When I first acquired my 1998 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic in 2002, I remember stepping back in the driveway, admiring my new (to me) two-wheeled steed. What a beaut she was. The previous owner had decked her out- about $2800 worth from the Yamaha OEM catalogue. All gleam and chrome and leather.
Then within moments, my mind wandered to the custom nether-realms, envisioning how I might further refine the 825-pound behemoth. Aftermarket exhaust and re-jetting? Custom saddle? Hotter cams? Total engine swap to the vaunted V-Max powerplant? Ape hangers??
If there’s one thing consistent about us riders, whether domestic or metric, it’s that we love to personalize our rides. Unlike most modes of transportation, our bikes are an extension of ourselves, an expression of who we are, how we want to be perceived, how we want to live.
So here’s a list of the top 10 most common mods, accessories and add-ons riders tend to make to their cruisers, foreign and domestic, in no particular order. Some of these I’ve done to the various bikes I’ve owned, some I haven’t. If I leave anything noteworthy off the list, please leave your suggestions and personal favorites in the comments below.
One of the most popular mods for any cruiser is the addition of a free flowing exhaust system. From slip-on’s to full straight pipes, this is a noticeable difference over stock performance and sound.
Aftermarket Exhaust (with jetting or mapping)
Federal and state emissions and sound restrictions have “muffled” the sound and flow of OEM exhaust systems that manufacturers install on new motorcycles. So, an aftermarket set of pipes from companies like Vance & Hines, SuperTrapp, Cobra and others are very often the first mod to get installed. Hey, what bike doesn’t sound better with a more open, free-flowing set of trumpets? Of course, this mod also might need to include a re-jetting (if carbed) or remapping (if EFI) to insure proper fuel/air mixture, especially if a header-to-tip system is installed, not just a set of slip-on’s. Unleash the beast!
Higher Flow Air Filter
Often the stock air filters installed on bikes are of the paper variety, and can be somewhat restrictive, in concert with the exhaust system and in compliance with the aforementioned emissions regulations. A higher-flow, and often reusable, air filter like one from K&N can help your bike inhale better, even as a well-tuned exhaust helps it exhale better. There are also complete intake kits from companies like Kuryakyn, Cobra, Performance Machine, Roland Sands Design and more that not only have a high-flow air filter but have trick custom housings for a unique look and increased performance. Let that baby breathe!
The wind in your hair and face are great when you’re out on a ride but a good windshield can prevent being blown off your bike and keep plenty of the airborne bugs out of your teeth as well.
As a younger man, I swore off windshields. My rationale- “windshields are for wimps and old men.” Well, 20-odd years later, and I’m a “wimp and old man.” I appreciate the wind deflection and noise reduction, and even the impact barrier against rain, road debris, etc. Find a fitment that deflects direct wind up and around your helmet at speed, and reduces wind buffet around the sides. Two of our most popular brands are National Cycle and Memphis Shades that have a wide selection of products available for almost any machine on the market.
Take a ride on the “grey side”!
Unless you plan to carry your stuff in a duffel or back pack, investing in a quality set of bike luggage is a necessity. Saddlebags, tank bags, fork bags, luggage racks, “sissy bar” bags, hard-cased mounted panniers, there is a near-endless variety of styles, capacities, and brands for every bike imaginable. Be sure to buy a system that can keep the center of gravity low and equal, and unobstructive of suspension or moving parts.
Have bags, will travel!
Crash bars serve more than one purpose. They keep your ride protected and certain brands have integrated footrests for increased rider comfort.
My old Royal Star has an aftermarket set of highway/crash bars up front, and a smaller pair of bars protecting the saddlebags. These have come in handy a few times, when I’ve slipped in gravel or something, and dropped the bike. Alas, for all the embarrassment of it, the front/rear bars have protected the bike entirely, and I merely hoisted her back up, and remounted. These can protect bike hard parts, and your soft parts from a chiropractic visit. Some of our most popular brands are Cobra, Kuryakyn, M/C Enterprises and Lindby Custom. Chromed protection!
Granted, this is a comfort pick. But if you’re doing any time in the saddle, mounting floorboards from popular brands like Arlen Ness, Kuryakyn, Cobra and Show Chrome is a must to combat foot pain and calf fatigue. The same can be said for adding floorboards for your passenger as well. My dad added a set, fore and aft, to both Harleys he’s owned in recent years, and the comfort this brought added a few more years to his and Mom’s riding together. Totally worth it. Pedal to the metal!
Backrests- Rider & Passenger
After considerable years riding slouched forward, my lower lumbar regions began to protest. I invested in a snap-in backrest by Grasshopper Ltd., and the difference I felt was immediate. I could slide my posterior back against the rest, and have lower lumbar support. That alone extended my riding comfort, and consequently, the miles I can pound out at a time. Installing a passenger backrest gives added comfort and security to whoever rides pillion, not to mention something to fasten luggage to when not riding two-up. Attack back pain!
Is it possible to have too much light? We don’t think so and adding a set of driving lights is a great way of allowing yourself to be seen easier at night.
A mantra of safe riding is, “Be Visible”. Instead of declaring “Loud Pipes Save Lives” (a dubious claim at best), why not state, “Bright Lights Save Lives”? I “ride high” i.e. high beams & highway lights, during daytime hours, and only switch between high/low at night, so as to not blind oncoming traffic. An auxiliary light bar adds visibility during the day, and broadens your field of view at night. Light it up!
I see far too many bikes left uncovered for extended lengths of time at events, in parking lots, and even at homes. Weather and elements take their toll on your automobile’s parts and finish- why would they not on your bike? Even more so, as engine parts, gaskets, seals, rubber boots, etc., are all exposed to Mother Nature. Preserve your bike’s finish, not to mention those exposed components, with a dust cover if garage-kept, and a full weather cover if outdoors. Cover up!
Battery Tender/Trickle Charger
Having one of these tucked away in a saddlebag has saved my bacon on a few occasions, when that battery decided to go a bit puny on me far from home. There are great, low-cost, low-consumption tenders on the market, but among my faves is the Battery Tender brand. Use it to keep your battery fresh across those winter months, to aid peak performance in various climates and elevations, and in those times when you can’t get as much ride time in (heaven forbid). Boost Juice!
Now, a bonus pair-
Upgraded Tool Kit- most OEM kits are sparse at best, nonexistent at worst. My brand-new Triumph Street Cup came with- an Allen wrench! That’s it, I kid you not. Figure out what setup your bike uses (metric, SAE, Torx, etc.) and compile a compact kit made up of small wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets, and extra plugs.
Oh, and don’t forget a small tire repair kit!
LED Light Kit- Okay, sorry, had to include it. These are real popular right now (personally, I think they look ridiculous, but I’m a crotchety old fart). They add visibility at night, look cool (I suppose), and honestly, draw very little juice off your electrical system.
So there you have it! Rob’s Top 10 Bike Mods & Accessories for your Cruiser! Plus a bonus pair, thrown in for good measure. Did I leave anything out? I’m already thinking of others….
Hit us up with your thoughts, suggestions, ideas, or beefs in the comments below!