Short and sweet reply: Yes.
That’s why I waited 6 and then some years to experience owning a rebuilt motor fresh from the shop floor, just to apply all my prior motorcycling experience into 3000kms worth of strict engine management, Victorian-esque route scheduling and other random facets of desperate housewifery.
That’s how important breaking in is. Your bike’s character for the rest of her life is determined by the first few thousand kilometres. You can run her slow and gentle and she’ll never be anything special, just something to sell away a year later, or you can run her hard, trusting your automotive knowledge to develop maximum compression from your motor for superior efficiency and power. And you won’t need another bike for a long time to come.
There are two good things about a performance run in:
1. That extra power comes free of charge;
2. I had a 125cc racing moped that does 0-100 in under 5 seconds, cruises at 130kph and doesn’t give me problems for 6 years. Typical Yamaha 125Zs get less than 25km/l of fuel economy, mine does 37 whist winning the BKE Cub Prix anytime, anyday.
So I don’t want to hear about 125Zs having “no power” when carrying cargo or a passenger, okay? I achieved top speed when I had a pillion, not without!
Please be – because you can have that performance too.
If you decide to run your engine in the proper way, that is. Italian sportsbikes are renown for their performance because when they roll off the factory floor, they’ve to sing sopranos before leaving for dealerships worldwide. They’re not treated gentle; they’re run at maximum throttle not just as a quality control measure, but to help the piston rings wear in with the cylinder walls, seal, and develop maximum compression.
Max compression means max torque and power, and it’s the piston RINGS, not the pistons themselves, that generate actual compression. A leaky piston ring literally loses power with every stroke, and allow combustion gases to contaminate the crankcase, spelling doom for long term reliability and engine oil longevity. Thus, it does hurt your wife/girlfriend/mistress if you don’t use her hard. And when you disassemble the engine, well yes, let’s just say you can tell a bike’s health by piston appearance.
Masochistic sentiments aside there’s really no risk to indulge in a routine of performance-biased run-in. Your engine is rated for many thousands of RPM and a certain number of torques and horsepowers. Again, you’re not doing anyone a favour by never revving the motor.
But if you just jump on your new bike, and rev away into the sunset like no tomorrow, you’re going to have major problems. Wife doesn’t like it and will break down really fast. Or throw a conrod at you.
Performance run-in is conversively, a delicate task. It feels the same as diving into a high-speed corner; slow and methodical (counter)steering and weight transfer. Feed in the power gently for a slight oversteer bias, accelerating smoothly out of the turn.
Italian superbike engineers may just jump on their bikes and redline them without notice, but they built those machines, you didn’t. You got to know what you’re doing, and have a clear objective of why you’re following some alien set of rules to achieve some vague benefit someone told you about.
There are just some key points to focus on when developing max compression:
1. Gentle on the power at all times. Let the engine pick up momentum by itself. Don’t short-shift, rev freely. Use downhill courses to assist you in this. Let the engine accelerate itself as you coast downhill!
2. Build confidence gradually. Don’t redline the engine the moment you leave the shop; imagine training yourself for a 100m sprint; you wouldn’t race off without warmup and you can’t beat the world record the first try. Pace yourself; if this week you’re doing consistently 15 seconds, aim for 14 seconds next week.
Drive up to 6000rpm today, 6500rpm next week, it’s that simple.
3. Vary the load on the engine continuously. Highway cruise doesn’t help seal the piston rings; varied loading, running through all the gears in a twisty, hilly course does. Don’t mash down the gas, open the throttle slowly and let her accelerate herself!
4. Engine braking works wonders to remove debris from the combustion chamber, and suck excess oil away. The vacuum developed by compression braking is a BIG help to sealing your rings. Roll down the spiral ramp of a multi-storey carpark hanging on nothing but engine compression. Your engine actually sounds and feels different after!
5. Since we’re talking about debris; change your engine oil frequently (perhaps every 500km for reasons of practicality – you don’t own a million gallons of oil), because the first few miles results the most wear within a newly rebuilt motor. You’ll want all that debris out!
6. Don’t just follow what you’re reading (: The techniques on the internet are there to be experimented with, and be improved upon! I did recommend semi-synthetic oil for Nabil’s CBR for a reason, despite MotoTune USA’s instruction to use mineral oil only.
7. Don’t use any engine additives, ever. Most of them are marketed by people who don’t know what their products even do. It’s the 21st Century and there’s even concern that superior synthetic oils protect too well for a decent run in!
Yes yes, there are people who go OMG you used synthetic oil you’re screwed! But let’s look at the facts. Oil is oil. Renown performance car manufacturers actually ship their greatest machines with synthetic oil in the crank! Synthetic oil protects better than mineral oil; that’s a suggestion to not ride like a wimp just because you’re “breaking in your engine”.
Have you looked at local riding conditions on small cc bikes? High temperature, high speed traffic, and RPMs that will not be out of place on a racetrack. You NEED some extra protection if you want to actually use your bike as transportation! And that’s why I used semi-synthetic. I’ve sheared down a mineral oil to zilch in under a thousand klicks before in tropical highway conditions.
8. Warm up your engine properly before putting your mistress through her paces. For obvious reasons; engine oil flows best at high temperatures. Breaking-in does not involve destroying your engine by saying ‘hi’ to your beloved by ill-treatment. Common sense logic. Engine oil may take up to 15 minutes to reach optimal temperature.
So where did I get all this nonsense?
1. MotoTune USA – Break in Secrets
Learn from an expert in race engine design and tuning. Register on his site to access the rest of his technical articles, the contents developed over 30 years of track experience.
2. Bikeadvice.in – How to “Run In” Your Bike
India may not be renown for 2-wheeled motorsports but have you looked at the motorcycle community in India? It’s huge, and they know what works and what doesn’t.
3. Experiment, listen, look, ride, rinse and repeat. Personal experience is the best teacher. Is my puny 200cc cruiser as underpowered as her specs look?
Quite the contrary, if such an underpowered bike is accused of illegal racing and other ‘highly dangerous riding’ related commentary!
Very dangerous indeed!
Why? Mototune USA.
There, I said it.
Because at the end of the season, you want the piston on the right.