It’s going to happen eventually, whether it’s a new set of side mirrors, a fancy number plate holder, or a tail tidy, most bikes don’t stay stock for long. There are aesthetic, then there are performance mods, but some performance mods also serve as aesthetic mods and vice-versa.
Let’s give you five suggestions for your next motorcycle modification, or next set of motorcycle modifications that’ll allow you to go faster, whether it’s in the straights or in the twisties.
Perhaps the most popular modification that most riders end up with first is an exhaust system. Custom exhausts, branded exhausts, or even generic ones, in addition to adding horsepower it also lets the engine sing, roar, or shout, depending on what bike you ride.
Though, there is a catch. Apart from the added noise while using the bike, exhausts aren’t always so easy to get right. Quality is one thing, and that will affect how it will look and how it will hold up, but the more important aspect of an exhaust is to make sure that it is designed for the bike, or at least given other supporting mods to make it work, such as a tune.
When you’re on the hunt for your new pipe, make sure to do your research, get it from a reputable brand (even if it will cost a lot of money), and make sure that it’s legal for sale and use wherever you live. Recommending this modification is rather controversial, so let’s leave you with this piece of advice: keep it legal, and keep it classy.
Now that you’ve taken care of the exhaust, time to get to work on the intake. Though, for most modern bikes this shouldn’t be a problem. For your air intake filter needs, there are brands like K&N, BMC, and DNA that all supply OEM-fit panel filters that you can snag up for a decent chunk of change. These filters allow more air in and allow the bike’s induction noise to also increase. Paper filters do protect your engine more, but that restricts the flow of air into the combustion chamber to an extent.
On top of allowing more air into the engine, these filters are also reusable. Multi-use servicing kits will allow you to clean your air filter instead of throwing it out which could save you a trip to the dealer or a which could save you from waiting a while for a part to arrive. There’s almost no downside to this mod, except for the extra care that you need to take in order to clean the filter.
Now that you have the intake and the exhaust of your bike breathing more freely and less restricted, it’s time to tie everything together and tell the engine what’s up. That’s where an engine control unit (ECU) remap, or a piggyback system will come into play.
It’s one thing to bolt on and install parts to make your bike go faster, but it’s another thing to tie everything together. That’s what a map does. There are a number of smart ECUs out there that are able to learn, but for the vast majority of bikes out on the road with internal combustion engines, they need a remap or reflash as some tuners like to call it.
Basically, the parameters of the ECU are overwritten in a remap or reflash, which accounts for the additional air it intakes and can push out. Either that or you’ll run a piggyback system, one that’ll allow for extra compatibility or extra features on top of the stock ECU’s capabilities. With two types of systems to consider for real performance gains, which one should you go with? That depends on your motorcycle. Certain brands will prefer one over the other. Honda’s ECUs are rather simple, so a reflash will be fine, but bikes like KTM’s 790 Duke might require a little more investment, and a piggyback system might have to be purchased in order to edit the engine mapping on the bike. Either way, do your research and make sure that you get the best option for your motorcycle.
All that engine power is not going to be worth it if you can’t get a grip on the road. Tires are crucial for motorcycles and we cannot stress the importance of investing in a quality set for your bike. Not only do quality tires promise good service life, but they can also potentially increase the performance of your motorcycle.
There are tons of brands out there, but for road bikes, there are two kinds of tires that you may want to consider and those are sport and touring tires. Touring tires last longer, offer good levels of grip without the warmup time and will work as a long-distance and long-lasting option for your motorcycle.
Sport tires on the other hand may require a warm-up period or optimal weather conditions in order to deliver all their performance, but no other tire category other than racing slicks can give you better results.
For adventure and dirt bikes, pay attention to the tire’s tread and gauge it from there. If you find yourself on the road more often than you’re on the dirt, then go for a road-biased tire, if you find yourself on the dirt more, then go for a dirt-biased tire—etcetera.
The point here is that tires are your only connection to the road. Slip and fall short with this and, well, you may slip and fall. Make sure to invest in proper tires because it will help you go faster, and also keep safer.
Okay, so now onto more intellectual modifications. So how does stopping make you go faster? Well, if you think about it, brakes help you go faster in the other direction. Most modern motorcycles come with adequate brake pads and calipers for the weight, size, and purpose of the bike. Most big bikes come with very powerful dual-disc or big-disc setups that are more than enough to stop the bike in a pinch. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) whether the in a basic or cornering variety will also help, but just like tires, pads serve as the main points of contact between your caliper and the disc.
Disc brakes have come a long way, but most bikes will find themselves using “eco” pads or organic brake pads. Unless your bike is a performance model from the factory, consider upgrading your pads to a sintered set in order to enhance lever feel and also heat resistance to prevent fading over long rides and track sessions.
Bonus: Rider Training
All of this, however, pales in comparison to proper rider training. Learn how to push a motorcycle. Make sure you know how to control all the power you’ve just unleashed with all your mods. Either that or train with a stock bike. Rider training is perhaps the most effective way to get faster on your motorcycle.
There is also no shortage of schools out there like MotorClyde, Honda, or any one of the riding programs that are organized by the brands. Perhaps instead of buying all those fancy parts from the start, invest in your skills first, at least that’s our recommendation if you want to truly get faster. Otherwise, and if you believe that you have all the necessary skills to pilot a motorcycle, shop away!