Huge 2004 Motorcycles Will Break the 2000cc Barrier

Triumph will show its big three-cylinder motorcycle, rumored to be almost 2400cc, in August. Kawasaki reportedly has a 2000cc-plus V-twin on the way, and we expect to see a bigger full-production version of the Honda Valkyrie. **By _

When Honda rolled out its first VTX1800 motorcycle at the end of 2000, it said that bike's 1795cc V-twin engine was about as big as a V-twin engine for a motorcycle could practically be. Though Honda didn't define its criteria for practical success, the VTX 1800's reign as the biggest production V-twin motorcycle and the Honda Rune/Gold Wing 1832cc motor's position as the largest proprietary motorcycle engine are apparently about to be eclipsed as new production motorcycles roll out this fall with engine displacements considerably more substantial than any seen to date.

Although S&S; Cycle has been pumping out Harley-pattern V-twin engines for 45 years and is now building a 145-cubic-inch limited-edition engine to celebrate that fact and Harley-Davidson's 100th anniversary, those limited-production big engines were built separately from the motorcycles, which are assembled using the S&S; motors by other companies and individual customizers. And, if the popular rumor that Triumph's new flagship motorcycle will displace 2371cc is true, then the British motorcycle will have achieved displacement parity with the "big-engine" company, although it will apparently do it with three cylinders. For sheer engine displacement, however, the Chevrolet-powered Boss Hoss motorcycles and similar V-8 powered bikes will remain king.

Triumph Triple: 2200cc Plus!

Triumph has not provided any official information on its new bike, but invitations to its August 19 dealer meeting promise the "Biggest." However, these spy shots from a year or so ago show a very automotive liquid-cooled three-cylinder engine placed horizontally in the frame with the pistons moving laterally like a BMW triple and the cylinder heads on the left (presumably to keep the oil from settling into the combustion chambers when the engine is off and causing it to start up with a big cloud of blue smoke). Reports of and speculation about the Triumph's displacement vary from 2200cc to 2400cc (2.2 to 2.4 liters or 134 to 146 cubic inches), but the most popular displacement figure in speculation is 2371cc, just under 145 cubic inches (ci). However, the 2200cc displacement is a close second.

If the photos shown here prove to be representative of the production bike, the new Triumph (which may simply be known by its displacement, e.g., Triumph 23 or Two-Liter) will use shaft final drive on the left and have a huge rear tire. Fuel injection is almost a given, and some sources even speculate that an automatic transmission could be in the works as an option. Although Triumph has referred to the new maximum motorcycle as a "standard," the styling on the bike in the photos is very cruiseresque, with plenty of chrome, a wide, scooped saddle, a buckhorn handlebar, dual headlights, long chrome fender rails, and Americanized lines. This prototype motorcycle has three pipes, but they probably incorporate an expansion chamber under the bike, and a three-into one or three-into-two would seem like a natural variation. The fuel may be carried under the saddle to provide room for an airbox, unless the flat engine leaves sufficient room for the needed airbox volume immediate above it. That could be what the chrome plates conceal. Cast wheels, triple disc brakes, an inverted telescopic fork, and fairly standard dual rear damper-spring assemblies are obvious from the photos, and it appears as if the frame could be a large aluminum box, at least in the steering-head area.

Regardless of the details, the new monster motorcycle seems certain to draw plenty of attention to the Triumph brand and keep its star rising.

Kawasaki 2000

We don't have any details, just assertions from representatives of Honda and Yamaha that Kawasaki will introduce a 2000cc or bigger V-twin at its dealer meeting in September. The new engine (and presumably a new motorcycle wrapped around it) comes on the heels of its new-for-2003 Vulcan 1600 Classic , the upsized (1552cc) version of the 1500cc V-twin used in its flagship cruisers.

We anticipate that the new 1600 engine will be carried over into the other models in Kawasaki's current big-twin line -- the Nomad, Mean Streak, and Drifter, but the addition of a 2000cc motorcycle at the top of the line will change the complexion of Kawasaki's Vulcan line of cruisers. Since Kawasaki and Suzuki have an agreement to share new-model development, it?s possible that a variation of the new mega twin could also turn up as a Suzuki, which could certainly benefit from some attention to its Intruder line.

An 1800cc Valkyrie for the Masses?

Again we don't have any specifics or even any confirmation, but we are expecting to see a full production version of the Valkyrie powered by the 1832cc engine in the Valkyrie Rune some time in the near future. There are several reason and hints on what the bike might look at. First of all, the arrival of the Rune has increased expectations that a real production Valkyrie will be forthcoming, which won't help sales of the wonderful Valkyrie 1500. Second, the T1 concept bike shown here has frequently been discussed by Honda representative in terms that indicate it is regarded as the more mainstream and more-production oriented of the Valkyrie concept bikes shown in 2000 and 2001. The fact that the T2 concept has made it to limited production does not mean that the T1 has been bypassed, and it does reemphasize Honda's commitment to the Valkyrie family. In fact, Honda's own materials for the Rune hint that the T1 concept remains under development. Finally, it would have been economically more feasible to build a modified version of the 1832cc Gold Wing engine for the Rune if that engine was also going to be used in a full-production bike like the T1.

We don't know when a T1-based Valkyrie might show up, but, assuming our guess about the bike is right and it is coming, we don't think it is out of the question for 2004 or as an early 2005 model announced this fall. Unlike the Rune, which is physically huge, the T1 Valkyrie could maintain the excellent handling that distinguishes the Valkyrie 1500 with the extra punch of 20 percent more displacement and some updated hardware. And although it might be regarded as a "little" bike in the brave new over-two-liter world that seems to be almost upon us, past experiences tell us that the Valkyrie should have no problem playing with the big boys.

Whether bigger engines will mean faster, more powerful bikes or simply more substance for conversation remains to be seen. However, the displacement march looks like it will continue. We once regarded bikes of 1000cc as big bikes, but bikes like the Honda VTX 1300 now seems almost like middleweights. Bigger may not always mean better, but newer usually does. Since these bigger engines are likely to come in new chasses as well, 2004 could turn out to be a milestone year for cruiser enthusiasts.

_If you have comments about this article or the upsizing of future cruisers, please email them to the author at _ Art.Friedman@primedia.com _or at _ ArtoftheMotorcycle@hotmail.com.

Triumph's new triple is rumored to displace almost 2400cc.
Honda may be readying a real production Valkyrie based on this T1 concept bike.
The Triumph will aparently have shaft drive.
If this prototype is representative, the Triumph may raise come styling issues.
If rumors, repeated to us by Honda reps among others, are true, Honda's VTX 1800 will no longer be the biggest of the big twins come 2004.
An 1800cc full-production Valkyrie would likely use styling similar to the T1 concept bike.
Soon the Rune will no longer be the biggest-displacement cruiser.