of going to Porsche for a new v twin.

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        • MikeD says:

          They started from scratch (it just so happens that the KMV4 SHARES a “similar” architecture to the LS Engines) like the one used on the LeMan Winning Corvette tricked by KATECH (who happens to design/build the KMV4 for MOTUS).

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  9. John H. says:

    A “New American Motorcycle” in 2011, to be produced in limited numbers, and sold at a premium price… that runs on gasoline. If you want to build an American motorcycle, it should burn cng. Love the bike, but I’m not going to buy a new one that runs on gas. It’s not like you’re going to produce a boatload of these things at the start. You could probably sell them all in California and still have a waiting list. After a year or two, everyone would want one.

    If someone doesn’t do it soon, HD will eventually stumble onto it… then we’ll be stuck with another 100 yrs of cruisers.

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    • Charlie says:

      CNG requires a fuel tank shaped like a hotdog – one large enough to give any meaningful range would dominate the design of the vehicle. I really don’t want to ride a motorcycle that looks like the Oscar Mayer “Weinermobile”, no matter who builds it.

      I guess you could have a normal motorcycle and carry the tank on a sidecar frame – the passenger could just straddle the tank like Slim Pickens straddled the nuclear bomb in “Dr. Strangelove”. ;-)

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      • John H. says:

        My point is, if you’re going to hire a team of “uber-engineers” to design and build a “New American Motorcycle” from the ground up, why aren’t you building it to burn cng? Yes, there are challenges, but it’s certainly not impossible.

        Gas is getting more expensive. We’re at peak oil and demand is still increasing. CNG is the future of transportation fuels in the US. You’d have to be a fool to buy a new vehicle that runs on gas. The used motorcycle market is saturated with lightly used and holdover gas-burning bikes. Why buy a new one? Because the exhaust note sounds cool? How’s that working out for HD lately? I like the Motus, and I don’t mean to unfairly call it out and not other bikes. But if you’re going to build a NEW AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE, you better be bold enough to build it for the new American future.

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      • Blackcayman says:

        Charlie – a good laugh…just what I needed! Thanks for a great post!

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    • Old town hick says:

      And WHERE would one get a fill up for this outside the big city limits?

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  10. Tom says:

    8000 rpm? My 25 year old Honda Nighthawk 700 with hydrualic valves revs higher than that.

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  11. Paddy C says:

    I hope the price isn’t $20k+
    The Motus looks like it has potential but, I would like to see:
    1) Instead of a chain, how about a belt drive? Lighter than a chain and no parasitic
    power loss or swing arm movement like a shaft. I don’t know if a belt can handle
    the torque of 120+ ft.lbs. but a belt would give us long distance guys a break
    from lubing our chains once or twice a day while on long trips.
    2) Some serious thought has to be given on shielding the rider’s knees from
    those hot engine heads…Insulated pants? Dunno, but after printing the Motus
    photos, enlarging the photos and establishing a scale, then calculating where my
    knees will be in relation to the seat height and peg location, this design puts
    my knees right next to the heads. Ouch!

    > I realize this is a prototype, and Honda figured it out on the ST1100/1300′s
    and I’m sure these guys will do the same.
    Cheers!

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    • Norm G. says:

      http://www.youtube.com/user/motusmotorcycles#p/u/0/0UxLXjjGH4U

      check this video of the bike from a day or 2 ago in daytona. the hot heads don’t seem to be a problem any more than a guzzi…? for what threat their is/was, it seems they’ve wisely turned to the miracle of carbon fiber. light weight, super-insulating, and “purrty”. why, that’s a tri-fecta… :)

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      • Paddy C says:

        Thanks for the link Norm. I’m a bit tall@ 6’3″ with a 34″ inseam, it appears that the rider in the video is 6′ or a bit under, anyhoo if my diagram and scale is even close to being accurate (it is) my numbers don’t lie.

        My knees will be right next to the aluminum sides of the heads (not the cf cover) We shall see. Cheers!

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  12. burt says:

    It is different enough and has enough plusses,
    so it seems like a good thing for Americans to
    be doing with their time and money, both the
    makers and the purchasers, and those of us entertained
    by reading (and writing) about such bikes.
    Italians haven’t let small markets, high prices,
    and exclusivity stop them. I say we Americans
    can only benefit from going ahead with our
    two-wheeled passion–tiny markets needn’t be
    damning. This kind of thing gives me hope for
    motorcycling’s future, especially since it is
    a “lowly” sport-tourer and not some kind of pure
    sport/racing exotica, not that there isn’t room
    for those too.

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  13. Norm G. says:

    just watched some more youtube videos on motus (go specifically to their dedicated channel). it’s time now for the sobering, $64,000 dollar question (that all good CPA’s and IRS agents would ask)… where’s the money coming from…?

    russians don’t take a dump without a plan and a firm like P&M doesn’t “hop to” based on a customer’s good looks.

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  14. Dave says:

    Nice bike. Always good to see something new in the pipeline. It’d make a great addition to the garage, but I’m sure it’s gonna come in North of the $20k mark. Too bad…I’d love to see an American motorcycle company rise to dominate the market like HD dominates the cruiser niche.

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  15. Theo says:

    Here’s a deal-breaker: C.A.R.B.

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  16. bikerrandy says:

    Since I can’t read all the 100 comments right now, there’s something else missing….a centerstand.

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  17. cory says:

    2nd that Ruefus.
    The thing sounds awesome in the promo vid.

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  18. Danny says:

    Demand for a reliable and affordable, truely American sportbike is not small. No one has ever produced such a bike.

    Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      hey hey, easy with that kind of talk. let us not devalue the labors of erik the past 20 years. as the wise men say, “you can always spot the pioneers, they’ll be the ones with arrows in their backs”.

      Report this comment

  19. Wilson R says:

    No shaft drive makes this a losing proposition.

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    • Ruefus says:

      Says you. I find the lack of shaft drive quite appealing.

      Screw conformity.

      Report this comment

    • Fuzzyson says:

      Absolutely agreed!

    • Stinky says:

      I’m not that big a fan of shafts, but this motor spins the right direction for a shaft and to spin a chain a different direction just added inefficency and complexity.

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    • MikeD says:

      Ok, since we all are being picky let me have a Concentric System like what Husqvarna and BMW use on their dirt bikes. No funky torque reaction and no loosening and tightening of the belt(cause i want a BELT, no DIRTY MESSY CHAIN)=no adjustments (at least for a really long time).

      P.S: Shaft drives are cool(when not leaking), i have fixed some leaking ones and it is a pain if it ain’t something u do for a living and have the right tools. Belts have the best of both Shaft and Chain. Just this man’s opinion.

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      • Stinky says:

        I own shaft, belt, chain. Like the belt best. Chains are a pain, but they are cheap, in the short term. This motor should be turned if they’re gonna use belt or chain. I like it like it is and it needs a shaft. I’ve not experience the leakage problems but with a motor spinning this direction you have to change direction in the box with space constraints or outside where it can be worked on if need be. My Beemers have missed repairs so far, first 25 years.

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  20. toad says:

    Very nice looking bike. It’s a shame it’s planned for limited production. If it works as good as it looks what a waste it will be for less than 1% of motorcyclists to be able to afford it.

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  21. Zombo says:

    The president should get one of these . Just so people can say look there goes the POTUS on his Motus !

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  22. Gary says:

    Interesting that it is not shaft-drive. The motor is oriented in a way that shaft would make sense.

    Unless they can scale production up with higher demand, I won’t be able to afford one.

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    • rapier says:

      I wonder if this is a first? The first longitudinal cranked bike that isn’t shaft drive. It looks like having to make that tranny output shave do a 90 degree turn takes up quite a bit of space. I suppose all in all an easier job than designing the shaft drive chassis. For all that HP and the intended purpose shaft makes more sense but engineering is always compromise. Shaft has it’s own compromises and limitations.

      If it were me I’d make it a twin 750 to 1000 with a belt drive super charger in the V.

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    • Norm G. says:

      from that center pick (sans gearbox), is it possible they’ve designed this engine in american V-twin/automobile fashion to be modular…? albeit for a slight weight penalty, this V4 reciprocating assembly could be mated to 2 different transmissions. one supporting chain/belt final drives, then another supporting a shaft final. they could also support 2 different mounting orientations. longitudinal mounting (as shown) or the sportier transverse mounting. that would beget 4 transmission options in total and allow them to spin off a myriad of completely different vehicle/motorcycle designs. if they’ve done that (by the powers invested in me), i will bestow upon them the title of “genius”. :)

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  23. deweyd says:

    I am more than willing to concede that those Motus guys are engineering whiz kids. Can’t they, then, find a way to engineer those urine sample jars off of their prominent perch on the bars? Man, I really hate that look.

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  24. Zuki says:

    Basically about the same amount of power as the BMW K1600 GT but minus about 95 lbs. of engine weight, and a lot more weight overall.

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  25. Charlie says:

    I predict that the engine will outsell the bike 3 to 1 – there are a lots of folks interested in it and there is already development going on pushing the output to 200 + bhp.

    Overall, I’m very impressed with what Motus has achieved in such a short period of time.

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  26. Zuki says:

    I hate to be one to write up a huge ranting paragraph or two or three but here it goes! (Nothing negative about the Motus).

    The negative comments on the valve actuation make me wish for more consistent nomenclature. If referring to the pushrods then start referring to other methods of valve actuation in a similar way. For example:

    A typical sport-bike or other engine should be called a “bucket-tappet” engine. I guess “finger and screw” works for engines using screw-type valve-lash adjustment.

    A Ducati has a “lever-tappet” engine.

    Alternatively, one could continue to designate dual over-head camshaft engines as ‘DOHC’, or in the case of a single camshaft, ‘SOHC’, but adjust the focus and apply the same sort of designation for “pushrod” engines as ‘CIB’ (cam-in-block) engines. Either way, both designs are ‘OHV’, despite only one being labeled as such.

    If stating “pushrod” engines are “old tech” then realize over-head camshafts are “old-tech” too and stop spreading misinformation. DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder was around in the 1920s… a technological solution made obsolete by metallurgy advancements in the modern world. What’s better, simplicity or sophistication? Even the OHC designs of yesteryear didn’t rev that high due to limitations of the materials used.

    GM’s DOHC/32-valve “bucket-tappet” Northstar 4.6 liter V8 is physically larger and heavier than it’s own 7.0 liter LS7 CIB/16-valve “pushrod” V8. With those disadvantages, does a design like the Northstar have any advantages over the LS7 (or any LS series V8)? Let’s find out… Does it rev higher? No. The LS7 revs to 7100 rpm thanks to metallurgy (titanium pushrods and intake valves, even the connecting rods are titanium). Even the standard LS engines without the titanium stuff can rev just as high or higher than the Northstar. Okay, so does the Northstar get better fuel economy? Not really. Despite the relatively large displacement of the LS7, it gets just as good fuel economy. Its long stroke helps it develop usable power at low rpm so the revs can be really low in top gear (somewhere between 1500 rpm and 2000 rpm on average) which in turn gives excellent fuel economy given the performance specification for the engine. 30 + mpg on the interstate is typical and not bad at all for an engine capable/rated at 505 horsepower! Don’t believe me? The Corvette is the ONLY supercar that doesn’t have the federal gas-guzzler tax applied to it. Is DOHC superior when it gives you a bigger, heavier, more complex engine with no advantages in the real world? They cost more to produce, maintain and upgrade too. Also, the very low hood line and perfect weight distribution in the Corvette would be more difficult to produce with a bucket tappet engine.

    I find it funny that the Jenny Green Gores haven’t thought about a long-stroke “pushrod” engine as being the best “green” internal combustion engine of the future. It uses less materials to produce and allows the best fuel economy. Direct-injection for gasoline engines is an old idea/technology that is finally being pursued with modern advancements. It’s just the icing on the cake here. Not only does it help lower emissions and improve economy, it benefits performance too! Dropping the revs down on the interstate (or anywhere for that matter) seems a better solution than using a wheezy small engine revving its guts out to make power. If the engine doesn’t need to rev high to produce strong power then why go to all the effort to make it way more complex and expensive? Corvette certainly proves that even in racing applications, CIB and pushrods is the technology of the future. The Motus engine could be developed for automotive use as well! It’s most certainly under-stressed producing what is already a very healthy power output. Imagine a supercharged version! Imagine the ease and fun of tinkering on this engine.

    On that note – I really love the Motus! Beautiful design both technically and aesthetically. It is currently my favorite new bike on the horizon. I even love it way more than the new Buell!

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    • sliphorn says:

      Thanks for this.

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    • kpaul says:

      Thanks Zuki very interesting! :)

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    • MikeD says:

      I just want to throw this out there…EVERYTING depends on the color of the lens thru wich you are looking.
      Yours seems CIB + Pushrods “Color”, did all that came from a Corvette or Classic American Muscle Car owner by any chance ?. NOTHING wrong with that. Ur opinion backed by very good facts…BUT terminal to the theme is NOT.

      That been said, mine is DOHC with VVTL-i “Color”… (^_^ ), “similar” to what the C14 tried but still came out SHORT(some lame intake cam phasing, why not BOTH CAMS ?) the thing is a pig already as it is, another cam phaser wouldn’t kill it.

      No one is “wrong” specially when backed by TRUE Facts, is just down to w/e tickles ur pickle.

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    • MikeD says:

      P.S: What im truly impressed about is the Direct Fuel Injection. Kudos to them for being the first to implement it on a “regular” motorcycle. If im wrong somebody step in and correct me.
      Really wishing all the other major OEMs follow it SOON. More power and less emissions sounds like music to my ears.
      How much more could its introduction rack up the MSRP on new products ? $500 ? $1k? Beats me…honestly i don’t care cause if i want it i’ll look for a way to buy it.

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    • todd says:

      A “small engine revving its guts out” is typically a more efficient design than a large engine with very small throttle openings. In fact, it is best for thermal efficiency of any size motor to be at or near its peak torque output as often as possible. This will achieve the best fuel economy and lowest emissions. Yes, OHC is now pretty much a marketing tool for sophistication since modern metallurgy and the typical rpm range of your average car make it unnecessary. A cam-in-head design does allow a greater rev range (i.e. more horsepower) for an vehicle that is limited in capacity for racing purposes. Beyond that it’s just for cool sake.

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    • Tom Barber says:

      Some of this makes perfect sense; some of it makes no sense at all.

      I like the fact that he wrote, “usable power at low rpm”. I just get so tired of the way that most people equate torque simplistically with low-rpm performance.

      However … as for …

      “Dropping the revs down on the interstate (or anywhere for that matter) seems a better solution than using a wheezy small engine revving its guts out to make power.”

      This is utter nonsense. The words used to describe a small engine that runs at comparatively high rpm “wheezy small engine revving its guts out” are clearly evidence of extreme prejudice. Engines do not have guts, so they cannot possibly rev them out, and if “wheezy” is a reference to air moving through the engine, then it is good that they do this, for reasons that presumably are obvious.

      This comment started off on a strong note, but quickly deteriorated into nonsense and utter nonsense and blatant nonsense. Too bad.

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      • Zuki says:

        Tom Barber, look up colloquialism in the dictionary.

        I do have prejudice against using a small engine when a large engine makes more sense in the particular application. What’s wrong with that?

        In generalization, engines do have “guts”. The guts are the reciprocating parts, the internals that make it work. With your logic, animals shouldn’t have “guts” either but only a gut. Gut is in the dictionary. You’re free to look it up. Wheezy made sense to me because small engines don’t necessarily “breathe” efficiently at low rpm, do they? Small engines are designed to breathe well at very high rpm so I call them wheezy although maybe technically incorrect. When a human is wheezy they tend to try to breathe in a lot more rapidly to get enough air to perform the same as a non-wheezy human.

        Always have technical perfection in the popcorn gallery or don’t comment at all or it’ll be labeled “nonsensical”, nonsense, utter nonsense, or blatant nonsense by the internet engineer popcorn gallery expert.

        Mike D.,

        My current “new” bike is a SV1000S bucket-tappet V2 with four over-head camshafts and eight valves and I think the engine is superb so I don’t see engines with a certain “color”, although I do appreciate simplicity in design that achieves the same goal as well or better than a more complex (sophisticated) design. I like engines of all sorts and admire engineering that utilizes technology well-suited for the application.

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  27. Norm G. says:

    hmmmn… a lil’ bit country… a lil’ bit rock-n-roll.

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