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Close up of exhaust

Adding performance parts

Whether it’s an aftermarket exhaust or a set of braided brake lines, the right performance parts can enhance the whole experience of riding.

There’s always a way to improve how a motorcycle sounds, goes, looks or handles. Performance upgrades, as opposed to cosmetic changes, usually have wide appeal as it increases its salability.

If you have a LAMS machine that is nudging the power-to-weight limit of 150kW/tonne, fitting something such as a performance exhaust could increase the power and/or reduce the weight, rendering it illegal.

Always make sure parts are properly fitted. You can't beat getting it done professionally.

Ways to enhance performance

Changing the exhaust

An aftermarket exhaust, whether a system or clip-on can, is the modification most likely to be made to any motorcycle worldwide. Reasons include the sound, the weight-saving, potentially better throttle response and more power. For road use, getting more power out of a litre sports bike isn’t exactly essential. But it’s nice to have on track. And a fruity exhaust note and less weight can make your bike nicer to ride.

Gaining that extra power and nicer throttle response usually involves an ECU override or remap, and possibly a dyno session. Just be sure your bike will pass noise tests at the WoF or at certain track day venues.

Adjusting the ECU

Getting the most out of a different exhaust requires adjusting the bike’s fuelling or carburation to suit. An aftermarket ECU override, or piggy-back system, lets you do this but you’ll need to search out a workshop with a bike-compatible dynamometer. Even without changing the exhaust, an aftermarket ECU can allow fine-tuning of engine response. If your optional exhaust is supplied by the bike’s manufacturer, they’ll be able to download and install the correct fuel map at your dealership. Sometimes this map will also be a perfectly good match for another make of performance pipe.

Upgrading the suspension unit

Get top line specialist suspension units fitted professionally and you should receive some set-up advice thrown in.

Upgrading suspension on a budget bike or one that lacks suspension adjustment can be a transformation. The main benefits are better suspension control, greater comfort, and improved feedback and confidence. The units are usually fully serviceable, too, so they can last well into the future.

With more set-up options, dialing in the suspension becomes more complicated. Learn how to do it yourself by attending Ride Forever’s Shiny Side Up events or associated seminars or watch a video on:

Dave Moss’ Feel the Track YouTube channel

Improving chassis and bodywork

Modern frames don’t need things such as aftermarket swing arms. The main accessory choices include steering dampers, aftermarket screens, crash protection, rear sets and carbon fibre parts such as huggers.

If you’re doing track days, and on any sports bike, fit tank knee pads. They improve the ease with which you can lock on to the motorcycle. Another must for track days is a set of paddock stand bobbins (and stand) for fitting warmers, wheel changes, tyre inspection, lubing the chain, etc. 

An adventure bike is something you can bolt capability onto. Aside from more aggressive-pattern tyres to improve off-road traction, a sump bash plate, crash bars and hand guards are useful upgrades. Hand guards are a handy choice on lots of bikes, keeping your hands warmer and drier on the commute or touring.

Professional fitting saves time and money.

Upgrading the brakes

On modern sports bikes or super-naked bikes the brakes are awesome, and they usually come with ABS as standard. If you’re looking at any bike where ABS is optional, make it the first box you tick. Modern ABS can be a lifesaver. 

If your bike is older or have a lower specification, there are ways to upgrade the braking. Assuming the pads and fluid are fresh an improvement is likely to come from braided brake lines. By stopping the rubber in brake lines expanding under pressure, they put more force onto the pads. Not only does this potentially reduce your stopping distance, it usually improves feel too. If you’re comfortable changing the pads and fluid, fitting new lines should be straightforward.

Braking can sometimes be improved by changing to pads with a different compound. Ask your dealer about the options. The trade-off is that a compound that provides more friction usually wears the pads and discs more quickly.

Aftermarket levers are favoured by some riders because they provide a more natural angle for their fingers. Just be sure to try a few for size, for your hands and clearance on fairings.