The 22 Best Motorcycle Upgrades For Beginners

Jan 7, 2020

Category: Gear

While a motorcycle will get you from A to B just like any other mode of motorized transportation, more often than not riders nonetheless share a special bond with their bikes that simply doesn’t extend to the majority of other vehicle types. And much more so than cars, motorcycles are routinely modified and customized — a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering everything on a motorcycle is out in the open and easy to access (or at worst hidden beneath an easily-removable fairing or cowl like on a sportbike). This is compounded by the abundant size of the two-wheeled aftermarket sector, and the relatively small size of motorcycles themselves, meaning parts are smaller as well and require less raw materials.

But with so many different styles of motorcycle and a seemingly endless array of aftermarket brands vying for your business, knowing where to start when upgrading your bike can feel like a bit of an uphill battle. For this reason, we’ve assembled this handy guide to the best beginner’s motorcycle upgrades. So, whether you seek to bolster raw performance, tack on a few convenient amenities, or simply add a dose of style to personalize your ride and make it your own, we’ve got your back.

Tires

More Grip, Less Slip

More than any other modification, nothing will improve a bike’s performance as much as higher-quality motorcycle tires. Furthermore, you’d be hard-pressed to find another modification at this price point that will afford such a marked change in performance. Thanks to their ability to bolster traction and grip, higher-quality tires will not only vastly improve a bike’s cornering abilities but also instill markedly more confidence in the rider, thereby enabling them to better evolve their riding abilities.

Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II Tires

Born out of extensive experience in WSBK competition, Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso Corsa II Tires are some of the grippiest scoot shoes money can buy, while still being plenty appropriate for street riding. Thanks to a clever rain-sipes design, and the use of the Italian outfit’s silica and black carbon nanotechnology, the DRC II’s offer stellar traction, even in wet conditions. Rated for speeds exceeding 170mph, these tubeless tires use a multi-compound setup (dual-compound front, triple-compound rear), with sticky racing-slick-style outer walls for optimal grip in the corners, and a harder, more enduring center patch to increase its lifespan.

Purchase: $130+

Michelin Road 5 Tires

While the Road 5 Tires don’t offer the same immense level of grip as the Pirelli DRCs, Michelin more than makes up for this with their impressive lifespan. A newer, more advanced version of Michelin’s wildly-popular Road 4 model, these dual-compound tires utilize the brand’s patented ACT+ casing technology and XST Evo siping design which reduces the negative space in the sipes as the tire wears away. Because of their shelf-life and ability to perform in all road conditions, the Road 5s are highly-conducive to daily riding, as well as touring.

Purchase: $144+

Crash Protection

Insurance In Parts-Form

A sad reality is that bikes are heavy and new riders often drop them. We’ve all been there. And even at low speed or while stopped, a tipped over bike is all bad — especially if adorned in full bodywork or decked out in trick aftermarket bits — which is where crash protection comes into play. Various aftermarket outfits sell pieces designed to protect different areas on the bike like the tank, axles/wheels, and frame, just to name a few. This upgrade not only offers peace of mind but is usually a lot cheaper and requires markedly less hassle than replacing broken plastics and turn signals after dropping your two-wheeled pride and joy.

Rizoma Shape Frame Sliders

Frame sliders are protective pieces that mount to the chassis and protect the bike from a tip-over or slide. These protective pieces come in a variety of styles and materials (such as cut and no-cut, aka types that require cutting a hole in your fairing for the slider to fit through, or ones that don’t). One of the newer — and in our opinion, best-looking — one of these offerings on the market are the Rizoma Shape Frame Sliders. These made-in-Italy pieces boast a CNC-machined billet aluminum base capped off with Delrin slider pucks, corrosion-resistant hardware, and laser-engraved Rizoma logos. Unlike most sliders, these stylish Rizoma units were designed to complement a bike’s existing style and as such come in several different tailor-made models. It’s not hard to see why this Italian brand has become a go-to resource for many of today’s top custom motorcycle builders.

Purchase: $144+

LighTech Swingarm Spool Sliders

Axle/swing-arm sliders are another great basic upgrade for motorcycles. On top of protecting the wheels, axles, and swing-arm in the event of a tip-over or crash, these handy little units also serve as connection/lift points for rear track stands. Sold in sets of two, these particular items from reputable race outfit, LighTech are CNC-machined from raw billet, sport a two-piece design and deep grooves for easier, better-planted stand use, and are offered in an array of anodized colored finishes. If you plan to ever go to the track or routinely wrench on your bike, these items are an absolute must.

Purchase: $33+

Rearsets

A Foothold For Success

A proper riding technique is extremely difficult to achieve without the correct sizing/geometry setup. Getting a bike to properly fit your height is crucial to achieving this, and one surefire way of making this happen is to invest in aftermarket rearsets. These are basically knurled, performance-oriented foot-pegs for sport riding. They often are made of high-end materials and offer far more adjustability than stock items. And, on top of improving your riding, they undeniably add a dash of race track-style to your bike.

Vortex Racing Adjustable Rearsets

CNC-machined from 7075 T6 aluminum and finished in an anodized clear-coat, Vortex Racing’s Adjustable Rearsets are high-end foot controls that have been computer-tested for structural integrity and strength. Designed to afford a more aggressive riding position (and to bolster ground-clearance), these rearsets offer several parameters of adjustability. Sold with pedals and heel-guards, these blacked-out beauties can also accommodate a GP-style shift pattern (one-up, five-down, instead of the traditional one-down, five-up).

Purchase: $335+

Rizoma RRC Rearset

Pretty much everything that Rizoma produces boasts a stunning design, and the RRC Rearsets are no different. While costlier than many of the competitor’s offerings, these Italian-made controls and CNC-machined from billet and adorned in Rizoma’s own proprietary anodization treatment. Boasting top-shelf hardware and laser-engraved branding, this item’s B-Pro footpegs (which feature Delrin end-caps) were designed in collaboration with the LCR Honda MotoGP team. The fully-adjustable shift and brake pedals are rubber coated for superior grip and a bolstered lifespan. Whether you ride a sportbike, a naked urban commuter, standard, cafe racer, sport-tourer, or classic, the proper fitment afforded by rearsets like these will make a major difference in your ability to progress as a rider.

Purchase: $423+

Tank Pads/Grips/Skins

Adding Some Traction To The Action

For spirited sport riding, you need to lean the bike over quite a bit, and that means relying on your outside knee to hook onto the tank for support (if you’re supporting your weight with your arms through the handlebars in the corners then you’re doing it very wrong). Tank pads increase a rider’s ability to support themselves by improving grip around the tank. Chances are you’ll never see a race bike or a heavily-modified sport bike without these textured skins which are not only incredibly affordable, but also a cinch to install, and remarkably effective at doing their job.

Stompgrip Tank Pad

If you’ve spent your fair share of time on a snowboard, then chances are you’ll be familiar with Stompgrip. And just like with the textured pads used to clean your snowboard boots, the idea here is to apply an adhesive-backed pad to the knee-dents/notches of a tank to improve grip. Far too many bikers rely on their handlebars for support rather than their core (and knees) which is what should be holding them up. These universal Stompgrip tank pads inspire confidence, are a great way of learning to feel more in control at lean, and will serve you well on your journey to getting a knee down.

Purchase: $44

Eazi-Grip Pro Tank Pads

Made from high-quality polyurethane and sporting a circular embossed pattern, these pads will add grip without running the risk of scuffing your riding pants. Unlike the universal fit Stompgrip items, these tank pads for Eazi-Grip are make/year/model specific, meaning they perfectly fit the shapes and contours of a bike’s tank, making for a super clean look. For the more aesthetic-conscious riders, this is a far more preferable option than universal pads. On top of bolstering grip, these pads boast anti-vibration properties and can thereby lessen rider fatigue.

Purchase: $50

LED Lighting

Guiding The Way

A great way to improve a stock bike or an older model — be it a sportbike, cruiser, adventure model, dual-sport, or standard — is with new LED lighting. Not only will these parts help you to better see and be seen, but they also straight-up look the business and typically ask less of your bike’s electronics and charging system. Whether it’s a headlight, taillight, auxiliary lights, or turn signals, this is a great way to improve your bike’s appearance while simultaneously injecting some safety and practicality into the mix.

J.W. Speaker 8700 Evolution Dual Burn LED 7” Headlight

Widely recognized as one of, if not the most premium aftermarket headlight company in the game, J.W. Speaker makes a variety of top-shelf lights including “active” models that are lean-angle sensitive and look into corners as a bike is leaning/turning. DOT-compliant, made in the USA, and capable of fitting most standard 7” headlight shells, J.W. Speaker’s 8700 Evo Dual Burn LED packs a myriad of high-output LEDs with a 1,260-lumen high beam and a 750-lumen low beam. The part’s “Dual Burn Technology” affords a rider with the best aspects of the high and low beams at the same time.

Purchase: $309+

Motogadget m-Blaze Disc Bar End LED Turn Signal

Traditionally, turn signals have always been something of a legally-required eyesore on motorcycles, though the top-shelf German parts purveyors at Motogadget have solved this issue with the introduction of their LED bar-end signals. Featuring aluminum housing and high-powered LED lights that only draw 7 watts of power, these bar-end items fit most standard 7/8” or 1” bars. And not only do these bar-end blinkers look great, but they’re of the highest quality and like the rest of the outfit’s wares, are backed by Motogadget’s top-notch German engineering.

Purchase: $113

Fender Eliminator Kits

Because Street Legal Doesn't Have To Mean Ugly

Nothing destroys the look of a sexy new bike more than a horrendous stock license plate hanger setup. Fender eliminator kits delete all that atrocious nonsense and replace it with a minimalistic, street-legal means of hanging a license plate and rear-signals while keeping its aesthetic effect as minimal as possible. This really is one modification every rider should opt for.

Driven Racing Fender Eliminator

Driven Racing’s Fender Eliminator is a well-designed, model-specific kit constructed from high-quality 6061 billet aluminum. The machined metal is secured via zinc-plated hardware and features a black-anodized finish, decorated with laser-etched Driven logos. This is an extremely minimalistic item, but it’s well-built and looks it.

Purchase: $114+

Yoshimura Fender Eliminator Kit

Yoshimura is a legendary name in the motorcycle racing world. Everything the Japanese outfit produces is of the top-shelf variety, whether it’s the brand’s race-style exhaust systems or its simple bolt-on bits like and this fender eliminator kit. It’s comprised of precision laser-cut stainless steel brackets that mount beneath the tail of a bike and hold the kit’s black-anodized, CNC-machined aluminum license plate frame (which is decorated via a silk-screened Yoshimura logo). A micro-LED light in black-anodized, CNC-machined billet housing (with a laser-etched Yoshimura logo) illuminates the plate, too, keeping things undoubtedly on the up and up with Johnny law.

Purchase: $88+

Luggage

Your Storage Solution On Two-Wheels

Bikes are incredibly enjoyable and are a stellar means of cramming some fun and adventure into your daily routine, though unfortunately, they don’t afford too much in the way of storage. The good news is plenty of aftermarket manufacturers are well aware of this and offer a wide array of motorcycle backpacks, hard-cases, and tank and tail bags. If you plan on using a motorcycle for more than just the occasional Sunday morning ride, you’ ’re going to want, nay, need some luggage.

SW-MOTECH TRAX ION Aluminum 38 Liter Top Case

This 38L (16.1″ x 13.4″ x 13”) hard-case from SW-MOTECH is a stellar scoot storage solution that mounts just behind the seat. Boasting full aluminum construction with a welded bottom pan, glass-fiber-reinforced plastic corner bumpers, and aluminum rack cleat, this premium top-case uses a deep lid with a plastic chassis and rubber-sealed gasket. As rugged as it is secure, this case is compatible with SW-MOTECH keys and lock cylinders (though they’re sold separately). Riders that use these things swear by them.

Purchase: $416+

Velomacchi 25L Speedway Tail Bag

Measuring 18.1″ W x 16.1″ H x 11″ D, this 25L tail bag is designed to rest on the back of the bike, or be utilized as an off-the-bike duffle-style case. The 25L Speedway Tail Bag has a water-tight main compartment with a magnetic roll-top closure and waterproof and abrasion-resistant ACQUAFORTE 500D nylon construction. Mounting the bag to the tail of the bike is a breeze thanks to its 38mm compression straps (and four tie-down straps) and purpose-built motorcycle anchor points. And with its rugged construction and watertight-seal, this bag also makes for a great piece of motorcycle camping gear.

Purchase: $179

Levers & Lines

Communicate Better With Your Bike

Upgrading your bike’s levers and lines is a fantastic way to improve performance while at the same time making the bike noticeably more responsive. High-end lines (typically of the steel-braided variety) deliver superior feel and as a result afford the rider superior feedback — effects that can be amplified by the addition of an aftermarket lever set or master cylinder.

ASV C5 Sport Adjustable Levers

Like all ASV levers, the adjustable C5 Sport features billet 6061 aluminum construction and a pivoting-folding lever design that allows the levers to fold up out of the way in the event of a crash, saving them from snapping like stock pieces. These levers are mounted using aero-space grade and stainless steel fasteners while the adjustable set-screw is guided using Chromoly steel precision sealed bearings and chrome silicon cantilever springs. Learning to better feel and understand feedback from the bike is crucial to developing one’s riding skills and this upgrade is a wonderful way to accomplish that, making it an ideal modification for beginner motorcycles.

Purchase: $125 Each

Spiegler Front And Rear Brake (Steel-Braided) Line Kit

These top-shelf lines feature a 96 wire-tight weave stainless steel braid with a DuPont PTFE Teflon lining and high-grade stainless steel crimp sleeves. Made in the USA and offered with a lifetime warranty, these lines vastly improve feel just as much as they help to mitigate fade — both of which are extremely important. They’re also sold with black, white, or silver lines and colored anodized banjo couplings.

Purchase: $130+

Wheels

Reducing Unsprung Mass

Few things will alter the riding characteristics of a bike more than reducing unsprung mass, and it’s hard to think of a better place to start than wheels. You can add an incredible amount of lightness by utilizing aftermarket wheels which will, in turn, improve agility. No matter what style of bike you’ve got in the garage, upgraded wheels will yield astounding results. And, there are tons of fantastic aftermarket wheel options out there for every genre of scoot.

Harley-Davidson Prodigy Wheels

Offered in a 19” front and 18” rear, the Harley-Davidson Prodigy wheels are cast aluminum items inspired by vintage European GT race hoops. Offered with a one-year warranty and finished in a gloss-black or a bronze hue, these cruiser bike wheels put a contemporary spin on typical V-Twin rims while still jiving well with the rest of the big-bore cruiser aesthetic. These would look fantastic on a cafe’d cruiser build, too.

Purchase: $700+

Rotobox Boost (Convex) Carbon Fiber Wheels

Not only do they weigh considerably less than forged or cast wheels — 5.68lbs front, 6.45lbs rear — but these carbon fiber Rotobox rims look nothing short of breathtaking. Offered in matte or gloss carbon finishes (and in convex and symmetrical specs), these top-shelf wheels make changing direction markedly easier, ultimately resulting in a much more agile bike. This makes them ideal for track day bikes, but are also a wonderful upgrade for street riding. Also, did we happen to mention how awesome they look?

Purchase: $1,393+

Seats

Where Butt Meets Bike

Like rear-sets, levers, and tank pads, the seat is a point of contact the rider has with the bike, and therefore upgrading this area can dramatically alter one’s interaction with said bike. Add to that the fact that most stock seats are rather thin and uncomfortable (many baggers and tourers excluded), though upgrading them to a more comfortable seat makes putting long hours in the saddle a much more appealing prospect. Aftermarket seats can also lower (or raise) the seat height, making it a great modification for motorcycles for shorter riders. There are also track and/or performance-focused seats designed to allow for more spirited riding.

Saddlemen Gel-Channel Tech Seat

Saddlemen is one of the most trusted names in the aftermarket seat world, rivaled only by the likes of Corbin. Made in the USA and part of the brand’s Gel Channel range, this plush saddle is produced for a wide array of different specific models. The seat uses “Feature Gel Channel” technology which consists of a split piece of “SaddleGel” and a recessed channel at the base of the seat to alleviate pressure on the perineal area. It’s also covered in a material that allows for easy movement when canyon carving and comes with a smooth black vinyl pillion seat cover.

Purchase: $224+

Roland Sands Cafe Tail Section Solo Seat For Harley Sportster

Add a little old-school sport flavor to your Sportster with the RSD Cafe Tail. Sporting paint-ready marine-grade fiberglass construction and a classic humped cafe racer tail profile, this made in the USA tail uses a controlled-density polyurethane foam construction upholstered in a black distressed vinyl cover. The plug-and-play bolt-on seat unit is available in a smooth, plain setup, or in a diamond-stitch style.

Purchase: $329

GPS/Smartphone Mounts

Know Where You're Going

Without a cup holder or dash to toss your phone on, your options may be limited when it comes to finding somewhere to stash your phone while on two-wheels. Whether your phone is paired with a smart helmet or comm system, having easy access to your phone is a major luxury on a motorcycle that every rider should opt for, especially considering the relatively low cost of entry.

RAM Mounts X-Grip Handlebar U-Bolt Base

There’s no shortage of aftermarket outfits producing handlebar-mounted smartphone holders, though the most popular, by far, is RAM Mounts, and for good reason. The company makes great, easy-to-use products like the X-Grip. The device uses four arms to hold a phone securely in place, displaying calls, music, or motorcycle GPS directions. This particular model mounts to the bar via a U-Bolt base, though the company also offers a Tough Claw-mounted variant.

Purchase: $46+

GIVI Smart Bar

If you’ve run out of real estate in your cockpit, a great solution is the Givi Smart Bar. This item uses the stock handlebar mounting points and affords another foot of bar space to mount a phone or GPS device. Constructed from CNC-machined aluminum, the bar can be adjusted to move forward or backward, too.

Purchase: $137

The 8 Best Beginner Motorcycles

Intrigued by the prospect of modifying a motorcycle but don’t yet have a bike of your own? Well, our guide to the best beginner motorcycles is here to help you hit the road with the right ride between your legs.

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