Fettle your motorcycle: Performance

Get the most from your motorcycle without spending serious amounts of cash

Okay, we've sorted the bodywork and chassis. Now how about looking closer at making real performance modifications? Here's my quick guide to getting a faster, better combination of getting more out of your bike - without going near the motor.

Dyno & Power Commander

If you’re fitting a new pipe it’s worth doing the job properly and getting the fuelling optimised. For the cost of a couple of hours on a dyno with a man who really understands the job you’ll get hours of pleasure in the saddle. It may be you’ll need a Power Commander, which is about £250, but when the alternative is a ratty running bike, there really is no short-cutting.

Aftermarket Pipe

Sometimes the choice to buy a pipe will be fashion led, sometimes it’ll be because you’ve bought a second-hand bike with a mank pipe. And sometimes it’s because you’ve crashed and you can’t afford the OEM replacement. With aftermarket pipes you’re looking for three things. Quality, silencing and power. Do your research and don’t be afraid to spend up – a quality pipe with good power will help on resale as well offering feel-good while you’ve got it.

Some bikes, like older make massive power gains with a good pipe and in those cases you really owe it to the bike to get a good pipe fitted.

Rearsets

Rearsets were all the rage back in the 70s when Z1s and CB750s came with 16-pound pig-iron rods sheathed in an inch of vulcanised rubber. These days they seem less necessary. Or are they? The ’07 R1 for instance has an acknowledged ground clearance problem, so a set of adjustable pegs could be ideal. Lift the pegs for track use, then drop them back down afterwards for the ride home, when you need the leg room.

Handlebars

When I was racing we used to spend the fi rst day of testing just getting the riding position right. We’d change seat padding, lift, lower or rotate the bars, change the footrests, whatever it took to get the right feel for the rider. Funny then with road bikes we nearly always stick with what we’re given. But if you’re lanky or stunted then chances are you could do with changing things around. And even if you’re not, a change such as the handlebars could make a real difference. When you get a new bike ride it for a while and if those bars really do feel too low, and your back’s giving you aggro, then go and look for some higher-rise bars. Just watch for clearance around the tank and fairing, eh?

Suspension

How few of us service our suspension the way we are meant to. And how many of us thrash around on leaky forks and sacked out shocks. Even a bike one or two years old will feel so much better for being reoiled or regassed, with new bushes and maybe even a revalve or change of springs. Race bike suspension is fettled all the time, it’s a major factor in getting a good lap time. So if you really are serious you should be speaking to specialists about what you need. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Brakes

Braided brake hoses are by and large a good thing. They boost braking power, they look great and for racers you really need them from a safety perspective (rubber hoses can be severed). They don’t necessarily enhance feel, so don’t be surprised if your brakes suddenly feel a bit, er, sudden. Better still, changing your hoses will also make you change your brake fl uid so you’ll get an additional performance enhancement there. Can be a tricky job though – the bleeding – so if you’re a cack mechanic get somebody good to do it. The latest brake calipers are so state of the art there’s almost no benefi t in fi tting aftermarket items, but for older bikes this could be a very worthwhile. You may want to replace the discs at the same time. There are plenty of quality aftermarket suppliers, so do your research.

Tyres

Tyres are all racers ever talk about. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not because it’s the best excuse ever for not winning, but the reality is tyres make or break a ride. Again don’t just go for the latest and greatest. Ask around and do your research. Don’t make the mistake of putting a 190-section tyre where a 180- is the right fitting. After you’ve picked your tyres make sure your wheels are properly balanced. And get a decent pressure gauge and set those pressures
right – and keep checking those pressures regularly, they make a world of difference.

If you want modifications that make your bike go better, rather than just look prettier, then you're in the right place. Modern bikes, especially superbikes, are brilliant as standard but that's not to say you can't improve them. Here's our quick guide to getting more performance out of your bike - without going near the motor.


Dyno & Power Commander

If you’re fitting a new pipe it’s worth doing the job properly and getting the fuelling optimised. For the cost of a couple of hours on a dyno with a man who really understands the job you’ll get hours of pleasure in the saddle. It may be you’ll need a Power Commander, which is about £250, but when the alternative is a ratty running bike, there really is no short-cutting.

Aftermarket Pipe

Sometimes the choice to buy a pipe will be fashion led, sometimes it’ll be because you’ve bought a second-hand bike with a mank pipe. And sometimes it’s because you’ve crashed and you can’t afford the OEM replacement. With aftermarket pipes you’re looking for three things. Quality, silencing and power. Do your research and don’t be afraid to spend up – a quality pipe with good power will help on resale as well offering feel-good while you’ve got it.

Some bikes - like older models - make massive power gains with a good pipe and in those cases you really owe it to the bike to get a good pipe fitted.

Rearsets

Rearsets were all the rage back in the 70s when Z1s and CB750s came with 16-pound pig-iron rods sheathed in an inch of vulcanised rubber. These days they seem less necessary. Or are they? The ’07 R1 for instance has an acknowledged ground clearance problem, so a set of adjustable pegs could be ideal. Lift the pegs for track use, then drop them back down afterwards for the ride home, when you need the leg room.

Handlebars

When I was racing we used to spend the first day of testing just getting the riding position right. We’d change seat padding, lift, lower or rotate the bars, change the footrests, whatever it took to get the right feel for the rider. Funny then with road bikes we nearly always stick with what we’re given. But if you’re lanky or stunted then chances are you could do with changing things around. And even if you’re not, a change such as the handlebars could make a real difference. When you get a new bike ride it for a while and if those bars really do feel too low, and your back’s giving you aggro, then go and look for some higher-rise bars. Just watch for clearance around the tank and fairing, eh?

Suspension

How few of us service our suspension the way we are meant to. And how many of us thrash around on leaky forks and sacked out shocks. Even a bike one or two years old will feel so much better for being reoiled or regassed, with new bushes and maybe even a revalve or change of springs. Race bike suspension is fettled all the time, it’s a major factor in getting a good lap time. So if you really are serious you should be speaking to specialists about what you need. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Brakes

Braided brake hoses are by and large a good thing. They boost braking power, they look great and for racers you really need them from a safety perspective (rubber hoses can be severed). They don’t necessarily enhance feel, so don’t be surprised if your brakes suddenly feel a bit, er, sudden. Better still, changing your hoses will also make you change your brake fl uid so you’ll get an additional performance enhancement there.

Can be a tricky job though – the bleeding – so if you’re a cack mechanic get somebody good to do it. The latest brake calipers are so state of the art there’s almost no benefit in fitting aftermarket items, but for older bikes this could be a very worthwhile. You may want to replace the discs at the same time. There are plenty of quality aftermarket suppliers, so do your research.

Tyres

Tyres are all racers ever talk about. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not because it’s the best excuse ever for not winning, but the reality is tyres make or break a ride. Again don’t just go for the latest and greatest. Ask around and do your research. Don’t make the mistake of putting a 190-section tyre where a 180 is the right fitting. After you’ve picked your tyres make sure your wheels are properly balanced. And get a decent pressure gauge and set those pressures right – and keep checking those pressures regularly, they make a world of difference.

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