Ask the Editors: Why So Many Single Cylinder Machines?

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Why not more of these?

Dear ATVC: As automotive mechanics tells us, more cylinders mean longer lasting engines. I’m wondering then why so many ATVs still come equipped with single-cylinder motors.

Well for starters the assumption that more cylinders always means increased engine lifespan isn’t accurate. While it is true that engine RPM may be lower compared to a single cylinder machine traveling at the same speed under the same load, the fact of the matter is that regardless of how many pistons you have under the proverbial hood, every cylinder fires once per every two rotations of the crank (in a four-stroke).

But we just said engine RPM may be somewhat lower with more cylinders. That means less wear and tear overall right? Not exactly because with more cylinders comes increased weight; both in terms of the engine itself and the methods needed to keep it cool. Engines need to work harder to carry additional weight, often when dealing in smaller sizes, to the point where the performance increases do not justify the additional pounds… Which leads us to the final reason: Increased complexity.

A large appeal of the ATV segment (especially when compared to the automotive one) is ease of operation, low initial investment cost and affordable maintenance. All of these factors wouldn’t be possible if every machine on the manufacturer’s line were equipped with complicated multi-cylinder engines.

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