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How To Pick The Best Parts For Your Bike

Moto Intro logo Moto Intro 8/18/2017 Staff

Any bike can go from mild to wild with enough dedication, as illustrated above. The key is choosing the right parts, some of which are on the bike above, and some of which are not. Can you point out the part that would fail a week after this photo was taken?: The same Yamaha R6 with lots of upgrades

The same Yamaha R6 with lots of upgrades
© Photo courtesy of Staff

Customizing motorcycles has grown beyond the chopper scene and become a part of every niche of motorcycling. With the boom of aftermarket brands and products, you can make any bike do anything (well, almost). One of the most satisfying things about owning a motorcycle can be customizing it. Don't misunderstand though: by customizing your motorcycle, I don't mean going whole hog with it and building a chrome chariot that would make the gods of motorcycling weak at the knees; I mean changing out any stock part for an aftermarket part that's better suited to your wants or needs, whether ergonomically, aesthetically, performance or anything else. But knowing which parts you should buy can be tough when there are so many brands all making the exact same parts. So how do you choose? Here's a list of pointers from someone who has learned the hard way about making the right choices--regarding motorcycles, anyway.

Research

DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN CUSTOMIZE

If you've ever looked at online or at a catalog in a shop, you know that there are literally thousands of parts out there that do all sorts of things. Everyone knows you can upgrade your exhaust, but did you know you can upgrade your swingarm nut to improve chassis rigidity and handling? There are lots of little upgrades out there that can make big differences that you may not have ever known even existed, so it's worth it to go slowly through some catalogs and see what's out there. (On the flip side, there are a lot of parts that don't really do anything for you besides burn cash, so be aware of that, too.) This tip also includes understanding what you can legally customize, and what you can't. The law is a thing, and fix-it tickets are a huge buzzkill.

DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT WHAT ALL YOU'LL NEED TO GET TO UPGRADE SOMETHING

Speaking of upgrading your exhaust, certain upgrades may require more than you may initially think. If you want to upgrade the exhaust on a fuel injected bike, for example, you'll have to block off your air injection system and O2 sensor, and install a piggy back computer to allow you to get a custom fuel map made specifically for your bike for starts. Every model is different though, so do your research to understand what all you'll need to get in order to successfully complete a project, because there's nothing worse than getting halfway through an installation and realizing you don't have something that's mission critical. That goes for tools, too. But how do you figure out what you need? That leads me to my next tip...

ASK A MECHANIC

Good mechanics can be gold mines of information. And they're usually excited to nerd out with you about parts and brands. Since they see bikes come in and out all day every day, they can usually tip you off about which brands' products are worth your hard-earned cash, and which aren't. Find a mechanic in your niche (someone who specializes in retro bikes, or a road racer, or a dirt biker, or a custom chopper builder, for example) and pick their brain about what you want to know. It's also worth it to ask what you're getting yourself into if you've never swung a wrench before, because while learning how to do new things is good, doing them incorrectly can be dangerous. Reputable mechanics' opinions are also more valuable than people who post on forums, so use them as your primary source whenever possible.

RESEARCH YOUR BRANDS, THEN GET THE BEST PRODUCT YOU CAN AFFORD

Not all aftermarket parts are made equal, and price tags aren't always the best indicator of quality. Figure out which brands actually make quality, durable parts, and which brands make cheap, chintzy knock-offs. Sometimes expensive brands are all hype, and sometimes there's a reason a tiny piece of CNC machined aluminum costs a significant percentage of your paycheck. Once you know which parts are worth getting, get the best part you can afford. Think of it as an investment, and one you don't want to have to pay for again in a couple months because you bought something cheap.

GET WHAT YOU NEED FIRST, THEN WHAT YOU WANT

This one can be a toughie. It can be easy to decide that you want to buy that exhaust system before getting the ergonomics right for you, or putting sliders on your bike. But those things are really important. The first things you'll usually want to do first on a bike are protecting your investment with frame sliders/etc.; then getting the ergonomics right with handlebars, foot pegs or seats; then customizing it for function with proper tires, windshields, sprockets, etc.; and then make it look and sound like your dream bike with whatever other upgrades you want. You'll be happy you did it in the right order, because a bike that looks cool but sucks to ride, well, sucks to ride. And you'll usually only need a couple ergonomic and functional tweaks anyway before you can launch into making it your dream bike.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Customizing your bike can be highly rewarding or extremely frustrating. If you go about it the right way, it'll be easier and more satisfying in the end. Getting it right really only comes down to a few things though: do your research, don't be embarrassed to ask for advice, and be wiling to learn if you want to do the work yourself. But most importantly: have fun with it. Because that's the whole point of being into motorcycles in the first place, right? And remember that no bike is ever done: budgets will fluctuate, your vision for the bike may change halfway through and it's just plain fun to work on your bike.


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