The 10 Best Motorcycle Batteries
10. Mighty Max YTX4L-BS
9. Powersonic PTZ12S
8. Western Power Sports Featherweight
7. ACDelco ATX20LBS
6. Yuasa YTX14-BS
5. Shorai LFX09L2-BS12
4. ThrottleX HDX20L
3. Battery Tender BTL14A240C
2. Yuasa YUAM6RH4H High Performance
1. Chrome YTX12-BS High Performance
Getting To Know Your Battery
The sun is finally out and you're ready to take your shiny new sportster for a spin. You go down to the garage, pull it out into the driveway, and turn the key, expecting to hear that V-twin engine come alive in all its two-cylinder glory. Instead, what you get in response is a dreadful clicking sound — your battery is dead.
It's a common, not to mention headache-inducing, scenario, and one that any motorcycle enthusiast has likely dealt with at least once or twice over the course of his or her ownership. As two-wheeled technology has evolved to include larger engines and a whole host of other electronic components, batteries have become an integral part of the modern motorcycle, but they're still one of the most common parts to fail or fall into disrepair.
Motorcycle batteries today fall into one of a few broad categories, and it's important to consider the pros and cons of each before setting out to invest in a new one. Lead-acid batteries, including conventional wet cell and maintenance-free, are still the most common kind on the market, but they can differ significantly in terms of cost, quality, and convenience. The former are often more affordable than their competition, but are also prone to leaking and other drawbacks; the latter are lighter and more efficient, but are also usually more expensive. Lithium-ion batteries, which have gained in popularity as an aftermarket alternative to the lead-acid variety in recent years, are even more compact and energy-efficient, though those benefits are, again, usually negated by their higher cost.
Of course, type isn't the only aspect to take into account. Cold cranking amps are a measure of the battery's power at zero degrees Fahrenheit, while its amp-hour rating represents the battery’s ability to provide current for an extended period of time. If you frequently ride in the cold, a higher CCA will make your bike easier to start, whereas if you have a cruiser with a lot of electrical accessories, a higher amp-hour rating will help keep things running while at idle.
The Science Of Motorcycle Batteries
The means through which such an unassuming box produces enough energy to sustain your bike and all its gadgets may seem murky, but it's really just a matter of basic science. Simply put, a battery is device that can produce a direct current by converting chemical energy into electrical energy. The concept was first lit upon in the early 1800s, when John Frederic Daniell, a British chemist, created what is now known as the Daniell cell — an electrochemical cell consisting of a copper pot filled with a copper sulfate solution.
Today's car and motorcycle batteries have evolved since those initial inventions, but they still make use of the same general processes. A modern battery will consist of one or more cells, with each cell containing of a number of plates, or electrodes, submerged in an electrolyte. When charging or discharging, ions, or atoms with a positive or negative charge, react with the electrolyte and the electrodes to create electrons, which transfer through an external circuit to create an electrical current.
In a lead-acid battery specifically, the electrode is a spongy lead plate, and the electrolyte a mixture of distilled water and sulfuric acid. As the battery discharges, these parts undergo chemical changes — the acid degrades into water, and the lead plates become coated with lead sulfate, which eventually causes the battery to go dead. The process can be reversed and the battery recharged by hooking the unit up to a higher voltage source, but overtime — three to four years according to most manufacturers — the battery will have to be replaced.
Maintenance-free batteries, including AGM and gel models, embody only a slightly different take to this system, since in the former the electrolyte is trapped in thin fiberglass sheets between the plates, and in the latter it comes in the form of a jelly-like substance. Lithium-ion batteries use altogether different materials, making them less prone to degradation.
How To Care For Your Battery
Despite the name, no battery is really completely maintenance-free — there are a few basic pointers for all types that should be followed to help ensure their proper functioning and to get the most of their life cycles. Keeping the terminals tight and clean to help create good contact is something you should do no matter what kind of battery you buy, as is making sure the case and its surrounding seat is clear of debris.
Other tips may depend on what type of battery you have, as well as how often you ride. Conventional wet cell batteries must be topped off with water every now and again, since some of it will evaporate as a result of the chemical reaction taking place inside. It's also important to avoid storing them in cold temperatures while they're in a discharged state, as that water is also liable to freeze and crack the casing. AGM and gel batteries come in sealed cases that don't need refilling, resist freezing at low temperatures, and can hold their charge for longer periods — though that doesn't mean these should be left dead or discharged, either.
It's recommended that most batteries be hooked up to a trickle charger when not in use for more than a few weeks. These are specially designed devices that produce a very small current to keep your battery active over a long period, preventing it from self-discharging and running into the aforementioned problems. There is a wide range of affordable trickle chargers on the market today, including smart chargers that will quickly charge a fully depleted battery and then maintain it at a constant voltage.
Of course, the more you ride your bike, the more your battery will be kept active, and the healthier it will stay — at the end of the day, this might be the simplest way to care for your investment.