The 10 Best Looking Bike Engines

One of the cornerstones of the character of any motorcycle is the engine that provides it’s power. This true to the extent that certain manufacturers derive much of their image from the layout of the engine. A brand and engine type can even become synonymous Think of Ducati:  90º V twin. Harley Davidson: Big meaty V-Twins, Triumph: Parallel twins or triples. BMW: The flat Twin, Yamaha: Two-stroke twins, and  all of the Japanese ‘big-four’ the across the frame four cylinder. See what I mean?

The engine note is all part of it. Hear a bike approaching, and the engine note dictates what you are expecting to see when you turn around.

An engine can be integral to the look and style of a bike too, think Honda CBX or Vincent Black Shadow for prime examples of this.

So, with all this in mind what are the 10 best looking bike engines in my humble opinion?

  1. Vincent V Twin

Almost sculptural in it’s form and rare case of older engine that can be used in a modified or relatively up to date frame and look great

  1. Ducati L Twin

I particularly like the mid 1970’s iterations such as the 900SS, with the DUCATI script proudly cast into the side of the engine

  1. Ducati singles

The little 450cc singles have such a beautiful form, delicate and somehow looking well engineered.

  1. Honda CBX-6

Just an incredible sight, slung out either side of the tank and the six exhausts cascading down the front of the engine like raging waterfall

  1. BSA A10

The shapely engine cases, sensuous almost and the BSA rifles neatly cast into them. Stunning

  1. Kawasaki Z1

The definitive air-cooled Japanese across the frame four. The fins, the rounded covers on the cam cover, the DOHC script…

  1. Yamaha RD350 YPVS

Simple, elegant. The gloss back cases and that evocative YPVS logo on the top of the barrels

  1. Benelli Sei

Taking the Honda 750 four as base, but the addition of another two cylinders and a sprinkling of Italian style…perfect

  1. BSA Goldstar

Another beautiful BSA engine, this time with exhaust slithering away from the barrel like a python wrapping itself around you. Form and function in harmony

  1. Triumph T160 Triple

If it looks right it is right. That old engineering maxim applies here.

So that’s my list, but so many more could have made the cut on a different day: A Harley ‘Shovel-Head’, the Honda 400/4 and that cross-over exhaust, the Yamaha XT500, the meaty Moto Guzzi V twins as fitted to the immortal Le-mans series of sports bikes. The list could go on, and on…

I was going to do a similar list for the worst looking bike engines then I realised that I quite like all of them! I got as far as the Norton rotary engine and any electric motor and gave up!


Disagree with me? So, what would be your top ten?

Words and pictures: Tony Donnelly