This third article on Bike Modification looks at some further areas where we may decide to make a change to our bike from that supplied “off the shelf.” The original aim was for this series to be in 3 parts but as it developed we decided to include more ideas and therefore we now have 4 parts. Here is the list of areas you may consider modifying from the first two articles:
Performance (power or handling)
Cosmetic (visual and audible)
We will now look at Safety mods.
Modern bikes are built to exacting international standards which include features such as ABS and lights which are permanently on. These are features are “hard wired” into the bike. ABS has been a requirement on all bikes over 125cc since around 2015. Traction control is available on larger and more expensive models. Both ABS and Traction Control are seen as significant safety features for riders to maintain control of their bikes. To add either of these features to a bike without them could prove expensive even if it were possible.
However, there may be some things you may chose to add with the intention of making your bike safer.
Under cosmetics last time we looked at stickers. Many riders choose to add luminous stripes and bands and areas of hi-vis and day- glo reflective sheet to make the bike more visible. I have heard some riders suggest it may be to look like a police bike and rider, especially if the rider himself wears some carefully chosen luminous clothing, they ride a certain make of bike and have a “polite” notice on their back. These articles concentrate on changes to our bikes and do not include considerations of clothing. One thing to consider here, which was raised at a LAM social event some time ago on visibility is that sometimes what you may find is that Hi-vis in some circumstances becomes camouflage. Sometimes black is the stand out colour! So, do not depend on day glo colours to provide the ultimate level of safety.
One sticker you may wish to add is an “In Case of Emergency (ICE) sticker with contact details, Next of Kin, and any medical information. This is attached to your helmet, in the unhappy event that you do have an accident.
We will now look at other areas where Safety may influence your decision to make a change to your bike.
As previously mentioned, headlights are now permanently on for all modern bikes, but some riders with older bikes may still have a “light switch” on their handlebars; I do. To stave off a dead battery and to ensure it is always fully charged when walking away from it, it is best to always turn off your lights before walking away and to start your bike before turning them back on. Unfortunately, this can lead to not having any lights on at all when you ride off. I therefore fitted permanently wired LED running lights on all my bikes which are hard wired into the ignition. Current draw is minimal, unlike headlights; therefore, they will not drain the battery for the short time of stopping or starting the engine.
When looking at lights, many riders have added much brighter LED or HID spot lamps to ensure they are seen. Whilst these are excellent for the rider and may make you more noticeable, if poorly adjusted they can dazzle oncoming riders and motorists and possibly REDUCE one’s safety rather than improve it. One thing to remember here is to ensure they are wired via the ignition and go off when the bike is left. One Lamkin added spots to his bike, wired directly to the battery via a switch. Unfortunately, on a “Ring” trip, with his bike in the brightly lit hold of a ferry, he left his lights on for the duration of the crossing. His battery was very dead after 2 hours, when he returned to it. The ferry crew would not help him to “bump” his bike “for safety reasons” on a possibly slippery deck. So, they pushed it off the ferry and he waited for recovery in France. Recovery duly arrived and the technician helped him bump start it! He then had to make his own way to Bad Bertrich.
Older bikes still have ordinary tungsten bulbs; it may be possible to change the bulb for an LED lamp as a direct replacement. Especially as some front sidelights and rear brake/lights are difficult to access. Modern LED lamps may mean you never change the bulb. You may also consider upgrading your indicators to LEDs. On one bike I’ve added additional indicators to make my position changes more evident.
One of the electrical components I found to be inadequate, very early into my return to biking, was the horn. As we all know, the horn is one of the T.U.G. signals we can and should use when appropriate. Having a horn that can be heard by other road users, possibly listening to loud music or in well insulated vehicles, could save your life. A louder upgrade of the horn will make it much more effective to use. Stebel is a make I’ve fitted and they make two good models. However, it is worth knowing that you may need to fit a relay as well to switch the power supply to the horn. One thing to remember is to tell your MOT or mechanic that one is fitted; as they are much louder than standard horns. My MOT mechanic now expects to jump out of his skin when he tests it.
Whilst not something we may think a modification, tyre choice is something that is an important factor in our safety. It will depend on what, how, when and where you ride. Tyre technology is continually improving and whilst we may have a bike for years, improvements to tyres may well have occurred in that time. Rarely do riders go with the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM) tyre choice and will try tyre types that may be suggested by other riders. The LAM Forum is a good source for discussion on this. Unfortunately, now, our first tyre choice in these post Brexit times may have extended delivery times or cost implications, so a second choice may have to be made.
The next article on things to do to your bike will look at Convenience and Useability. Some do not even require any modification to your bike and are the simplest of “bolt-ons”.
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