This fourth article on Bike Modification looks at the final areas where we may decide to make a change to our bike following on from the list of areas you may consider modifying from the first three articles:
Performance (power or handling)
Cosmetic (visual and audible)
We will now look at some of the Convenience and Usability modifications you may consider
This kind of modification makes personalises our bike and can be anything from a reminder label or clothes peg, to a rear wheel hugger or full panniers and top box set-up, costing thousands. Whilst not strictly a modification, one of the most useful convenience add-ons for a trip abroad is a clothes peg or bulldog clip. When you check in for your trans-Manche journey, you will be given a boarding pass to display and hang on the rear-view mirror that bikes don’t have. Ferry or Eurotunnel departure areas are notoriously open and, being near the coast; windy. A decent bulldog clip or peg, should ensure your boarding pass is on display on your windscreen and stays there.
One other area that we all have a personal view on, is bike security. Many Lamkins have suffered from the attention of thieves. So, fitting an alarm or tracker as well as conventional lock and chain security may be a necessity where you live, or leave your bike. This area will not be covered here as it is so varied, and once again a visit to the LAM Forum will provide loads of suggestions for the options available.
Luggage and load carrying
We all have our ideas, preferences, or arrangements for luggage and the options are wide ranging; from hard panniers and top box fitted on special luggage frames to soft panniers over the rear seat or soft bags that strap to a rear rack or rear seat. Many will also have tank bags which may need a special clamp to attach the bag. I use an Oxford tank bag with magnetic mount, not an option for those with plastic fuel tanks.
I have a large top box and then use soft luggage on the rear pillion seat. I also modified my top box lid, adding some stainless eyebolts for attaching light, quickly accessible items, like a rainsuit or bedroll, for when the box is full. Some may prefer to have minimal luggage on the bike and choose to use a rucksack instead. Whilst I have a range of rucksacks, I avoid this option on longer journeys to reduce tiredness, getting too hot and improve riding comfort. However, I always use a “bum bag”, which carries my essentials for any of my bikes or any trip, that I can use whichever M/C suit I’m wearing.
When venturing on an extended trip, it may be necessary to carry some liquids. Some of these liquids you don’t want to mix with your undies, such as engine oil, chain lube, water or if camping; cooker fuel. I have a well-known touring bottle rack that I’ve fitted to my rear pillion peg mount to carry these bottles. Alternatively, if you have hard panniers this same rack could be fitted to the back end of the box.
Also, when touring abroad, it’s possible you may well go on a toll road, bridge or tunnel and you’re likely to again be given a ticket. Having somewhere convenient to pop the ticket and some cash or your card that’s easily available (and dry) is very useful. I use my tank bag for this but in dry weather the clothes peg may prove useful again. Fiddling in pockets with gloves may not be the best option in a long queue of traffic, again with the risk of the toll plaza being windswept.
Fixed bike accessories
Not strictly something you can add from a range of non-OEM parts but, I consider, a centre-stand a must for any bike and unfortunately still an optional extra on many models. Useful for checking tyres (both front and back), lubricating/checking drive chain and providing a more stable parked vehicle. So many DIY servicing tasks require the rear or front wheel to be off the ground making a centre stand essential.
Most bikes come with a front mudguard but most are small for bike aesthetics. An easily fitted fender extender to suit your model will reduce the muck thrown onto the engine, the oil or water radiators or your feet. These are easily fitted with just a few screws and look part of the bike.
While mentioning debris onto the radiators, you can purchase guards for both oil and water radiators, again specifically for your model of bike. Radiators cost hundreds of pounds and a cheap and easily fitted guard could easily save you a thousand pounds in repair costs.
Many years ago, a week before a trip abroad, I dropped my VStrom at standstill. Using just the handlebars I picked up the bike only to find that I’d bent the bars under the load. I was able to get new bars and then investigated a handlebar brace to strengthen the point where the bars are clamped to the top steering yoke. This brace not only looks OK but provides a mounting point for other accessories like a Sat Nav, clock, or Roadbook holder.
Another common upgrade is crash bars or crash bungs. Many of us consider this as the most important optional extra. Few of us have not dropped our bikes at some point and crash protection will save a lot of money and possibly recovery or a missed trip; if a brake or clutch lever or indicator gets broken. Crash bars also provide a mounting point for other accessories e.g. additional lights or small luggage bags. I use my crash bars to hold a quickly accessible bag for spare bulbs, a couple of tyraps, work gloves some duct tape or insulating tape.
I have also modified the tiny side stand foot on one bike to give a larger pad area which does help avoid coming back to a bike on its side. Mine is a welded-on adaption but there are easily bolted on types available from well-known manufacturers. There is another option to this and I always carry an easily accessible side stand puck in my “bum-bag” on a piece of string that I can position on soft ground without getting off my bike. With the string looped over my clutch lever, I can also recover it sitting on my bike without getting off.
For those of us who ride in all weather conditions, often on daily commutes with high mileages, the drive chain will take a lot of abuse. Whilst we all know that the chain should be lubricated regularly to extend chain and sprocket life, after a long working day and possibly in the dark and inclement weather and especially those with no centre stand, lubricating the chain is something we’d prefer not to do. There are automatic chain oilers to protect and extend chain life. These drip a tiny amount of oil onto the chain at regular intervals whenever the bike is running. The drip rate can be varied to suit weather conditions or time of the year and typically only need to be filled every 4 or 5 hundred miles. They can double chain and sprocket life and save a couple of hundred pounds in servicing and parts cost every 15K miles or so. It is important to adjust the drip rate dependent upon weather conditions. In the summer on dry roads the oil may last twice as long as in the wet on salty roads in winter.
Back to the subject of electrical accessories: I have fitted a “cigarette lighter” style accessory socket. It is fitted to a cable and is coiled under the seat. I’ve used it to charge phones, for a tyre air inflator or as a battery pack charge point. Alongside the socket I have a plug in USB charger for charging or powering any USB device in an emergency.
Possibly the commonest electrical accessory is a battery charging point to maintain the bike’s main battery. All modern bikes have some small electrical draw from the battery, even when parked, and over time this will discharge the battery. Lead acid batteries of the type fitted to all bikes hate being left not fully charged. A regular top up from a Smart Charger will ensure your battery lasts much longer and that your bike won’t let you down by failing to start after a period without use. This is especially so if your POWDER check is done without starting the engine. Unfortunately, simple electrical upgrades have become more complex with modern CAN Bus or intelligent wiring and management systems; so, do check on the LAM forum for advice before making a change. Your dealer may suggest OEM equipment from the bike manufacturer which will invariably be more expensive.
This series of article is not an exhaustive list of possible changes to your bike. The main aim is to inspire you or give you some food for thought. If there is some niggly omission you have found, you can look at doing something if your bike doesn’t quite fit the bill. It is possible to make your bike (almost) perfect for you.
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