There are certain do's and don'ts when it comes to modifying motorcycles. Improving aspects of the bike, such as suspension, brakes, performance, making it lighter, or messing with the ergonomics to make the bike fit you better are all OK.
Then there are those other mods: the useless, and sometimes downright dangerous ones. Useless mods aren't always bad, but having them done means spending money on something that doesn't really improve the bike. The dangerous mods are a different story - they should be avoided at all times.
Riding a bike can be unsafe even if we ride a bike in perfectly good condition, there's absolutely no need to make it more unsafe than it needs to be. Here are some things people should never add to their motorcycles - some are just a waste of money, others will turn a motorcycle into a deathtrap.
Hipsters love riding customized bikes with this mod – and pretty much everyone else hates it. It can look ok in some rare instances, but then it has to be done right, otherwise, it'll just look shabby. Most of the time it's just done to hide poorly-made or rusty exhausts.
Ape hangers are basically handlebars where the rider has his arms reaching out at more or less shoulder height, as these tend to be the most comfortable versions. However, the doo-rag leather pirate on this bike must have bought ape hangers that were made for a giant gorilla. Riding with your arms in this position isn't comfortable, doesn't improve handling or control, and it certainly doesn't look cool.
This is something squids and cruiser bike riders have in common. They'll also say "loud pipes save lives" – a statement of which there is little to no proof. Of course, the loud pipes have nothing to do with their safety, if that was their main concern they would start wearing proper riding gear. Just get a good quality, road-legal exhaust system.
Some claim the idea behind Get Back Whips is to ensure that other motorists notice the biker and is aware of the bike's existence on the road, hence, they’ll be safe. Others say they're a useful tool to show a club’s colors. Whatever the reason may be, some law enforcement agencies say it's a weapon and having whips attached to the bike's handlebars could get the rider charged with a felony.
We'll let you in on a secret: Nobody actually believes those things are real miniguns. Nobody! It doesn't look badass, at best it looks tacky and will literally make people laugh behind your back. Just get a normal exhaust and stop trying to show off by fitting ridiculous mods on like this!
Do you feel like you need some more sound on top of your already too-loud straight-pipes? Erm, no thanks!
Nobody wants to hear "Born To Be Wild" blaring from your bike while they're waiting for the light to turn green so they can get home from work. What other creature comforts do you want to bring with you when riding? A waffle iron? The microwave?
While this can definitely be a cool mod on a show bike that never, or rarely, sees any riding action, it's best to keep the metal covers if your bike sees regular use. There really shouldn't be a need to explain why, but just imagine if you crash or maybe the bike just tips over. They'll break, there will be oil everywhere, and the bike can't be ridden!
Take the money you saved by not buying bad aftermarket parts and spend it on your tires. Your life, as well as your bike's performance, relies on those two tiny contact patches underneath you. You want those contact patches to be of the highest quality possible, and since you can't do anything about the road, you should buy the best tires you can afford.
Wider tires, especially really wide setups like you might see on a custom cruiser or a fat-tire Suzuki Hayabusa, ruin the bike's handling. Fat tires may or may not be legal, depending on where you live, but since it's not exactly low key, the police will want to take a closer look at your bike, which means they'll discover the other illegal mods you've installed.
With very few exceptions, custom painting a motorcycle will always make its value drop. This is because usually, a re-sprayed bike has been in an accident. Worst are the airbrushed bikes and flame-jobs. Race replica paint jobs are almost acceptable - but the following year the sponsors will change and the bike will look weird.
Aftermarket heated grips can be worth having, but make sure you check the wiring – it’s easy to do it badly, leaving a battery-draining unreliable nightmare. At some point one of the grips will fail – trust us, it will – and you’ll be left with a single heated grip and one very cold hand. If heated grips are available as an optional extra from your dealer, always get those instead.
There's actually a good reason why you shouldn't install certain aftermarket headlights. All vehicles across the world have the same standards regarding lights for certain functions, such as red taillights and brake lights, amber turn signals, and so on.
This means any headlights that use non-standard colors are illegal, and since it has a major impact on safety, the law will not take kindly to this type of modification.
We don't like the street-glow LEDs, or whatever they're called these days - and luckily for us, neither do the cops. We don't like them because they just scream "show-off!”, making the owner of a bike with LEDs seem desperate for attention.
Law enforcement officers are more concerned over these lights distracting others on the road. Trust us, that's not the attention you want nor need when out riding.
Luckily, this mod is mostly a thing of the past these days. Engine bolts, screen bolts, number plate hanger, handlebar end-weights and banjo bolts for the brake lines – just don't do it! The only reason we could justify it is if some of the bolts on your bike are required to be torqued up higher than others and not all these aftermarket ones can take it. Oh, and it also looks nasty.
Extended swingarms are popular with drag racers, as they're supposed to help keep the front down when accelerating hard. They also make the bike handle like a dog, especially since they're often fitted together with a lowering kit and the aforementioned fat tires. The cops aren't fans of people drag racing on the streets, so the chances of being pulled over will definitely increase.
This one really is a no-brainer. There's only one reason to hide the plate, and those who do it tend to ride recklessly without any regard for others' safety. Here's the thing, if we know that, that means the police know it as well. Do you really want, or need the hassle?
Motorcycle alarms can be a good thing – if they are a modern unit that’s been fitted carefully by a trained installer who knows what they are doing. Trouble is, an aftermarket alarm fitted by someone who doesn't know what they're doing, or someone you never met who did it a long time ago may not cut it. You could end up paying a mechanic just to untangle the wires and sort out the mess.
Flush mount turn signals are sometimes actually brighter than the OEM turn signals. However, the stock turn signals stick out the way they do in order for other motorists to actually be able to see them and having flush mounted ones will in some cases mean they're hidden at certain angles. We already have problems being seen by other road users – no need to make it harder.
Some like the look of polished aluminum, but to make those parts shine they'll usually have to be removed. And when a bike gets stripped, as far as the frame and swingarm, it means one of two things – it’s been crashed and repaired or stolen and given a new identity. Even if that's not the case, try convincing a potential buyer that the bike is clean.
So this is more about removal than it is adding something, but still a bad idea. The reason for doing this is exactly the same today as it was back in the 60s – purely for aesthetics – although today part of the reason is to have a period-correct chopper.
For any sort of public-road driving, this is surely one of the most dangerous mods you can do to a motorcycle.
Sources: Ride Apart, Revzilla, Visordown