If you're like many motorcyclists, you're always looking for ways to take your bike to the next level. Whether for aesthetics or performance, the right upgrade is a constant target. An accessory with both form and function is a difficult find these days, but there's one that flies under the radar. The belly pan—what is it, and what can it do?
What is a belly pan?
A belly pan for motorcycles is a type of fairing that may provide a minor boost in performance, protection, and cosmetics. Belly pans vary in size and construction, with some being made almost entirely of plastic and others using different materials like stainless steel, aluminum, and fiberglass.
The belly pan fits below the engine, providing some degree of defense against dust and small debris. It may also improve the bike's aerodynamics by redirecting airflow and reducing lift. That could result in better fuel economy, but how much gas you can save ultimately depends on the bike, the belly pan, and other factors.
While there are many novel benefits to using a belly pan, many people choose to install this piece of kit simply because it looks good. The cosmetic boost is enough reason to upgrade for these riders, and that's understandable. We can't deny a sleek-looking belly pan can make for a brilliant addition to any unfaired naked bike out there.
Belly pan vs. skid plate
You may be familiar with another motorcycle accessory that appears considerably similar to belly pans. A skid plate, also known as a bash plate, is an accessory designed to prevent damage to a motorcycle's underside. Unlike belly pans, skid plates generally feature all-metal constructions, with aluminum and steel being the most popular choices.
A skid plate may protect against ground impact, dust, and debris. It's a necessary companion for trail and dual-sport riding, so you'll find skid plates equipped on many adventure and touring bikes. However, that doesn’t mean either accessory is exclusive to any type of bike. You’re free to choose which one makes more sense for your particular motorcycle.
Consider these points if you can't decide between a belly pan or skid plate. First, belly pans tend to add more style than skid plates. The designs are much more varied, so there are abundant options for customization. On the other hand, you won't get nearly as many options with a skid plate, as there are fairly limited design choices.
Still, skid plates excel in protecting a bike's underside. Keep in mind, though, that a skid plate will add noticeable weight, especially if made of steel. If you're looking for something sharper and more aerodynamic, and you're fine with sacrificing some protection, a belly pan could be the choice.
Should I get a belly pan for my motorcycle?
Installing an aftermarket belly pan on your motorcycle can provide some significant benefits. It's a primarily cosmetic upgrade that may add some underside protection from dirt and debris. It may also improve aerodynamics by altering airflow, possibly increasing fuel efficiency.
If you do decide to rock a belly pan, remember it adds some weight to your motorcycle. How much poundage it adds will depend on the belly pan's construction, so try to find a product that balances lightweight and strong materials.