Modifying your motorcycle isn’t just about adding bling for that custom look, it can also be a great way to add to the practicality of your machine. But what changes to make? Here are the Insidebikes team’s five favourite (and simple to carry out) modifications for our motorcycles.
Think of modifications and chances are you didn’t think about changing tyres, but the rubber is the only part of your bike that touches the ground (or at least that should be the case) and, as such, changing it can drastically change the character of your motorcycle – for better or worse.
Tyres are generally engineered to be good at certain things, so a tyre designed to give maximum grip in the dry is unlikely to offer great durability, while rubber that’s good in the dirt will be less grippy on asphalt.
On new bikes, with the exception of top of the range models, manufacturers will often bulk buy cheaper tyres in order to keep costs down. Replacing them for higher end tyres is a simple way to improve the handling characteristics of your bike.
When changing tyres, it is important to stick to the same tyre sizes and to follow the manufacturers’ recommendations, as they will have tested the tyres on your model of motorbike. As tyres are a consumable item, changing tyres is effectively a ‘cost neutral’ modification as they require regular changing anyway. It is an opportunity to make your bike more suitable for your individual requirements. For example, if you want maximum grip (but don’t care too much about mileage) then go for a supersport tyre. If longevity is important you’ll find plenty of options out there, and for regular wet weather riding there are other choices that can work better for you. Likewise, if you run an adventure bike with dual sport tyres, but never venture off road, you might want to consider switching to a pure road tyre, which is likely to provide more grip on the asphalt, while being quieter and more fuel efficient.
If you do a lot of motorway miles, fitting an alternative windscreen may improve your comfort.
Taller riders may prefer a higher screen, to better divert wind blast over their heads and give a more comfortable ride, while ‘double bubble’ type screens provide better wind protection on sports type bikes. Many manufacturers offer alternative screens in their accessory range, while a number of aftermarket companies, such as MRA, Ermax and Skidmarx, have alternatives that can even come tinted in a range of wacky colours.
The good thing about changing screens is that it is usually a five minute job that simply involves unbolting the original screen and replacing it with your aftermarket item. Unfaired bikes can also be retrofitted with aftermarket screens and although these universal fit items usually require a degree more faff, they can also be installed by the DIY mechanic in not much time at all.
Crash bungs, plastic sliders that fit on the main frame and protect it from damage in the event of the bike sliding down the road have been around for decades. They can prevent expensive structural damage in the event of a crash. While not the prettiest, crash protection can be a great addition, especially if you plan on doing some risky riding on loose surfaces, or high speed track days.
As well as crash bungs, race style engine cases, drop bars and carbon fibre tank protectors are all commonplace, and most is really easy to fit. Companies such as GB Racing and R&G are at the forefront of the sector and make products that are increasingly more aesthetically pleasing than the original crash bobbins of the 1990s.
When it comes to practical modifications, there are few things that work better than fitting a top box and panniers.
Hard luggage systems attach to racks, which usually bolt onto the rear subframe of your bike. Most manufacturers offer racks for their bikes as official accessories and many will have panniers and top boxes in the catalogue too. If you choose aftermarket, companies like GIVI, SHAD and Hepco & Becker offer a wide variety of options and in a huge range of sizes. These are often universal fit items, which come with adapter plates to fit your bike’s rack. The luggage then clips into place and can be locked with a key for added security.
Fitting the rack is usually simple enough, often a case of unscrewing a few bolts to replace the seat and/or rear bodywork. You then screw in the rack, using the fittings that come with it.
When adding luggage, it is important to make sure that the luggage is suitable for your motorcycle and that fitting it will not take you over the manufacturer’s homologated payload. Overloading your bike can be dangerous, and could cause the bike to handle badly or weave at speed. Also be aware that fitting panniers (often called side cases) will usually make your bike wider, something to consider if your daily journey includes a lot of filtering.
Historically dumping the stock exhaust system was the first thing any self-respecting sports bike or cruiser rider would do when they picked up their bike. Silencers from the likes of Arrow, Akrapovic and Termignoni were the height of cool in the 1990s, and the best brands are still creating real works of art today.
Exhaust systems are not only there to do the traditional job of expelling spent gases. Increasingly modern systems have to suppress more sound and eliminate toxic emissions, so changing the exhaust, or at the very least the silencer (or end can as it is also known) has several performance benefits. An aftermarket silencer is usually lighter and tidier looking than the original equipment (OE) one. Because it is freer flowing, more often than not a modified exhaust will unleash a few extra horsepower and give a sportier tone to the engine.
Do ensure that any change you make to your exhaust keeps your bike legal. Excessively loud exhausts may result in an MoT failure, and you should always notify your insurance company of any modifications you make.