Tuning a motorcycle is great – it makes aftermarket mods like exhaust perform better, remove rev limiter, tweak air/fuel ratio and can even get you the “veteran biker” status. But how much does it cost?!
I will cover that topic in detail in this article. There are many types of tuning and each of them cost differently. We will go through all of them and discuss a little more about tuning – are they even worth the money?
If you want a quick answer, here it is. The most common type of motorcycle tuning is to purchase and install a Power Commander at about $350. It’s a convenient device that overrides your motorcycle’s computer configuration.
Power Commander is the most popular choice among enthusiasts who need tuning after installing aftermarket mods like an exhaust system. But it’s not the only choice!
Let’s talk more about tuning, different types of it and how much they each cost. Starting with how tuning even works and why you would want to do it.
What Does Tuning Do To A Motorcycle?
Tuning a motorcycle means modifying how the motorcycle’s computer (ECU) behaves by adjusting its configuration.
In most cases, tuning a motorcycle means adjusting the air/fuel ratio in the motorcycle.
In more extreme examples, tuning could do things like removing rev limiter, updating ignition timing and shift timing – which could result in more horsepower, torque and overall a more aggressive bike.
Before we get into more details, it’s important for you to understand how a motorcycle generates power.
How Motorcycle Generates Power
A motorcycle engine is a combustion engine – which means it uses a mixture of air and fuel to generate combustion and deliver power to its wheels. This happens in the combustion chamber.
Combustion is a controlled explosion that generates power and also exhaust gases. Exhaust gases must leave the combustion chamber as quickly as possible to provide room for air in the next combustion cycle.
If you want more horsepower, you need a bigger combustion – which means more air and fuel.
When you install aftermarket mods like a performance exhaust, they allow exhaust gases to leave the combustion chamber much quicker. This results in more air being available in the combustion chamber.
However, this is only half of the equation – you still need more fuel. In most modern bikes that use fuel injector, you need to tell the computer (ECU) to inject more fuel. This is where tuning comes into place.
Tuning upgrades the configuration of your motorcycle’s computer (ECU) and instructs it to inject more fuel. Now that you have more fuel and air in the combustion chamber, you can expect to get those juicy horsepower gains.
Tuning the ECU to inject more fuel works only if your motorcycle uses a fuel injector (most modern bikes do). If your motorcycle uses a carburetor to provide fuel into the combustion chamber, then you need rejetting instead. More on this later.
2 Types Of Tuning Scenario
When it comes to tuning, there are usually 2 types of scenarios:
- Tuning after aftermarket mod. This is where you want to tune your motorcycle to make full use of your aftermarket mod. Without tuning, aftermarket mods like an exhaust can make your motorcycle run lean and lose power. You perform a tune to correct these settings.
- Custom tuning for power. This is where you go to the extreme and tune your motorcycle for absolute performance. Things like removing the rev limiter and updating shift timing becomes an option.
If you are just tuning because you have installed an aftermarket mod, then the tuning process should be quick and simple. In most cases, plugging a power commander with the right mapping should work.
If you are tuning for absolute performance, then the tuning process becomes more intensive. You cannot just purchase a plug & play solution and call it a day.
I will discuss these different tuning options in more details now.
Different Ways To Tune Motorcycle And Price
1. Power Commander ($350)
Power commander is the easiest way to tune your motorcycle after installing aftermarket mods like exhaust.
It’s a physical device that you install on your motorcycle and leave it plugged in at all times. Power commander overrides the configuration on your motorcycle ECU on the fly.
Power commander uses “maps” to store its configurations. You could customize your own map or install popular map settings that you can find online (at your own risks, of course).
Power commander is great if you only need minor ECU tuning – things like tweaking air to fuel ratio and throttle response. It’s very easy to install and use – you don’t have to be a pro at all. Just watch a 5 minutes YouTube tutorial on installation and you should be good.
Power commander V (PCV) costs $350 and you can easily get one from any motorcycle stores. Or even online stores like Amazon.
2. Custom Map On Power Commander ($550)
Power Commander is great for beginners who want to tune their bikes. But what if you want something customized? With Power Commander, you can do that too!
Instead of just using a preset map or using someone else’s map from the internet, you could actually create your own that’s customized just for you and your motorcycle.
This is useful if you cannot find an existing map for your motorcycle, or you want something that’s unique to you.
Say, you want your motorcycle to run richer or get even more throttle response. Or if you want an increase in power but still good fuel economy – custom maps can do that for you.
On average, the cost of creating a custom map costs an additional $200 (totals to $550 with a new Power Commander). This should include a couple of dyno runs as well.
If you don’t already know, dyno run is where you hook up your motorcycle into a measuring tool to get its statistics. Things like horsepower and torque.
You need a couple of dyno runs when creating a custom map (or anything custom, really). This allows you or the tuner to test their settings and tweak it even more to better meet the goal.
If you are obsessed with power and are thinking of getting a Power Commander with a custom map, then you will be interested in the next point.
3. ECU Flash Tuning ($500)
ECU flash tuning is where you directly customize the configuration on your motorcycle ECU. You will not need any physical device like a Power Commander. Every setting is directly done on the ECU.
This option gives you much more options – there are more things you can tweak that’s not possible from overrides like a Power Commander. But they come at a higher risk. It’s possible to completely mess up your motorcycle if you do not do it properly.
Sounds scary but not really! Just make sure you create a backup of your initial ECU configuration. When things go south, flash back the original settings and you should be good to go.
Generally, the feedback from ECU flash tuning is positive. Lots of enthusiasts will only go for ECU flash tune and swear that it completely changes the way their motorcycle runs.
You can expect to improve throttle response, horsepower, torque and fueling – provided you are getting a tune from an experienced tuner of course!
With ECU flash tuning, you could either visit the tuner’s workshop and get it tuned. Or you could also take out the ECU from your motorcycle and ship it to the tuner.
My advice though, is to find a tuner that’s closer in your area. You don’t want to be mailing your ECU back and forth like this. It’s quite common that you return to the tuner after a couple of days for slight adjustments.
And when things go wrong, your tuner is always nearby!
Go for flash tuning if you want a complete customizability and if you are serious about performance. It costs around $500 – depending on the tuner. A bit pricey but is the best option if you really want performance.
ECU flash tuning can be a game changer for your motorcycle – provided that you have installed aftermarket mods. Flash tuning a completely stock motorcycle will not gain you as much performance.
4. Rejetting Carburetor ($200)
Rejecting the carburetor is the only way to tune a motorcycle that does not use a fuel injector – this usually applies to older motorcycles.
Carburetor is a mechanical device that allows the right amount of fuel to enter the combustion power. Carburetor does not use a computer – which means you cannot just download a map and flash it over it like an ECU powered motorcycle.
If your motorcycle uses a carburetor for fuel management and you want to tune it for your aftermarket mods, then rejecting your motorcycle carburetor is the only choice.
Typically you would purchase a bigger jet kit. This means your carburetor will provide more fuel per cycle – allowing for a bigger combustion and higher performance motorcycle.
Rejetting a carburetor typically costs around $200. Keep in mind that once you purchase the jet kit, you cannot tweak it anymore. Unless you buy a new jet kit, of course!
Dyno Run Vs. Dyno Tune
Keep in mind that dyno run and dyno tune are two different things.
Dyno run is where you hook up your motorcycle into a measuring device to test for its horsepower and torque.
You would perform multiple dyno runs on your motorcycle when tuning. Dyno run tells you whether your tuning is improving your motorcycle or not.
Dyno tune is where you reconfigure the settings in your motorcycle ECU. This could be done using Power Commander or flash tuning your ECU directly.
You can just perform a dyno run to get the statistics of your motorcycle. But you don’t normally perform tuning just by itself. You should tune it and then perform a dyno run.
Do You Need To Tune Your Motorcycle?
You should only tune your motorcycle once you have performed a big enough modification that impacts the air to fuel ratio.
I recommend you tune your motorcycle only after you have installed a full system exhaust or straight piping.
Don’t bother tuning your motorcycle if you just installed a slip-on exhaust or have just removed the baffles. These aftermarket mods don’t impact the air to fuel ratio as much – tuning a motorcycle for them will not yield any result.
I cover more about whether you need tuning in this article. Do You Have To Tune Motorcycle After Installing Exhaust?
How Much Horsepower To Expect After Tuning?
Horsepower gains after tuning depend entirely on the prior modifications that were done on the motorcycles.
Don’t expect any horsepower gain by tuning a stock motorcycle. Maybe more responsive throttle can be expected – but nothing major.
If you have installed a full system exhaust, I expect to get an additional 12 horsepower in total.
I have an article covering the topic of tuning for exhaust. How Much Horsepower Does Exhaust Add To Motorcycle?
Is Motorcycle Tuning Worth It?
Tuning a motorcycle is definitely worth it if you have installed a big enough modification like full system exhaust or straight piping.
With tuning, you could maximize the potential of these aftermarket mods and you are definitely going to feel the difference.
Don’t tune your motorcycle if it’s a stock motorcycle or if you just installed a slip-on exhaust. You won’t gain any additional horsepower or torque.
I recommend you save the money. Get all the aftermarket mods first and then bring it for a flash tune. The investment is definitely worth the power and riding experience you are going to get.