As a motorcycle enthusiast, you’ve likely considered modifying your bike. Magazines make it look easy. Movies make it look fun. The reality of it however, is a little different.

Modifying your bike means sacrifice

Modifying your bike doesn’t end with bolting on new parts. In the case of engine components, most parts, especially on bikes with a carburetor, will require substantial tuning to work properly. Even something as simple as a slip-on exhaust may require re-jetting your carburetor. Not properly tuning them can result in damage, or a bike that may not even idle.

Suspension components may require careful adjustment before use, and can be overly harsh on less than perfect roads. Braking components may wear more quickly, or generate more dust and noise.

While some bikes run better modified than they did in factory form, this is rare. In most cases, they will require more attention, especially in harsh weather.

Emissions Laws

Modifying your bike in a state with stringent emissions laws can be a legal headache. In California and other states with similar laws, every single part that is equipped to the engine must be emissions compliant. Emissions compliance requires a variety of government tests and fees. As such, parts with government approval are harder to find, and more expensive. Generally, only the newest and most popular models will have emissions compliant parts.

In most states, emissions compliance is a relatively minor hurdle. In California, not having it can lead to having your bike impounded or worse.

Expect to fix it yourself

Most dealerships are certified only to repair and replace factory components. If you roll in with a heavily modified bike, it is not unheard of to be turned away. In addition, many modifications will void your factory warranty. This may leave you to foot the bill for repairs even if they aren’t a result of your modifications.

It’s not all bad though. Modifying your bike can make you more knowledgeable in its function, and better able to take care of it. Repairs and maintenance that would cost hundreds of dollars at a dealership can often be completed at home in a few hours. The knowledge and connection you gain while working on your own bike can also help make your a better and safer rider.

Summing it up

Modifying your bike isn’t without its downsides. While aspects of every day riding may be compromised, you not only gain intimate knowledge of your bike, but also a bike that is uniquely yours. If you understand the sacrifices going in, the experience can be deeply rewarding.