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Bike Modification Part Two

This second article on Bike Modification looks at some other areas where we may decide to make a change that a manufacturer supplied “off the shelf.” As we said in the first article here is a list of things you may consider modifying:

  • Performance (power or handling)
  • Cosmetic (visual and audible)
  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Convenience and usability

Performance

Last time, we mentioned power output and delivery and improved handling. With some modern bikes these upgrades or modifications are no longer so easy, with changes to adjustable suspension, power and ride modes and traction control variations being possible using a switch on your handlebars. Exhaust systems are still a popular modification but may have a detrimental effect on how your bike performs, so they need to be done with care.

Let us move on to some other areas where we may make tweaks to our bike. 

Cosmetic modifications

I guess we all like to have a “look” or “persona” when riding our bike and our choice of bike may say a lot about our character, unless like me, price and a bike becoming available to purchase at the right time seems to make all the difference - but that probably also describes my character. Maybe rufty tufty, maybe cool, he-man or she-girl, perhaps a racer look is what you look for in a bike style, practicality may be a little way down the list. Some may even wish to melt into the background, avoiding any kind of look which may gain unwanted attention. Cosmetic modifications may therefore cross over between a certain look and what we see as practicality or safety. Most cosmetic modifications are unlikely to affect performance and therefore if you wish to have tassels hanging from your bar-ends or loads of stickers, then feel free. However, in the first article we included exhaust changes under the performance section but in fact the sound of a noisy or throaty exhaust may be a “look/sound” that you like. Some may also consider that a noisy exhaust is also safer but noise can also damage your hearing and a noisy exhaust on a long journey can make your ears ring and may make you feel more tired whilst also upsetting the neighbours and draw unwanted attention.

A common upgrade, especially to riders of cruiser or hog style bikes is a different number plate; maybe old style black with white numbers or a smaller plate altogether or change letter/number spacing to give a meaning to the registration. The design of number plates is covered by legal requirements so this is a change that may give a member of our constabulary an opportunity to “have a little chat” and who knows where that may lead. Modified number plates may also constitute an MOT failure.

I guess the most basic of cosmetic upgrades are stickers and many of us love these, especially riders who have been to faraway places. One badge you are not allowed to have on display is a Nurburgring badge – they are only allowed if you have been around the circuit. The one badge you should be proud to have though, is an IAM or LAM Green Badge, get yours free at the next Group Session.

 

Comfort

This is an area where many of us do make changes to our bikes. Many of us have done a long journey only to find that our bottom is aching or is a bit sore. When riding in a group over a longer distance we’ve all seen people, standing on the pegs, fidgeting in the saddle, stretching their legs, or flapping their arms or elbows. If this becomes excessive, it is important that you stop and stretch your legs, take a drink, and have a break. It is also important that you are concentrating on your ride and not thinking about how long is it to the next stop? There are things that can be done here to extend that distance. Maybe a saddle repadding by a specialist company, lowering or raising suspension (if available) or whilst not a modification but an adjustment; changing the handlebar angle in the clamps. Rear-sets to reposition brake and gear levers were a popular (and racey look) many riders added to sports bikes a few years ago. If comfort is causing you to lose concentration, do look at your user manual to see if there are any other adjustments on your bike that you can do. Consider:Adjusting brake or clutch lever stretch.

Move brake or gear lever position up or down to make gear changes or braking easier and avoid having your ankle or foot held in an awkward position. This will also eliminate the chance of brake light operation when you don’t intend it.

If available, adjust seat height or screen angle.

On the theme of windscreens, one modification I have found to be very useful and I know many others have fitted; are windscreen extenders or deflectors. If your bike only comes with a fixed screen, these fit on the top edge and can be adjusted to deflect airflow over your helmet (also makes your ride quieter for you).

One of the first modifications I made to one bike was to change the windscreen completely. The standard screen deflected airflow straight at my chest, a Power Bronze dark tinted double bubble upgrade deflected it to the top of my helmet but also looks a lot more racey than the standard screen - so there is that pose value again as an extra!

 

Obviously heated grips are very popular and, in the UK, I consider a necessity.

Maybe handlebar wind deflectors to direct wind and rain away from your hands.

When talking of comfort, as mentioned in the performance and cosmetic sections, noisy exhausts will make you more tired, so that is something to consider before making that expensive change. I recall once not wearing ear plugs because I aimed to stop soon for an ice cream. The opportunity to stop didn’t arise for maybe 30 mins and by then my ears were ringing and that was with a quiet, standard exhaust travelling at lowish speeds.

When making a change that needs a new part, it is always best to keep the standard component to offer with the bike when you come to exchange or sell it.

Bike modification may be done for a variety of reasons and the availability of options is huge both from specialist suppliers and from the Internet. However, a consideration must always be to check that a modification does not affect your bike insurance. It is normal for policies to request if the machine has undergone any modification and this can include what one may think is the most innocuous alteration or addition. Finally, LAM’s membership includes riders with a wide range of knowledge and experience for all aspects of riding be it racing, off-road, classic bikes, touring, commuting, maintenance, repairs and of course modifications and upgrades, so a visit or question on the LAM forum may well pay dividends.

The next article will conclude this series when we look at Safety, Convenience and Usability modifications.

Eddie Wright

 


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