Map­ping ..........................................

Bikes have never been so fan­tas­tic but with a few tricks of the trade you can make yours smarter, faster and even more ef­fi­cient. Wel­come to the highly tech­ni­cal world of mo­tor­cy­cle brain surgery… aka map­ping.

Fast Bikes - - CONTENTS -

What an­noys you most about your bike? Does it have a stupid 186mph speed limit? Do you reckon it’s soft­en­ing the power too much in lower gears? And why the feck does it keep re­set­ting the power mode to ‘lame’ ev­ery time you park the bug­ger up?

Yep, mod­ern bikes are great. But they’re also re­ally smart. Too smart some­times. The ECUs (elec­tric con­trol units) at the heart of many cur­rent bikes are clever enough to give us 200bhp, quick­shifters, auto-blip­pers, trac­tion con­trol, ABS, wheelie and launch con­trol – about the only thing they can’t do is wave cheek­ily at the bus stop queue as you sail past do­ing a mono.

But this comes at a price. Be­cause, ul­ti­mately, the per­son in charge of all this is the bof­fin at the fac­tory. Now, some­times that’s a good thing: sev­eral firms like KTM, BMW and Du­cati all seem pre­pared to let you do, es­sen­tially, what­ever the hell you fancy, and the set­tings are gen­er­ally pretty lax – you can turn off ABS and trac­tion con­trol al­to­gether on BMs, for ex­am­ple.

How­ever, some firms are a bit more up­tight. They in­sist on switch­ing ABS and trac­tion con­trol back on when­ever you park up, and their bikes of­ten cut power at the top end to limit max­i­mum speed, and also in the lower gears. Think of an An­droid smart­phone ver­sus an Ap­ple iPhone – Steve Jobs is watch­ing from above, and he’s very care­ful about what he lets you do with his lovely iPhone. The An­droid world is the Wild West in com­par­i­son.

Now – imag­ine you could hack into your bike’s ECU. Jail­break it, root it, what­ever ‘da kidz’ call it these days – but ac­cess all those hid­den set­tings, and tweak them to suit your­self. And while you’re at it, you can also get into the fuel maps, ig­ni­tion set­tings and sec­ondary throt­tle or ride-by-wire throt­tle valve con­trols. Then, with full con­trol, you can do what you want with your bike. Sounds like a dream, right? Well now you can. And we’ve been watch­ing just how tuners do it with what’s called ECU edit­ing. You may not have heard of it but it’s rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing tun­ing in sev­eral vi­tal ways.

Tak­ing back con­trol

First up though, why do we need to ‘edit’ our ECUs? Well, one big rea­son is emis­sions rules. These make the man­u­fac­tur­ers jump through a load of hoops to com­ply with regs on noise and ex­haust gas emis­sions. So en­gi­neers will cut the amount of fuel go­ing into the com­bus­tion cham­bers and the tim­ing of both the ig­ni­tion spark and the fuel in­jec­tors to clean up the ex­haust. That can re­duce power, and (more of­ten) give jerky, harsh power de­liv­ery and poor throt­tle re­sponse. There have been some clas­sic cases of late – Yamaha’s MT-09 and Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 in par­tic­u­lar have woe­ful fu­elling at part throt­tle open­ings.

The prob­lems are sel­dom at full-throt­tle, full-power – many bikes give de­cent per­for­mance here. Where prob­lems ap­pear is nor­mally at smaller throt­tle open­ings, mid-range power out­puts, high-rev/low throt­tle sce­nar­ios. De­sign en­gi­neers run the mix su­per-lean, even turn­ing off the petrol al­to­gether when you shut the throt­tle at high revs, or they use rad­i­cal ig­ni­tion tim­ings to clean up the ex­haust. So, when you open the throt­tle again, there’s a sud­den ‘rush’ of fuel, and you get jerky de­liv­ery.

Se­condly, over the past few years, en­gi­neers have sneak­ily been whisk­ing away con­trol of our throt­tles more and more. Ride-by-wire throt­tles, and (to a lesser ex­tent) sec­ondary throt­tle valves, are be­ing taken over by the ECU, and what you get at the en­gine of­ten bears lit­tle re­la­tion­ship to what your wrist is do­ing. Back in the good old days, when you opened the twist grip fully, then the throt­tle valves in the carbs or the fuel in­jec­tion bod­ies opened fully too. That some­times meant poor fu­elling (es­pe­cially with full race flat-slide car­bu­ret­tors), but it also meant no con­fu­sion about what ‘full gas’ meant. Giv­ing the ECU con­trol of the throt­tle plates lets the com­puter match the air­flow to the power de­mands bet­ter, and if it’s done right, will give op­ti­mal power all over. But the fac­to­ries also use this power for other things – emis­sions and noise con­trol, and power lim­its, where the en­gi­neers think you shouldn’t get ev­ery­thing the en­gine can give.

So, many bikes now won’t give you 100 per cent throt­tle valve open­ing at all in lower gears, while bikes like the Yamaha Tracer and XSR900 do the same in the top gears, above cer­tain rpm, to give a speed lim­iter func­tion. These lim­its seem to be de­signed as safety mea­sures – and we can see the point of a novice us­ing a ‘low power’ mode to stop wheel­ies in lower gears. We can also, sort of, see the point of speed lim­iters on a tall ad­ven­ture bike which might be un­sta­ble at high speeds. But we also see why an ex­pe­ri­enced owner would want con­trol over both of those things. The best throt­tle safety de­vice is, ar­guably, a well-tuned right wrist…

The third rea­son for ECU edit­ing is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est to un­der­stand. Carry out

any tun­ing work on your bike, and you’ll be want­ing to ad­just the fu­elling to suit. A full race ex­haust, free-flow­ing air fil­ter, maybe some high-lift cams – they all give more peak power, but they all also need to have dif­fer­ent amounts of fuel put into the en­gine. You could fix this with a Power Com­man­der – and mil­lions of us have over the years, with great re­sults. Those lit­tle black boxes sit be­tween the ECU and the fuel in­jec­tors and al­ter the mix­ture on the fly as you ride along, ac­cord­ing to the Power Com­man­der’s in­ter­nal fuel ad­just­ment map. But now you can cut out the pig­gy­back box, by just chang­ing the fu­elling map in­side the stock ECU, so the in­jec­tor sig­nals are cor­rect from the start.

Fi­nally, there are the neat lit­tle mods which only ECU edit­ing can change. Fit­ted a race ex­haust and want to dump the ex­haust servo valve? One click can delete that whole func­tion in the ECU, get­ting rid of warn­ing lights in­stantly. Ditto for re­mov­ing a stan­dard oxy­gen sen­sor cir­cuit. Want your ra­di­a­tor fan to come on a lit­tle sooner, so your en­gine

doesn’t get so hot in traf­fic? The ECU ed­i­tor can drop the fan switch-on tem­per­a­ture by five or ten de­grees, keep­ing your legs cooler in sum­mer. You can delete a PAIR air in­jec­tion sys­tem, stop the ECU cut­ting the fuel on the over­run, dis­able an air­box in­take flap con­trol valve – even ac­cess se­cret hid­den func­tions, like a down­shift blip­per on Kawasaki’s ZX-10R, or a race mode in the dash­board. The clever­est trick we saw in the Woolich Rac­ing ECU edit­ing kit? Us­ing the stan­dard ex­haust valve con­nec­tor wires into the ECU to op­er­ate a quick­shifter, when the stock bike doesn’t have any way to run one. A proper ge­nius move that one…

So there you have it – four dif­fer­ent rea­sons why ECU edit­ing has re­ally taken off in the past few years. And as bikes get more and more com­plex, with the ECU in charge of more func­tions, ECU edit­ing is only go­ing to be­come more and more rel­e­vant.

See­ing is be­liev­ing

To see first-hand what hap­pens when you get your ECU edited, we went down to Steve Jor­dan Mo­tor­cy­cles near Box Hill in Sur­rey. Steve and Sarah Jor­dan have been run­ning the store since 2003, and over the past few years, they’ve be­gun to spe­cialise in ECU edit­ing and map­ping, us­ing their Dy­napro dyno, and a wide range of ECU hard­ware and soft­ware.

We watched Steve as he mapped a cus­tomer’s Yamaha MT-09 Tracer. The owner wanted the fu­elling im­proved (the bike was stock, en­gine-wise), the speed lim­its re­moved, and he also wanted the power mode set so that it didn’t re­set each time he stopped. The first step is to ac­cess the ECU, so that Steve can fit the spe­cial Woolich wiring har­ness. This uses some pins on the ECU con­nec­tor that are left empty on pro­duc­tion bikes, which lets the Woolich in­ter­face ‘talk’ to the black box through this new con­nec­tor. Ac­cess varies ac­cord­ing to the bike, but on this Tracer, Steve was spend­ing a fair bit of time re­mov­ing body­work to get to the con­nec­tor un­der the fuel tank. Once the har­ness is in place, the bike goes on the dyno, and Steve plugs his com­puter into the Tracer, us­ing one of the spe­cial Woolich adapters, via a USB con­nec­tor on the PC. Now, the Woolich soft­ware boots up, and Steve can ac­cess the set­tings he wants to change.

Some of this is sim­ple box-tick­ing stuff: the Woolich kit is set up re­ally well for the op­er­a­tor, and many func­tions are au­to­mated. Other parts of the map­ping though take much longer – es­pe­cially the fu­elling, ig­ni­tion and throt­tle valve ad­just­ments. In the­ory, with an all-new bike, or some very ex­treme tun­ing, Steve would have to spend hours and hours mak­ing up a com­pletely new base map of set­tings. But one ad­van­tage of spe­cial­is­ing in this work is that you build up a li­brary of mods which you can tap into. So if you’ve done one stock MT-09 Tracer ECU map, then you store that on the PC, and next time you get one in, you have a good start­ing point to be­gin from. Fine-tun­ing a map that’s al­ready 95 per cent there is much less of a ball-ache, and cus­tomers ben­e­fit from faster turn­arounds and lower prices (the Tracer owner was hav­ing this done while he waited). If you do the ECU edit­ing your­self, you can get ‘generic’ fuel, ig­ni­tion and throt­tle valve maps fromWoolich to broadly suit your needs. For a to­tally be­spoke map of the en­gine run­ning char­ac­ter­is­tics though, you re­ally need a dyno and skilled op­er­a­tor.

Back to our Tracer, and Steve makes the mods which the cus­tomer has asked for – re­mov­ing the speed lim­iter and the power mode re­set, and then he starts to work on the maps for ig­ni­tion, fuel in­jec­tion and throt­tle valve po­si­tion. He’s got a base ‘op­ti­mised’ map to be­gin with, and he’ll load this onto the ECU, and that will get him very close to the best set­tings for this Tracer. Af­ter that, it’s a case of us­ing the dyno to check the power and air/fuel ra­tio all through the rev range and at all the dif­fer­ent throt­tle open­ings. Some fine-tun­ing here and there, and the Tracer map­ping is done, a few hours af­ter the owner rode in.

An­other hour to put all the body­work back into place, and the Tracer is well and truly sorted – fu­elling, throt­tle valves, ig­ni­tion and other ECU set­tings all set up to give a sweet-run­ning bike. All of this done with­out Mo­toGP-spec tech­ni­cians, it just took Steve Jor­dan’s wis­dom and Woolich Rac­ing’s class lead­ing map­ping tech­nol­ogy.

DIY map­ping

Woolich is per­haps the num­ber one name in ECU edit­ing. Based in Aus­tralia, the firm was set up by Justin Woolich, and has grown un­recog­nis­ably over the space of 15 years. Woolich ac­tu­ally pro­duce their own hard­ware and soft­ware to ac­cess the ECU di­rectly. End users can buy the adapter to ac­cess their bike, and a li­cence to edit their own ECU as much as they want. Woolich of­fer loads of sup­port, and there’s a thriv­ing fo­rum on the web­site, where peo­ple swap ideas and fixes, and loads of help is widely avail­able. The firm also have a UK-based oper­a­tion to sup­port own­ers and tuners di­rectly, avoid­ing the big time-zone dif­fer­ences be­tween Oz and Blighty. Give them a shout or click on their web­site for more de­tails: www.woolichrac­

The down­side of ECU edit­ing is that many bikes just can’t be worked on at the mo­ment. Some firms seem to be pre­vent­ing tuners get­ting into their ECUs – the most re­cent Tri­umphs, for ex­am­ple, have cryp­to­graphic locks on their en­gine man­age­ment sys­tems, and they can’t be ac­cessed at all by the af­ter­mar­ket. BMW’s S1000 range can be edited – but you need to cut open the ECU cas­ing, and make al­ter­ations to the cir­cuitry with a sol­der­ing iron be­fore you can ac­cess the data, which puts most peo­ple off.

But a lot of cur­rent bikes can be edited more eas­ily. The Woolich Rac­ing web­site has a de­tailed list of bikes which they sup­port, in­clud­ing Du­cati, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki mod­els. The eas­i­est way is to get your bike mapped is by vis­it­ing an es­tab­lished dyno shop, which car­ries out ECU edit­ing work. Some tun­ing cen­tres will flash your ECU by post – send your unit to them and they can al­ter the set­tings on the bench, with a generic map for your needs.

If you’re feel­ing handy, you can buy the har­ness and soft­ware your­self, and get hack­ing into your own bike. With­out a dyno you’ll not be able to make your own per­fect cus­tomised maps so eas­ily. But you’ll be able to in­stall maps and al­ter a lot of the other set­tings. In lieu of a dy­namome­ter, Woolich does of­fer an Au­toTune setup, which uses dat­a­log­ging and a spe­cial ex­haust gas oxy­gen sen­sor to mea­sure how your en­gine is run­ning. You use this to log run­ning on the road (or track), and then the Woolich soft­ware can go back, look at what was hap­pen­ing on the logged data, and make sugges­tions on how to al­ter the ECU to im­prove mat­ters. So, if the dat­a­log­ger shows that the fu­elling is too rich at 80 per cent throt­tle, at 4,000rpm, then it notes that down in a data file, and later on, the Woolich soft­ware will tweak your ECU map at that point to re­duce the amount of fuel go­ing into the mo­tor, im­prov­ing run­ning and power.

That’s a bit of a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion: it’s an in­volved process, and you’ll need to be on your toes to sort it. But if you’re an in­vet­er­ate fid­dler, and have time to try it, it could be a very sat­is­fy­ing project in­deed…

Not all man­u­fac­tur­ers want you delv­ing into their bikes’ ECUs. Just don’t ask us which wire goes where...

Hawk Rac­ing useWool­wich on their su­per­bikes.

‘Wait, you can remap the ECU to spell out the word boo­bies?’

Lumpy and bumpy maps make rid­ers grumpy.

Woolich Rac­ing’s magic boxes al­low you to tap into all kinds of hid­den tal­ents.

'Beau­ti­ful, just beau­ti­ful!'

To keep map­ping costs down, take your ECU to a spe­cial­ist.

Mr Justin Woolich him­self. But you can just call him god.

You’ve got to strip it be­fore you can rip it! De­ci­sion time; turn it all off, or stay chas­tened?

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