Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Performance Upgrade

Who doesn’t like to get something for nothing? We all like the idea, but we are often scared off by the suspicion that there must be a catch. We have heard too many horror stories of charlatans, cheats and con men to believe that you can actually get something free. But this performance upgrade will not cost you a dime. There are no installation fees, hidden costs, or refills.

Unlike porting work, cams, high compression pistons and the like, there is no disassembly required. You won’t have to hire a shop to install it, or even bribe your buddy who is handy with a wrench. In fact, believe it or not, this performance upgrade is already installed on your bike, and only awaits you to put it to use. Is this is beginning to sound too good to be true? Right now you are likely thinking that even if this is not just a scam or a joke, the performance increase must be negligible. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So what is this magical performance part that is supposedly already on our bikes? It is the lowly, often overlooked shift lever. What?!? Yes, I am serious.

Proper use of the gear shift lever is one of the best and most practical solutions to increasing the performance of your motorcycle. Many a rider has at least a rudimentary grasp of how to get the most performance from their bike when running it up through the gears. A shift point a couple hundred RPM past the horsepower peak will generally give you the best possible acceleration (ask any serious drag racer). However, it seems that there are far fewer riders who know when or are willing to downshift for best performance.

As the proprietor of a engine shop which specializes in high performance, the one thing I hear from potential customers most often is that they would like more passing power. Perhaps the best way to answer that is with a question. Do you downshift to pass? If your answer is no, then why would you want to spend thousands of dollars to increase the power of your bike when you are not using what’s already there?

So what about those performance modifications? Can’t you just increase the power of the motor so you won’t have to downshift? Well, yes and no. If you are willing to settle for some really mild power increases, yes. But if you, like most riders, would like to see at least 100 HP and 100 FT LBs of torque for your money, then it is not so simple. You see, most of those modifications that get you to that 100 HP mark want some RPMs. Hot cams tend to move the power range up on the RPM scale. High compression pistons hate to be lugged at low RPMs. The result of not down shifting a hot rodded motor is normally going to be pinging along with mediocre acceleration until the RPMs are up.

Let me borrow an illustration from my friend Neil Ryan, owner of American Thunder. "When you are driving along in your car, and stomp on the gas to pass, what happens? The automatic transmission downshifts for you so that the engine is in a suitable RPM range." If you are unwilling, or unable to do the same with your gear shift lever, perhaps you should get back in your car so it will be done for you.

(Some of the above is likely to be somewhat controversial to your average Harley rider. I have often said that what today's "biker" really wants is an automatic transmission, but they would likely be too afraid of compromising their macho image to buy one. I say "exercise that left foot; build up the muscles in your clutch hand; have some fun really using the power your bike has!)

1 comment:

Mike Petri said...

If I ever get a bike done, I will certainly practice this technique.