1995 1996 Triumph Speed Triple - The Real World

Tips, Tweaks, Fixes and Facts: A Complete Guide to the Motorcycle Ownership Experience

Battery Basics
A word from Yuasa on battery technologyIndustry InsiderBatteries may be one of the most neglected parts of the modern motorcycle. And it's partly our fault-as we and our competitors continue to develop battery technology, the product becomes ever more reliable and robust. The days of worrying about battery life are long gone.

Today, there are two basic types of batteries in use. Until about 10 years ago, the only kind of battery you'd find in a motorcycle is what's called a conventional flooded. A battery is an electrochemical device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy, and is made up of individual cells that produce between 2.11 and 2.20 volts each; a 12-volt battery will, obviously, have six cells. The cells consist of alternately stacked lead plates that are positively and negatively charged. In a flooded-cell battery, insulators separate these cells and the whole mess is submerged in a solution of sulfuric acid and distilled water. This electrolyte is free to slosh around the battery.

Although this type of battery was the mainstay of motorcycling for decades, there are some inherent compromises. For example, the battery must be mounted so that the electrolyte won't spill out during normal riding, and a vent must be plumbed to give any spillage a safe place to go. You don't want this stuff atop frame rails or on the rear wheel. The vent also allows the battery to out-gas safely when it's being charged.

As motorcycles became more sophisticated and the engineers asked for more flexibility in mounting batteries, the absorbed glass mat (or AGM) battery became popular. AGM batteries are also called maintenance-free or sealed, non-spillable. The idea here is that the electrolyte is maintained in the glass mat and does not slosh around as it does in a flooded cell. It's important to understand that AGM and flooded batteries are both lead-acid types. You might also hear references to "gel" or "dry" batteries; actually these are just other names for AGM batteries. There's no such thing as a true gel cell used in motorcycling today.

Battery maintenance is not difficult. For flooded-cell batteries, it's as simple as checking the electrolyte level and inspecting the battery for cracks in the case and loose connector lugs. If the fluid level is low, replenish it with distilled water only. Don't use battery acid. During the out-gassing phase, it's the water that's boiled off, not the acid.

Usually, when a battery "dies," or fails to accept a charge, it's due to one of two things. Either it's been allowed to run dry, which results in sulfation of the lead plates, or the battery has just been "beat up." How's that? Excessive heat is one of the worst enemies of battery life. Our research shows that battery temperatures in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit will dramatically reduce longevity. Usually, but not always, motorcycle manufacturers take this into account when positioning the battery in the bike. But you must understand the impact of heat should you decide to modify your bike in such a way that puts additional heat sources near the battery. Next on the hit list is vibration; besides heat, vibration is the most common battery killer. That's why it's important to inspect the battery's mounting hardware. A battery rattling around loose in the bike will have a much shorter life.

The best way to get the longest battery life is to ride your bike often or, at the very least, keep the battery on a maintenance charge. We recommend an automatic charger of two amps or less; large automotive units can do serious harm to the smaller motorcycle batteries. Regular charging serves two purposes: A fully charged battery won't sulfate as quickly as a depleted one, and a charged battery will not freeze. Simply running your bike at idle won't do the job. Most charging systems put out too little current at idle to properly recharge the battery. Go ride.

So how do you know when your battery is ready for the recycling yard? (Aside from getting nothing more than a "click-click" from the starter button.) Flooded-cell batteries can be tested with a hydrometer. This instrument measures the specific gravity of the electrolyte and is an indicator of battery health. AGM types are tested with a voltmeter in conjunction with a load tester. Simply measuring the unloaded voltage won't tell you anything useful. A battery may show 13 volts and still not be able to turn the starter-that's called a surface charge.

Sometimes it's hard to know if the problem is in the battery or the bike's charging system. There's an easy way to check. With the engine running, a voltmeter placed across the battery terminals should show between 13 and 14 volts. If the bike's charging system is weak, you might not see these figures until the engine is revved up. Take into account any extra electrical loads such as brighter headlights or aftermarket accessories. Finally, for long-term storage, consider disconnecting or removing the battery altogether. Keep-alive circuits on fuel-injected bikes and clocks may only take a few milliamps, but over a long winter, that's enough to drain your battery flat.-John Driscoll

Seven Ways To Better Battery Life
1. Ride often. As with the rest of your bike, frequent use is good for the battery. Although lead-acid batteries used in motorcycles don't have problems with "memory" as do the fussy Ni-cads in your computer or cell phone, they do benefit from being kept at full charge. Riding frequently keeps the battery charged and helps prevent plate sulfation. Incidentally, lead-acid batteries self-discharge at a rate of 1/100-volt per day.

2. Keep it clean. A battery covered in muck with corroded terminals won't live as long as one that's squeaky clean. Apply a thin layer of lithium grease to the terminals. If you spill acid, neutralize it with a solution of baking soda and water (one pound of baking soda per gallon of water).

3. Always charge a new battery. Even though a new battery will have a partial charge, if you just throw it in and use it, it'll never be capable of the full rated output. Charge it fully before using.

4. Buy the right battery. You might get by with a smaller (physically, or with a lower amp/hour rating) battery for a while, but the demands of your bike's starter and electrical system will trash it in short order. Motorcycle makers specify batteries just big enough to do the job.

5. Keep an eye on the electrolyte level for flooded-cell batteries. If the battery goes dry, it'll sulfate or "moss up" the plates quickly; once you've damaged the plates, even replenishing the electrolyte and recharging the battery won't bring it back.

6. Be sure your charging system is up to snuff. Your bike's service manual will have specifics on how much voltage you should see at the battery terminals at a certain rpm. If the charging system isn't doing the deed, start troubleshooting right away before you're faced with throwing money at replacement batteries.

7. Put the battery on a low-current maintenance charger during the off season or if you expect it'll be more than a couple of weeks between rides.

Thanks to Lewis Lakey of Roy's Repair in Minneapolis, MN, for the technical advice. Used prices are from the AMA Official Motorcycle Value Guide, and reflect full retail value for original or reconditioned, well-maintained motorcycles.

Smart Money1995-1996 Triumph Speed TripleCheer: Unique British street-fighter stylingJeer: Top-heavy feel, cheesy fastenersVerdict: Modern function meets Ace Caf charmThe 1995-1996 Speed Triple, the essential British caf racer, really captured the soul of John Bloor's reborn Triumph. The Hinckley-based works overengineered its new bikes to distance itself from the old Triumph's reputation for unreliability, resulting in heavy but reliable motorcycles with one minor exception: Early Hinckley triples and fours had fasteners that would loosen, resulting in much rattling and buzzing. But it's nothing a little Loctite can't fix.Expect to pay approximately $5595 for a clean '95 model, and $5995 for a nice '96.