When you purchase a motorcycle, it’s more than just a vehicle – it becomes a part of you. Your bike does more than take you from point A to point B. Its feel and construction are part of the journey.

As a result of the relationship that riders form with their bikes, a sizeable portion of bike owners decide to get their motorcycles customized. Yet, what most fail to realize is that replacing, taking off or adding parts creates a far riskier ride. Bikers are already more vulnerable than motor vehicle drivers during an accident and custom parts greatly increase that risk factor. What should you be aware of to stay safe?

Common Modifications and Their Risks

  1. man sitting on a chopper overlooking water Add-Ons: Tail pipes and other parts added on may create structural flaws, which in turn shift the bike’s center of balance. When you’re on a rough, hazardous road, this design increases your accident risk and overall, makes the bike more difficult to ride.
  2. Rebuilding the Bike: Bikers may decide to take apart and “rebuild” their bike. While this takes several forms, the most common is a “bobber,” in which the front fender is removed and the rear one is reduced in size. This modification is said to make the bike go faster – up to 190 MPH. However, taking off parts of the bike that are crucial to your protection, then driving far above the speed limit drastically increase the chances of a fatal accident.
  3. Choppers: At a base level, choppers are reconstructed motorcycles. The stock parts get removed and the front is extended. In the process, the bike receives several new, often custom parts. The purpose of a chopper is to remove any extra weight, yet this can minimize the safety features.


According to a study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, custom or sport bikes have a fatal injury rate four times that of regular motorcycles. Based on 2005 data, these custom bikes accounted for just 10 percent of all registered motorcycles. Yet, once the analysts examined the accidents, these bikes were behind over 22 percent of deaths involving registered riders. By comparison, regular, unmodified bikes had a fatality rate of 10 percent for every 10,000 riders.

Another reason why custom bikes account for this high fatality rate is how they’re used. The bikes frequently get modified for informal racing on streets and highways. Crashes for half of all custom bikes come from the rider traveling too fast. However, for standard cruising and touring motorcycles, speeding is responsible for less than 30 percent of all crashes.

What Can You Do?

This isn’t to say that all bikers should avoid custom jobs. Rather, if you think modifications are extremely necessary, make it a project to research a shop who can do the work properly. Never have an amateur make the changes. Instead, ask around and read online reviews before making any decisions.

Further, because the parts themselves may be responsible for the accident, you also have the option to sue a shop for shoddy work, using unsafe or defective parts or doing negligent work. To help protect yourself, always check to see if the parts used were ever recalled.

If you decide to pursue a claim based on a faulty custom part, a recalled part or poor installation, it’s recommended that you hold onto all receipts for the work done.

Do you believe you have a claim involving a custom motorcycle? If parts or installation led to an accident, trust Trantolo & Trantolo to take on your case. Not only do our lawyers have a winning history of representing motorcycle riders, but many members of our staff ride. To learn more, give us a call today.