Some people like the air conditioner others prefer a pool.

Though the debate between air cooled and liquid cooled motorcycles ended some time ago with each advocate happy in their respective camps, the benefits of one over the other still elicit some passion among the faithful. Even if most modern motorcycles have taken the liquid approach.

But those new to motorcycling might need a push either way and deciding on one over the other depends a lot on the type of riding, your mechanical ability and, perhaps most importantly, the availability of the type of cooling system in the style of motorcycle wanted.

Liquid-Cooled Motorcycles

Generally, liquid-cooled motorcycles belong to those bikes you see ripping down the freeway. Your higher performance machines like Ninjas, R6s, CBR600s and pretty much any Liter bike. A liquid cooled bike features an internal cooling system much like an automobile and requires coolant.

Air-Cooled Motorcycles

You can find air-cooled motorcycles in a lot of the older bikes like a Kawasaki Eliminator, as well as many new and older model cruisers, and the standard or classic style rides like the Honda Rebel and Royal Enfield Continental GT. You can easily tell an air-cooled motorcycle by the "fins" built into the engine block that act as heat dissipaters.

Differences Between Air-Cooled and Liquid-Cooled Motorcycles

You can probably guess which style offers easier maintenance. An air-cooled engine uses nothing more than the outside air to cool off the internals. A liquid-cooled engine of course requires the liquid or coolant along with a water pump, the radiator and other components that disperse the coolant to remove excess heat from the engine. That means more stuff to maintain and parts that can potentially break.

See all those ridges? Those are the fins that help an air-cooled engine cool off

Liquid-cooled engines on the other hand work more efficiently and cool off the engine better than air-cooled especially in hot weather and stop-and-go traffic. The air-cooled engine needs a constant flow of air to cool off the engine, something hard to come by when stopped at signal lights and crawling along in traffic.

Therefore, cruisers utilize an air-cooled system very well when in constant motion and generating air flow while the engine revs at low RPMs. Air-cooled motorcycles have a simpler approach to maintenance and often sell for less than their liquid-cooled counterparts.

On the other hand, liquid-cooled motorcycles boast better heat tolerance, easily handle higher RPMs and excel in excess traffic and hot weather. These bikes have less air pollution - thanks to the overall efficiency and better fuel to air ratio - and less noise pollution because of the internal water jackets that help muffle the sound of the engine.

Nothing to see here - liquid cooled is all internal

Liquid cooled bikes operate like the human body by constantly regulating the internal temperature and ability to self-cool. Therefore, these bikes function in a much tighter temperature controlled environment and quickly breakdown when out of that space for an extended period of time. Air-cooled motorcycles proceed at the mercy of outside temperatures and capacity to create free airflow which often creates hot spots around the engine and inconsistent cooling.

Benefits of Air-Cooled Motorcycles

  • Cheaper and easier to maintain
  • Less parts
  • Operate in a wide temperature range
  • Best for cruisers

Benefits of Liquid-Cooled Motorcycles

  • Consistent cooling
  • Better heat tolerance
  • Less pollution and noise
  • Better for sport bikes and commuting