Adding Upgrades To A Stock Motorcycle

In today’s world of over-the-air firmware upgrades in everything from cars to phones to refrigerators, it’s common for manufacturers of various things to lock out features in software and force you to pay for the upgrades. Even if the hardware is the same across all the models, you can still be on the hook if you want to unlock anything extra. And, it seems as though Suzuki might be following this trend as well, as [Sebastian] found out when he opened up his 2011 Vstrom motorcycle.

The main feature that was lacking on this bike was a gear indicator. Even though all the hardware was available in the gearbox, and the ECU was able to know the current gear in use, there was no indicator on the gauge cluster. By using an Arduino paired with an OBD reading tool (even motorcycles make use of OBD these days), [Sebastian] was able to wire an LED ring into the gauge cluster to show the current gear while he’s riding.

The build is very professionally done and is so well blended into the gauge cluster that even we had a hard time spotting it at first. While this feature might require some additional lighting on the gauge cluster for Suzuki to be able to offer this feature, we have seen other “missing” features in devices that could be unlocked with a laughably small amount of effort.

28 thoughts on “Adding Upgrades To A Stock Motorcycle

  1. Rather than being some feature they are “forcing you to pay for” my guess is that it’s more like the development cycle of the gauge cluster just didn’t line up with that of the ECU, or some such. From a google search it looks like they added the gear indicator the following year.

    1. i dont see why he even needs to count the dots, just have the led’s line up with the appropriate number on the tach. That way the appropriate number is just a matter of relative position which his brain is already trained to do with regards to the rpm of the engine.

  2. Things on bikes like neutral lights and gear indicators are fluff for non bikers. Once you have ridden around the block a couple of times you get pretty good at figuring that out on your own. Really no need for another geegaw. Than again I like my bikes really bare metal and simple. The less electronics the better.

    1. I’ll also join this gang of cranky old men yelling at the whippersnappers to get off our lawn. Half the reason I commute on a motorbike is because I don’t need to disassemble the entire front end to change a bulb, or be ruled over by the haughty decree of an on-board computer, or read out cryptic sensor codes through the ODN or OBGYN or whatever the fuck it’s called. It’s a bare frame with a fully exposed, dead-simple little motor which I can drop with a scissor jack and rebuild myself in a weekend. It’s got four or five gears, and neutral is in-between the first two so it’s really not hard to count. It becomes second nature. I detest even having a battery, what’s wrong with a kick-start and a magneto?

        1. I have a kickstart, don’t want a magneto, too expensive and unreliable.

          I do like the neutral light but a gear indicator is only useful when your speedo cable breaks.

          Yes, old fart, old bike. :)

    2. Wow! I tought we were all hackers here! Despite I also like the “bare metal”, I would not mind a few “eye candy” or fancy resources like my garage door opening automagically when I push a button on my bike.
      On my Harley I have a gps tracker, a remote killswitch(I live in Brazil), my helmets have bluetooth communicators(so wife can talk during the trips), and a homemade trip computer, I can google voice the average fuel consumption or how bad is the traffic ahead…Everything elegantly fitted (if not hidden) so my bike still looks vintage as it should.
      And I still can fix my wheels myself….

      1. I had a button for the garden door on my bike when I was a student (garage was occupied with my parents cars). It was a little challenge to copy the 10kHz (yes, kHz) remote control radio transmitter.

  3. For those with the skill to listen to motor sounds, I am tone deaf to music but have a personal connection to any machine I have spent a few hours with, it becomes a basic part of knowing the machine is OK and when to follow the emergency protocol tree.
    From motorcycles, to hot-rodded 4x4s, to piston and jet airplanes/helicopters I get to know what sounds I should hear(even with a headset and CEPs in) when I do something. I of course am scanning the tach, oil pressure/temp and maybe exhaust temp gauges but my first indication is usually a weird sound or vibration.
    That said especially during the getting to know you stage I want access to every bit of sensor data that can be displayed to correlate with an expected sound and is why I prefer old steam gauge airplanes and helicopters to say a modern rental car where I have to jack in an OBD to get anything beyond speed, tach, fuel fill, and check engine light, and a tach only when I can sift out a stick shift transmission.

    1. I’m kind of the same. After a bit, I can tell something has wavered from baseline due to hearing “beats” within the machine. I thought something was wrong with me till I started to relate the beats to mismatched gearing and other malfunctions. The bike I had, after three rides, I stopped looking at the gear indicator and just focused on the speedometer every once in the while. Whenever the bike shaked wrong, that’s when I start focusing on everything to narrow down the problem. I’m really mad that I had unintentionally honed this skill driving a hmmwv. Lol

  4. It’s nice to see hacks like this on hackaday, rather than “these scientists came up with this new thing, which is out of the reach of a normal hacker”. Or “this woman scientist was important for this reason”.
    I’d like to keep the articles closer to a normal person.

    1. Somewhat agree. Some of the articles, the content and even the comments are so far over my head I can’t bend my neck back far enough to see them! Gets a little deflating to look around the main page and think, “I’m the dumbest guy here.” So I do appreciate seeing content like this one that is more within my reach.

      But there are some truly brilliant, educated and skilled people around. It’d be a boring and lonely place for em’ if they didn’t get to shine and share somewhere too.

      I feel the content here is balanced, there’s something for everyone most of the time.

  5. ive always wanted to mod the instruments on my bike, ideally to have some sort of dash that resembled the one on Kanedas bike from Akira, sadly its more work than doing a similar job on a car due to lack of a standard system like OBD so itd require some reverse engineering (although im sure someone has already done it if i went digging round the net)

    But i dont see the need for a gear indicator really, its the sort of thing you think you need before you start riding but soon find out you dont (now a fuel gauge is a useful addition)

  6. Counting LEDs is not something I think anyone should be doing if they are riding a bike. Better putting your effort into self preservation. That’s not to say it is not a good project, decoding CAN from scratch is a significant undertaking.

    I would just have picked up the switch output, that delay is a game stopper.

  7. You only need two lights, a neutral light and a ‘top gear’ light. They could be combined into one LED, green for neutral and red for top gear. You always know when you are in 1st gear and the rest don’t matter.

    1. +1
      This is what my current bike has in the form a green neutral light, and a separate yellow one for 5th gear (OD). It is unobtrusive, clear and simple.
      My last bike lacked both; and while they are nice to have they are by no means needed.

      1. The neutral lights tend to stop working but once you have a little experience on the bike you have no issues at all knowing when it is in neutral. And you get very good just listening to the engine and watching your speed to know what gear you are in. You really do get used to it. Much more so than in a car. A bike is a much more tactile experience. You hear the engine a lot more than you do in a car. About the only thing you need is a speedo and that is just so it will pass inspection. In my state they are required.

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