When I first acquired my 1998 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic back in 2002, I remember stepping back in the driveway, admiring my new (to me) two-wheeled steed. What a beaut she was. The previous owner had decked her out- about $2800 worth from the Yamaha OEM catalogue. All gleam and chrome and leather.

Then within moments, my mind wandered to the custom nether-realms, envisioning how I might further refine the 825 lb behemoth. Aftermarket exhaust and rejetting? Custom saddle? Hotter cams? Total engine swap to the vaunted V-Max powerplant? Apehangers??

If there’s one thing consistent about us riders, whether domestic or metric, it’s that we love to personalize our rides. Unlike most modes of transportation, our bikes are an extension of ourselves, an expression of who we are, how we want to be perceived, how we want to live.

So here’s a list of the top 10 most common mods, accessories and add-ons riders tend to make to their cruisers, foreign and domestic, in no particular order. Some of these I’ve done to the various bikes I’ve owned, some I haven’t. If I leave anything noteworthy off the list, please leave your suggestions and personal faves in the comments below.

Aftermarket Exhaust (with jetting and mapping)

Federal and state emissions and sound restrictions have “muffled” the sound and flow of OEM exhaust systems that manufacturers install on new motorcycles. So, an aftermarket set of pipes is very often the first mod to get installed. Hey, what bike doesn’t sound better with a more open, free-flowing set of trumpets? Of course, this mod also might need to include a rejetting (if carbed) or remapping (if EFI) to insure proper fuel/air mixture, especially if a header-to-tip system is installed, not just a set of slip-ons.

Unleash the beast!

Higher Flow Air Filter

Often the stock air filters installed on bikes are of the paper variety, and can be somewhat restrictive, in concert with the exhaust system and in compliance with the aforementioned emissions regulations. A higher-flow, and often reusable, air filter can help your bike inhale better, even as a well-tuned exhaust helps it exhale better.

Let that baby breathe!

Windshield Upgrade

As a younger man, I swore off windshields. My rationale- “windshields are for wimps and old men.” Well, 20-odd years later, and I’m a “wimp and old man.” I appreciate the wind deflection and noise reduction, and even the impact barrier against rain, road debris, etc. Find a fitment that deflects direct wind up and around your helmet at speed, and reduces wind buffet around the sides.

Take a ride on the “grey side”!

Bike Luggage

Unless you plan to carry your stuff in a duffel or back pack, investing in a quality set of bike luggage is a necessity. Saddlebags, tank bags, fork bags, luggage racks, “sissy bar” bags, hard-cased mounted panniers, there is a near-endless variety of styles, capacities, and brands for every bike imaginable. Be sure to buy a system that can keep the center of gravity low and equal, and unobstructive of suspension or moving parts.

Have bags, will travel!

Highway Bars/Saddlebag Bars

My old Royal Star has an aftermarket set of highway/crash bars up front, and a smaller pair of bars protecting the saddlebags. These have come in handy a few times, when I’ve slipped in gravel or wet, and dropped the bike. Alas, for all the embarrassment of it, the front/rear bars have protected the bike entirely, and I merely hoisted her back up, and remounted. These can protect bike hard parts, and your soft parts from a chiropractic visit.

Chromed protection!


Granted, this is a comfort pick. But if you’re doing any time in the saddle, mounting floorboards on your ride, including passenger boards, is a must to combat foot pain and calf fatigue. My dad added a set, fore and aft, to both Harleys he’s owned in recent years, and the comfort this brought added a few more years to his and Mom’s riding together. Totally worth it.

Pedal to the metal!

Backrests- Rider & Passenger

After considerable years riding slouched forward, my lower lumbar regions began to protest. I invested in a snap-in backrest by Grasshopper Ltd., and the difference I felt was immediate. I could slide my posterior back against the rest, and have lower lumbar support. That alone extended my riding comfort, and consequently, the miles I can pound out at a time. Installing a passenger backrest gives added comfort and security to whoever rides pillion, not to mention something to fasten luggage to when not riding two-up.

Attack back pain!

Highway Lights

A mantra of safe riding is, “Be Visible”. Instead of declaring “Loud Pipes Save Lives” (a dubious claim at best), why not state, “Bright Lights Save Lives”? I “ride high” i.e. high beams & highway lights, during daytime hours, and only switch between high/low at night, so as to not blind oncoming traffic. An auxiliary light bar adds visibility during the day, and broadens your field of view at night.

Light it up!

Bike Cover

I see far too many bikes left uncovered for extended lengths of time at events, in parking lots, and even at homes. Weather and elements take their toll on your automobile’s parts and finish- why would they not on your bike? Even more so, as engine parts, gaskets, seals, rubber boots, etc., are all exposed to Mother Nature. Preserve your bike’s finish, not to mention those exposed components, with a dust cover if garage-kept, and a full weather cover if outdoors.

Cover up!

Battery Tender/Trickle Charger

Having one of these tucked away in a saddlebag has saved my bacon on a few occasions, when that battery decided to go a bit puny on me far from home. There are quality, low-cost, low-consumption tenders on the market, but among my faves is the Battery Tender brand. Use it to keep your battery fresh across those winter months, to aid peak performance in various climates and elevations, and in those times when you can’t get as much ride time in (heaven forbid).

Boost Juice!

Now, a bonus pair-

Upgraded Tool Kit– most OEM kits are spartan at best, nonexistent at worst. My brand-new Triumph Street Cup came with- an Allen wrench! That’s it, I kid you not. Figure out what setup your bike uses (metric, SAE, Torx, etc.) and compile a compact kit made up of small wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets, and extra plugs.

Oh, and don’t forget a small tire repair kit with it!

LED Light Kit– Okay, sorry, had to include it. These are real popular right now (personally, I think they look ridiculous, but I’m a crotchety old fart). They add visibility at night, look cool (I suppose), and honestly, draw very little juice off your electrical system.

So there you have it! Rob’s Top 10 Bike Mods & Accessories for your Cruiser! Plus a bonus pair, thrown in for good measure. I’m already thinking of others (seat swaps, etc.). Hit us up with your thoughts, suggestions, ideas, or beefs in the comments below.

*First penned for my friends at BikeBandit.com


  1. Steve Sweat

    Does the badge on that cruiser say Triumph? Very nice looking machine.

    • Rob Brooks

      The article header photo? That is indeed a Triumph, one of their Thunderbird models.


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