Ask RideApart: 10 Cheapest Ways to Make Your Bike Faster
Want to go fast but cash is in short supply? Here are some cheap ways to feed your need for speed
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.
#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.
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#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.
#6 - Tire Pressure
Those fresh new tires you put on your bike won’t provide the traction or feel necessary if they aren’t inflated properly. Underinflated tires are a common cause of poor handling and improper tire wear, while overinflated tires won’t provide the grip you’re depending on to keep you upright. Make sure you check your manual for proper settings and then check your tire pressure every time you head out for a day in the canyons or on the track.
#7 - Swapping Fork Oil (if no damping adjustment)
If your motorcycle does not allow you to adjust the damping settings, changing the fork oil will alter the damping rate of your front suspension. Most likely, you’ll want more damping, which will mean changing for heavier oil. I did this modification with my 2010 Triumph Bonneville and was really happy with the results, considering it was much cheaper than buying a whole new front end.
#8 - Stomp Grip
Adding stomp grip to the tank of your motorcycle gives you increased control and confidence over your motorcycle. As RideApart’s Wes Siler discussed in his article about body position, you use the thigh and knee of your outside leg to hang on to your bike in a turn. Stomp grip greatly improves your leg’s ability to stick to the tank, keeping you attached to the motorcycle.
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#9 - Swap the Sprockets
So technically, this is both true and false. Dropping down teeth on the front sprocket (or adding teeth in the rear) increases torque and acceleration, while decreasing overall top speed. Because the front has far less teeth, changing one sprocket in the front is the same as three in the rear, so we prefer dropping just one in the front as it doesn’t require a different length chain. Aprilia won’t tell you this, but the entire V4 range is actually designed to work best with a 15 tooth front sprocket, however they ship it with a 17 tooth sprocket to pass noise regulations.
#10 - Buy Some Gas and Ride
The best and most effective way you can get faster is just to practice. The best way to practice is on a bike that is set up appropriately for you and that gives you confidence to push yourself a bit, all while wearing the best safety gear you can.
Tell us your solutions to make your bike faster without spending a ton of cash in the comments below.