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Old 01-24-2010, 09:26 PM   #1
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Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?


All kinds of gearheads on this board, no doubt, so I'll bounce this off'a ya:

Can you name a large single-cylinder ("thumper") air-cooled four-cycle motorcycle engine that is commonly available? The largest I know of for sure is the Yamaha street bike that was painted like a vintage Norton -- I think it was a 500 cc. But I have a pretty good hunch there are some more common dirt bikes at 500 cc, and maybe more.

This is still at the brainstorming stage, but I might be interested in such an engine if I can pick it up cheap at a local motorcycle wrecker. (Or if you have one laying around!) This would be for a Burning Man "Mutant Vehicle" project; motorizing a Grand Piano. I want a thumper for the "bass" sound of it.

Never mind any fancy thousand-dollar engines. The piano was free, and that's my general operating mode.
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:04 PM   #2
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?

you might try a Honda 400EX ATV engine, later years had reverse as well and they are all over the place.
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:21 PM   #3
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?


Hadn't thought of that -- ATVs are probably more common than dirt cycles these days! Let's include ATVs in the inquiry. It is important that this engine is quite common, so I can find one, and cheap. (And get parts, if needed.)
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:26 PM   #4
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?

Suzuki makes a 700 cc thumper quad engine. I dare you to try and pull one over with the rope.
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:32 PM   #5
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?


Surely, a 700 cc thumper would have electric start?
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:05 AM   #6
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?

It has electric start and batteryless electonic fuel rejection. The problem is that even though it doesn't need a battery to start and run you're still stuck because you need it to start unless you're the hulk. Maybe during the summer they wouldn't be so bad, but everything in Minnesota is rated based on its January-February performance. Even my '86 TRX350 can be a bear to kickstart which is why it has a high dollar AGM battery I tested out to 384cca. That would be another cool motor to look at (also found in the ATC350X) as it's 4 valve design makes if a pretty powerful engine given its size. It's also a sleeved engine which you can probably appreciate being a big truck guy. The best part is that big bore kits are widely available and the sleeve means no expensive machine work.
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:47 AM   #7
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?


The idea is to install this engine under a Grand Piano, so the business of starting it is largely a matter of access. I'd rather start it with a key next to the piano keys, than crawl underneath the piano and kick start it while stooped over double!

350 cc would probably be plenty power, since it will be geared for a top speed of 5 MPH. But this is partly about sound, so I figured I'd shoot for 500-plus to start with.

Sorry about the Minnesota climate!
But in the Black Rock Desert in August, we worry more about overheating.
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Old 01-25-2010, 04:31 PM   #8
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?

For really weird, some old British Enfield motorcycles were powered by a pushrod 500cc single-cylinder engine.
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Old 01-25-2010, 04:46 PM   #9
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?


Oh yeah, I don't doubt the British built some mighty Thumpers back in the day! No balance shafts either, I bet!

As for the Honda 400 EX, I looked at completed listings on eBay and the cheapest one that sold recently was still over a thousand. And complete engines don't seem to appear at all; just parts. But now I know something I can start sniffing after.
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Old 01-25-2010, 07:40 PM   #10
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Re: Big single cylinder motorcycle engine?

I'm not sure that you're going to find the ATC350X/old TRX350 350 cc motor for real cheap, but it has a wonderful sound, especially if you ditch the 2-in-1 muffler as it has dual exhaust on it, but you're not going to get that really powerful thump if that's what you're looking for. It's more of a raucous sound that seems to want to rev just a little bit higher. I think just about anything with the spark arrestor and packing removed from the muffler is going to give that chest hitting sound, but a heavily oversquare engine is going to do a better job, especially with some compression behind it.
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