Engine types – air cooled vs water cooled?
September 2, 2008 at 5:00 am #2014nlightendrednekParticipant
Hi, all. This site is great!
I’ve read the reviews and a bunch of the posts but did not find this question addressed.
I see two types of engines air cooled and water cooled: what is the difference in quality, perfomance, repair costs, etc, etc,etc.
I haven’t decided which machine just yet but this site has helped tremendously! Thanks!September 2, 2008 at 11:45 am #11537BankParticipant
Liquid cooled is generally better (IMO) because the engine stays cooler when your not moving. Most riders of air cooled engines complain about how hot they and the bike get while sitting at redlights or in idle for too long.September 2, 2008 at 2:34 pm #11540MattParticipant
Both are reliable systems. The quality difference is entirely between specific bikes and engines. The overall design of an air cooled engine is just as “good” as a liquid cooled (not that many high end makes such as Ducati still use air cooled engines in many of their machines).
As a beginner, the performance limit of either engine is way above what you’ll need. In fact, it is above what you could ever expect to make use of on the roads. At the top performance tier, liquid cooled is the way to go for sure. If is needed to ensure long life of a really tight tolerance high revving engine. But for long life of more regular ride, well both Harley and BMW have made air cooled bikes that have lasted a long long time.
Air cooled engines are great in fall or cooler riding, but they are (I find) uncomfortable in stop and go traffic, or for the first few minutes after getting off of a freeway. In both situations the engine radiates a lot of heat on to your leg. Again, there are times when that is welcome, if you’re stuck in traffic on a hot day, not so much.
This is purely personal preference. My Dad owns an aircooled bike and prefers it. The heat on his leg never bothers him.
If you work on the bike yourself, the air cooled is MUCH easier to work on. Even if you don’t wrench yourself, the air cooled is cheaper (on average, again specific bikes make all the difference) to maintain. Not having a radiator, coolant fluid, hoses, and waterpump make a big difference in the complexity of the engine.
Hope that helps
“The two seconds between ‘Oh S**!’ and the crash isn’t a lot of practice time.”September 2, 2008 at 4:01 pm #11549nlightendrednekParticipant
Thanks for the quick response! Is there a difference in noise level between the air cooled and water cooled engines?September 2, 2008 at 6:05 pm #11555MattParticipant
I don’t believe so.
Mufflers and air intakes have more to do with engine noise than the cooling type.
Lots of loud engines happen to be air cooled (Harelys, a particular Ducati Monster). But I think that is more a matter of the owners want. For the owners of those bikes, the sound is a big part of the experience. You don’t sit on either bike hoping for a silent smooth ride.
But then, the scream of a water cooled litre sport bike racing down the freeway isn’t what one would call sedate either.
The Shadow VLX 600 is a water cooled twin, and purrs very quietly. I’m trying to think of a modern air cooled engine that is as quiet, and I can’t. I think the reason is again about emotional experience, the bikes that still use air cooling are high in “personality”. I’m sure they exist though.
“The two seconds between ‘Oh S**!’ and the crash isn’t a lot of practice time.”
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