The best motorcycle battery
Choosing a new motorcycle battery used to be simple -- they were all lead-acid, so it was just check the numbers, and pick the one you could afford. Now there are several different battery technologies to contend with, but are alternatives worth the money? That's what we set out to discover.
The results of our investigation are in the concise report below, which includes a few of our favorite choices at the end. Our top pick, the Yuasa AGM Battery, is a high-capacity, maintenance-free solution with a particularly long-operating life.
Considerations when choosing motorcycle batteries
Almost every modern motorcycle battery is 12 volts, but there are two other figures that are important: Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and Amp Hours (Ah).
CCA is the minimum current required to start your motorcycle. Larger motorcycles typically require higher CCA. So, for example, a 125cc single-cylinder dirt bike might need around 120CCA. A 1,200cc v-twin cruiser could be over 300CCA.
Amp hours can be seen as the battery's ability to maintain a consistent power level. Using our previous examples, the battery for the 125cc might be 3Ah, the 1,200cc 18Ah. It's a figure that's particularly important on modern motorcycles with complex electronics, and if you need to run a lot of gadgets.
In both cases, your manual will tell you a minimum. There's nothing wrong with going bigger. If it exceeds the demand, it should be more reliable and last longer. As long as the voltage is the same, there's no danger.
Physical size is also a big deal, of course -- it's got to actually fit your battery box! Check exact year, make, and model when ordering.
Types of battery
The lead-acid battery (also known as wet cell) has been around since 1859. It's proven, reliable technology, and it's cheap. The drawback for the motorcyclist is that if you happen to have an accident, or your bike gets knocked over, the sulphuric acid inside can leak and cause damage. Many are sealed, reducing the problem, but a cracked battery will create the same problems.
The popular alternative is the AGM battery (absorbed glass mat). These have dry cells instead of wet, so there's no maintenance, and nothing to leak out. Some, like the Yuasa, need to be activated on receipt, but that's all you ever need to do. Though a little more expensive, they can also be made more compact -- perfect for modern sports and street machines.
The gel battery uses the same idea as an AGM model -- filled with a silica and sulphuric acid jelly that doesn't leak and requires no maintenance -- but unfortunately, they're more expensive to make and can only be charged very slowly, so they haven't really taken off.
The latest innovation is the lithium ion battery. These are solid-state (no gel or acid is required) and can be made very small indeed. Currently, however, they don't perform well in low temperatures, and they have limited Ah. If you've got an exotic super-sports machine, they might be worth the investment, but for most, the AGM battery is probably the best option.
Q. Are motorcycle batteries easy to change?
A. Yes. Remove the negative (-) terminal, then the positive (+), and lift out. Insert the new one, then connect the terminals the other way around. Positive, then negative. You can't usually get it wrong -- the terminals won't reach. If you're using a lead acid battery, be careful to avoid spills. It's a good idea to wear latex gloves.
Q. Can I leave the battery on if I'm not using the motorcycle?
A. Check with the motorcycle manufacturer. Some recommend removal for over-wintering or long periods of storage Those with high-tech electronics may suggest leaving it in place and using a trickle charger.
Motorcycle batteries we recommend
Best of the best: Yuasa's YUAM320BS Motorcycle Battery
Our take: Powerful, maintenance-free model for high-performance motorcycles.
What we like: Sealed for life and spill-proof glass mat construction is very safe. Consistent power delivery over long periods. Competitively priced.
What we dislike: Some buyers experienced charging problems. Need to add electrolyte.
Best bang for your buck: ExpertPower's YT9B-BS Motorcycle Battery
Our take: Cheap but efficient all-rounder -- as long as you get a good one.
What we like: Dependable lead-acid technology everyone understands and trusts. Decent power output. Designed to be spill-proof. Low cost.
What we dislike: Inconsistent quality. Can cause problems if damaged.
Choice 3: Odyssey's PC680 Motorcycle Battery
Our take: High-output model claims 70% greater life than rivals.
What we like: Vibration-resistant, no-spill design particularly appropriate for motorcycles. Comparatively fast recharging times. Tolerant of wide temperature variations.
What we dislike: Expensive. More fault reports than we like to see.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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