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Easy performance upgrades for your motorcycle

Updated on July 4, 2015

CBR600RR aftermarket set up

All items mentioned fitted to this CBR600RR, additional 17hp added.
All items mentioned fitted to this CBR600RR, additional 17hp added.

Top 6 easy performance upgrades for your motorcycle.

Very few people leave their motorcycles with original equipment (O.E.M) fitted these days. Whether you have a 125 cc or 1000 cc, most bikers want to get that little bit more power out of the motorcycle just to know they have it or for bragging rights. On a 1000 cc, having an extra 3 hp when you already have close to 200 hp is not going to make much difference but here is a list anyway.

  • Aftermarket performance exhaust - Make the bike sound better and allows quicker release of exhaust fumes. Up to 7 hp gained if a full system is fitted and catalytic converter removed.
  • Change to racing sprocket - Changing your gearing to 2 teeth bigger at the back and 1 smaller in the front, gives the bike more acceleration but reduces top speed performance. Who needs to go 220 mph anyway.
  • Reduce weight on bike - Power to weight ratio on a motorcycle is the most important. That is where they get the quick acceleration from. remove unneeded items.
  • Power Commander or fuel increase software - Adding an aftermarket fuel mapping device or changing your bikes standard map allows for more fuel. More fuel + air equals more power.
  • Best tires for the conditions - Running slicks on a wet road will make you spin the back wheel. loss in traction means loss of power to the road. Using a hard tire or wet tire has the same affect in dry track conditions. if the tire gets too hot, it loses its performance and will spin up.
  • Air filter - Change to an aftermarket air filter allows the bike to draw air easier and quicker. They are also good value for money as most are reusable and can be cleaned.
  • Lowering your front shocks on the triple trees.

I will now go into further details on each of these items and give you a couple extra tips and performance upgrades that you can do that won't give more power but will make you quicker due to time saving.

Aftermarket and performance motorcycle exhaust.

Aside from the better look than the large silver or black exhaust your motorcycle came with, fitting an exhaust can be the most expensive yet the largest gain in performance for your motorcycle. You can choose to change just the silencer which is the big can right at the end of the exhaust or you can opt for a full exhaust system.

The down pipes from the engine are changed to allow for smoother release of gas from the engine. The standard down pipes can create a vortex of gas which slows the gas when escaping. Removing the catalytic converter also adds power as the gas is not slowed down here either but does affect emission standards and in some countries this is not allowed.

Fitting the Akrapovic exhaust to the big bang Yamaha R1 was known to increase the horsepower by as much as 7 HP. This is a significant amount when the bike is very light. You will also have to be careful not to exceed noise limitations set by your government.

KTM with Aftermarket Akropovic exhaust

2015 KTM with full exhaust, down pipes changed and catalytic converter removed.
2015 KTM with full exhaust, down pipes changed and catalytic converter removed.

Changing motorcycle gearing and sprockets.

When changing gearing and sprockets, you are not actually changing the power of the engine but rather the power delivery. A larger sprocket on the back and smaller at the front will increase the acceleration where the opposite of changing to smaller sprocket at the read will increase your top end speed but can take longer to get there if you have less horse power.

Most performance bikes these days can do well above the speed limit of any road (autobahn excluded) and therefore a higher top speed is not that necessary. Changing for higher gearing does however affect fuel consumption and at times the speedometer reading. There are ways to fix this using software on new bikes but as generally the speedometer is reading incorrect anyway from the factory it is not a total necessity.

With the higher gearing option you will also hear and feel that your bike reaches the highest rev range very quickly which can be a pain in traffic. You can even go full out and go for stunt gearing which has a huge sprocket at the back which allows you to wheelie of the line instantly with just a little added throttle. Do not try this unless you are a professional. The last thing you want is to spend 2000 dollars on new fairings when you fall over.

When changing the sprockets whether front or back, you make have to change the entire chain as well. They come in what is called the pitch which is the size of the links and number. They do not all fit the same sprocket and come in different weights as well. Lighter is always better because it means more power to weight ratio.

Track day motorcycle

GSXR750 Track day motorcycle.
GSXR750 Track day motorcycle.

Reducing motorcycle weight.

This is a fairly obvious point but one that is overlooked greatly. Reducing the weight means that the power given does not have to carry as much and therefore provides more drive and acceleration. Below are some good weight saving options.

  • Lighter tires and rims - Tires made by different manufacturers weigh different amounts. lighter tires are not always offer the best performance for corners.
  • Lighter fairings and race fairings - Replacing your fairings can save weight and have the benefit of reduced air drag which slows the bike down.
  • removing seat - changing the seat for a piece of racing foam saves a little, but every little bit adds up.
  • flush mounted indicators and mirrors - Not only are you saving weight on the indicator holders or the big heavy mirrors but your are reducing the drag on the bike by the air.
  • remove rear foot pegs. - If you do not carry a passenger ever, then these are a waste of weight and space.
  • after market foot rests - Not a lot of weight saving but do provide a couple grams.
  • The rider - I apologize if this comes across as rude, it is not my intention to send everyone to the gym, however it is a major factor and where depending on your "frame" can be a good weight reduction. There is a reason motorcycle racers are normally quite small.

Power commander or fuel mapping.

A Power Commander or fuel mapping sensor does exactly what the name says. When a motorcycle is purchased brand new from the factory, it is not set to the optimum performance level. The reason for this is fuel consumption and engine life durability. You can ask the dealer to set this for you using their computer or alternatively buy an aftermarket system such as the Power Commander which you can easily plug onto the bike yourself for increased fuel.

More fuel and air means the engine burns the mixture at a higher rate. Higher rate of combustion equals more POWER.

Performance parts fitted

Do you immediately change your standard exhaust when the bike is purchased

See results

Changing the motorcycle air filter.

The internal combustion engine creates and explosion. 3 things are needed for this, Fuel, air and ignition. Spark plugs take care of the ignition and hopefully you fitted a Power Commander so what is left for a bigger explosion, correct it is AIR.

Standard air filters are fine to start with but when adding more fuel, they can start to restrict the air flow into your combustion chamber. Going with and aftermarket filter allows for greater airflow whilst still catching all the dirt and debris from the outside. Many filters such as the BMC can be cleaned and reused several times and are washed with special soaps.

At the similar price of the original equipment fitted, it would be silly not to fit one.

Lowering shocks and adjustment

Many riders forget the importance of correct shock absorber settings. Incorrect rebound and dampening can make the tires feel like they are sliding. Simple quick adjustments to your height and weight will make a world of difference to your riding.

If you are doing a lot of corners and less top speed, lowering the shock absorbers on the triple trees (holds your handle bars) allows for quicker turn in speeds. This will however make the motorcycle a little more unstable at the highest of speeds but for a moderately quick rider or slow rider, it is not noticeable. You will see on many moto GP and SBK bikes that the height of the shocks are quite a bit above the triple tree and this allows for the quickest in direction change.

In closing and warranty.

I hope the article has given you some better insight or at least provided you with description of why these parts are changed. Please remember that if you bike is new, some manufacturers will void your warranty if the parts are not fitted by them or if they are not the original equipment so always check with your dealer first before fitting these parts.

Ride Safe.


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    • Moto Roads profile image

      Ben Reynolds 

      3 years ago from The Great White North

      great read. i had a CBR600F4, i found the 2 up 1 down sproket change made the biggest difference out of everything i did

    • everythingbike profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from The Road with corners.

      Thank you Frozenink, If I help only one person then it is a success.

    • frozenink profile image


      3 years ago

      Wow! This really enlightened me. It's really useful for someone who is not good with their bikes like me.

    • everythingbike profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from The Road with corners.

      Thanks, really liked your most on staying alive on a motorcycle. really good.

    • nolamaddog profile image


      3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Good stuff


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