The Motorcycle Development Program Participants Association, Inc. (MDPPA) has released an advisory about the dangers of motorcycle customization. The organization is built upon the principles of the government’s Motor Vehicle Development Program (MVDP), implemented by the Board of Investments, and includes members in motorcycle manufacturing and distribution such as Honda, Kawasaki, Yahama, Suzuki, and Kymco.

“The desire to appear cool and sporty has prompted a lot of motorcycle riders to enhance motorcycles with cosmetic and engine modifications. Unfortunately, most motorcycle riders are ignorant about the dangers of motorcycle customization and how their ‘artistic’ pursuits can affect motorcycle safety, performance and durability in the long run,” said the MDPPA in the group’s recent statement.

“Motorcycles undergo quality control tests to ensure compliance with the highest safety and environmental standards. By modifying motorcycles, motorists simply regress from experiencing the 'perfect ride'.”

The MDPPA warns agains changing motorcycle parts improperly and cites the following common examples: light bulb colors, tires, handlebars, mirrors, and mufflers. The MDPPA also highlights the risk that customizers take when altering critical components, removing rev limiters from ignition systems, and replacing fuel systems such as carburetors. According to the association, such modifications can cause negative effects on fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, decrease engine power and efficiency, and cause more damage over time. MDPPA reminds riders to regularly visit authorized service centers with trained mechanics for proper preventive maintenance as specified in owners’ manuals.

MDPPA also cites the prohibition against vehicle modification pursuant to LTO-LTFRB Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01 which states that most manifestations of motorcycle customization are illegal Under the “Motor Vehicle Registration/Renewal/Operation” section, the order states that a person driving improperly registered vehicle with a “replacement engine, engine block or chassis” can be fined ₱10,000 with the confiscation of undocumented engines.

Meanwhile “… Change in color and other unauthorized modifications of the standard manufacturer’s specification” makes a rider subject to a fine of ₱5,000. In such an event, “the motor vehicle shall be impounded and shall be released only upon inspection, correction of defect and payment of the fine.” Parts that could be confiscated include “bells/horns/sirens/whistles, blinkers, brakes, early warning devices (EWD), grill/s, jalousies, brakes, brake lights/headlights/interior lights/signal lights/tail lights, mirrors, mufflers, metallic tires/spare tire, speedometer, windshield, wipers or any other accessory, device, equipment or part that is manifestly prejudicial to road safety.”

License plates are also subject to scrutiny under the order — vulnerable to the same ₱5,000 fine and consequences. “This includes unauthorized plate/s or any accessory or device to and/or around the authorized motor vehicle license plate, or any manner of attachment that impedes in any way the visibility or reflectivity of the authorized motor vehicle license plate and/or the third plate sticker,” the document states.

The everyday reality exposes that rules and regulations are inadequately enforced in the Philippines, but enforcers reserve the right to apprehend violators. While the MDPPA discourages customization for reasons such as safety and reliability, the truth is that motorcycle customization in the country is prevalent and growing at an explosive pace. 

It is worth stressing that motorcycle customization is perilous when done without the proper skill and technical knowledge. Shoddy welds and loose bolts can cause a motorcycle itself to break apart mid-ride. Cheap, unreliable accessories can fall off at any time. Negligent and incompatible electronics can cause power failures. Exhaust modification or replacement (sans the safer route of slip-ons) as well as catalytic converter deletes can impact engine performance and often require fuel delivery tweaks for optimum efficiency… And even then, messing around with wrong tuning can stress, overheat, and damage an engine’s internals causing expensive headaches in the long run. Changing wheel or tire sizes, and altering suspension settings or geometry without informed input can throw a bike off balance, decrease steering and handling capability, and lead to crashes. Removing turn signals and brake lights can cause collision, while the irresponsible use of strong lighting can blind oncoming motorists. Even the custom competition Moto Builds Pilipinas judges entries based on criteria that includes safety and functionality.

The big names in motorcycle manufacturing spend countless hours and a lot of money on rigorous research, development, and testing — to ensure that machines are balanced, well performing, and safe. It is cheap and all too easy to change the intended critically holistic harmony of a bike to detrimental effect for the mere purpose of self-expression.

Remember to seek out expert opinion or trusted garages before you pursue a build, and recognize that you are at risk of lawful apprehension.