Battery failure is an all too common reason for a roadside rescue. We talked to battery-saving experts OptiMate to find out why optimisers make sense for bikes, including café racers.
Year in, year out, batteries are the number one reason for a call to the recovery man. The AA and RAC respond to around 500,000 battery-related breakdowns and replace about 150,000 at the roadside, every year. Yes, those numbers include cars as well as bikes, but you get the point.
A popular misconception is that as we’re not using our bikes as much – for most of us, motorcycles have become a leisure pursuit rather than everyday transport – and our batteries aren’t taking as much of a hammering, but nothing could be further than the truth.
Even if you put a brand new lead-acid battery on the shelf in your garage and leave it, the chemical reaction inside will happen – albeit in a tiny amount – and eventually it will go flat. If that battery is connected to a bike – with a digital clock flashing away, an alarm or on-board computer running – then that process will speed up and the battery will flatten in no time.
The same goes for Lithium-ion batteries too. They need to be kept within a strict voltage range all the time. Overcharge one and it can heat up and eventually self-destruct: burning from the inside out; leave it without charge and it will flatten much quicker than a lead-acid battery and can be difficult to recover.
So, how do we stop that from happening? Regularly charging and maintaining your battery massively helps prolong it’s working life, and will reduce the likelihood of breakdowns significantly. Before you dig out your dad’s 1950 voltmaster 3000 from the back of the garage, remember that things have moved on a little.
Step one is to find out what type of battery is fitted to your bike. Conventional Lead Acid batteries will usually be labelled with reference numbers starting with the letters YB, CB or GB (e.g YB14L-A2); Y, C or G (e.g Y60-N24L-A); or 12N (e.g 12N24-3).
Maintenance Free or AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries are the most common type used in modern bikes, and normally have reference numbers starting with the letters YTX, CTX or GTX (e.g YTX9-BS).
Lithium-Ion batteries will generally be marked as ‘Li-ion’, ‘LFP’ or ‘LiFePO4’.
Why is this important? Because using the wrong type of charger can at best leave your battery still flat in the morning and at worst can damage it beyond repair.
Step two used to be checking the condition of your battery using a multimeter, but these days battery optimisers – like those from the OptiMate range – test, charge, maintain and can even repair a bike’s battery, completely automatically. All you need to do is pick the right one.
The OptiMate 5 Select will save, charge and maintain all 6V and 12V lead-acid batteries. Designed to eliminate the need for multiple chargers – and the risk of attaching them to the wrong machine – simply connect the OptiMate5 to the vehicle battery, select the appropriate voltage and it does the rest automatically.
If you’re running a newer bike – or more than one – the OptiMate 1 Duo is the one for you. It works with both new AGM (sealed lead-acid) or Lithium batteries, using the very latest in charging technology to automatically determine the type of battery it’s connected to, and selecting the charging programme to suit – so you don’t have to.
If you’re lucky enough to have several bikes, OptiMate’s O-125 Monitor makes it easy to keep an eye on the condition of all their batteries. Just attach one to the battery and you can instantly see the charge level on an easy-to-read LED display panel. It will also tell you if your chagring system is working correctly.
Visit www.optimate1.com to see the full range.