When you buy a car it’s unusual to make any changes or modifications to the original design. Car manufacturers spend millions on design and market research so that when we decide on a car nearly every conceivable requirement is already there for us to use. If anything is not to our liking, we tend to adapt to it and put up with it rather than make any modifications or changes. Whilst my bikes all have modifications neither of our cars has any variation from the original maker’s spec. other than a tow-bar on one. The way we treat our bikes for some reason is different.
It’s rare that any bike doesn’t have some modification or change added since it left the show room. Some modifications may affect your bike in more than one of the following modification categories:
Performance (power or handling)
Cosmetic (visual and audible)
Convenience and usability
When we think of Performance modifications we tend to think first of engines and this includes those to improve engine power (torque, maximum power or power over a broader rev range) and engine flexibility. Rarely is engine performance tweaked to improve fuel consumption, although considerable improvement is possible here and in fact is sometimes a by-product of improved power performance. My own Honda’s fuel consumption dropped once the carbs were properly cleaned and adjusted. This was due to the need for smaller throttle openings and a more flexible engine range for the same power. Performance upgrades can include Power Commanders or “chipping” which may increase power but also improve engine flexibility and eliminate inherent fuelling hesitation or glitches. Alterations to alter engine power can be done throughout the whole power cycle; from air supply and fuel to fuelling, ignition, combustion and exhaust. Don’t forget that some simple things may make a difference, is your fuel good? Should you use a higher octane? Fuel suppliers vary considerably especially now with the new Eco fuels using different proportions of bio fuels. Engine maintenance and correct settings can make a big difference. It’s possible my carb needles had been set incorrectly from new so don’t make assumptions. Before spending hundreds of pounds on a Dyno run, ensure the basics are all good and in place and correctly set.
Most bikes have more performance than we can handle and for this reason many bike specialists would suggest ensuring that what you have is set up correctly before going for the more power option.
An ever-popular upgrade is an expensive exhaust system. This upgrade is now so popular that many manufacturers offer exhaust upgrades from new to capitalise on the market. Expensive exhaust systems may cost in the region of a £1000 pounds. The benefits include weight reduction, marginally improved maximum power and power range. If this upgrade is one for you, it’s best to ensure it meets the Euro standards as non-compliance will definitely invalidate insurance, especially so if it increases power. If you do decide to upgrade the exhaust, remember it may well be worthwhile keeping the original exhaust as the next owner may prefer the look, less noise and the legal and insurance compliance versus sound and look.
Performance tweaks can include those to improve handling. Bikes are produced to a budget and some bikes suspension systems are “budget”. The big manufacturers must produce a bike that can handle weather conditions, roads and weather in many countries and to be able to haul loads from a small person weighing 8 stone (50 Kg) or less up to a fully loaded two-up bike with luggage at a massive 200Kg or 32 stone of additional load. The suspension system has to deal with this wide variation. So again, we immediately start to look at fork upgrades or rear suspension units when a visit to a suspension setup expert may be able to save considerable money, over a major upgrade.
Therefore, whenever considering an alteration to your bike, always think first if your bike is as good as it could be as standard, before spending your hard-earned cash on replacement parts. Many times, I’ve thought that the suspension needs an upgrade or that I need a more powerful bike or something to release some more horses when all that was needed was some maintenance. This can include ensuring that the tyres you have are at the right pressure and in good condition. I heard recently, that when someone was asked when his tyres were last checked as part of a POWDER check, the response was that they were checked when the bike was last serviced and MOT’d. Tyre selection also plays a big part in your bike’s handling and much advice is available from Members on tyre choice, whether it be for longevity, wet or dry handling or as most of us would wish for all round performance.
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 doesn’t 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 people 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.
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