Can You Put A Turbo On A Motorcycle?

I. Introduction

For many motorcycle riders, the word ‘speed‘ is fascinating, and they want more and more of it. If you are one of those aggressive motorcycle riders, and often thought about increasing the speed by adding a turbo, then you have come to the right place.

This article will take you through all the related topics about putting a turbo on your motorcycle viz. can you put a turbo on a motorcycle, working of a turbo, what is a supercharger, and how it differs compared to a turbo, and answers a few frequently asked questions on the topic.

The word ‘turbo‘ is the short form of its technical name ‘turbocharger‘ and both mean the same.

The answer to the question ‘can you put a turbo on a motorcycle’ is ‘yes, it is possible to add a turbo on the motorcycle if the motorcycle is sufficiently powerful and strong’.

However, before you make a decision about whether to add or not add a turbo on your motorcycle, you must know the pros and cons and risks of doing it. Motorcycle manufacturers are not supplying motorcycles with company-fitted turbochargers; hence you have to customize the motorcycle with a turbo at your risk.

If you want to add a turbocharger to your motorcycle, consult an experienced mechanic, and get it done by sourcing a suitable turbo kit from the aftermarket sales. The remaining paragraphs of this article will explain all that you want to know about putting a turbo on a motorcycle and its pros and cons.

II. Can you put a turbo on a motorcycle?

Yes, it is possible to add a turbo on your motorcycle, if the motorcycle has sufficient power to run a turbo with its exhaust gasses and has a strong frame, bottom, shock absorbers, and related things to withstand the additional power generated by adding the turbo.

However, if you modify the question to ‘is it safe to add a turbo on a motorcycle’, the answer will not be a 100 percent yes, since adding a turbo to your motorcycle is a highly complex process and if not executed correctly can lead to serious accidents and damage the engine.

Also, handling a motorcycle with a turbo requires a very high level of skill and riding experience, and it can be dangerous for a beginner rider. These may be the reasons why motorcycle manufacturers are not yet ready for supplying motorcycles with company-fitted turbochargers.

Before considering adding a turbo to your motorcycle, consider the pros and cons of doing it.

Pros of adding a turbocharger on your motorcycle:

  • Increase in horsepower, torque, and speed.
  • Aftermarket turbo kits are available for many brands of motorcycles.

Cons of adding a turbocharger on your motorcycle:

  • The problem of turbo-lag troubles you when you have slowed down and then suddenly want to accelerate (like when negotiating a curve). Turbo-lag can lead to serious accidents.
  • The installation of a turbo kit on your motorcycle can cost you dearly due to the cost of the kit and labor charges.
  • Motorcycles customized with turbochargers produce more heat and consume more gasoline. Also, the cost of maintenance will be more.
  • Motorcycles customized with a turbocharger are not perceived safe for the roads and you will be doing it at your own risk. You may lose the facility of the manufacturer’s warranty and it can be tough to get your motorcycle insured.
  • You have to check the federal and state laws on turbochargers before you consider adding them to your motorcycle.
  • Adding a turbo to your motorcycle makes it lose originality and resale value.
  • All motorcycles may not have the strength to withstand the additional power generated by the turbo.
  • Adding a turbo will make your motorcycle more congested and heavier.
  • A wrongly fitted turbo can lead to serious accidents and damage the engine.

What is turbo-lag?

A turbo-lag is the time taken (delay) by the turbocharged engine, to respond to the throttling (accelerating) of the motorcycle, and the delay can be a few seconds. This normally happens when you are riding slow and suddenly pull the throttle.

When you are riding slow, your motorcycle exhaust gasses have less force to drive the turbo, and if you suddenly accelerate, the turbo will take a few seconds to increase its rpm and supply pressurized air to the engine. This time delay is called turbo-lag (it is the time lag between your action of accelerating and the time taken by the turbocharged engine to respond).

When the turbocharged engine delivers the additional power after the turbo-lag, the abrupt increase in speed can make you lose control of your motorcycle and if you are negotiating a curve, you may head straight instead of completing the turn and this can be dangerous.

Cars and heavy vehicles indeed run with turbos, but, turbo-lag does not pose a threat for them since they have four wheels and are more stable. Also, four-wheel vehicles have sufficient space to accommodate more than one turbocharger to smoothen the acceleration and minimize the effect of turbo-lag. However, a turbo lag can cause serious accidents in the case of motorcycles.

Way back in the 80s, major brands like Honda, Kawasaki, and others introduced motorcycles with turbochargers, but it did not go well with the authorities due to the safety concern and also insurers were reluctant to provide insurance for turbocharged motorcycles considering the risk involved.

If you still want to add a turbocharger to your motorcycle, you must consult an experienced mechanic, and get it done by sourcing a suitable turbo kit. Do not attempt to do it yourself.

Riders who own and ride turbocharged motorcycles have their own website to exchange ideas. For more details, you can visit http://www.turbomotorcycles.org/  and https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/tmioa22687/any-information-on-this-bike-i-have-had-for-over-2-t2608.html

III. Working of a turbocharger

You can define a turbocharger as a device used for forced induction (compressed air is forced into the engine combustion chamber) and it is powered by the exhaust gasses of your motorcycle engine.

The increased pressure and volume of air carry more gasoline into the combustion chamber and this results in additional power per combustion cycle of the engine and increased speed. This is more common on trucks, busses, and cars, but rarely available on modern motorcycles sold from the showroom.

The aftermarket turbo available for customizing your motorcycle has two parts connected with a common shaft. The first part is the turbine connected to the engine exhaust and the hot exhaust gasses coming out of the engine rotate it at a very high speed, and the second part is the compressor that draws atmospheric air at its inlet and delivers compressed air at its outlet connected to the engine intake system.

A turbo motorcycle supplies more air into the engine compared to a non-turbo motorcycle and draws more gasoline resulting in more power and speed.

To drive the turbo the exhaust gasses should have sufficient volume and force and this is one of the reasons why small engine motorcycles cannot be added with a turbo.

IV. What is a supercharger, and how does it differs compared to a turbocharger?

You might have come across the terms turbocharges and supercharger during discussions on motorcycle rider’s platforms. The function of the turbocharger and supercharger is the same and that is to supply compressed air into the engine intake system. But their difference lies in how they are driven.

A turbocharger is driven by the hot exhaust gasses of your motorcycle, whereas, a supercharger is mechanically driven by the engine crankshaft through a gear or belt.

Superchargers do not have the problem of ‘turbo-lag’ (since they get the drive from the crankshaft), but they are more expensive and less efficient compared to a turbocharger.

V. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1 Why are the motorcycle manufacturers not supplying motorcycles with company-fitted turbos?

Do I have an option to purchase a motorcycle with a company-fitted turbo?

Present-day motorcycle manufacturers are not yet willing to add a turbocharger on their motorcycles and the reasons may be (i) a turbocharger on a motorcycle is not considered safe yet due to the issue of turbo-lag (ii) modern motorcycles are already offering you sufficient speed and there is no need for a turbocharger and (iii) adding a turbocharger will increase the fuel consumption, and maintenance and this may not appeal to all the riders.

However, Kawasaki offers very high-end hyper sport motorcycles NINJA H2® SX, NINJA H2®, and NINJA H2® R with superchargers. For details please visit https://www.kawasaki.com/en-us/.

2 What is a supercharger and how it is different from a turbocharger?
The function of a supercharger is the same as a turbocharger (to supply compressed air) but their difference lies in how they are driven.

A turbocharger is driven by the hot exhaust gasses of your motorcycle, whereas, a supercharger is mechanically driven by the engine crankshaft through a gear or belt. Superchargers do not have the problem of ‘turbo-lag’, but they are more expensive and less efficient compared to a turbocharger.

3 What is the contribution of the turbocharger in increasing motorcycle horsepower and speed?
A formal study and data are not available to quantify the exact increase in horsepower/speed due to the addition of a turbo to a motorcycle. Going through the statements made on different websites, you can safely assume a 15 to 20% increase in horsepower/speed after adding a turbo to your motorcycle.

However, the figure can vary depending on the brand and existing power of the motorcycle.

4 My car has a turbocharger, why not my motorcycle also?
The reason why a turbocharger is not advisable on a motorcycle is due to safety concerns. The main issue is the turbo lag which makes it very difficult for an average rider to handle motorcycles with a turbocharger.

However, in the case of a car, turbo-lag does not pose much problem since it stands stable on four wheels. Also, cars have sufficient space to accommodate two turbochargers and this can smoothen the acceleration and minimize the effect of turbo-lag.

Also, the center of gravity of a motorcycle is much high than compared of a car. Due to space constraints, installing a turbocharger on a motorcycle is highly complex compared to a car.

5 Can I purchase the turbo kit and install it on my motorcycle by the DIY process?
Attempting to customize your motorcycle with a turbo kit on DIY is not a good idea, please do not attempt it. It is highly complex and is not a safe option and can lead to serious accidents.

Consider all the pros and cons of doing it. If you still want to do it, entrust it to an expert mechanic.

6 What is the cost of an aftermarket turbocharger suitable for a motorcycle?
Consult an expert to know what is suitable for your motorcycle. The approximate cost of the kit can be 4000 USD or more.

VI. Conclusion

While it is technically possible to add a turbo to your motorcycle, the risk of adding it is very high due to the turbo lag associated with it.

So, unless you are an outstanding rider who is capable of handling the added power of a turbo engine and your motorcycle is capable of withstanding the turbo, please do not go for it. If you decide to add a turbo to your motorcycle give the job to an expert.

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