Best bolt-on engine upgrades for your motorcycle

If you want more engine performance, there’s lots of things you can do – here are some of the best

Improving a motorcycle's performance needn't be complicated

by Jim Blackstock |

If you want more performance from your bike’s engine, it might seem that there are limited options. You could go to the complication of going to an engine tuner or you might even change your bike for a bigger, faster one. But both can be expensive and irreversibly change your existing bike.

But there are plenty of other options that are relatively simple ‘bolt-on’ solutions so are reversible, don’t have to be exorbitantly expensive and yet can still have a dramatic effect.

These can include performance exhausts, revised fuelling modules such as Power Commanders for fuel-injected machines, improved oil and air filters, which can be a very affordable modification, to even revising your bike’s gearing to make the most of the performance it already has.

Related: Best motorcycle suspension upgrades

But what’s currently available? How much do they cost? And what do you get for your money? Here’s our current pick of some of the best…

K&N High Flow Air Filter

K&N High Flow Air Filter
Amazon

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Conventional motorcycle engines run by combusting a mixture of fuel and air and the more of each it gets, the more power it produces. A performance, u2018high-flowu2019 air-filter such as this one for a Yamaha R6 by leading brand K&N, is custom engineered to fit your specific application and designed to provide low restriction and increased performance, while providing excellent engine protection for your motorcycle.

Pros:

Affordable

Easy to fit

Reversible

Cons:

Sometimes only minimal gains

DynoJet Power Commander V

DynoJet Power Commander V
Amazon

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Power Commanders are model-specific electronic modules that fine-tune fuel-injected motorcycles and are particularly useful and effective when changing an air filter, installing a new exhaust or doing additional engine performance modifications.

Each unit includes a built-in microprocessor and a specific map designed to improve engine performance over standard. Dynojet continuously maps new calibrations for each bike, which are available for downloading at their website. OEM-style wiring connectors with improved harness protection are supplied and no wiring modifications are required.

Pros:

Effective

Updateable

Maximise benefit of other modifications

Cons:

Fairly pricey

GPR Performance Exhaust System

GPR Performance Exhaust System
Amazon

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While air filters, fuelling systems and Power Commanders can maximise the intake side of your bikeu2019s engine to enhance performance, exhausts can have a similar effect on the outlet side, usually because theyu2019re more free-flowing.

Italian brand GPR’s systems have been developed in GP and WSB racing, this Tri-oval system is in stainless steel to prevent corrosion, has a removable ‘DB killer’ baffle for use on the track, comes with a special connector and holder with this example specific to BMW’s F850GS Adventure.

Pros:

Easy to fit

Improved performance/sound

Lower weight

Cons:

May require correct setting up/Power Commander

K&N Oil Filter

K&N Oil Filter
Amazon

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K&N Powersports oil filters are, like the same leading brandu2019s air filters, designed to maximise the performance of your bikeu2019s engine, in this case by optimising the cooling, cleaning and lubrication qualities of your bikeu2019s oil.

They’re also designed to meet or exceed OEM requirements and are rigorously tested for efficiency, capacity and burst strength. This spin-on type features a heavy-duty metal can with most having a 17 mm nut affixed onto the end that allows for easy installation and removal.

Pros:

Affordable

Easy to fit

Also good for durability

Cons:

Minimal performance gains

GPR u2018De-Catu2019 Manifold Exhaust System

GPR u2018De-Catu2019 Manifold Exhaust System
Amazon

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A bikeu2019s exhaust manifold is the front part of the exhaust that exits the engine before leading onto the silencer. Itu2019s also the part that contains the heavy, suffocating catalyser of many modern motorcycles which is required to reduce emissions but also suffocates performance.

For racing or track machines, however, this isn’t required which is where ‘de-cat’ exhausts, such as this one by GPR for Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT, offer significant performance gains. It will also mount with the original silencer, is in stainless to prevent rust and comes with a two-year warranty.

Pros:

Easy to fit

Significant gains

Stainless so won’t rust

Cons:

Not road legal

Sigma Lowered Gearing Kit

Sigma Lowered Gearing Kit

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A bikeu2019s chain and sprockets are not only what connects the engine to the driving wheel, so quality versions are recommended for optimum performance, the sprocket size determines the overall gearing and thus the bikeu2019s acceleration and top speed. The higher the gearing the higher the top speed, at the cost of acceleration and vice-versa.

On the road, where top speed on larger bikes is often irrelevant, many riders choose to improve their bike’s acceleration by lowering the overall gearing, which is done via either a smaller front (gearbox) sprocket and/or a larger rear (wheel) sprocket. Buying new sprockets and a chain at the same time, as with this kit, is the best way to go.

Pros:

Noticeable improvements

Easy to fit

Reversible

Cons:

Adversely affects fuel consumption

Akrapovic Slip-on Silencer

Akrapovic Slip-on Silencer

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A slip-on can is basically a performance replacement for your bikeu2019s exhaust silencer and is one of the most popular performance modifications you can make. By having a less-restrictive baffle, performance can be improved while the sound of your bikeu2019s exhaust is invariably enhanced, too.

Watch out, some systems are not road legal but Akrapovic are among the most respected and desirable of all, this example is in lightweight titanium and carbon and is street legal and comes with a removable baffle, and, with this example designed for Honda’s CB600F Hornet, it looks great, too!

Pros:

Easy to fit

Relatively affordable

Look and sound great, too

Cons:

Not as big a gain as a full system

Rapid Bike Quickshifter Kit

Rapid Bike Quickshifter Kit

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Quickshifters, which basically enable lightning-fast, clutchless upshifts by momentarily cutting the ignition to allow instant gear changes without time-consuming recourse to the clutch, are increasingly standard-fitment on modern bikes u2013 and particularly performance or sports bikes.

Many, too, come with ‘autoblippers’ that allow rapid downshifts, too. Of course, this has no effect on your bike’s engine performance but it does maximise what it has. Aftermarket quickshifter kits offer the same advantage to bikes that may be older or don’t come so equipped, such as this one by Rapid Bike, which is designed for Yamaha’s R6 and aid up and downshifts.

Pros:

Speeds up and down gearchanges

Notable performance gains

Reversible

Cons:

Must be used in conjunction with fuelling kit

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