The Shorai LFX lithium-iron battery in my trusty R1 (trusty mostly because of the battery) first took up residence there in early 2010, when I toiled at a competing publication. At the time, Shorai was a new player in the battery business, had some teething problems, and walked back its claim that its batteries could last ten years (mostly because they were so new, there was no way to back that up).
Well, we’re halfway to ten years now, and the Shorai seems to have just as much cranking power as ever. I’m in the habit now of starting the R1 up for a minute or two once a week or so to keep its pilot jets from clogging up, but in the first few years of the Shorai, the bike and I lived in different places and it would sit for months without being touched. Even then, the Shorai never failed to crank the R1 easily to life, even if it was misfiring on a cylinder or two after it started.
Out of habit from years of lead-acid battery necessity, I used to hook the Shorai up to my small Battery Tender Junior now and then, but it never took more than five minutes for the light on the charger to go from red to green, indicating a fully charged battery. So, I stopped bothering to charge it after a while. I plugged it in again just now to write this update (I rode the bike a couple of hours the day before); the light turned green in under a minute. Yes, you can use a Battery Tender to charge your Shorai, but you shouldn’t leave it plugged into one.
On an older bike like mine, without a clock or alarm system, Shorai says its battery should still fire the engine even if it sits for up to a year. Modern bikes that do have those always-on accessories will draw enough power to drain the battery if they don’t get ridden once or twice a month. For them, you can either A) continue to juice the battery with your Battery Tender as needed and unplug it when the battery is charged, B) buy one of Shorai’s dedicated SHO-BMS01 chargers for $84.95 and forget about it, or C) unplug the negative battery terminal when the bike’s going to sit for a while. Problem solved.
My old R1 might be 15 years old, but with this battery and Evan Steel’s carburetion, it fires up and runs every bit as easily and dependably as any of the brand-new fuel-injected bikes I usually have parked in my garage — even with the little bit more compression ESP also gave it. In fact, the Shorai spins the cold engine a bit faster, making it light off easier. I’m going to guess that’s down to the CCA (cold cranking amps) rating of 270 for my battery, compared to the 215 or so of the typical old-style lead/acid battery. EiC Duke reported the same thing when he put a Shorai in his Ducati here back in 2011 (when Shorai won MO’s Honorable Mention for Best New Product).
The downside of the Shorai remains the same as before. In fact, it’s even a little worse, since the LFX18A1-BS12 that fits my bike sells for $189.95, which is $30 more than five years ago. On the other hand, you’d have to spend a lot more than $189.95 on carbon fiber and titanium to take six pounds off your bike; this Shorai weighs a wispy 2.3 pounds. And if you can afford it, it seems worth every penny to know that your old bike’s going to start when you want it to, without worrying about whether you remembered to plug it in last time, or wait, was that the coffee maker? Let’s hope we’ll all be around and able to file another positive Shorai report in 2020!