Of late, there has been a disturbance in the Malaysian web sphere about motorcycle modifications, especially after the police and JPJ have come out to say they will be cracking down on transgressors. This includes detention and identification of those who use modified motorcycles on public roads, as reported in local media.

This is not a new development. There are no new regulations or laws about motorcycle modifications that has prompted the authorities to pursue those who modify their rides.

Where this comes from is the popularity for modifications and accessorising motorcycles that, of late, has gone viral from videos involving celebrities that the powers that be have taken as an affront to their authority. It has to be remembered, the police and JPJ have always had the power to take action against illegally modified vehicles, two- or four-wheeled.

The authority is given to them under the Road Transport Act 1987, which allows for action to be taken against those who knowingly modify their vehicles. Let’s take a look at what the Act says, and how does it affect modders and their motorcycles.

In general, any vehicle used on public roads that has been modified in contravention of its Vehicle Type Approval (VTA), is deemed to be illegal and the user has committed an offence. By definition, VTA is the approval from JPJ that certifies the vehicle is in compliance with Malaysian laws, regulations and standards and is allowed to be sold for use on public roads.

Should any modification be made after VTA has been issued, the modified vehicle has to be inspected and approved by JPJ before it can be used in public. Can you modify your motorcycle in contravention of the VTA?

Of course you can. Just don’t get upset when you get stopped and your motorcycle confiscated.

In this article, we examine some of the main modifications made to motorcycles and how they flout the law so that readers have an idea of, well, how far they can go.

Noisy Exhausts

This is the most obvious modification made. In most cases, it takes the form of a straight pipe with muffler baffles removed.

The reasoning given is it allows car drivers to hear the bike and realise there is a motorcycle near them. The “loud pipes saves lives” excuse.

But, if the exhaust noise exceeds the legal limit, it is still against the law. A noise level of two to three decibels more than what is approved in the VTA might be allowed, at the discretion of the enforcement officer, but above that, action will be taken.

Narrow Tyres

Otherwise known as “tayar sotong”, many modified kapchais use narrow width tyres to reduce rolling resistance and obtain more speed. Smaller tyres than what is approved in the VTA is dangerous because of the reduced grip as well as not being able to bear the load.

For example, if a rider and pillion are on a motorcycle with narrow tyres, the performance demanded may exceed the tyre’s load limit, leading to unsafe operating conditions. This is probably the main cause of accidents for small displacement modified motorcycles, especially in corners.

Oversized Tyres

Of late, a trend of installing oversized rear tyres on smaller motorcycles has emerged, referred to as “Geng Tayar Gemuk” or Fat Tyred Gang. Mimicking the look of oversized rear wheels used on big cruisers like Harley-Davidsons, the fat tyre boys are placing stress on the suspension and frame of their motorcycles.

Installing a fat rear tyre usually involves making frame and rear suspension modifications. However, the condition of this particular trend is there must be no modification to the front suspension and the original swingarm must be used.

Since putting on a fat tyre usually involves modifying the rear brake calliper and pedal location, this contravenes the VTA and is thus an offence.

Changing Coversets

Should the motorcycle owner change the bodywork or ‘coverset’ and it is of a different colour to what is stated on the registration card, JPJ has to be notified of the change within seven days. If the coverset changes the original silhouette of the motorcycle, that is deemed to be an offence.

No Rear View Mirrors

Rear view mirrors are an essential part of a motorcycle’s standard equipment and has a direct impact on rider safety. Therefore, it is clear not having rear view mirrors is a clear violation.

Number Plates

‘Fancy’ plates, as termed by the authorities, is another regulatory offence. The requirements for motorcycle numbers are clearly laid out in JPJ rules and any deviation is an offence.

This includes fancy fonts, reflective plate surfaces, undersized letters and numbers and others. While the offence is usually compoundable, the maximum penalty is RM300.

Cable upgrades

Another popular modification is upgrading brake and clutch cables, or installing braided steel brake hoses. Since this modification improves performance without affecting other technical aspects of the motorcycle, this modification is allowed, provided the cables function as intended and are not routed in a manner that is dangerous.

Engine modifications

This is something of a thorny issue, as most engine upgrades are in the interest of engine reliability. However, this also means the power output of the engine is increased, especially in the case of oversized pistons, porting, ECU swaps and the like.

As far as the authorities are concerned, there are all against the law and might result in the motorcycle being confiscated for inspection. Should the motorcycle pass inspection, then it will be returned for use.

Penalties

If a motorcycle on a public road is stopped for a check and found to be modified, the authorities are empowered to confiscate it. Over and above the confiscation, the owner will have to pay a penalty of up to RM3,000 before beign able to reclaim their motorcycle with the additional requirement the vehicle has to be returned to original condition within seven days and re-inspected by JPJ.

If this is not complied with, the owner of the motorcycle is subject to a maximum RM20,000 penalty.

It must be noted these regulations apply to vehicles used on public roads. For custom and racing motorcycles being transported for show or competition and the like, there is nothing illegal about any modification made.