There’s no easy way to simply make your motorcycle faster without investing big bucks, but what smaller tricks are out there to help you squeeze some extra power out of your bike without breaking the bank? There are a few tried and tested ways to improve your motorcycles performance, but if you’re expecting a dramatic power boost, you’re going to be left disappointed. However, with the right combination of little tricks and add-ons, you might be able to transform your bike into a different handling beast, and maybe it’ll go a little faster too.
Before we get right into the heart of the matter, let’s try and understand the difference between making your motorcycle faster and making your motorcycle accelerate faster. Let’s say you’re riding a 600cc super sport: no matter what you do, you’re not going to drastically improve the factory claimed top speed without spending money on a built motor, it’s simply not going to happen. However, if you want to make that very same 600cc super sport bike get up to that claimed top speed faster, now that’s something that you can do. While improving the overall top speed is possible with time, money, and effort, it’s generally more advisable to buy a bigger motorcycle with superior performance specs, than throw cash away on turbochargers, built motors, and other speed-creating schemes. Of course, if you’re already at the top of the speed food chain, then sure, it’s time to get creative. Until then, save your money.
You could also argue that a motorcycle with a better fuel economy and a bigger tank is technically a faster motorcycle, since it doesn’t have to stop and fuel up as regularly as others…but we’re not even going to venture down that road. Instead, we’re going to focus on 10 tried and tested methods that will make your motorcycle faster, in some capacity. Relatively cheap and cheerful are the keywords here, so if you’re expecting forced induction systems, race-prepped engines, and wind tunnel testing, prepare to be sorely disappointed.
10 Tried And Tested Ways To Make A Motorcycle Faster
#10. Swapping Your Exhaust
Slip-ons aren’t going to do anything to make your motorcycle faster, and if you’re set on getting the most performance out of your bike, one of the first things you should do is upgrade your exhaust system. We’re talking about the full system here, from the muffler to the headers, and if you’re serious you’re going to want to pay as much as you can for the best system your budget allows for. You’re going to want some change out of that transaction too, because for the new exhaust system to help make your motorcycle faster, you’re going to have to get the fuel mapping brought into line with a Power Commander too. After-market exhaust systems are typically much lighter than the factory options, they provide superior power and torque, and quicker throttle response.
For the most part, the performance increase is down to the reduced weight of the new aftermarket exhaust system, but there’s more to it than that. While shaving as many pounds off is a good thing, the exhaust actually helps the engine to expel the exhaust gases faster and more efficiently, allowing your engine to breath better. If you’re engine is breathing better, then its performing better. It’s as simple as that – but aftermarket systems can be expensive. However, if you don’t want to buy another bike and you want to make your regular motorcycle faster, this is a priority. It makes your bike sound awesome too, and you can’t put a price on being cool now, can you?
Note: obviously, if your motorcycle is carb-fed, then you can ignore the Power Commander suggestion, though if you’re updating your exhaust system completely, you’re going to want to re-jet your carburetor to match the new settings. Just a warning!
#09. Suspension Adjustments
Depending on what you’re riding, you might already have access to fully adjustable suspension…but the chances are that you don’t, and that you’re stuck with regular springs with selectable preload. All is not lost though, and there’s a lot you can do. First, let’s look at why your suspension matters in the first place. It might not sound fast, but your suspension matters. If your bike isn’t responding to your weight and your body commands appropriately, then you’re going to be leaking speed. It’s not going to add any extra miles per hour, but it could save you precious tenths of a second – and that’s what matters.
To bring your suspension into line, you’ve got to adjust it to your body. You can do that by following the video above. It’s a complicated business to write down and you’re better off learning from a video here. If you want a finer tune on those springs, you might have to invest in a new suspension setup. You can buy good parts from plenty of outlets, but you might be able to score a deal by salvaging the front end off of a crashed model instead. If you’ve got an early 2000s GSX-R, you might be able to save some pennies by transplanting the front end off of a crashed 2010 model instead. Think carefully before doing either of those. If in doubt, you can always throw your money at the problem and invest in professional help in the form of a suspension specialist. They’ll pull your springs into shape, big time.
#08. Play With The Gearing
Now, gearing your motorcycle differently can certainly change the way your motorcycle behaves, and if you’re looking for a relatively quick, easy, and effective way to add a bit of speed or improve your acceleration, then adjusting your gearing is the best thing you can do. Essentially, you’ve got two sprockets on your motorcycle, and adding or subtracting teeth to either of those sprockets can make a world of difference. There are plenty of in-depth resources on the internet that examine the benefits of different combinations and work out the best ones for certain riders and certain motorcycle models. Gear ratios are fun to play with, and a great way to make your motorcycle faster or improve your acceleration.
The video above is a quick and succinct introduction into the nature of gear ratios and the general process involved but you will want to get some research done before investing in new sprockets. Interestingly, while the sprockets and their teeth improve performance, by swapping the stock sprockets out for lighter, aftermarket parts, you’ll be doing your bike a favor. By reducing unsprung weight, you’re improving your bikes performance anyway. Vortex is a generally well respected, and gearing kits can cost around $300 or less – but you always want to pay more for the best product available. Incidentally, you may need a new chain while you’re at it, so factor that in to the cost!
#07. Lighter Parts
Well, this one should go without saying. Many a race technician has stated that the best way to improve performance is to shed as much weight as possible. It’s the simplest and most effective way to make your motorcycle faster. It’s not particularly cheap though, because lightweight parts that are strong and durable come at a premium. But none of us are suggesting that you swap out your entire bodywork in favor of carbon fiber parts that come with a price tag that could bankrupt a small nation. However, selecting a few key ingredients to chop and change with lightweight alternatives can make a big difference.
Unsprung weight is the most important kind of weight to reduce. If you’re not sure what that means, unsprung weight is everything that falls below the suspension’s springs. So, that obviously would include the fork legs, the brake calibers, brake discs, the hubs, the rims, your swingarm, your linkages, and even your tires. All of those things are worth swapping for lighter components, but that’s not a cheap or easy thing to do. Instead, focus on the easily procurable: the wheels (and the swingarm, depending on the popularity of your model.) Lighter wheels is the most important though, and aftermarket wheels come in all different materials, from forged aluminum, forged magnesium, cast magnesium, to carbon fiber. Your only limit is your budget. And lightweight wheels from the likes of Marchesini, BST, OZ Racing, or Marvic aren’t particularly cheap.
#06. Appropriate Tires
There’s an old myth that often gets chucked around that suggests that racing tires make you a faster rider – and that’s simply not true. However, like all myths and legends, there’s a grain of truth somewhere in there. The real reason a decent set of tires will help you make you motorcycle faster is down to the fact that they’re just a new set of tires. If you’ve been trying to thrash your way to top speed on rubber that’s been on your rims for a good few years, which are worn down to barely legal limits, and should’ve been replaced three years ago, it’s no wonder that you’re not pulling in the performance stats that you dream of.
If you’ve got cash to burn on new wheels, then you’ve got cash to spend on new tires too. That doesn’t mean you should run down to the nearest shop and say “two tires please” right now, no. You should do your homework before hand and learn what brands and products work best for your motorcycle. A set of Pirelli Diablo II’s might be the perfect option for you friends Yamaha, but your Kawasaki might benefit from some Bridgestone Battlax R10s instead? Those were just made-up examples, but trust us, some nerd has done the research out there, and it’s easy information to pull up on model-specific forums. These forums will give you the definitive answer you seek – and make for entertaining reading too.
#05. Upgrade Your Brakes
Your brakes might seem to be the antithesis of making your motorcycle faster, but you can’t go fast without being able to comfortably slow down. As many a racer will tell you, braking is just as important – if not more so – than accelerating. If you’ve got brakes that you trust, you can out-brake your opposition. That’s track talk but what about real life? Same thing, really. If you’ve got confidence in your stopping ability, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing your motorcycle to faster speeds. Imagine you had no brakes at all – you wouldn’t feel very comfortable would you? But if you’ve got fantastic brakes, well, that’s a completely different story.
To bring your brakes into line, you should obviously get yourself some new brake pads, first and foremost, and then look at upgrading to steel-braided lines. However, if you really are thinking of making your motorcycle faster, seriously faster, don’t stop at the pads and lines. Think of that unsprung weight too. You’re going to want new discs and new calipers that are both incredibly strong, and incredibly light. Now, Brembo are the obvious go-to choice, but there are plenty of other manufacturers that offer great products – and cheaper ones too. Lyndell, Galfer, EBC…there are plenty of brands to choose from. When it comes to your brakes, don’t cut corners – pay more for the best you can afford. Always.
#04. The Alter Ego Impulse Drum Charger
What is that?! Well, this is the Impulse Drum Charger from the Italian company Alter Ego. In essence, it’s a small cylinder that your bolt on to the side of your motorcycle that superficially acts like a turbocharger. What it does is take exhaust gases and harnesses them for a better use: it uses the gas to pressurize your air intake, thus force-feeding your bike. As we said, it’s technically a turbocharger but it’s not as powerful and a lot simpler. When we first saw this at EICMA a few years ago, we were blown away. How could a simple, mechanical system like this create a power boost of up to 20%? Very easily, apparently.
In brief, the innards of the bolt-on drum are based around an elastic membrane system. An offshoot pipe, from the main exhaust pipe, feeds in some exhaust gases on to one side of the membrane. On the other, you’ll find the usual air intake arrangement. Each time the engine pulses, the exhaust gas pipes into the drum system, pushing the membrane, which exerts enough force to increase the pressure in the air intake, firing a bigger payload of air into the combustion chamber. If that explanation wasn’t good enough (and it definitely was not) we recommend hitting the play button on the video below for the general idea.
You can see that the idea is more suited to single cylinder machines, since this forced induction system might not gel so well with infrequent exhaust pulses, and each unit works per cylinder, so you’d have to have a lot of bolt-on pieces for bigger bikes. You’re looking at a twin at the maximum. Either way, the gains are pretty impressive, with a boost to the tune of 4.35 psi for a single charger unit. Keep in mind that Kawasaki’s H2 belts out 20.5 psi, but for an incredibly high sum of money.
At a fraction of the cost of any other forced induction system, and easily adaptable to any kind of motorcycle, the Impulse Drum Charger might be the solution many riders have been looking for to the “make my motorcycle faster” problem. At the moment, we have no idea what the actual price is, but Alter Ego are in the process of making these commercially available in the near future. If you want a power boost but don’t feel like investing in any of the other options listed here, we’d recommend giving them an email directly, and writing them a check. You might get a 20% power boost before the rest of us.
#03. Investing In A Speed Focused Motorcycle
Now, this might sound a lot like “just go and buy a newer, faster, motorcycle,” but that’s not what we mean. Let’s say you’ve got a nice Yamaha R3 and it’s your pride and joy: you’ve added lightweight parts, played with the gearing, upgraded the brakes, and even fitted an exhaust system on it…but you’re still not going faster. Why is that? Well, it’s probably because you don’t want to push it that extra 10% because you’re worried about crashing it. After all that time and effort, it certainly would be a waste to crash it, and it’s probably an even bigger waste not to push it to the limit. But we’re only sentimental humans. So what do you do?
If you’re having difficulty pushing your 300 to the limit, maybe buy a scrappy 125 and ride that into the ground? Or perhaps buy an old 500 or 600 that you can ride a little more aggressively, building your confidence so that when the time is right, your pride and joy 300 will fly down the road. Generally, we’d always suggest the smaller spare track-focused bike. It allow you to refine your technique without being exposed to more speed than you can handle. With that in mind, take a look at our dedicated track bike article for some bike shopping inspiration. Will that make your bike faster? Obviously not but you’re about to learn that sometimes superior speed requires a better rider rather than a faster motorcycle.
#02. Superbike School
Improving yourself is the most important ingredient to making your motorcycle, or any motorcycle, faster. You know what makes the likes of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, and Jorge Lorenzo so good? They’ll beat you on two wheels or four, on a dirt track, on asphalt, on superbike or on a moped, and you know why? Because they’ve studied the craft. These riders know what gear to be in and at what time, they know how much throttle to give and why, and they understand how to brake and what lines to take. That is what makes them the best riders in the world. Superbike school, and straightforward road-oriented advanced riding school too, will make you a faster rider.
For speed though, you’ll benefit most from a dedicated track school that focuses on training riders for real racing. These schools are worth the money, and we swear by them. You will learn everything from how to enter and exit a corner correctly, how to master the throttle, how to position yourself on your motorcycle, and how to find the best racing lines on a track. Dirt track schools are also great places to learn, so if your nearest is more off-road focused, don’t use that as an excuse not to go, because you will learn something worth using, we guarantee it. Don’t be intimidated by the prices either, because while they look expensive, they’re a lot cheaper than a built motor, forged magnesium parts, and a fancy aftermarket exhaust kit. And you can apply these skills on more than just one motorcycle too.
#01. Train Your Body
Training your mind and learning to become a better rider at a superbike school is one thing, but if you’re out of shape you won’t be able to make the most of it. The vast majority of the suggestions listed here are aimed at helping you reduce weight in pursuit of a superior power-to-weight ratio…and one of the heaviest components of a motorcycle is the rider. If you’re willing to though this much effort to help make your motorcycle faster, then you might want to consider hitting the gym at the same time, and maybe foregoing that second helping of food at meal times. Does losing weight help? Yes, marginally. But losing weight isn’t actually the main goal here.
Getting into shape helps improve a lot of things and generally being fitter will help you ride faster. If you want to ride fast and have high-performance expectations of your bike, you’d better have them for your body too. You’re going to need strong legs, a strong core, strong back, and shoulders too. You’ll want to be flexible and able to hold your body in odd positions, with a strong range of motion. And of course, you’re going to want to improve your overall endurance too. By training your body, and dropping 20 lbs or so, you’ll find that you’ll be a better rider, without the need of a faster motorcycle. And it’s just good for you, so there’s no excuse not to try.
If you need some more ideas about making your motorcycle faster, we’ve written a few model specific lists in the past, like this one for the Yamaha R3. Mods come in all different shapes and size, and suit all kinds of budgets but no matter what sort of progress you make: when you’re on the road, ride within the law, and most importantly, don’t put yourself or others in any unnecessary danger in pursuit of higher speeds. That’s what the track is for, and it’s infinitely more fun. Ride safe!