For gear heads, there’s just something about a diesel engine that’s nothing short of attractive. From the mechanics to the fuel mileage to the sheer torque and towing power these engines offer drivers of diesel trucks, SUVs, and even passenger cars is something that ordinary gas powered engines simply can’t provide. Here, it’s a reliability unlike any other, and with the right amount of wherewithal and due diligence in maintaining these powerful engines, a trusted classic ride could easily last a lifetime.
So wouldn’t it make sense that the same principles apply to diesel-powered motorcycles? At least in terms of reliability and longevity, a diesel powered motorcycle seems like a killer investment given what we know about these engines. However, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of options out there that are available to the public. In fact, very little’s been placed into production for civilian purchase with the majority of diesel-powered motorcycles reserved for military use. At any rate, if you’re interested in making a purchase, building your own, or simply learning more about this small niche of two-wheeled rides continue on through this list of the best diesel motorcycles out there.
What's the Deal with Diesel?
When we think diesel we often think utility. From military-grade vehicles to big rigs to production pickups with commercial towing capacity, diesel engines are without a doubt the hardest working engines out there. However, when it comes to motorcycles, they leave something to be desired.
First off, it is worth noting that bikes boasting a diesel engine under the saddle feature a fuel economy unlike anything else out there (it’s not abnormal for a diesel motorcycle to get upwards of 100 mpg). And they’re tough. We speak a lot of apocalyptic-ready rides, but if there really was a motorcycle best suited for a Mad Max-type scenario, then odds are it would be a dual-purpose bike outfitted with a diesel engine.
However, since we’re not living in a post-apocalyptic landscape, bikes these days are still valued on one trait in particular. We’re speaking of course about their high power-to-weight ratio. It’s their generally light nature and relatively powerful gas powered engines that give motorcycles that adrenaline-fueled high RPMs and rapid acceleration. Diesel engines, however, underperform in this realm due to their heavier nature. The result is – more often than not – poor acceleration thanks to a weighty build.
What’s also worth considering is that as the number of cylinders is reduced in a diesel engine, more and more driveline issues become apparent thanks to peak pressures that become very high in engines purposed to produce enough power to get and maintain highway speeds. Don’t get us wrong, these small diesel engines do exist. They’re just expensive to make and result in a price point that’s undesirable considering their lackluster performance relative to their quicker gas-powered brethren.
Built with coveted German engineering, this Sommer motorcycle is ideal for both long rides through the countryside and urban commuting through Europe’s narrow city streets. It comes complete with a single cylinder four stroke diesel engine, can get over 300 miles of range on a full tank, and an easy-going 4-speed transmission. The bike’s classic stance also makes it a great candidate for panniers and looks mighty fine when cruising the city streets thanks to its dated yet sleek vintage look.
Hayes M1030 Military Motorcycle
If there was one motorcycle on this list that we could award as the toughest, it’d certainly be the Hayes M1030. Originally built out for the US Marine Corps, we now have access to this technology through the civilian arm of Hayes Diversified Technologies. The bike itself is based on the heavily reliable Kawasaki KLR650 and can actually run on biodiesel and JP8 aviation kerosene in addition to standard diesel fuel. It’s all powered by a 670cc 4-stroke indirect injection liquid cooled engine and the entire bike is practically waterproof (it can even cruise through water up to two feet deep without any issues.)
With upwards of 140mph fuel economy, 45 hp and 78 lb-ft of torque, the Evaproducts Track T800CDI is certainly one of the more advanced diesel motorcycles around. In fact, this ride appears to be in direct competition with dual-purpose adventure bikes in general, specifically those offered by the likes of BMW and KTM. It uses a turbocharged 800cc triple cylinder from a Smart Car combined with a CVT transmission and shaft drive to get you going. Who would have thought a Smart Car engine could deliver the goods?
Neander Turbo Diesel
What we can say about this monstrous ride is that Neander successfully built the first turbodiesel motorcycle in the world. Here, we have the best of both worlds with upwards of 112 horses at the helm and a 1340cc turbodiesel engine complete with twin crankshaft. Additionally, this bike features a Neander double telescopic fork, a compact 6-speed cassette transmission, a high-end Brembo brake system, and a 1920mm wheelbase for excellent handling at both high and low speeds. Outfitted as both a cruiser for the city and a tourer for weekend-long adventures, this is one smooth and powerful ride that’s a cut above the rest.
Royal Enfield Taurus
Launched back in 1993, the Indian leg of Royal Enfield began toying with the notion of diesel-powered motorcycles. The result was the Royal Enfield Taurus that was in fact commercially produced in that country. While discontinued back in 2001, there is still a chance you could scoop up a used option complete with the stock 325cc four stroke air cooled engine with a little due digging and due diligence. In fact, it could actually make for a cool barn find – resulting in a one-of-a-kind custom job to bring it back to life.
Now For The Gear
No matter what you ride, motorcycle gear is mandatory because, well, safety is paramount. So whether you’re hitting the track on the weekend or commuting to work on a daily basis, we’ve got you covered with the best motorcycle gear for every rider.