motorcycle 101 guides

Motorcycle Modifications You Should Avoid

Motorcycle Modifications You Should Avoid

Motorcycle customization is one of the most popular trends among motorcycle enthusiasts and custom builders. However, it can go wrong if you are a novice rider and do not have adequate knowledge of how a motorcycle works. Motorcycles are designed under the supervision of qualified engineers to stay stable during the ride. A perfectly designed motorcycle must be stable and should handle well while cornering or riding at high speeds. Therefore, motorcycles must not be tweaked or customized in a way that causes their geometry to become disproportionate. Several modifications can degrade your affect performance, instead of improving it. Read this article to learn about the motorcycle modifications you should avoid.

1. Motorcycle Modifications You Should Avoid

1.1 High Beam Headlight

Installing a headlight that is too bright can blind the rider coming from the opposite side, resulting in an accident. You may be able to see clearly what is ahead of you. However, it is extremely dangerous even for the riders on the opposite side of the road. The rider should only use a high beam and too bright headlight if they are traveling on dark roads and at night.

1.2 Installing LED Headlights on Old Motorcycles

Installing LED headlights on old motorcycles with halogen bulbs is not a good idea. Halogen bulbs are usually not as bright as LED lights, especially when they get old. However, bulb housing on an old motorcycle is designed for halogen bulbs. Installing LED bulbs in such motorcycles can cause the light to scatter inappropriately, resulting in poor visibility and motorcycle crashes. You can install new and bright halogen bulbs on motorcycles that do not support LED lighting. Upgrading your old motorcycles with a new lighting system and loads of LED lights will result in early draining of your motorcycle battery.

1.3 Using Colored Lights

Using Colored Lights
Photo Credit: Web Bike World

Motorcycles are fitted with stock yellow headlights because our eyes are accustomed to sunlight. If you use bright white light and other neon lights on your motorcycle, it may increase your visibility on the road but it can cause blinding of other riders on the road. Similarly, the red tail light is also used to indicate alertness. Using colored lights can cause visibility issues and glare, resulting in motorcycle crashes.

1.4 Removing Mufflers for Loud Sound

Removing Mufflers for Loud Sound
Photo Credit: Bikes Future

One of the most irresponsible motorcycle modifications is the exhaust pipe removal for loud sounds. Firstly, it has become one of the major sources of noise pollution and secondly, it also pollutes the environment due to the emission of hazardous gasses coming out of the motorcycle engine. Motorcycle mufflers are built to reduce hazardous gasses produced as a result of fuel combustion in the engine. When you remove them, these gasses come out directly without getting treated by the catalytic converters in mufflers.

Some motorcyclists think that they will look cool if they remove the mufflers for loud sounds. However, it earns you a reputation as an irresponsible citizen and must be avoided.

1.5 Removing Side Mirrors and Turn Signals

To reduce a few pounds of weight from motorcycles, some motorcyclists remove the most essential safety attachments, including side mirrors and turn signals from their motorcycles. Side mirrors and turn signals can save you from motorcycle crashes. Side mirrors allow you to check the rearview without having to turn your face behind. They are helpful while switching lanes and taking a turn. Meanwhile, turn signals allow you to indicate riders on the road regarding the move you are going to make. Turn signals and side mirrors help improve road safety.

1.6 Ridiculously Tall Handlebars

Ridiculously Tall Handlebars
Photo Credit: Biltwell

If you are a motorcycle enthusiast and love to go long miles on your motorcycle, installing tall handlebars, including ape hangers or mini-ape handlebars is quite useful. Such handlebars ensure a high arm position and upright back. However, handlebars must not be ridiculously tall which distracts your vision and causes handling issues. You must also match the handlebars’ height with your height because handlebars that are appropriate for someone else may be taller for you.

1.7 Engine Tweaks for Improved Power Output

The engine is the most important part of a motorcycle and must not be tweaked if you have less knowledge about it. The motorcycle engine is tuned for optimal performance from the factory. Even a slight mistake while tweaking your engine for a performance upgrade can cause damage to the engine and reduce the engine's life and reliability. If your motorcycle is new, performing engine modification can also nullify the warranty. You should only engage in engine modification if you are an expert motorcycle mechanic or should consult a professional custom builder.

1.8 Installing Oversized and Flat/Fat Tires

Installing Oversized and Flat/Fat Tires
Photo Credit: Top 10 Clubs

Motorcycles are designed to ensure stability. A change in the geometry and size of a certain motorcycle part will disrupt the overall balance and aerodynamics of the motorcycle. Most motorcycle riders love the look of oversized tires that do not even fit on their motorcycles.

Another common motorcycle modification that must be avoided is the installation of flat/fat car profile tires. The flat car profile tires make a motorcycle look cool but they are a safety risk. Motorcycles have to lean to turn a corner. To support leaning, motorcycle tires are made more flexible, soft, and round to ensure better leaning and cornering. Meanwhile, car tires are flat and hard as they are not supposed to lean while turning a corner. Therefore, unless you are not a drag racer, you must avoid installing flat car profile tires on your motorcycle.

Installing oversized or flat tires changes the overall size, handling, maneuverability, ground clearance, height, and suspension performance of your motorcycle. It is good to replace the old cracked tires with new ones. However, make sure to go through the motorcycle owner's manual to check the recommended size and width of tires you should install.

1.9 Installing Suspension Extenders

Installing suspension extenders to increase a few inches of your motorcycle height must be avoided. It imposes several safety risks due to the change in the suspension geometry. If you want to spend money on improving suspension performance, you can replace the front forks and rear shocks with preload-adjustable front and rear suspension for a plush riding experience.

1.10 Removing Motorcycle Reflectors

Removing Motorcycle Reflectors
Photo Credit: Car & Bike

Though being the most basic motorcycle modification, removing motorcycle reflectors to give it a naked and sporty look can be risky. Motorcycle reflectors are simple and cheap motorcycle attachments, yet very useful. It reflects light and makes you more visible on the road. There are several U.S. states, including California, in which you are required to have at least one reflector on your motorcycle.

1.11 Swingarm Extension

Swingarm Extension
Photo Credit: @Roaring Toyz

Extending the swing arm to increase the wheelbase of your motorcycle is another risky modification that you should avoid. This modification is mostly used in drag racing where the rider is required to ride in a straight line. Swing arm extension improves the linear performance of a motorcycle by improving traction and acceleration. However, it decreases the handling, maneuvering, and cornering capabilities of your motorcycle. Therefore, if you are not a drag racer and use your motorcycle for city travel, daily commutes, and long-distance trips, you should avoid extending your motorcycle’s swing arm.

1.12 Installing Loudspeakers

Installing Loudspeakers
Photo Credit: Electric Bike Action

Motorcycles do not have an enclosed structure like cars. Therefore, installing a stereo system on a motorcycle is not a good idea as it will only cause distraction and noise pollution. Even if you buy a high-quality stereo system to install on your motorcycle, you will not be able to enjoy music during the ride as there is wind buffeting and you will be wearing a helmet. To focus on the road and ride safely, try to avoid installing loudspeakers on motorcycles.

1.13 Lowering the Motorcycle

Lowering the Motorcycle
Photo Credit: Hot Cars

There are two ways commonly used to lower the motorcycle: cutting the suspensions and loosening the front forks. Using either way to lower your motorcycle transforms the geometry of your motorcycle and suspension performance. This can reduce the suspension wheel travel, and badly impact the ergonomics, handling, and cornering capability of your motorcycle.

Most motorcyclists lower their motorcycles to get their feet flat on the ground and to ensure a better center of gravity. Sports bikes are fitted with a rear-link attached to the rear suspension. You can install an aftermarket rear link with several mounting options to adjust its height and lower the motorcycle’s rear side. However, most motorcyclists opt for lowering the motorcycle’s front side to create a more aggressive riding position and to improve the aerodynamics. This is done by loosening the triple clamps, moving the front forks up, and then tightening them up after lowering the front. If you are not an expert motorbike mechanic or custom builder, there are better chances that you may not be able to create a proper balance. If both sides of the triple clamps are not balanced, it will be a safety hazard to ride this motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle with low ground clearance can damage the engine and other motorcycle parts. It makes the ride quite uncomfortable.

1.14 Intake and Exhaust Systems Modifications

Intake Modification

Intake Modification
Photo Credit: Return of the Cafe Racer

If you are not a professional custom builder or motorcycle tuner, try to avoid intake and exhaust motorcycle modifications. Stock motorcycle engines are designed to operate under specific conditions and circumstances. If you install aftermarket breathing parts for improved air intake, it may cause the air/fuel mixture to become disproportionate. You will need to adjust the fuel intake/injection of your motorcycle as well to ensure a lean mixture. Therefore, altering the breathing parts of a motorcycle engine must be done by a professional mechanic to avoid any issues, including cold starts, engine stalling, poor acceleration, and other starting issues.

Exhaust Modification

Exhaust Modification
Photo Credit: Biker and Bike

In addition, altering the exhaust system can also cause several issues to your motorcycle. If you install a long aftermarket exhaust, it will add to the total weight of your motorcycle and decrease its performance. Meanwhile, cutting short the exhaust pipe can decrease the backpressure produced by the exhaust gasses. However, stock exhaust pipes are designed to generate optimal backpressure, and changing the size can cause a loss of power due to the absence of a certain amount of backpressure.

1.15 Cutting Motorcycle Frame

Motorcycle frames are tested by manufacturers to ensure strength and durability. A motorcycle frame is the main structure that holds most of the parts, including the engine, exhaust system, electrical system, battery, and gas tank. A part of the motorcycle frame that looks extra to you might be essential for its overall rigidity and strength. So, cutting a motorcycle frame to reduce its weight for customization can impact the overall performance and aerodynamics of your motorcycle. Most importantly, it can reduce the strength of the overall structure, especially if not done properly. Also, if you are not a professional welder and cut the frame at the wrong angle, riding such a motorcycle can be a safety risk for you and other people on the road.

1.16 Removing Chain Cover

Removing Chain Cover
Photo Credit: Hot Cars

Removing the motorcycle chain cover to make your motorcycle look cool is a bad idea. It is extremely unsafe to remove the chain cover, especially if you are riding with a passenger. You can get your pants or foot stuck in the motorcycle chain which can be life-threatening.

1.17 Installing a Rigid Rear Frame

Installing a Rigid Rear Frame
Photo Credit: Fabbro Industries

There are custom chopper builders who remove the rear suspension and install a rigid rear frame for a classic chopper look. This may give your custom chopper a classic look but it will hurt your back. No motorcycle that was produced after the 1920s came without the rear shocks to ensure comfortable long rides and avoid back pain. Therefore, it is a waste of money to remove the rear suspension and install a rigid rear frame.

1.18 Relocating the Tail Light and License Plate Bracket

Relocating the Tail Light and License Plate Bracket
Photo Credit: Revzilla

Another bad decision that most motorcyclists make is to relocate the tail light and license plate bracket by installing the relocation kit. It is usually done to make space on the rear fender to include an expression of art or to make it look plain while installing the tail light and license plate number to the swingarm where they are hardly visible. The rider should avoid this motorcycle modification to ensure safety, especially while riding in the dark. It can be a risk to your safety if your headlight is mounted to the swingarm where it is less visible to the vehicle approaching you. The tail light is an essential component to inform the vehicle approaching you whether you are accelerating or applying brakes.

2. Recommended Motorcycle Modifications

Several motorcycle modifications improve the capabilities of your motorcycle without negatively impacting the motorcycle's performance. If you are looking to customize your motorcycle with the best-quality aftermarket parts, visit Viking Bags’ online store to choose from a variety of options.

2.1 Motorcycle Fairing

A motorcycle fairing with an integrated windshield blocks the incoming wind from hitting your face and body to avoid distraction during the ride. It also protects your eyes from dust and debris. In addition, it also adds to the aesthetic appeal of your motorcycle.

2.2 Sissy Bar

Installing a sissy bar on a motorcycle provides you with several benefits. You can use it to mount luggage on your motorcycle. In addition, attaching a sissy bar pad/backrest on a sissy bar can help you recline against it during the ride to ensure a comfortable touring experience.

2.3 Crash Bar

A crash bar is another useful motorcycle attachment. You can place your feet on a crash bar while cruising on highways and open roads to stretch your legs and protect them from excessive engine heat. Crash bars also protect the motorcycle engine and body from getting damaged in the event of a motorcycle crash.

2.4 Comfortable Seats

Viking Bags also offers comfortable aftermarket seats to install on your motorcycle to ensure a comfortable riding experience, especially on a long-distance ride.

2.5 Luggage Options

Viking Bags has a wide range of good-quality luggage options to choose from if you love to go on motorcycle tours. These include saddlebags, tank bags, motorcycle trunk bags, sissy bar bags, and tool bags.

3. The Bottom Line

Most motorcyclists love modifying their motorcycles for performance and power gains. However, several common modifications interfere with the motorcycle’s geometry, stability, handling, and maneuverability. If you are new to motorcycling, you should keep your motorcycle in its stock form and avoid the modifications mentioned in this article. If you do not have adequate knowledge, you must not tweak your engine, intake, exhaust, swingarm, and suspensions. Motorcycles are carefully designed to ensure stable and comfortable rides in their stock form. Consult a professional mechanic or custom motorcycle builder if you are planning to customize your motorcycle.

Related Readings

Reading next

The Remarkable History of BMW
When is a Motorcycle Helmet Too Old?

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.