A year ago, I brought home a 1999 Triumph Tiger. The motorcycle was my first Triumph, my first adventure bike, and my next chapter in eschewing carbs for fuel injection. It’s been an incredible ride, save for the fact that it’s been a pain just to get the thing started. Now I’ve finally solved it with a lithium battery that I’ve fallen 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 30-some motorcycles since getting my endorsement in 2018, and I used to buy those discount batteries that you have to fill. They’re often smaller than specified, but I’ve never had a problem with them firing up an old bike.
Well, there’s a first time for everything, and it changed with the Triumph. On most days I would come outside, swing a leg over the bike, hit the start button, then be disappointed when nothing happened.
The engine wouldn’t even attempt to turn over. But it would start from a jump pack.
This confused me, because in my experience until then, a weak or too-small battery would at least slowly turn the engine over. This thing couldn’t even do that.
But after a jump, it ran well, and it became one of my favorite two wheelers. The triple soundtrack could make the worst day better, the metallic yellow paint makes even the most inattentive drivers pay attention, and I dig the alien looks.
More troubleshooting revealed that the too-small battery could occasionally start the motorcycle, and that should have clued me off to the issue. When the bike was running, the odometer sometimes flickered, the horn was quiet and the headlights were dim — more clues.
I eventually bought the correct battery, and this seemed to have solved my issues. It started without a jump pack tether. I concluded that being a cheapskate is what caused my repeated disappointment whenever I hit the start button.
Then I let the bike sit for a couple of weeks, and once again, it stopped starting. Just like with the last battery, the engine wouldn’t even try to turn over.
The battery came back at 12.3 volts 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 puts out more than enough juice.
Stumped, I reached out to a local mechanic. He said that the issue likely had to do with the ECU but wouldn’t say further. I started scouring Triumph forums and found a little quirk about these bikes. As many owners have discovered, while another bike may turn over slower when the battery is not at a full charge, these machines are likely to not turn over at all.
And the aforementioned issues with a flickering odometer and dim lights? Signs of too low voltage.
I searched forums and found all sorts of remedies. Some people have shortened the battery cables while others hooked their bikes up to tenders every night. Some have even used solar panel chargers. When this quirk hit the owners of fuel-injected Triumph twins, some dealerships recommended charging batteries nightly or a “city tune” that lowers the starting voltage threshold.
I should go through the motorcycle’s electrical system and check for any parasitic drain, but that’s for another day. To get something resembling reliable starting, I decided to do something different and picked up a Noco NLP14 lithium battery.
This is the equivalent of a YTX14-BS lead acid battery but at a fraction of the weight. And lithium battery chemistry is a lot different than lead acid. While a lead acid battery loses lots of voltage with its state of charge, lithium batteries hold strong until their charge gets low. This sounds perfect for a bike with a temper about its voltage.
I moved it into its new home in the Triumph, where it made a night and day difference. The bike now starts strong and quick. Oh, and those other electrical issues? Gone. It’s almost an entirely different motorcycle now.
I now no longer fear getting stranded because the bike is having a fit about voltage.
When I posted my story about this battery to Opposite-lock, some had concerns about having a lithium battery under your butt, being charged by a system meant to fill up a lead acid battery. After all, lithium batteries of the past sometimes had a knack for going up in flames.
Noco thought of this, and the battery has its own management system. It prevents the battery from being charged too much, discharged too much, short-circuited, too frozen, too heated and more. This should mean no fiery death.
Others had concern about it performing 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 into the teens.
Yet, the battery does what my others couldn’t.
I’m thoroughly impressed with this thing so far. I even love the fit and finish. Noco provides you with neat spacers so you can fit the battery perfectly into its space.
And its feel is way better than you’d expect from an object that you aren’t going to be routinely touching. I paid $120 for it, and since Noco recommends a lithium-compatible charger, I threw another $30 at a one-Amp charger.
Let’s do a quick spec comparison. A Yuasa YTX14-BS is the recommended battery for my bike. This is a 12Ah battery that weighs in at 10 pounds and features 200 cold-cranking amps of starting power. Nothing too amazing going on there.
The Noco NLP14 lithium has a 4Ah capacity, 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 notes the starting current as 500 Amps peak instead of CCA. Noco’s claims of the little battery being able to replace a lead acid seem to be true, but when things warm up I want to put this to the test.
Hopefully the little guy continues to rock, because I’m so in love with this thing. I’m even considering converting some of my more delicate cars to lithium. You’ll hear about it again as I continue to use it.