Bike mods for beginners

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Modding a bike is fun, especially if you're one who likes to tinker. It's part of "making it your own", even if the mods you do are small, simple or (heaven forbid) free. The trick is to not get into a situation where you've mucked things up so bad that you then have to pay a mechanic to undo the damage.

Typically, the majority of folks on this board recommend mods that are safety-related, including the most important one, rider training, because riding skills transfer from bike to bike.

Here's what people on other forums will tell you to do:

  • Wider tires
  • Carb jet kit
  • "Performance" air filter
  • Full exhaust
  • HID headlights
  • Fender delete

These aren't necessarily the best mods for a very big portion of new riders, as this bike is their starter bike that they're gonna sell in like 3 months. If you aren't going to keep the 250, don't mod it, because you will NEVER get that money back. Also remember that if you decide to post up your mods, not everyone is going to agree with you or like what you've done. Get over it, cause it's your bike, and you are the only person who needs to be happy with it. (If you require validation from strangers on the internet, you have other issues.)

Good beginning mods

Here are some decent first mods for newer riders. Keep in mind that, given proper maintenance, the bike works just fine as it is. Your Ninja 250 doesn't have to be perfect right away. Concentrate on making it safe and roadworthy, and on you learning to ride it, before you get caught up in what other people think you should do.

  • New tires - If you have an F series EX250 (88-07) the stock Dunlop K630s never were that great in the first place, and by now they're old, anyway. If you have a newer J model (08-->) then you have to decide whether the IRC tires (09+) are OK for you. Whatever you do, don't replace the stock tires with the same model. The bike was built to a low price point, and the tires reflect this. Check the FAQ tire models page for your bike, and get a set that's appropriate for your riding style. Tires are part of the suspension and the brakes, so not only do they help handling, good tires also allow you to stop better.
  • Conspicuity - This is a general term to describe "being seen". Check the Gear section of the FAQ, along with Electrical & Lighting, which features items such as better brake lights, headlight bulb upgrades, headlight modulators, and better horns.

First mods that are a good idea

  • Flush mount front signals - Look better and lessen the possibility of the signal stalks punching a hole in the fairing. (If you have a 2006 or newer model with flexible stalks, this may not apply to you.)
  • Seat - Spencer or DIY mods make distance riding way more comfortable and are pretty inexpensive.
  • Horn - Because the stock one sucks.
  • Taller windscreen - Considered by many to be a must for extended high-speed riding.
  • Gel grips - Reduce vibration from the bars; notice that doesn't say 'eliminate'.

Mods you should avoid until you know what you're doing

  • Exhaust - Don't touch it.
  • HID headlight - In order for HID to work correctly, the reflector has to be designed to work with the bike. No one makes such a thing for the Ninja.

Mods to do after you've been riding a while

  • Suspension - This is the performance mod that will provide the most benefit. Start with Sonic springs in the right rate for you, along with new fork oil. For the rear, check the reviews of various shocks that people have used on the 250. If you have the funds, an aftermarket shock such as Works Performance or Hagon (bolt-on) or Fox (modification sometimes required) will be a big improvement.
  • Brakes - If your bike is over four years old, it's time for new brake lines, anyway. You might as well make them stainless steel. They give better feel and performance for the same amount of money. There's nothing terribly wrong with the stock pads, but upgrading to an aftermarket set of HH pads will give you better stopping power. Be advised that putting on new pads and stainless lines necessitates practicing quick stops, otherwise you WILL lock up the front in an emergency. Practice, practice, practice.

It's really hard to tell if what you did is better when you don't have a baseline for comparison. For instance, there is a tendency for new riders to make their suspension too stiff. It might be all right for that Saturday morning jaunt through the woods, but if you take off for Peoria one day, you may find that your body hurts more than what you'd like it to.

This is why it's important to first ride for a while and get a feel for what the bike (and you) can do. Figure out what works well, what feels a little off, and where it's not performing well. Then you can reasonably address the issues.

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