I have to wonder, if you just left your bike alone, would it be more reliable?

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by SportsGuy, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. jtw000

    jtw000 Survivor

    May 18, 2009
    Phnom Penh, Cambdia
    There's no clear and easy answer to this. Every bike, every person and every mod is different. Bikes are built to a cost and when they're built, corners are cut to save money. As a rule, if you're modifications and upgrades address the cuts costs then they'll improve the bike but otherwise they tend to do the opposite. I also feel that in most cases, removal of unnecessary restrictions such as emission controls will serve to make an improvement without a loss in reliability. My bike is heavily modified but highly reliable because I addressed the design issues such as overly restrictive airflow, lousy shocks and poor lights. Other people using the same model are talking about booster plugs to over-ride the ignition, that run contrary to making the bike reliable, in my opinion.
    My brother bought a KTM 690 from new and modded it lightly with a new exhaust and some other parts. It never ran properly after that and he ended up giving up on it. Once returned to stock it ran fine... although it still leaked oil and needed a new engine.
    Modding the bike is a lot of fun but it needs to be done intelligently. You don't really need to understand what you're doing as much as understand the consequences of what you're doing.
  2. Jaronimo

    Jaronimo Been here awhile

    Jun 3, 2007
    south west Western Australia
    Im completely against stock bikes, I am a big bloke, I need to do suspension, gearing, and up the engines output to feel like its doing what I want it to do, I would most likely give up riding or 4wheeling cos nothing out of the factory is good enough, everything needs modding to make it go good, why cant you buy a bike already fitted with highflow exhaust and high ouput stators and hd springs

    on the other hand, I know poeple half my weight and height that leave their bikes stock, cos it works perfectly for them and they still have something that needs doing or replacing, reliability hasnt changed

    doing practical mods does not make a bike unreliable, riding it day in day out,throwing it on the ground and not maintaining it makes it unreliable and occasional brakedowns well, something you just cant foresee or control, all new machines suffer something going wrong at some time, recalls, warranty?
  3. Carter Pewterschmidt

    Carter Pewterschmidt Long timer

    Nov 23, 2010
    Yup. While working at a bike dealership I've seen people bring in bikes with exhaust and no fuel mods and ask me why it runs so bad. Running a bike lean like that is not good for engine internals and it happens far more often than you would think.

    My TL1000 was modded pretty heavily when I got it and for the first 2 years of riding it I was constantly discovering bugs due to the previous owners poor workmanship.

    My plan with the XL was to leave it stock but it's so soft and sloppy for a guy who weights 200lbs that I almost have no choice but to. Not a big deal though considering it's just a simple air cooled single cylinder bike. Reliability may be hindered to a point but at least it's cheap and relativity easy to work on. Unlike like the TL.

    I'm planning on getting a new or newer bike within a year or so. It will be something that fits me properly, has the performance I'm looking for, and in turn I will be inclined to leave it very stock. Not to mention a stock bike has much better resale value. Half the time dealerships don't even want really modded up bike on trade.
  4. Navin

    Navin Long timer

    Sep 22, 2009
    If the federal government would get out of the business of how an internal engine should run maybe the bikes would run right from the get go. I doubt that KTM wants its bikes that goofily jetted, or that Honda wants its that way either, or geared to do 100 MPH in first. :norton
  5. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Long timer

    Apr 21, 2010
    Baking in AZ
    Take a gear head when looking for old cars, truck, boats, bikes.
    Look at a bunch of 40 year old wore out junk. Watch there eyes light up when they find something that is stock and un-molested. Sure the battery has been changed, the battery hold down is wrong or missing, all the plastic is cracked. But all the real gear heads I know get excited when they find something that just wore out and wasn't modded to death. To that there is something to leaving it alone.

    I bought my KLR back in the end of '99 in a bit of a crisis, I needed good transportation at that moment. I left it bone stock. Upgraded as it wore (tires, chain, sprockets, battery, doohicky, etc.) Lost one fuse due to a design flaw and the element got a stress crack, replaced the fuse with another glass fuse with a different element shape and have been fine ever since. I did not fall into the "cut out all those crappy fuses and put in another design of crappy fuse and have more wire splices that can go bad" that so many others get brain washed into.

    I am a gear head at heart (built multiple vehicles, engines, strokers, engine swaps that when done actually looked stock even though it was never offered that way. Generally V8s into stuff that didn't offer a V8. And when the KLR was no longer a necessary transportation requirement and was placed into the toy catagory I did change out the exhaust for something that didn't chirp like an old VW.

    I do see plenty of good value in "stock". I have seen plenty of stuff for sale that lists $x,xxx in upgrades, in the end it sells for about what something that had $0 in upgrades added to it.

    For my current daily driver I had 2 options. Get the stripper and add all the stuff or get it loaded. Got it loaded and have not touched anything. Guess what, it all works perfect like someone spent millions of dollars engineering it to all work together just right. Aftermarket upgrades I would still be sorting out trying to get everything to all play happy. Even then it will never all really work together.

    My next bike I am looking around for what has everything just how I want it. Yes I could go for a cheaper model and add all the parts. I have the abality to do it. But after many years of dealing with it I find it better just to spend the money up front and get it right out of the box and enjoy the ride instead of spending all the time and money screwing with the ride.
  6. SportsGuy

    SportsGuy icanhazdirt?

    Mar 20, 2007
    Camarillo CA
    Its been great reading this thread, so I owe a thanks to those who've shared their thoughts so far.

    Your thoughts got me thinking some more, and looking back over my own history and actions.

    I think to a degree, modding is a right of passage. About 7 years ago, I bought a Golf TDI. Awesome gas mileage (50+ mpg) and reliable. Wasn't long before I had upgraded the tires and rims. Then came bigger injectors to up power. Then followed a remapped ECU for even more power, which meant an upgraded clutch, upgraded ball joints and cv joints. Chose not to lower the car, but did replace the struts with upgraded units.

    Fast forward to three years ago. Golf is long since sold to a friend, who reports even today its the most reliable car he's ever owned, too, even with all the mods. Still cracks off 50 mpg when he's light in the throttle, etc.

    Three years ago I went shopping for a small used car for the seocnd spot int he garage. I recalled autocrossing the Golf back in the day and how fun that was...except that the Golf was NOT, despite my efforts, a sports car. Sure it was faster and handled far better than stock, but it was still a Golf with a heavy diesel engine pushing the front end around in the corners.

    So we bought a used BMW Z4. 28,000 miles and $16K. Solid deal and after about a month of driving the car it hits me: you want a sports car? Buy a sports car. You want an economical commuter car that'll cross the continent with friends in tow, buy a Golf TDI. Just don't buy one thinking you can make it both.

    Given I'm 40 now, this thinking wasn't really roote din my mind when I started modding the Golf. Thus I think all the modding of vehicles before now were my right of passage - what I had to do to realize I prefer to buy the tool designed fo rthe job. That you need to properly ID the job, then select the correct tool, rather than trying to make any tool fit any job.

    There's a company building dual sports from Ducati Monsters. Pricey, but cool for sure. In the end, though, do you actually have a well designed dual sport? Not in my opinion. You have a street bike build to have longer travel suspension, so it can handle some dirt. Still heavy, now tall, and designed more for straffing desert washes than single track. Still, there's a market - heck, I considered one.

    It pains me to say this, but I'm starting to think that modifying motor vehicles is starting to look like a younger man's game to me now. ;) I can still appreciate it - its an art form, of sorts. I appreciate those doing it, but find myself on a different path these days. I like adding functional hard parts (steering dampener, side bags, upgraded hand guards, etc.), but I like reliable and quiet. I've always found loud motorcycles obtrusive, annoying and unecessary. I like stock exhausts (but wish they were designed better). I truely wish stock seats were better. Things like exhaust heat melting turn signals simply shouldn't happen.

    But when I want more power, I test ride everything in sight and start saving up my pennies for the winner of my own personal test ride shoot out.

    In the end, I feel those modifying their bikes help keep the rest of us you to a degree. We've been there. We've dealt with that issue. We've made our choices - time for others to do the same, based on their own needs.
  7. LukasM

    LukasM Long timer

    Nov 15, 2006
    On a RTW ride - currently touring the U.S.
    Reliability? It goes like this:

    Badly modded bikes < stock bikes < well modded bikes.

    The bad mods come either from using badly designed/manufactured parts, people that don't know how to install them, or that do not think about systems as a whole (e.g. if you change an exhaust you might need to adjust the intake of air and fueling to match).

    OEM components generally tend to be well made and reliable, but the manufacturers do have to work with a limited budget, and they do have to comply with emissions, noise, safety, and other regulations, that we as individuals do not (at least partially). Therefore every single bike has weaknesses, and there is basically no component that cannot be improved if you have unlimited money to throw at it.

    Well modded bikes do not only use premium components but they are also put together with previous knowledge and experience of the builder (or by copying somebody who has been there, done that). Not everything that sounds great on paper actually works out in the real world.

    A good example would be Colebatches X-Challenge. After doing 3 or 4 Europe-Siberia trips, and changing out everything that doesn't work or could be improved, that thing is solid. It's completely obvious that any stock X-Challenge ridden on the same track at the same speed will bend it's wheels quicker and generally break more shit (both because of inferior rims and because his suspension is better tuned and is more plush yet doesn't bottom as quickly), the aluminum subframe would break before his steel one, he would be more likely to crash at night because his halogen light puts out 1/5 of the lumens vs. the dual 50W Bi-Xenons, etc.

    The same thing is of course the case with any other bike, and most other parts. If you want to leave something stock because you don't want to spend the money, don't have the skills, or you are fine with functionality as is, fair enough. But don't tell me you are doing it because "stock is the most reliable".
  8. TNC

    TNC Candyass Camper

    Mar 22, 2007
    This has been an interesting thread. On the gearheads looking and lusting after unmodded vehicles, there are usually two reasons for that. One, they are looking for something in the vein of restoration, or two, they are looking for something they can modify. With that second one there's a kind of 2.5 reason also. Some previous modding can be classified as a hack job depending on quality. I just think the desire for finding the "unmolested" vehicle status comes down to a restoration goal or the joy of modding the virgin vehicle yourself for a real gearhead.:lol3

    On the age of gearheads doing the modding, I'm not sure I find that to be the case that it's mainly a young man's game. I look around and see that it's many of the older guys who have the time, money, and experience to pursue modding projects. Many of them also pursue restoration projects, but if you're honest, that's a whole other direction. Many, many older guys are reliving their youth in terms of hot rods and hopped-up vehicles of all kinds that they couldn't afford when they were younger...motorcycles and nearly all other vehicles.
  9. Velociraptor

    Velociraptor TrackBum

    Apr 17, 2005
    I have had my 2009 KTM 690r enduro for close to three years now and mods have mostly followed two paths. The first is replacing stock parts that have been reported to fail, and the second is adding or replacing parts to make the bike more durable. The weak point of the 690 has been the fuel system so I replaced the stock fuel pump with the CA Cycleworks pump. Also I added the extra fuel filter where the quick disconnect used to be. Stock fuel tank bolts were replaced with stronger ones. Also I just replaced the stock voltage regulator with a Mosfet type. I did these mods just to decrease the chance of a failure, but my guess is that even stone stock the percent of failures might be very low. So not doing any of these mods will make no difference in many cases. On the other hand, after 6 straight days riding all day in Baja with zero problems, I feel better about having done those mods. Other mods were more protective skid plate, LED rear turn signals after I broke the stockers, euro rear tail light and fender after I almost destroyed my license plate,better lever guards, and other mods just to replace OEM parts with stronger aftermarket parts. Mods I did purely because I wanted to were Akra Pipe and Vortex ECU. I added Rally Raid tanks because I needed the extra mileage for Baja. I am pretty sure that had I ridden a stock bike I would have had some failures or would have broken something. So in my case I feel like most of the mods were worth it and have made the bike more crash proof and more reliable. The only engine related issue I have had with the bike was two days separated by over a year where the bike was trying to die or did die which turned out to be caused by a poor coil connection.
  10. divimon2000

    divimon2000 Been here awhile

    Apr 16, 2011
    Lake Champlain, Vermont
    Seems to me you can't get your money back either, AND they can be harder to sell (I'm not risking that the PO did it right). So, I do like my Ohlins shock, but the electrical mods were worrysome- ripped them all out. I think it depends on the person, and the mod. Good topic.
  11. Suzuki Phil

    Suzuki Phil Been here awhile

    Sep 7, 2007
    Simi Valley, CA
    Maintained per the factory specs I think a bike or car is more reliable then a modified version. My DR350 is modded but I've limited it suspension mods and making it more comfortable for long rides. Engine is 100% stock as well as the intake and exhaust systems. After 15,000 miles it's never let me down.

  12. tbarstow

    tbarstow Two-wheelin' Fool

    Jul 9, 2007
    Plattsburgh, NY
    Yes, leaving it alone should keep it more reliable, unless it comes with a an OEM doohickey. As I look at stuff that has failed on my bikes, most of it has been aftermarket stuff.
  13. CanadianX

    CanadianX Oh!? That is deep.

    Dec 26, 2010
    New Brunswick
    Without modifying the map on my bike it stalled, backfired through the throttle body and ran lean and hot. So a little mod to the map and no more issues. In this case I have to say it is now more reliable.
  14. malignity

    malignity Day Tripper

    Mar 8, 2012
    Sanford, MI

    Yep... Unfortunately in the DS world I belong to, the perfect bike doesn't exist. Every bike has a compromise. I had an XR650L, and it has gobs of tractor like torque, but was way too heavy in sand and didn't have a MUCH needed 6th gear. The KTM's have that needed 6th gear and the power, but are more maintenance intensive.

    If someone made a light weight, gobs of power 6 speed that was low maintenance, I'd be all over it. Since I have 80% of what I need in my KTM, I can deal with 200 mile oil changes.
  15. okanoganJim

    okanoganJim Adventurer

    May 1, 2012
    Ravensdale and Brewster Wa
    Great thread, with many valuable points. I can relate to "Modding is a rite of passage" and it is fun, but now at 57, I just want to "ride my machine without being hassled by the man" so to speak. Am finding loud pipes make for unhappy neighbors, and potential fueling problems so I generally stay away from that. My '12 690 will remain stock in the running gear department unless something fails un-expectedly. My last dualsport was a 2007 KLX250S. I left that stock as well. Sure its not an exciting powerful bike to ride, but it has its own benefits and merits that I preferred to enjoy as is. Now when I wanted move on to something more thrilling, I was able to easily sell my 250 in stock factory condition. Myself I tend to shy away from heavily modified used bikes. You never know exactly what your getting into. .:1drink
  16. jon_l

    jon_l Long timer

    Feb 8, 2008
    Collingwood, Ontario
    Great topic, and AFAIK an original one on ADVRider.

    I do only 2 kinds of mods - protection, such as hand-guards, skid-plates, engine guards, fender-extender, folding mirrors, and utility, such as sprocket changes, GPS mounts, 12V power, rear rack, top box, etc.

    I recognize that I don't have the skills to do engine performance mods, nor suspension tuning. Engine mods I can live without, and suspension mods because I'd rather pay an expert to sort it once, then just ride it.

    So anyone buying a used bike from me needn't fear. I have torque wrenches and use them, along with locktite and fitting proper tools, so I don't strip heads and threads. But I'll leave serious mods like pistons and porting to the pros.

    I have never owned a bike with after-market exhaust, nor have I ever considered buying an aftermarket exhaust. If I had the coin and was able to buy a new Triumph, I might splurge on a set of Arrows, but basically I like quiet, and I don't see exhaust as worth the considerable coin it costs.
  17. Reposado1800

    Reposado1800 Juicy J fan!

    Dec 8, 2006
    5th and Main
    There is an art to taking things apart and putting them back together, right... MANY people cannot understand jetting. You have to be familiar with what a bike feels like lean and rich and then right in the sweet spot.
    Another area of failure is using a machine shop that is unfamiliar with motorcycles. How many shops have bored out a jug wrong and caused a seizure? I send my stuff out to the best in the country after doing some checking. Modify with caution.:evil
  18. Richguzzi

    Richguzzi Adventurer

    May 9, 2012
    SF Bay Area
    I've learned a few things over the years.
    1) Always have a stone cold reliable vehicle around. For that I have a 2012 DR650 and for a cage a 2000 Mazda Protege (135,000 miles, original clutch, one set of brake pads, one set of spark plugs, tires as needed, oil/filter changed every 6k). The Mazda doesn't drink oil and runs as it did the day I bought it.
    2) Old vehicles are cool but a lot of work, money, time and are impractical to drive a lot. I had a bone stock 64 Ford Ranchero that always solicited waves and thumbs up. Little did they know that the non-synchro three speed would eat gears, the brakes needed to be jumped on to stop and on a rainy day the one speed wipers were useless and the light rear end would slide all over the place. Replaced it with an unrestored, unmolested, 2 owner 71 Moto Guzzi Ambassador which ran like a champ. But now all the seals need to be replaced. The starter is acting up. The wiring is starting to crack and get flaky. Much work is needed and I find it's a lot of work pushing around a 550 lb motorcycle.
    3) But to save the DR from mod fever I have a 1986 Cagiva Alazurra I bought new that I have taken every nut and bolt off one time or another. I have three sets of exhaust for it as I can't find the 'perfect' one. I've swapped out the whole tail section for different bodywork. I think I have every spare part and different jets, slides and needles that Dellorto makes for the carbs. Three different sets of air cleaners. The heads have been ported, racing cams, different brakes, different shocks and forks. Replaced the fairing with just a single headlight and speedo. Rewired about 3/4 of it. When it runs it has a certain 'soul' and I'll probably keep it forever just to have something to 'mod'. But regardless of the fact that every nut and bolt that could benefit by it is blue loctited, it will loosen up something after a couple of hard rides. It is finicky about spark plug condition and gas. But it reminds me of why I prefer to leave things alone.
    I am a little concerned about the DR though. I'm at the point of having to upgrade something to fix the dive in it's front end. The seat doesn't bother me. The lean carb hasn't gotten me yet but the front springs are way too soft. There you go my rant on my recent modding situation.
    I could write a book on early days modding, or should I say burning up dollars .......:cry
  19. skierd

    skierd Wannabe Far-Rider

    Jan 29, 2008
    Fairbanks, AK
    My modded bike hasn't been unreliable, but I do wish I could have the power it has now with the quietness of the stock exhaust. Next bike will likely be left alone except for getting the suspension set up properly.
  20. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

    Aug 7, 2003
    Ft. Collins, CO
    Agreed. Protection is absolutely necessary. For example, DRZ's have notoriously thin side cases, and case savers are essential. I met a rider from Illinois in Colorado who picked up a rock between his skidplate and the side case, which then punctured a hole in the case. This hole drained out most of his oil. A quarter for a 'temporary' patch and some JB Weld saved the day, :patch but it could have gone much worse.

    Stronger handlebars are also a good idea. :deal Not only do they not bend when the bike is dropped, but different bends and rise make riding more comfortable.

    My green DRZ400 came highly farkled by the previous owner. The protection items were essential, the rear rack, larger tank, and larger footpegs made it more useful, but some of the other mods were questionable. :patch Jetting and the standard airbox mod worked, but the aftermarket carb and exhaust made the bike run worse than stock, and at the same time did not give any more power (long story, with dyno results to back this up). The exhaust was MUCH lighter than stock, which was noticeable, but it was also MUCH louder. I let someone ride my bike in the woods, and I could hear it a long ways off. Although it was under the legal requirements (it was checked with an official dB meter), I threw away the exhaust because I believe quieter is better. Also, I couldn't figure out, nor did I want the hassle, of repacking it all the time.

    My bike does not have much power, but it is enough to get me arrested. Good enough? If I really need more power, I would just get another bike instead of modifying the one I have. Maybe I learned my lesson hot-rodding cars when I was younger. It is possible to modify an air-cooled VW Beetle to make it run 110+ mph; suspension mods make it handle similar to a 911 Porsche (with the notorious off-throttle oversteer); but 110 mph, 4 wheel drum brakes are not a good idea. :eek1 Most aftermarket performance parts were expensive and of questionable quality. I spent enough to buy a new Honda Civic modifying that VW, and then engine needed a rebuilt and was stuck in a garage in the middle of nowhere after a track day, but that is another story... Now I stick mostly to stock. :wink: