Many motorcycle owners have moments where they want to make a little change to the appearance of their motorcycle or maybe want to change an engine or suspension component. Some of these modifications are as easy as unbolting an existing accessory and bolting the new one in its place, while others are more significant changes. The concern for many though is that after the modifications will their bike still be safe to ride and will it be legal for the LTO (Land Transport Office) Authorities.
Some modifications are not going to affect the handling or performance of your motorcycle, and these are typically the ones that are safe to perform without compromising your safety. These changes might be changing your turn signals or changing your headlight, and these can be performed at home in an afternoon with a few simple tools and are not likely to cause any danger when riding after. That in mind, all electrical changes should be tested thoroughly before attempting to ride after fitting; this can prevent you from having an issue while riding.
Modifications like tire changes or suspension changes will require you check clearances of your fenders, swingarm width and front fork width to check if there will be any rubbing under load, as that can lead to serious safety issues while riding. Other serious customization options that include cutting your chassis and welding new extensions to your chassis should only be performed by an experienced welder or bike builder. When a chassis is modified, it can seriously affect the handling and safety of your motorcycle, an incorrectly welded chassis can crack or break under the engine vibration or normal operation.
There are many different customizations and modifications you can safely do to your motorcycle, but you should first appreciate your skills and abilities. If you are not a capable welder then you should not attempt to weld the thin walls of a motorcycle chassis, heating the wrong parts of your chassis can cause stress fractures and that will result in a severe malfunction. A common customization is to extend or lengthen the swingarm, this, while it sounds rather straight forward, comes with a few hidden issues. To maintain the integrity of the swingarm, you need to reinforce the portion that is lengthened; you also have to make sure that is it perfectly aligned with the chassis to make sure the bike travels true after the modification. One of the most significant issues that we see is when a weld has not penetrated correctly. Instead of fixing, the weld is covered with filler and painted to hide the deathtrap it truly is, and this is not only unsafe; it can lead to a serious injury to the rider.
In short, a custom motorcycle can be as safe or safer than the manufacturer’s bike when it left the factory when built correctly, and quality techniques are used in the customization. As an owner, you have to remain vigilant and be willing to ask the questions of the builder that you are trusting to customize your motorcycle; it’s your responsibility to make sure that they are building your motorcycle using quality techniques and parts. A builder needs to be willing to say no to your ideas if they feel them be unsafe or illegal modifications, many times this is to protect you from unsafe modifications or even outlawed customizations.
To know if your preferred builder is building safe custom motorcycles, you should ask to talk to past customers and get there feedback. Also, you could ask to see a build in progress to see the techniques employed by their team and of course, ask questions of how they recommend building your bike to test their experience.
Remember that it’s not what you ride; it’s how you ride it, ride safe.