WEIGH­ING THE LITHIUM-ION OP­TION

Motorcyclist - - Garage - BY JERRY SMITH

Q:

A few times in the last month or so my 2011 Tri­umph Speed Triple has re­fused to start, and I’ve had to jump the bat­tery off my wife’s car. It’s the orig­i­nal bat­tery and the bike is six years old, so I’m pretty sure it’s just time for a re­place­ment. I ride in the Smoky Moun­tains quite a bit and try to do at least one trackday a year at Bar­ber, so I’m think­ing I might spring for a light­weight lithium-ion bat­tery. I know lithium bat­ter­ies are light, but I’ve also heard they don’t last very long and need a spe­cial charger. The guys at my lo­cal deal­er­ship weren’t much help, so I’m hop­ing Mo­tor­cy­clist can shed some light on the topic. I don’t want to make a $180 mis­take! James Gif­ford Chat­tanooga, TN

A:

Six years is a pretty good run for the av­er­age lead-acid bat­tery like the one that came in your Speed Triple. Re­plac­ing it with a lithium-ion has some plusses and mi­nuses. First, LI bat­ter­ies are pricier than LA bat­ter­ies—some­times by a lot—and while they’re also a lot lighter, many are smaller too, so you have to pad the empty space in the bat­tery box un­less you find an LI unit the same size as the OE bat­tery.

All bat­ter­ies self-dis­charge when not in use, but LIS are slower to self­dis­charge than LA bat­ter­ies, which means you may not need a trickle charger for stor­age. If the volt­age drops too low, how­ever, an LI bat­tery can suf­fer dam­age or even a per­ma­nent demise, while an LA bat­tery can of­ten be brought back to life from nearly zero volt­age. LI bat­ter­ies need spe­cial charg­ers too, but they can be used to charge LA bat­ter­ies.

An­other quirk of LI bat­ter­ies is they don’t crank very hard right away in cold tem­per­a­tures. You can “wake them up” by turn­ing on the head­lights for a few min­utes, but when the engine is warm or the weather warms up, they crank just fine. With th­ese caveats in mind your $180 in­vest­ment will pay off nicely, es­pe­cially on your track­days when less weight equals lower lap times.

Got a ques­tion you want an­swered? Send it to mc­mail@bon­nier­corp.com.

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