Hey guys and gals, Aaron here for BikeBandit. You know, one of the questions we get asked the most here by far is about motorcycle batteries. Every bike needs a battery but there are a bunch of different types out there, and knowing which one is the right one for you can get a little confusing. So in this video, we’re gonna break down all the different types of batteries available for your bike, and then go through the strengths and weaknesses of each one so you can get the absolute best one for your application. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Okay, here’s a quick rundown of what we’re going to go over today. First, we’ll talk about the workhorse of the battery world, the lead acid battery. Next, we’ll get into the most modern variation of lead acid technology, the AGM battery and show you how it differs from the old school lead acid type. Then we’ll talk about the new kid on the block in the motorcycle battery world, the high-tech lithium-ion battery. Then to wrap it all up, we’ll compare all these batteries against each other and discuss what applications they work best for, so you can decide which one will be the right choice for you and your bike. And remember, we know batteries can be a confusing topic, so if you have any questions at all after watching this video, you can give us a call at the number on your screen or simply leave us a comment on YouTube and we’ll get back to you right away.
Okay, first up let’s talk about the time tested and reliable lead acid battery like this one from BikeMaster. The technology in these things has remained essentially the same for 150 years and it is still going strong in the motorcycle and automotive industries because it’s simple, it’s cheap, and it works. The lead acid battery is the workhorse of the battery world, and almost every motorcycle you buy is going to have a lead acid battery in it from the factory. Lead acid batteries get their name from their composition. They are constructed out of lead plates that sit soaking in a mixture of sulfuric acid and distilled water known as electrolyte, also called battery acid. And they get their power from a reversible chemical reaction that occurs between them. Because they are filled with that liquid electrolyte, they’re often called wet cell or flooded batteries.
Now, something to think about is who puts the battery acid into the battery? The most basic batteries will show up empty and you’ll need to fill them with acid yourself to activate them, either with battery acid you get from the auto parts store or with pre-filled vials that are included with the battery. Others types are filled and activated from the factory so you don’t have to deal with the acid yourself. These are usually called sealed batteries. Now here’s a tip, when shopping on our site you can actually sort between batteries that ship with no acid, those that come with pre-measured vials, and those that come activated and sealed from the factory as you can see here. This makes it easy to pick the right type of battery that you’re most comfortable with so that there are no surprises when your new battery shows up at your door.
Okay, now that you know how lead acid batteries work, let’s talk about the advantages they have over other types of batteries. First of all they are cheap. These batteries have been around forever and their chemical composition is nothing fancy. So at around 40 to 60 bucks for most motorcycle batteries, they’re by far going to be your most inexpensive option. They’re also very reliable, they work in cold or hot weather and will last many years if you just give them the very basic maintenance they need. They’re also widely available. Lead acid batteries work in almost every application you can think of, and no matter what you ride, it’s usually easy to get one that will work for you.
On the other hand, lead acid batteries do have a number of disadvantages too. First of all, they are heavy. Weight is the enemy of motorcycles and at 7 to 10 pounds a piece, these things are the porkiest of the battery bunch. Another drawback is that because these batteries are basically just boxes filled with acid, the acid can leak or spill and hurt you or damage your bike. They also require some maintenance. Most lead acid batteries require that you check the water level and refill as necessary. And if corrosion builds up on the terminals, you also have to scrub that off in order for them to work properly.
They also self-discharge quickly. The rule of thumb is about 5% to 10% a month, so they should be put on a flow charger if you’re not riding regularly. And finally, lead acid batteries do not like deep discharging at all. It only takes a few times for them to discharge beyond their tolerances before they are done for good. Okay, so we know that basic lead acid batteries work well, but that they do have a number of drawbacks. But now we’ll show you the most modern variant of the lead acid battery, the AGM battery, and show you how it takes lead acid technology and damn near perfects it.
AGM stands for absorbed glass mat, and they’re a sealed variety of motorcycle battery. Here’s how they work, instead of the lead plate sitting in liquid electrolyte, they are surrounded by fiberglass mats that have the electrolyte soaked into them, hence their name. Basically the same chemical reaction as a traditional lead acid but they work much more reliably and efficiently. AGM batteries have many advantages over regular lead acid batteries. First, they are maintenance free and since the acid is captured by the glass mats it won’t spill which makes them safer. They also perform better. An AGM battery will have more cold cranking amps than a lead acid battery of the same size, will charge much faster, and be lighter as well. They also have a longer service life, take abuse well, and work very reliably in all weather condition. In addition, they have a very low self-discharge rate, usually around 1% to 2% a month. So they will hold a charge a lot longer without use than a lead acid battery will. So with all those improvements, it sounds like there’s no downside to an AGM battery, right? Well yes, AGMs are a vast improvement over lead acid batteries, but you do have to pay for all those advancements because an AGM battery will run you about $70 to $100 for most motorcycle applications.
Now, while we’re talking about AGM batteries, there’s another variant of lead acid battery that you’ve probably heard about before, a gel battery. Gel batteries follow the same basic concept that a lead acid battery does but the lead plates are suspended in a gel electrolyte rather than in a liquid. Gel batteries are best for deep discharging, so you see them used a lot in power storage systems such as solar energy systems or on RVs and boats. They aren’t really used much in power sports applications anymore, though you do still hear people sometimes talk about gel batteries when in fact more than likely they’re actually referring to either AGM or sealed batteries.
Now, one partial exception is this battery, the BikeMaster TruGel. This actually combines AGM and gel technology by using a gel electrolyte captured in fiber glass mats. So it really gives you the best of both worlds, the ruggedness and performance of an AGM battery and the deep cycling ability of a gel. We sell a ton of these at BikeBandit and get great reviews on them. The downside, these are a little bit more expensive than regular AGM batteries, coming in at about $80 to $120 for most motorcycles.
So we learned about both traditional lead acid batteries and the more modern AGM battery, but there’s a new type of motorcycle battery on the market today that uses a completely different type of chemical composition to create energy, the lithium iron phosphate battery, also just called lithium batteries for short. No lead [SP] or acid here, these use a chemical reaction between lithium and iron to create energy. Since no liquid acid is used, they are also referred to as dry cell batteries. Now when I first did my installation video on lithium iron batteries, I mistakenly called it a lithium-ion battery. Here’s the thing, lithium-ion batteries are the kinda batteries that power laptops and cell phones, and while they are extremely energy dense, they also create a lot of heat and can actually explode. Lithium iron uses a more stable chemistry that is a little less energy dense but much safer, so it’s perfect for use in vehicle applications. And because lithium-based battery technology is continuously being developed, it’s pretty safe to say that these really are the batteries of the future in the power source world.
Lithium batteries have dramatic performance advantages over lead acid batteries, first of all they are much lighter than comparable lead acids, usually about one quarter to one third of the weight. They also have massive cranking amps. Install one of these and you’ll hear your bike crank faster and fire up harder than ever before. They have very low self-discharge too, about 1% a month and recharge very quickly. And because they are dry cells with no lead or acid, they are nontoxic, won’t leak, and can be mounted in any position. The downsides, well all this technology comes at a price of course. Lithium batteries range from about $100 for a BikeMaster, all the way up to over $200 for a premium brand like a Shoei or Ballistic. They also have lower amp hours than lead acid batteries. So if you have a bike with a lot of parasitic draw, bikes with a lot of electronics are usually the worst offenders. They will drain a little bit faster. But the biggest thorn in the side of many lithium users is the cold starting performance. At under 40 degrees or so, lithium batteries tend to get a little sluggish and they do have to be warmed up manually, usually about running the headlights for a few minutes before they start acting right again. In addition, although it’s possible to charge the lithium with a lead acid battery charger, it’s tricky to do it right and you really should buy a battery specific charger which is an additional expense.
Okay, so now you know about lead acid batteries, AGM batteries, and lithium batteries, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. So now we’ll get to the most important part of this whole discussion, which one is right for you and what you ride. First up, lead acid batteries. These are like a grandpa’s pickup, nothing fancy but it’s paid for, it’s been around forever, and it will always run as long as you take care of it. If you want a battery that will work reliably and save you money and you don’t mind the weight and maybe a little extra maintenance, traditional lead acids are the batteries for you. If you’re looking for a straight OEM replacement, you’ll probably end up with a lead acid battery like this Yuasa, which comes on most bikes from the factory. Just remember, these lose power the fastest of all battery types and we strongly recommend installing a float charger, like a Battery Tender Junior to keep it charged and running strong. Take care of a good old lead acid battery and it will take care of you.
Next up, AGM batteries. These are like the Jeep Cherokee of batteries, premium features and a little higher price tag, but it’ll get the job done in sun or snow, on or off-road. These are the best all around batteries for the price and are the premium battery choice we would recommend for most applications. They perform well in a wide range of conditions, are rugged and durable, last a long time, and require almost no maintenance. AGMs have the most strengths and the fewest weaknesses, and for just 20 or 40 bucks more than comparable lead acids, they are a great value. If you want the best battery you can get with the fewest headaches, this is going to be the right battery for you.
Now for the last battery in our breakdown, lithium batteries. This is the Corvette of the battery world, a little pricey, kick ass performance and very high-tech, but not your first choice for ruggedness, and when it’s snowing out, forget it. Basically lithiums are going to be the best choice for all you high performance riders. These are super light, so if shedding weight is important to you, this is gonna be one of the best bangs for the buck mods you can do. We weighed this BikeMaster lithium battery against the equivalent BikeMaster AGM battery, and it only weighed 2.45 pounds against the AGM’s hefty 10.1 pounds. So if you’re a racer or a track rider, you shouldn’t even be thinking about any other battery. Lithium batteries are awesome and I really like them, but remember, they get a little finicky in the cold and need to be treated special. So if you want something that will start in all weather conditions and take whatever abuse you dish out, like you [inaudible 00:09:53] and touring guys, you may be better off looking at an AGM. But you dirt bike riders and sport bike riders out there will love these light and powerful lithium batteries. Well, we hope that our little comparison here helps clear up some of the confusion about different types of motorcycle batteries and what they’re best for and that it gives you the info you need to choose the perfect battery for you. Remember, all of these batteries are great in one way or another, but if you treat them like crap, none of them are going to last. So choose the right battery, take care of it, and it will take care of you.
If you have any questions at all about what battery you should buy or how to take care of it, all you have to do is pick up your phone and call the number on your screen. And hey, why not save it in your phone too so you have it for reference in the future? We’re always here to help. And remember, you can also just leave a comment right here on the video and we’ll get back to you right away. Also please support us by subscribing to our channel where we post more helpful videos like this one every week. Thanks a lot for watching and we’ll see you next time.