Getting into the act of personalizing a motorcycle is generally the result of wanting something extra from the standard fare, the urge to make your ride stand out individually in a crowd. While simple, over the surface modifications like a sticker job, is alright, most manufacturers recommend that you keep the machine stock, to ensure it performs reliably and as intended over time. Moreover, tinkering with its mechanical components or adding accessories will mostly result in the warranty being cancelled and the insurance policy nullified. Also, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it could take you to a point, from where coming back to stock could be very difficult.
If you have still decided to modify your motorcycle, it is a good idea to get past the warranty period before you plan on making any alterations. Better still, if there’s a machine that has been lying around and eating dust for years, it could be the ideal Guinea Pig.
A very important aspect of modifying a motorcycle is in compliance with the law of the land. You need to make sure that you have received all the required permissions from the respective government bodies so your machine is street-legal after the mod-job has been carried out.
Modifications can either be visual or enhance a motorcycle’s performance. Either way, let’s explore the possibilities of what could go wrong or work your way.
You might not be happy with the way the stock fender looks, but while replacing it, you will need to ensure that it fits correctly, doesn’t foul with the tyre or hamper fork movement. It should also do its basic job of containing the spray in wet conditions.
On the other hand, unless you fabricate your own, finding a replacement tank or panels for your motorcycle is tough. Even if you do manage to replace the tank, the standard unit is designed with ideal weight distribution, capacity, and aesthetics in mind, which you will be messing about with. Same goes for the panels, as they are designed considering factors like aerodynamics, are made to fit flush with the frame and protect any vital components they cover.
Changing the paint colour is another popular modification, although wrap jobs are all the rage these days as the layer sits above the original paint and can be peeled off like a sticker if required.
Seat And Handlebars
Most motorcycle handlebars offer scope for adjustment. If you are replacing the stock bars with another one to find that ideal position, check if the existing unit on your motorcycle can be adjusted to your liking. Things like clip-ons may look fancy, but they are meant for the race track and are not ideal for machines meant for casual motorcycling.
Altering the seat cushioning, or changing the entire unit altogether can result in a weird riding position and could also cause discomfort. You may look at alternatives like a gel pad if you find the cushioning to be too basic.
Suspension, Tyres And Wheels
Avoid replacing or tinkering with these components without knowledge as they will directly affect the ride and handling characteristics of your motorcycle. There is a popular but misguided notion that upsizing the tyres results in a bigger contact patch, which as a result, enhances grip and performance. Instead, it increases rolling resistance, which adversely affects fuel economy, performance, and alters the way your motorcycle rides.
Those snazzy looking aftermarket wheels do look tempting. But do check that they are sturdy enough to take the beating our roads have to offer, are properly balanced and match the original rim size.
If you wish to invest in better illumination, do fit a relay and ensure that your motorcycle’s electrical system can take the additional load. A higher than recommended wattage for the bulb can damage the reflector, drain out the battery faster, and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere with a blown fuse.
Aftermarket horns, generally the ones which operate via a pressure mechanism are considered illegal and add up to the cause of noise pollution. Like the aforementioned changes, a louder horn too will adversely affect the electrical system’s performance and hamper reliability.
Engine And Exhaust
If a motorcycle is carburetted, installing larger jets without a matching air inlet or outlet for the gases, the whole exercise can turn futile. You motorcycle’s air-filter, jets and exhaust have to be finely matched by an expert.
In the case of fuel injected motorcycles, running custom ECU maps or a piggyback device is the way many make their engines pump out more. Manipulating the ECU to deliver more performance will result in increased stress on the metallurgy of the engine’s components, which are generally certified to perform till a certain stress level. Opening the engine block and replacing standard components with custom-made valves, pistons or cams will again transfer the increased stress on related components which might not be designed to handle the additional workload.
A rather harmless way to either enhance acceleration or trade it for a higher top speed is by changing the sprocket size. However, avoid replacing the front sprocket and relegate your experimentation to the rear unit.
Whatever you wish to do with your machine, ensure that you are fully aware of what you’re out to achieve. Study the technicalities well before performing a live experiment, as it may not just waste your money but also affect your health and safety when you set those wheels rolling.