According to this survey, electrical parts in motorcycles are the most probable to fail. Which of the electrical parts in modern motorcycles are necessary for maintaining basic driving capacity? In order to make the question more clear, I would like to make an analogy from a motor cycle to a computer program (since this is my area of expertise).

Let's assume that we are dealing with a program that can be operated via a graphical user interface (GUI) as well as a text-based command-line interface (CLI). In modern software engineering, programs tend to be very modularized with the separate modules ideally being as independent as possible from each other. In the case of this example this would mean that the GUI and CLI are separate modules that don't depend on each other (i.e. if one fails, the other one will still work).

Now consider that to operate the program we normally use the GUI, but one day the GUI stops working. Since the error cannot be fixed easily we resort to the CLI for now. The CLI might not be as comfortable to operate but the basic functionality of the program can still be accessed.

Back to my question: Which electrical parts in modern motorcycles are obligatory for maintaining the basic functionality of the motorcycle (which is the ability to drive with a reasonable degree of safety) and which parts are more like the GUI in the above example, i.e. they might make the driving experience more comfortable and (at least a bit) safer but are optional in terms of basic driving capacity.

  • Can you clarify what you mean by modern? I.e. build in last n years? or must have fuel injection?
    – Mauro
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:00
  • Do you want to know only what it takes to be able to ride the bike, or do you also care about the legal requirements to be on the road (turn signals, etc)?
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:21
  • I'm a little confused. Are you interested in what's required for the engine to run like charging systems, ignition, etc....or is this just the driver experience components? Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 16:07
  • @Mauro I am interested in motorcycles built within the last n=5 years.
    – zepp133
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 17:58
  • @JPhi1618 I meant this to be a purely technical question, so yeah, in this context I don't care about legal requirements.
    – zepp133
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


Generally manufacturers aren't going to waste money on unnecessary components.

You've got electrical components to:

  • provide spark to the engine.
  • an on/ off / kill switch to control engine on or off.
  • power the fuel pump (on a modern fuel injected bike).
  • power to the engine control computer, and its sensors and subsequently the fuel injectors (on a modern fuel injected bike.)
  • power headlamp for night time driving. (so you can see the road.)
  • power tail lamp for night time illumination (legal requirement)
  • power turn signals, front and rear (legal requirement for mfgr.)
  • power rear brake lamp (legal requirement)
  • power horn (legal requirement)
  • power gauges as appropriate (speed? warning lights, odometer,etc.)
  • power for the starter motor. (have you ever tried kick starting a big engine? its hard work.)
  • power for license plate illumination (legal requirement)
  • Alternator / regulator / battery (provide electricity and storage of same)

If you are going to the Walking Dead apocalypse, all you really need is the stuff that provides spark to the engine, and power for the fuel pump and the engine control computer. You will need a kill switch, alternator, battery. If you want to drive at night, add the headlamp. Electric Starter is optional, but highly recommended.

If you could go old skool (bikes built before 2003 or so...) you could go carbureted bikes (in lieu of fuel injection) and kick start. That would save on electrons. If you did old skool daytime walking dead only, you just need ignition coil and spark wiring.. things that generate spark. Add a kill switch, alternator, small battery and that's minimum.

If you want a modern fuel injected bike that is safe and legal, then that is exactly what the manufacturer is currently providing (less an extra kill switch or so).

  • 3
    apocalypse? Choose a bike with a magneto, no battery needed.
    – Moab
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 23:10

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