I bought a lithium motorcycle battery; It’s a total game changer

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Photo: Mercedes Streeter

A year ago I took home a 1999 Triumph Tiger. motorbike was my first Triumph, my first adventure bike, and my next chapter in eschewing carbs for fuel injection. It’s been an amazing race, except for the fact that it’s been a pain just to get the thing started. Now I finally solved the problem with a lithium battery that I fell in love with.

The Triumph came with a super dead battery so the first thing I did last year was buy one. I’ve owned about 30 bikes since getting my approval in 2018, and I used to buy these discount batteries that you have to fill up. They are often smaller than specified, but I’ve never had a problem with them when lighting an old bike.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Well, there’s a first time for everything, and that changed with the Triumph. Most of the time I would get out, swing one leg over the bike, press the start button, and then be disappointed when nothing happened.

The engine didn’t even try to turn. But it would start from a jump pack.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

This confused me, because in my experience so far, a weak or undersized battery would have to less slowly turn the engine. This thing couldn’t even do that.

But after a jump it performed well and became one of my favorite two-wheelers. The triple soundtrack could improve on the worst day, the metallic yellow paintwork grabs the attention of even the most inattentive drivers, and I love the alien looks.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Further troubleshooting revealed that the undersized battery could sometimes start the bike, which should have helped me figure out the problem. When the bike was rolling, the odometer sometimes flickered, the horn was silent, and the headlights were dim – no more clues.

I finally bought the correct battery, and that seems to have solved my problems. It all started without a backpack attachment. I concluded that being a cheapskate was what caused my repeated disappointment every time I pressed the start button.

Then I let the bike sit for a few weeks, and again it just stopped starting. Just like with the last battery, the motor wouldn’t even to try turn around.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

The battery returned to 12.3 volts with the ignition off. Not strong, but it should give me Something. And it wasn’t the alternator.

Yes, this bike has an adorable alternator, and it produces more than enough juice.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Perplexed, I contacted a local mechanic. He said the problem was probably with the ECU, but won’t say more. I started browsing the Triumph forums and found a little quirk about these bikes. So much owners to have discoveredwhile another bike may spin slower when the battery isn’t fully charged, these machines may not spin at all.

What about the aforementioned issues with a flashing odometer and dim lights? Signs of too low voltage.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I searched forums and found all sorts of remedies. Some people have shorten battery cables while others hitched their bikes to tenders every night. Some even used solar panel chargers. When this oddity hit the owners fuel-injected Triumph twins, some dealers recommended charging the batteries overnight or a “Town Accord” which lowers the cranking voltage threshold.

I should go through the bike’s electrical system and check for a stray leak, but that’s for another day. To get something like a reliable start I decided to do something different and chose a Noco NLP14 lithium battery.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

It’s the equivalent of a YTX14-BS lead acid battery but at a fraction of the weight. And the chemistry of lithium batteries is very different from lead acid. While a lead acid battery loses a lot of voltage with its state of charge, lithium batteries hold up well until their charge runs low. It seems perfect for a bike with a temper about its tension.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I moved him to his new home in the Triumph, where he made a difference day and night. The bike now starts strong and quickly. Oh, and those other electrical issues? Faded away. It’s almost an entirely different motorcycle now.

Now I am no longer afraid of running aground because the bike has a stress attack.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

When I posted my story about this battery opposite-lock, some feared having a lithium battery under the buttocks, to be charged by a system intended to fill a lead-acid battery. After all, lithium batteries of the past sometimes had a knack for igniting.

Noco has thought about it, and the battery has its own management system. It prevents the battery from being over-charged, over-discharged, short-circuited, over-frozen, over-heated and more. It should mean no fiery death.

Others worried that it would run in the cold. To test this, I let the bike sit for a week. Temperatures in my area are regularly in the 20s and sometimes in the teens.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Still, the battery does what my others couldn’t.

I’m very impressed with this thing so far. I even like the fit and finish. Noco provides you with neat spacers so that you can perfectly fit the battery into its space.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

And it feels much better than you’d expect from an object you’re not going to touch regularly. I paid $120 for itand since Noco recommends a lithium-compatible charger, I threw an extra $30 on a one-amp charger.

Let’s do a quick spec comparison. A YuasaYTX14-BS is the recommended battery for my bike. It is a 12 Ah battery that weighs 10 pounds and has 200 cold cranking amps. Nothing too amazing happening there.

the Noco PNL14 lithium has a capacity of 4Ah, but Noco claims you’ll get the equivalent of a 13Ah lead acid battery out of it. It also comes in at 2.5 pounds. Annoyingly, Noco rates the starting current at 500 amps peak instead of CCA. Noco’s claims that the small battery can replace a lead acid seem to be true, but when things heat up I want to put that to the test.

Image for article titled I Bought a Lithium Motorcycle Battery and I'm Absolutely in Love

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Hope the little guy keeps rocking, because I’m so in love with this thing. I’m even considering converting some of my trickiest cars to lithium. You will hear about it again as I use it.

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