The single (thumper) motorcycle motor. Why would anyone buy a single powered bike? Well for many darn good reasons, such as reliability, simplicity, affordability and tons of torque per horsepower just to mention a few reasons.
Singles were used to power the very first motorcycles, such as Triumph, Harley Davidson and of all other icons of the modern motorcycle. So they are at least 116 years old as a motorcycle motor. That means they have heritage. Which also means they have a rich history powering motorcycles. The thumper is such a good motorcycle motor design it’s still in use today. Why is that? Well let’s discuss that. The majority of motorcycles produced today are small and mid-size single cylinder machines. They are cheap, light and economical. Not to mention they can achieve staggering gas mileage numbers compared to their larger counterparts. Which unintentionally makes them eco smart as well. Even this ancient form of motorcycle propulsion fits into today’s cleaner air, greener seeking society. A hundred years ago who would have thought that was going to happen?
The single comes in many shapes and sizes today from a vertical 650cc to a horizontal 49cc scooter motor. They are used on off road bikes and road going bikes. One might say they are the most widely used motorcycle motor design ever made. Which brings me to this question. Why do Americans prefer big gas sucking V-twins over a good old trusty thumper? Well the largest thumper produced today I believe is 650cc. It is used primarily in Adventure bikes, cross overs and dirt bikes. To my knowledge no one has ever attempted to produce anything larger than 650cc, none that ever went into production that is. I’m certain there is some sort of engineering reasoning for this.
Why do some insist on having at least one thumper powered bike in their collection? Thumpers have been a part of motorcycling since there were motorcycles. They are great fun to ride. They vibrate, cough and spit sometimes but they just keep thumping along. They have a personality all of their own. They also provide a motorcycle with thin profile. The Yamaha SR500, One of the most beloved thumpers in modern history, is highly sought after these days for its drop dead gorgeous looks and its ability to be customized into a café style bike brat bike, chopper or bobber.
In my mind the pinnacle for thumpers is the 500cc motor. It’s perfect for most applications. All but touring. However there are those that do tour on 500cc powered bikes. So it’s not like it can’t be done on one. I believe anyone that is new to riding and is looking for a road bike they should start with a 500cc thumper. Unfortunately not many companies produce a 500cc single for the street these days. This makes selection a bit slim. Some examples are the Suzuki s40 650cc, Royal Enfield 500cc bullet, and the Yamaha SR 400. Of course only one of those choices is 500cc but that’s how few in this class that are produced. The good news is a new comer to the motorcycle manufacturing arena has plans to release an entire line of 500cc thumpers. That company would be none other than Cleveland CycleWerks. This means choices will get much better and that has me both excited and happy. However there are many used thumpers out there as well. The Honda Ascot 500 comes to mind. Learning how to ride on a thumper is like learning how to shoot with a .22 rifle. Once you are a pro at the 22 anything else is easy.
Me I have a large displacement twin but I also have my trusty thumper. I think it will always be that way. I take long trips once a year, as in on the road for 2 or more weeks straight but for the most part I just scoot around, Back and forth to work, markets and just riding. One cannot beat a thumper for every day use. They are like a beloved tool, like a favorite old pocket knife. They are the best at what they are intended to do. I recommend that all riders have at least one thumper in their collection, they are really that good.
*CCW tha Riders has no affiliation with Cleveland CycleWerks and/or their counterparts. All views and/or opinions expressed on this site are that of CCW tha Riders only.
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