To get an edge on the racecourse or the road, you should put a V4 motorcycle on your radar. This engine configuration offers numerous benefits over more conventional in-line four-cylinder engines. The advantages are so apparent that major manufacturers of superbikes, such as Ducati, have embraced this engine style. Find out how the V4 motorcycle engine rose to such popularity and what the future holds for riders.
Benefits of the V4 Motorcycle Engine
The V4 engine orients the four cylinders into a pair of V-twin configurations. Compared to inline arrangements or V-twins, V4 designs allow for a more compact engine compartment, which affects handling and durability. The smaller size and longer life are not the only advantages you get from V4 engines. These motorcycle engine designs also offer additional benefits, especially for high-end use.
1. Better Handling
Because the arrangement of the four cylinders in the engine balances out the piston's movement, you enjoy less rocking from the engine and better control. With only two cylinders in length, the V4 engine requires much less space on the bike compared to inline counterparts. As such, the bike has abetter-centered mass, which combined with the balanced motion of the pistons allows for improved handling.
The improved balance and centralized mass make cornering in a V4 bike faster and easier. With a narrow design, a V4 engine provides even better ground clearance when taking tight corners in racing. With its ability to make changing directions easier, a V4 motorcycle could give you that slight edge you need to come out on top in races or eke out just a bit more adrenaline when riding on the road.
2. More Power
A V4 engine gives you more power. To fit the pistons and cylinders into the angled design, manufacturers make these parts smaller compared to their V-twin counterparts. Smaller, more numerous pistons will deliver more power. To compete in superbike racing against V4 bikes, V-twins can operate with large engine displacements,1200cc for V-twins compared to 1000cc for V4 motorcycles.
Racing and high-end bikes favor the V4 configuration because these engines offer better performance. Smaller bikes and those for casual use, though, eschew this engine style because V4 bikes have intricate designs that require more skill and money to customize and use. These attributes attest to the superior performance of V4 engines because even in light of these bikes' intricate designs, major manufacturers chose to invest heavily in perfecting these motorcycles for the race circuit.
3. Improved Sound
The sound put out by the engine of a V4 engine has few peers in the motorcycling world. You would have to stand near a V8 car to get the same sound. The sound of a motorcycle's V4 engine replicates that of the middle four cylinders in a V8 car engine. You can fiddle with the exhaust to change the sound of your bike, but only a V4 engine will produce that distinctive sound from the motor.
4. Longer Lasting
Compared to inline four-cylinder engines, V4 variations have a shorter, stiffer and narrower crank. It also requires fewer bearings. These complex designs have advantages that mean V4 engines last longer due to better durability. By lasting longer, the investment in a V4 bike offers returns in longevity over time.
5. Novel Design
If you prefer to have the latest and greatest bike, you likely will gravitate to a V4. On the road, you'll turn heads as you speed past other motorcycle enthusiasts.
The power and performance will not be the only reasons people will ask you questions. Your V4 bike on the road or track will be a rarity. In 2015, only0.58% of motorcyclessold in Europe had this engine construction. It remains such a rare sight on the roads due to its premium price that often keeps in on the racetrack.
More novice riders may not have the ability to control a bike with this more powerful type of engine. Those who can handle these beasts, though, will find their investment rewarded with better performance, balance and power than bikes with other engines in them.
History of the V4 Engine in Motorcycles
While the popularity of V4 motorcycles is relatively recent, these bikes have been around for decades. Over time, they have risen and fallen in the public eye, only to reemerge recently as a strong contender in racing.
1. First V4 Motorcycle
The first V4 motorcycle sold from 1931 until 1935. Named theMatchless Silver Hawk, it premiered first to visitors in November 1930 at the Olympia Motor Cycle Show. It was one of two four-cylinder bikes at the event, but the other model, the Ariel Square Four, did not have its cylinders in a V arrangement. The Matchless Silver Hawk boasted a top speed of 80 miles per hour.
With its cylinders in a V configuration, the Matchless Silver Hawk resembled the company's V-Twin Silver Arrow from the year before. While its predecessor had a smaller engine, the same frame housed the Silver Hawk's engine. Inside that engine, the V4 had a single overhead cam design and a four-speed transmission.
While the V4 cylinder configuration set this motorcycle apart, it also featured a distinctive crankshaft bearing. The plate-mounted center bearing for the single crankshaft would not return to the field until decades later.
Though unique, this bike did not last long on the market. The Great Depression suspended interest in high-performance motorcycles. Its competitor, the Ariel Square Four, proved a longer-lasting bike. But this initial failure of a V4 motorcycle was not a predictor of the future.
2. The Return of the V4 Motorcycle
In 1964, Ducati premiered its first V4 bike, the Apollo V4. This format remained mostly experimental and for racing use only, though. Not until 15 years later would the public get the chance at owning this unique motorcycle.
By the 1980s, more significant wealth and improved technology would make the V4 a popular motorcycle, a trend that continues to this day. The Honda V4 motorcycle enginecame into production in 1982with the Magna and V45 Sabre models, allowing any enthusiast the chance to own a racing bike. These bikes featured double overhead camshaft with a six-speed transmission and liquid cooling.
Despite the wild popularity of V4 bikes during the 1980s and 1990s, the public soon turned to cheaper models by the turn of the century. Suddenly, in the 2000s, V4 motorcycle engines only appeared in specialty bikes and on the racetrack.
Today, V4 bike manufacturers, such as Aprilia and Ducati, have heard the requests of their fans and begun creating production models of some of their most popular V4 racing bikes.
3. Popular V4 Bikes Today
Today, V4 bikes are making a comeback. They are taking over the racetrack and entering into production model lines from various companies. Ducati announced in 2018its intent to introduce 29 new models over five years, with V4 engines incorporated into an undisclosed number of them.
Today, V4 bikes offer race-like performance and power in production models. Aprilia, Ducati, Honda and Yamaha all have made V4 motorcycles within the last decade that remain popular options today.
Honda: Honda kicked off the V4 motorcycle craze with its line in the 1980s. It continues the trend with its 2015 RC213V-S, which you can still find today. This model feels very much like a MotoGP bike. The V4 enginefeatures 216HP. With this power, you will enjoy a race-like ride, even on the highway. Coupled with its intense power, though, is a premium price, which makes it a rare model for people to see on the road.
Yamaha:In 2008, Yamaha presented its redesigned V-Max bike. With 197HP, this Yamaha V4 model integrates a powerful V4 engine onto a cruiser body. Unlike other models with similar engines, the V-Max offers an alternative to the racing body.
Other popular models come from Ducati and Aprilia. These companies continue to produce some of the most well-known V4 bikes on the market today. The bikes from Aprilia and Ducati have such iconic designs and styles that they warrant a specific section.
Ducati: Ducati brings riders the Panigale V4 and the Desmosedici RR, both of which had their roots in MotoGP racing motorcycles. These models make speed and performance once only for racers available in a street-legal bike for road warriors and high-end motorcycle enthusiasts.
Aprilia: Aprilia took over the market in 2010 with its RSV4. This bike started out with 180HP, increasing over the years and changes in models to 2019's RSV4 1100 Factory,which boasts 217HP. This company also brought the public its Tuono series, which includes the Tuono V4 RR 1100. You get anengine capacity of 1077cc and 175HP.
4. How the V4 Engine Changed Over Time
Since the first V4 motorcycle, these bikes have made tremendous strides over time. The first bike featured a stunning, for the time,592cc and 26HP, but today's V4 motorcycles have displacements exceeding 1000cc and topping out over 200HP.
While V4 engines disappeared during World War II, they reemerged on the scene in the 1980s. During this prosperous time, V4 motorcycles became popular again. Honda's VF750S in 1982 became the first production cruiser model. It had16 valves in its novel water-cooled V4 engine, which included 90-degree angles for its cylinders.
In 1983, Honda came out with the RS860, which boasted a top speed of 170mph and 135HP, though it didn't match the 150HP of its RS1000RW model from the previous year. The slight power drop, though, helped improve stability because 1980s tires could not handle 150HP on the track, as shown when Freddie Spencer's rear tire came apart during the 1982 Daytona 200.
By 1986, Honda cut friction by 30% in its V4 engines with gear-driven cams. In 1988, the V4 engine featured 360-degree firing order. These bikes did not change much during the 1990s and vanished from many dealerships until the 2000s with the introduction of the Ducati Desmosedici RR.
From 2007 to 2009, Ducati sold the Desmosedici RR in a limited edition. While a production model, it featured the same 989cc engine of its MotoGP design and included 200HP.
Today, finding V4 engines with 13,000 rpm, 1000cc displacement and power over 200HP are common, especially when you consider factory models of Italian brands like Aprilia and Ducati. While once only found in design plans and occasionally on racetracks, motorcycles with V4 engines and these powerful specs appear today in dealerships around the world. The increasing popularity and availability attest to the strides in technology manufacturers have made since the introduction of the Matchless Silver Hawk.
V4 Ducati and Aprilia Motorcycles
If you want a V4 production model, you need to get an Italian bike. Aprilia and Ducati stand out as manufacturers of high-end, high-performance V4 beasts that can handle the track or feel at home on the highway. Today's models have electronic controls and powerful engines that maximize their performance and give you an adrenaline-filled ride.
1. V4 Ducati Bikes
Ducati has been a trusted name in Italian motorcycles for decades. Dominating the track, this manufacturer takes its production models just as seriously, offering a range of V4 bikes for enthusiasts, as it has since 2007.
The first V4 engine production model from Ducati was its Desmosedici RR, produced from 2007 through 2009. This model was a version of a MotoGP bike you could own while having a street-legal ride. With a racing frame, this bike holds together well even in the tightest turns, as racers demand of their motorcycles on the track. Though these bikes are over a decade old, you can still find used models around if you want a V4 with 989cc displacement.
One of the most significant introductions into the field of production model V4 bikes was Ducati's Panigale V4. The companyupgraded the engine from a V-twin to its Desmosedici Stradale V4 in 2018. Producing 214HP, the engine's design had inspiration from the Ducati GP17 team but features a larger displacement. Instead of an expected racing 1000cc, this production model boasts 1103cc and can reach 13,000 rpm.
In 2019, Ducati scaled back the Panigale V4 while upgrading its specs. The 2019 Panigale V4R dropped itsdisplacement below the 1000cc required for racing to 998cc, but it can reach much higher revs, maxing out at 15,250 rpm. Racing in the World Superbike, this version of the Panigale V4R offers high performance at higher revs, as any racing bike should. Choosing the performance kit boosts this bike to an impressive 234HP.
In 2020,Ducati's Streetfighter V4 will enter the marketas a third V4 engine option from the brand. This model is a road version of the popular Panigale V4 make. To adapt this bike for the road, Ducati removed the Panigale's racing trappings such as its fairings while changing the handlebars to a design more suited for road use. This bike's performance showcase will be the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Ducati dealers will begin sales of this model in Spring 2020.
2. V4 Aprilia Bikes
Aprilia has two main lines that feature the V4 engine — the Tuono and RSV4. Both hail from racing roots with the RSV4 coming first and inspiring the naked Tuono later. These two monstrous rides bring the feeling of the track wherever you ride while offering you the latest technology to get full control over your bike.
Starting in 2010, Aprilia offered its own production model of the V4 bike, the RSV4. Unlike Ducati's Desmosedici V4, Aprilia did not offer its model for a short time. The RSV4 continues in production today, offering race-like quality in its engine and body while still conforming to road-ready regulations. The company also greatly improved its bikes reliability with this and future models.
The RSV4 RR for 2019 combines compactness and full features. It's thesmallest available full-sized motorcycleon the market. In addition to offering an easy-to-handle size, this bike does not compromise on specs. The engine has a narrow 65-degree V4 design, making it the only full-sized narrow-engine model of its type. Once only seen in racing bikes, each bank features a pair of independently controlled servos for the throttle bodies. For the first time in a production bike, you have more control over the fuel injected into the engine.
The Tuono series has a naked design powered by a distinctive 65-degree angled V4 engine. The 2019Tuono V4 1000 RR earned Euro 4 approvalwhile improving its durability and reliability thanks to its narrower cylinder configuration. Though road-ready, this bike has 175HP, making every ride feel like a race. To complete the feel, the 2019 model includes suspension and brakes directly from the RSV4 bike from the same year.
Aprilia integrates features into its bikes to help you control the powerful V4 engines. Both the Tuono and RSV4 series include several electronic additions to reduce the incidence of wheelies and loss of traction. For track use, both include Aprilia Quick Launch with three settings. The Aprilia Quick Shift makes changing gears faster and easier because you don't have to use the clutch or close the throttle. Three different engine maps allow you to customize your bike to how you ride — Race, Track and Sport.
Aftermarket Parts for Your V4 Ducati, MV Agusta or Aprilia Motorcycle
The unique narrow design of these engines means you need specific parts made for these bikes. With the right resources, you can get the parts you want to customize your V4 bike however you like. Whether you prefer removing the mirrors, changing the grips or enhancing the exhaust system, we have what you want. You can find the aftermarket components you need for Aprilia and Ducati's powerful V4 motorcycles at Design Corse.
Customize your powerfulV4 Ducati, Aprilia TuonoV4 or other high-end four-cylinder motorcycle with aftermarket parts. Everything from engine components to means of customizing how your ride looks are available here.
Clean up the look of the rear of your motorcycle with tail tidies. These devices eliminate the need for fenders to hold lights and license plates to keep your bike street legal. We have these parts for many V4 bikes, including theDucati V4 and S Panigale models.
You will find all these parts and many others for Aprilia, Ducati and MV Agusta motorcycles here at Design Corse. We provide you all the parts you need to get the edge you crave in performance on the track and road, as well as the parts you need to customize the look of your bike.
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