You’ve bought the bike, you’ve bought all the right gear to wear on your body, hands, feet and head, so you’re all equipped and ready to hit the road with no concerns whatsoever, right? Well, yes and no. Like any sport or pastime, there is always something you can do to improve the performance of both yourself and your bike: more you can add to enhance the motorcycle and yourself, whether it be for convenience, safety, preparing for the unexpected or simply preserving your investment. No such list is ever going to be definitive, but this particular list is a good place to start.
10 Heated Grips
Heated grips can make a winter ride bearable
Nothing makes a ride more miserable than being improperly attired, whether it’s being too hot, too wet or too cold. As any experienced rider will tell you, it’s always easy to take layers off if it gets hot during your ride, but difficult to put them back on if you don’t have them when it gets cold after starting out warm. Additionally, if your extremities get cold, it tends to make the rest of you cold. Suffering from cold hands is a good way of preventing you from controlling the bike properly which, obviously, isn’t a good idea. One way of preventing frostbite in your hands is by turning on the heated grips which hopefully your bike comes with as standard but, if not, there are some excellent after-market grips you can buy which are easy to fit.
9 Tire Sealant
Tire sealant will stop a hole in the tire ruining your ride
Punctures on a bike are a real pain. With the modern tubeless tire, it’s relatively easy to plug it, inflate it and carry on – if you are carrying a kit with you, which we all don’t always do, especially on short rides (which can still be too long to push the bike home) – but you can’t plug a tubed tire, and removing a wheel and tire, patching the tube and putting everything back together is beyond all but the most dedicated rider (and impossible if there’s no center stand). A good way of preventing that nail or screw from ruining your ride – whether running tubed or tubeless tires – is to use a tire sealant that stays liquid inside the tire and immediately seals holes as they occur. Some sealants need regular topping up, some will last the life of the tire: all will get you home or to the nearest tire shop, or further, if you’re in the middle of nowhere.
8 Seat Pad
A seat pad will make any motorcycle seat comfortable
Comfort. One of the most important – and most overlooked – aspects of riding safety. When a particular part of your body starts to ache, then your concentration on that pain distracts you from your riding: we’re vulnerable enough without taking our eyes off the ball. Modern motorcycle design tends to favor thin, hard seats which some riders will find endlessly comfortable, but others will really struggle with. There are after-market seats you can buy, but these can be hugely expensive. A good alternative is a seat pad that can be affixed on top of the OEM seat. Some pads are inflatable, which makes them nicely adjustable, while others are made of foam but can be ergonomically preferable to the seat. The other advantage for those with a collection of bikes, is that the pad can be moved from bike to bike.
7 Lock And Chain
A lock and chain will act as a deterrent
How many of us have experienced that sinking feeling of realizing your pride and joy has been stolen? If manufacturers are getting better at anti-theft technology, then the thieves are getting more and more ingenious and daring and will think nothing of picking a bike up and manhandling it into a van, even with the alarm going off. Tracker systems are hard to hide on a bike, and you can be sure that the thieves know a trick or two about disabling them. Sometimes the old solutions are best and a lock and chain securing a bike to a lamp post or something else immovable is often the best deterrent to a thief. It’s not a foolproof method but anything that makes the thief pass over your bike and target one that’s not as well secured has to be a bonus.
6 USB Port
A USB port is essential for today’s electronic devices, such as satnav and phones
Electronics have changed life for everyone and motorcycling is no exception. But all these electronic devices need power if they are to survive a two- or three-day trip into the middle of nowhere. Many bikes come with USB ports these days, but many do not. Happily, there are many after-market solutions to the problem, enabling you to charge phones, a Satnav unit or even power heated clothing. Look for systems that are easy to mount and hardwire into the bike’s wiring loom. If it has two or more ports, are they capable of handling different charging settings and are the ports backlit for easy nighttime use? Also consider whether you need it to be waterproof when not in use.
5 Helmet Cam
A close-up shot of an action camera attached on a helmet to record ride videos
You’re riding through some of the most incredible scenery in the middle of nowhere or even through the streets of your favorite city: why wouldn’t you want to capture it on camera for posterity or your blossoming YouTube/TikTok/Instagram platform? Static photos are great, but they often don’t convey the significance of what you are seeing as you ride. Another good reason to film every ride, no matter how short or mundane, is to protect yourself in the event of an accident caused by another road user’s mistake or inattention. Proving that your mangled bike wasn’t your fault will go a long way to having your insurance claim honored.
4 Crash Bobbins
Crash bobbins have replaced crash bars for a much neater look
Many years ago, large and unsightly crash bars front and back were deemed adequate protection for your bike in the event of sending it up the road. Thankfully, the modern solution is much neater and no less effective, having been made possible by modern perimeter frames. Crash Bobbins (or Bungs, whatever you want to call them) screw into existing threaded holes in the chassis or the end of the wheel spindles to take the brunt of the impact and abrasion, protecting bodywork, foot pegs, and anything that will cost a fortune to replace, which is pretty much everything on a modern motorcycle. The best ones will even have an element of shock absorption to cushion the initial blow.
3 Chain Oiler
An automatic chain oiler will protect your chain when you forget to
Modern O-Ring chains are a lot more durable than the older type, but they still need attention and adjustment. Regular lubrication will extend the life of the chain and sprockets, as well as reducing the need for excessive adjustment as the chain wears and stretches. But lubing a chain can be a nuisance with no center stand and, even with one, it is one of those jobs that is easy to overlook. An automatic chain oiler lubes the chain without you having to think about it, which will extend the life of your chain and sprockets to the point where it could possibly last the lifetime of the bike, saving you a ton of money and hassle along the way.
2 Waterproof Backpack/Luggage
Keeping your things dry is important
If you had to point to one drawback of riding a motorcycle, it is the lack of luggage space. For small bits and pieces, a backpack is always useful, but you have to make sure it is waterproof: I’ve ruined at least two laptops by being caught in sudden thunderstorms with an inadequate backpack. Even if it hasn’t rained where you live for the past five years, you can guarantee it will rain the day you have some sensitive electronics in your backpack! If you can’t afford a waterproof backpack, then carry some plastic bags, so you can wrap up anything delicate that shouldn’t be exposed to water. It’s the same with strap-on luggage: it has to be waterproof if you want to have a change of clothes when you get to your destination.
1 Ear Plugs
Ear plugs will keep out unwanted noise while not blocking your hearing completely
As with everything on this list that has got better over time and with money poured into development, modern motorcycle helmets would be unrecognizable to anyone riding thirty or forty years ago: comfort, fit, weather sealing, ventilation, vision and protection have all come on in leaps and bounds. But even the best helmets in terms of sound insulation can still be harmful to your hearing if worn for long periods and that is where a set of ear plugs can add to the enjoyment of a long ride out of all proportion to the investment. Not all of us can afford a top of the line helmet and not all of us ride a bike with a fairing and screen to keep the worst of the wind off us, so ear plugs can make a huge difference. From simple foam plugs to custom-made silicon inserts, there is something for every budget.