It’s a biking rite of passage; you’re ready for your day out on the bike, you’ve got your kit on, said goodbye to your partner, wheeled the bike out of the garage and…. nothing. The bloody battery’s dead. BUGGER!
The vast majority of us never think about our battery until the bike won’t start, by which time it’s too late.
Most bikers also have a car, so in this guide we’ve factored that in. Dedicated motorcycle battery chargers won’t have a high-enough output to work on larger car batteries but then battery chargers that can charge motorcycle as well as car batteries cost more. So we’ve focused on motorcycle-only chargers as our best rated products but we’ve also added a section that focuses on battery chargers that charge cars as well as bikes.
The CTEK XS 0.8 is a small fully automatic 6-stage charger that delivers 0.8A and charges 12V batteries from 1.2 to 32Ah and maintenance charging up to 100Ah. It desulphates and maintains a battery and comes with crocodile clips and a weatherproof quick charge harness.
Optimate are well established in motorcycling and the Optimiate 3 is their latest 7-stage motorcycle battery charger. It’ll recover, charge and maintain batteries from 2.5 to 50Ah. Supplied with crocodile clips and a waterproof quick-connect lead.
Sulphation has caused many a motorcycle battery to die a premature death but it doesn’t need to be this way – a simple charge every now and then will ensure your battery remains fighting fit and it won’t let you down.
It’s a myth that using your bike on a regular basis means the battery will be in tip-top condition. Even a well-used motorcycle won’t desulphate the battery like a dedicated charger, meaning that even if you regularly use your motorcycle, the battery might decide – just when you need it – that it hasn’t got the strength to go on.
If you’re lucky, a 45-minute charge should coax it back into life but if you’re unlucky, it will have gone past the point of return and even a battery charger with a reconditioning function won’t rescue it.
A good battery charger costs little more than your typical motorcycle battery. Without regular charging, you’ll be lucky to get two years from your battery but with regular charging, you should see five years from your battery. Not bad, eh?
Google is packed with choices when it comes to cheap motorcycle battery chargers. We sifted through the contenders and picked this Motopower 800ma motorcycle battery charger, which retails for just under £20.
It gets good reviews and comes with most of the features of the chargers we’ve picked above. Sure, you can find some chargers around the £10 mark but the majority of these have poor ratings or they are only trickle chargers, meaning they will maintain a healthy battery but not recover or condition it.
Not everyone has access to a mains power supply but never fear – you can still keep your battery charged by using a solar panel.
Oxford Products make a solar-powered battery charger called the Solariser and they even sell a motorcycle cover that has a built in solar-panel pocket.
Or you could go for this solar panel and charger combo which is designed to be fully weatherproof, specifically for bikes that are left outside.
If you want a more heavyweight charger with a higher output, you could buy this solar panel use this extension lead and then rig it up to a pre-made connector like this Oxford charger lead. You only need a tiny bit of DIY skills to sort it. It’s an ideal solution if your garage or shed doesn’t have mains power.
Some modern bikes are supplied with lithium batteries and as the prices of these batteries reduce, they will become more common. Two years ago they were almost twice the price of a regular lead acid battery but now you can expect to pay just 25% more than a regular battery.
The advantage of a lithium-ion battery is that they are much lighter and they also hold on to their charge for longer. However, if you allow a lithium battery to lose voltage they cannot be recovered.
It is not advisable to use a regular battery charger on a lithium battery as even though they will charge the lithium battery there are many risks involved as the charger switches cycles, from causing a fire to rendering the lithium cells useless, so unless you like taking risks or you’re prepared to sit with a voltmeter and check the battery throughout the charging process, you’re better off buying a dedicated lithium-ion motorcycle battery charger.
If, like me, you’ve got a few cars and bikes, you don’t need more than one charger if you buy the right one. What you will need is multiple quick-charge cables but they’re only a few quid each.
You can choose any brand of charger you want but the one I’ve been using for years and really rate is the CTEK MXS 5.0 charger.
There are loads of reasons that this is a top-notch charger. Firstly, it has an individual bike and car mode, so you won’t be overcharging a bike battery or taking forever to charge a car battery. It has a max output of 5 amps – a regular motorcycle battery charger is usually 0.8 amps.
It covers gel and lead-acid batteries and has a dedicated AGM mode. It features an automatic 8-stage charging process which tests the battery then starts charging at whatever stage is necessary from a complete desulphation (high-amperage) to a float mode (trickle charging).
The icing on the cake is that the MXS 5.0 also has a reconditioning mode where it will pulse and cycle an old battery to break down any sulphation and ensure that it is ready to accept a full charge.
All you need to do is grab one of these CTEK quick charge cables for each one of your vehicles and rig it up to the battery. Then you just connect up your charger to each vehicle and let it run through its cycle and when finished, move it over to whichever vehicle might need a boost.
If you have a few old chargers lying around the garage, flog ’em all on Gumtree and treat yourself to one decent charger and some quick-charge cables and you’re set. Proper job!
You can jump or bump-start a motorcycle, depending on the condition of the battery and the type of motorcycle. The main issue that the old fella in the picture above has got is that it looks like they’re trying to push him uphill. That’s never going to work.
How To Bump-Start A Motorcycle
If you have a motorcycle with a more modern digital dash, if it doesn’t fire up and display properly when you switch on the ignition, then this is a good indicator that your battery is probably too dead to be able to bump start the motorcycle but you should be able to jump it.
If it displays but the bike won’t turn over, you may be able to bump it.
Be careful you don’t drop the bike. It always helps to have a mate push the bike from the rear. It also helps if you can face it down a slope.
If it’s a scooter, you won’t be able to bump it, but you will be able to jump it.
How To Jump-Start A Motorcycle
You can jump-start a motorcycle form a car or another motorcycle. If it’s another motorcycle, it will help if the other motorcycle’s engine is running. If it’s a car, you won’t need to have the car’s engine running unless the car has a small engine and the bike a large one.
Connect the jump leads. Positive (+ve) from the car into +ve on the bike and Negative (-ve) to -ve on the bike. Turn on the bike’s ignition and fire it up as usual.
If your bike won’t start, then start up the donor car or bike’s engine but there’s no need to hold that engine at revs, just let it idle. If the bike still won’t start, then the chances are it’s not the battery that’s the issue.
There is a risk that the car battery could damage the bike’s electrical system, so jumping a motorcycle from a car is really only a last resort.
Far better to connect up a battery charger to the dead battery for 30 minutes which should add enough charge for you to be able to fire up the bike from its own battery.
Final word of warning: don’t try and start the motorcycle with the charger still attached to the battery. The charger won’t help you and all you’ll end up doing is knackering the charger.
If you have a car and a motorcycle, then you only need one charger, like CTEK's MXS 5.0 which will charge cars and bikes and recondition batteries too.
Fit quick-charge connectors which can be tucked inside the fairing or stashed under your seat meaning you don't need to get the tools out to remove bodywork when you want to charge your bike's battery.
If you buy a bulk charger without a trickle charge it will kill your battery as it will keep sending current even when the battery nears full, which starts to boil the electrolyte and warp the lead plates.
Oxford Oximiser 900 – Cheap but effective motorcycle battery charger that charges up to 20Ah batteries.
Battery Tender Junior Wallplug Charger – Neat little wall-plug-based charger from well-known American brand Battery Tender. It’ll charge Lithium batteries too making it a sound investment for your future charging needs.
Optimate 4 CANbus charger – If you have a BMW with CANbus then you’ll know that normal chargers won’t cut it but this CANbus-ready Optimate will do the job.
Motopower 800mA – At under twenty quid, this is a decent charger for the money. Featuring multi-stage charging. For just a few quid more you can upgrade from 0.8A model to the 2A model which will easily cover car batteries too.
Voche 6V & 12V charger – This charger is cheap but it packs a punch. It has a maximum output of 8A which would probably charge the batteries on a warship. If you’ve got a classic bike, it’ll handle the 6v electrics too.
Can you charge a lithium motorcycle battery with a normal battery charger?
Lithium batteries are not like lead acid ones and so a regular battery charger. A Li-ion battery cannot accept overcharge and so a regular charger will knacker it. While a regular charger will charge a Lithium ion battery, you are risking destroying the battery if the charger has an equalisation mode which will overcharge the battery and render the cells beyond repair.
How long does it take to charge a motorcycle battery
This depends on many factors; the capacity of the battery, the current state of charge, the output of the charger and the efficiency of the battery (i.e. how sulphated the cells are). Most quality motorcycle battery chargers will need two hours to have charged the battery to a level where it can turn over your bike.
Is there a charger that will charge lithium and normal motorcycle batteries?
Yes, this Motopower charger will charge both.
Do I need to disconnect the battery before charging it?
If you disconnect the battery you isolate it, meaning that you avoid any losses which may be in the bike’s wiring system and you’ll get a more efficient charge. However this isn’t practical for most bikers, as it can be fiddly to disconnect the battery.
If you have a smart charger, you’re protecting against shorting (should you connect the lead to the wrong battery terminal). However, if you aren’t using a smart charger, make sure you connect the leads up the right way!
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this motorcycle battery guide: