10 Cheapest Ways to Make Your Bike Faster

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Many of us get into motorcycling in the pursuit of speed. We buy bikes branded with numbers like horsepower and torque, and then do everything we can to make them better and faster. Here are the cheapest ways to get the most speed out of your bike.

#1 – New Tires
Tires are your connection to the road beneath you and need to grip the pavement on an incredibly small contact patch. High quality rubber compounds greatly increase both grip and feel for the rider. Plus, you never truly realize how uneven your tires have worn until you put on a fresh set of rubber and feel the perfect transitions in that first turn (after you’ve broken them in a bit of course).

#2 – Upgrade Brake Pads and Brake Lines
The ability to stop better and more rapidly gives you the ability to stay on the gas longer and therefore go faster. Too many bikes still come stock with inferior brake pads and rubber brake lines. Braided stainless steel brake lines resist flex and deformation far better than rubber lines, which means their response will be faster, more firm, and longer lasting. High quality HH-grade (ultra-high performance) brake pads grab better, hold longer, and fade less than the lower grade pads normally offered. We recommend the brand EBC as our favorite.

#3 – Add Frame Sliders
In the same way that protecting your body better makes you faster, so does protecting your motorcycle. You’ll feel much more free to push yourself and focus on your technique if a low side doesn’t cost you much. Frame sliders are a super cheap way to protect your bike from any mishaps.

Thanks to this gear from Alpinestars, Wes walked away from a crash unscathed

#4 – Wear Full Gear
Even when wearing fully protective street gear, we still feel completely exposed hanging off a bike without full leathers. Knowing you are completely protected if something goes wrong gives you the confidence to push the bike and yourself closer to acceptable limits. You won’t get faster if you can’t afford to make a mistake.

#5 – Properly Setup Suspension
Stock motorcycles are not set up for your individual size and weight. RideApart contributor and Angel’s MLB pitcher CJ Wilson weighs 200lbs, while I weigh somewhere shy of 150lbs, because of that 50lbs difference, motorcycles will respond completely differently to us as riders. (This also is what makes his BMW S100RR pretty much unrideable for me). On many new bikes, you have adjustment options like preload or compression/rebound damping you can adjust at home with just a few basic tools to set the bike up for your desired weight preference.

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  • Guzzto

    No.11 lose some weight ;)

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      You’re the first person to tell me that.

      • Guzzto

        Ha! not you personally sean, I just recall seeing a video of some very large man bragging about the extra lightened swingarm on his Ducati saving him 10 pounds. Seemed like he had never considered the complete package, rider included.

      • Diego Martinez

        The whole weight thing is why I’ve thought a combined rider/bike weight limit in MotoGP is the way to go. It might make being an itty bitty freak of nature unnecessary to become GP champ. I used to weigh 240, then I dropped to 195ish, and I’ll be damned if the bike wasn’t a shitload peppier…

    • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

      That’s the approach I need to take! Skipping fast food and slimming down myself is a lot more affordable and effective than carbon fiber for the bike! LOL!

    • Aaron Gillies

      Guzzto, I completely agree with you: Improve the rider! Check out http://www.trackdayfitness.com to learn how to lose weight and get stronger while improving flexibility specifically for riding!

  • Corey Cook

    #9 An absolute must for any Ducati owner. $30 will buy you an entirely new riding experience, much more so than the $2,000 Termignoni exhaust system will.

    • Gordon Pull

      Agreed. 14T on my Streetfighter 848 is money.

  • BillW

    Absolute #1 for cheap and effective: buy a good book on riding techniques, study it, and practice what it teaches. Keith Code’s “Twist of the Wrist” comes to mind, although David Hough’s “Proficient Motorcycling” probably has much broader applicability, i.e., it’ll not only you make you faster, but also safer. A track school will be more effective than any of the bike mods listed, but is probably more expensive.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      That’s an awesome addition to the list.

      • UrbanMoto

        Twist of the Wrist is very good. A little corny, but it helped me and I’ve never been on a track and I’ll probably never use _every_ single inch of the tire tread, as they emphasize in the video. But the techniques and their illustrations in the video got me thinking, learning and riding a little better.

    • Piglet2010

      Total Control by Lee Parks would be my recommendation for a riding technique book, as well as the ARC 1/2 and TC-1 classes – I think most riders (and all less skilled/experienced ones) will get more out of a track school if they complete the Total Control courses first).

      http://www.totalcontroltraining.net/

      The Stayin’ Safe touring riding classes are also good next step and a complement to a track school (except for the few who only ride on the track).

      http://www.stayinsafe.com/

      • Aaron Gillies

        I agree Total Control is a great book. But more I would go a step further and suggest attending one of Reg Pridmore’s CLASS riding schools. After a day with Reg and the group, I went back out to my favorite ride and INSTANTLY felt the improvements: I was riding faster AND felt like I was in much more control.

        • Piglet2010

          I have heard stories about Reg Pridmore, but I am pretty sure that they are a bit tongue-in-cheek considering the source is “JP43″. :)

          I have been to Pridmore the Younger’s school (Star) twice, since he comes to tracks in the Upper Midwest. I imagine for obvious reasons CLASS and Star have a lot in common.

          But in either case I stand by my suggestion – that the Total Control classes will give a rider a better foundation for learning at the track schools, especially with the inherent mental distractions of riding very fast on a track with other riders for the first time.

  • devillock

    Not cheap but best way to make your bike go faster is to invest in racing lessons and get some track time. Its not the bike that matters but the rider.

    • Piglet2010

      Or parking lot lessons for those lacking skill in fundamental techniques, *then* a track school.

  • kevin

    Invest in track time. And if you can find a forum for local riders and figure out when everybody is going together, and then arrange for an experienced rider to show you around and give you some pointers. Its so much easier and safer to focus on going faster and learning the limits when you arent worried about traffic and potholes and gravel and what not.

    • Jake

      While I don’t disagree with the concept that this will certainly make you faster, track days are in no way cheap.

      • Piglet2010

        Track days cost less than reckless driving violations, ambulance rides, surgery, and hospital stays.

      • kevin

        I sorta suggested this as an alertative to multi-thousand dollar ridings schools, but i agree, track time is spendy

      • Mugget

        They’re cheaper than a speeding ticket, and much cheaper than the medical costs after hitting a roadside fixture.

  • Rowan

    The best mod a rider can make is lessons.

    • Piglet2010

      Or even someone to video you from behind, so you can see how you are doing for body position and smoothness – amazing how much a bike can move around under a rider who is not smooth.

      • Brian

        I found this a much more valuable tool when evaluating my time on the track. The problem with doing this on the street is some people “ham” it up and don’t necessarily ride as they normally would if they know they are being filmed. There is a natural tendency to show off or put on what they think is their best foot forward in terms of what they think they need to show, which can seriously mask other underpinnings. This also brings out the problem of pushing more towards being unsafe when doing so on the street as a result. On the good side though, I guess it could end up as more highlight footage for another YouTube fail fiesta video montage.

        • Rowan

          I’m going to mount a GoPro to the tail of the bike and just see how I ride. Self evaluation goes a long way if you know what you are looking for. Thats why lessons are important.

  • Brian

    Adjustment of the nut between the 2 ears. The major thing holding anyone back is the rider themselves. I have seen guys say things like ” this bike isn’t fast enough for me” and then watch them get smoked by a dude on a 250 or a motard. Knowing your limits and how and when to apply them can add vast amounts of speed. Whether you read Keith Code’s books, or read “Sport Riding Techniques” by Nick Ienatsch, or something else, education is key. Even a school like Cornerspin or one of the other schools that use small cc dirtbikes to teach you the limits of traction on soft surface to apply to the tarmac. They all add up to using the capabilities of the machine moreso, because these machines are capable of way more than most riders apply to them. So the next time you think you can make your bike faster with a power commander or a full exhaust system or whatever expenditure that is more than a $100, stop and think for a moment if there isn’t some basic principle that is between the ears that can be adjusted and tuned 1st for that same money.

    • Piglet2010

      Jason Pridmore recommends something along the lines of a Suzuki SV650 over a super-sport (or even worse super-bike) for learning on – the power and “hit” of the engine gets in the way of developing other skills. Having traded from a F4i to a pre-gen Ninjette, I completely agree – on the Ninjette I can focus much more on smoothness and body position, instead of just hanging on and behind “behind” the bike.

  • Justin McClintock

    #11….track school.

    • APG7

      Is it feasible/possible to make a 250 into a track bike?

      • Justin McClintock

        Certainly. There a tons of Ninja 250s that have been turned into track machines. In fact, many people would argue that using a 250 as a track weapon will help a rider improve more quickly than a larger machine. This is because corner speed becomes far more critical on the smaller bikes as they take longer to get back up to speed than the bigger bikes should you make a mistake.

        • APG7

          Sweet. I’m thinking I’m on a year long progression to get a street legal, but trackable 250 and a track school under my belt. Plus, I figure it’ll be harder hurt myself on a 250….

  • jonoabq

    Smooth, deliberate control inputs even when just puttering around town. Lazy days are perfect for cementing in good habits so when you are not being so lazy they are second nature. How many times have you seen/heard someone whacking the throttle closed going into a corner and just sorta coasting through? When your brain is less occupied because of lower speeds and less severe traffic, fill it back up with practicing something.

    Some solo rides I’ll head up into the mountains and spend an hour just dialing in downhill corners. I’ll ride everything else at 5/10th’s and just focus on hitting the downhill, off camber, decreasing radius, multiple apex, crappy surface stuff as error free as possible.

    • Piglet2010

      I work on body position, speed shifting, trail braking, and of course vision on my daily commute.

  • Joe Bielski

    Stickers!! All over the bike….totally make you faster!!!

  • kentaro

    Add corporate sponsor stickers, each one adds ~3hp and increases penis size by 11%.

    Note: National park stickers also have the same effect on adv bikes.

    • grindz145

      Additionally, Repsol graphics will give you the ability to diagnose any medical ailment, and you will develop a narcotic addiction.

    • Justin McClintock

      The other option is to streetfighter your sportbike. Because only people who are really fast need to get rid of those fairings and throw on a headlight from the local autoparts store.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        you have a strange idea of what it means to make a streetfighter

        • Justin McClintock

          I have lots and lots of strange ideas….

        • Piglet2010

          The first step in making a true streetfighter is to high-side the bike. ;)

          • Brian

            or find a bike that someone just highsided themselves!!!

            • Piglet2010

              Your suggestion is safe but boring. ;)

  • Gonfern

    Number 1 should be….LEARN TO RIDE! And its free! (mostly) Unless you are a pro, every one of us can make our bikes significantly faster by working on ourselves before the bike. Tires, Suspension, Power all mean nothing if you cant push the ones you got to the limit. and 99.9999% of us will never reach the limits of what our machines can do.

  • TP

    How does a change in sprocket size affect the noise a bike makes??

    • Generic42

      You will be at a higher RPM for a given speed if you drop the front sprocket. Most of this time this equates to a louder exhaust volume.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        this.

    • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

      I’m guessing noise testing is done at a specified cruising speed.

  • David Kent

    Best way to make your bike faster AND to make some money is to sell your ridiculously overpowered latest and greatest and buy a smaller, lighter, less powerful machine. “Faster” is as much about perception as it is about a number on a gauge. Your smaller bike will be much more rewarding to hustle over the road than an overpowered missile that insulates you from reality via technology, and which you’ll never be as good as.

    • Justin McClintock

      I agree, to a point anyway. Around town, I love beating on my little DT175. You feel like you’re flying when you get above 55 mph.

      That said, those higher power machines do have their place. That extra power (and the better brakes those bike inherently come with) certainly makes traveling down the interstate feel a little less intimidating.

    • Piglet2010

      As I posted above, I agree. Besides, for some reason my cheap, crappy pre-gen Ninjette is a total hoot to ride. :)

  • Piglet2010

    #1 – And miss the fun of slipping around on old dried out tires in the wet?

    #3 – What about the frame sliders causing damage to the frame? At least the general opinion seems to be that frame sliders should *not* be fitted to a pre-gen Ninjette.

    #4 – Main benefit of track leathers in street riding compared to the better textile gear (e.g. Roadcrafter) is you are not out several hundred dollars if you crash.

    #5 – Check your sag – if you cannot get it in the right range by preload adjustments, then new springs are in order.

    #7 – Between the oil weight change and new forks in expense is a Race Tech Gold Valve emulator (if one has damping rod forks).

  • runnermatt

    Adding stickers is the best way to make more horsepower?

  • Jason Nayel

    Ok so we talked about stomp pads and hanging on with your outside leg, yet in the pic the guys outside leg is way out and hes hanging on with his arms…

  • Piglet2010

    Agreed – Not sure from your comment if you realize or not that Lee Parks/Total Control teach what is in his book in two full day classes, with about half each day spent in range exercises with instructor feedback immediately after each exercise.

    • Diego Martinez

      I do know this, but like I said, book smarts does not equal street smarts.

  • ThinkingInImages

    Learn to ride smooth. Ride with the throttle, not the brakes.
    Dress “aerodynamic”, not like a parachute. The smoother the air slides over you, the faster you go.
    Anything you add to a motorcycle makes it slower. Replace heavy parts with light parts.
    Paint and stickers don’t make a motorcycle faster, except in marketing and your imagination.
    There are very few inexpensive ways to make a motorcycle faster.

  • BlisteringlyObvious

    ” You’ll feel much more free to push yourself and focus on your technique if a low side doesn’t cost you much”

    …yes, those pesky lowsides really distract me from pushing myself and focusing on my technique.
    Luckily that’s easy to brush aside just by installing a set of frame-sliders.

    Now if I could just keep the bike from sliding 100ft down the road ON the frame-slider after I lowside, everything would be fine.