Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

In­for­ma­tion is king

Sen­sors are the eyes and ears of the ECU. There are sen­sors every­where on the lat­est high-level bikes – air­box pres­sure, in­let man­i­fold, throt­tle but­ter­fly po­si­tion, fly-by-wire throt­tle, knock sen­sors, cam po­si­tion, crank­shaft po­si­tion, gear po­si­tion, coolant tem­per­a­ture and two lambda sen­sors in the ex­haust – one be­fore and one af­ter the cat­alytic con­verter – and that’s just the en­gine.

You also have sen­sors around the bike. Both wheels have speed sen­sors, some have tyre pres­sure sen­sors and many bikes now have an IMU (In­er­tial Mea­sure­ment Unit). This clever de­vice, made by Bosch, is a multi­gyro and ac­celerom­e­ter that helps the ECU to un­der­stand what the bike is do­ing, how fast it is ac­cel­er­at­ing, brak­ing or how far you are lean­ing over. This is es­sen­tial for determining lev­els of trac­tion con­trol and has al­lowed cor­ner­ing ABS to be­come as ac­cu­rate as it is.


With all these ad­vance­ments comes more com­plex dash­boards. Your mod­ern dash is an in­te­gral part of the ECU and can dis­play ex­actly what it’s do­ing. And even the dash can have sen­sors – to make it brighter or darker, de­pend­ing on am­bi­ent light con­di­tions.

What else does it do?

The ECU makes sure you can’t ride off with your side­stand down, it works as an im­mo­biliser, op­er­ates all the warn­ing lights, tells you when you need fuel and even records data.

‘ Friends talk about hav­ing an ECU re­flash – what is it and should I have the work done on my bike?

Your ECU has set maps that are pro­grammed in the fac­tory. These make sure your bike runs as it should. But, just like any com­puter, a spe­cial­ist can get into these pro­grams and change them for the bet­ter. Race or track­day bikes of­ten have the fu­elling ad­justed just as an older bike would have its jets and nee­dles changed in its car­bu­ret­tors, the RPM limit raised, trac­tion con­trol op­ti­mised or en­gine brak­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics changed. In fact, there is of­ten more ad­just­ment avail­able in a stan­dard ECU than in a racekit­ted ECU.

Any ad­just­ments are usu­ally made in con­junc­tion with a dyno, to sim­u­late the bike be­ing used. Be aware of any­one of­fer­ing an ECU re­flash ser­vice where you post them the unit and they do the work be­fore post­ing it back. All bikes are dif­fer­ent and it’s best to have the work done with a dyno op­er­a­tor.

Get­ting your ECU re­flashed isn’t just for track bikes – it can im­prove a road bike, too. Noise and emis­sions tests on new bikes are per­formed at cer­tain revs, so there are of­ten flat spots in those ranges for the bike to pass. These can be im­proved if not elim­i­nated, as can fly-by-wire throt­tle be­hav­iour, as well as of­ten find­ing more power. But if you do have your bike’s ECU re­flashed, you’re likely to in­val­i­date your war­ranty. And don’t think be­cause you can’t see any dif­fer­ence, your dealer won’t know – all they have to do is plug their com­puter in and they’ll know straight away.

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