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Are high-flow air filters for your motorcycle worth it?

Is this popular performance-oriented modification right for you?

Are high-flow air filters for your motorcycle worth it?

As motorcycle enthusiasts, it’s normal for us to want to maximize our bike’s overall performance. Be it in terms of comfort, style, or engine performance, we are always thinking of ways to make our bikes better and more fun than they were out of the factory. Now, we have covered quite a few performance-oriented upgrades which you can do with your motorcycle. These include exhaust, ECU, and suspension upgrades. This time around, let’s take a closer look at another popular performance-oriented upgrade—aftermarket air filters—and see if it’s worth it to actually perform this upgrade. 

What is an air filter, anyway?

Motorcycle air filter

Before we dive into upgrading your motorcycle’s air filter, we must first discuss what an air filter actually does. As the name suggests, your bike's air filter is in charge of, well, filtering out the air which enters your combustion chamber. As it would turn out, dust, dirt, and debris can do quite a bit of damage to the internals of your engine. Therefore, it is the air filter's duty to ensure that the air your engine sucks in is clean and optimized for combustion.

A motorcycle air filter can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Depending on your motorcycle model, swapping out your air filter can be as easy as removing your seat and undoing a few bolts. Other motorcycles, particularly those with higher displacements, may require quite a bit more fiddling in order to gain access to the air filter. Some bikes may even require you to uninstall the fuel tank in order to gain access to the air filter. 

What are the benefits of increased air flow?

Motorcycle air filter

A motorcycle engine works primarily through the combination of air and fuel which ignites under compression inside the engine’s cylinders. This explosion thereby rotates the crankshaft, which transfers power to the transmission and eventually to the back wheel. Now, the more air (i.e., oxygen) we add to the mix, the bigger the bang. A bigger bang equals more power. And who doesn’t like more power?

Naturally, in order to maximize your upgraded air filter, adding a few other upgrades, particularly to your exhaust and ECU, can help. After all, cranking out more horsepower is the result of a great deal of teamwork among the various parts of your engine. As the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, and this rings true with your bike’s engine, as well. 

A few things to consider

Motorcycle air filter

Upgrading your motorcycle's air filter seems like a rather straightforward job, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. There are, in fact, a few things you should consider. For starters, you want to check the overall aftermarket support for your particular motorcycle. Some newer entrants into the market, particularly those made in China, may have very little to no aftermarket support whatsoever, making it very difficult for you to source parts and upgrades for your bike. Most Japanese and European motorcycles have pretty extensive support when it comes to aftermarket upgrades, and replacing their air filters is usually a straightforward, bolt-on procedure. 

Sometimes, upgrading your bike’s intake system by way of a free-flow air filter may require you to reflash the ECU in order to maximize performance gains and prevent premature wear and tear. Complementing your air filter upgrade with a free-flow exhaust system helps make your engine breathe a lot more easily, too, translating to even more gains. We’ve covered these topics in detail in our previous articles, so be sure to check them out, as well. 

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