Ballistic battery review

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Ballistic makes a range of batteries. I needed their biggest for my Guzzi, but it’s still tiny — and nearly 6kg lighter than the original

WHAT kind of twit would pay $400 for a motorbike battery after being warned it came with no warranty and after having already bought one that didn’t work?

Well, I guess that would be me.

But there are extenuating circumstances. Really.

I was deep into the project of turning my 1988 Moto Guzzi LeMans 1000 into a café racer. And, as any café racer-type person will tell you, a cafe racer isn’t a café racer unless you can look through the middle of it and see right through to the other side.

For most bikes “the middle of it” means that space ordinarily occupied by an airbox, a battery, and a bunch of electrical bits. And in the case of the Guzzi, you can add a couple of car-size ignition coils and a rear brake master cylinder and reservoir.

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Nope. Can’t see through here …

I knew that most of those parts would be easy enough to deal with. An airbox, of course, is purely optional. Easy. Gone. The big coils could be replaced with smaller ones. The electrical bits couldn’t be done away with, but they could be moved around. You just have to make wires shorter or longer. (And keep track of which wire is which …) And the brake bits could, well, pretty much stay where they were.

But the battery, and especially a battery with enough oomph to confidently coax a 27-year-old 1000cc V-twin into life, was always going to be more of a challenge. The standard battery on the Guzzi is a big brute. You need a block and tackle and two strong mates just to get it out of the bike. OK, I exaggerate. But at 8.5kg, it’s big. And being big makes it very tricky to hide.

If only it was smaller …

And so I started searching to see what was out there.

Sure enough, I found something that looked perfect. The Ballistic Evo-2 16 cell lithium ferrous phosphate battery. Physically small but promising more power than the original battery, and there was an Australian importer.

‘Kah-CHING!’ went the credit card.

Once the battery arrived I could get to work on making it fit. Some sheet aluminium was bought, measured, cut and bent into an open-topped box, big enough to swallow the battery with some wriggle room to put some foam under-and-around the battery for protection from vibration. There was enough space on top of the gearbox and between the carbs – further forward than the original battery locale – for the new battery box to live. And now I could see through to the other side, just like a real café racer. Excellent.

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Snuggled in nicely between the carbs.

The aluminium box looked a little too modern and high-tech for an old Guzzi, and there was the small matter of finding a way to encourage the battery to stay in place if we should, say, hit a pothole at speed. Not out of the question, after all …

The remains of my old Daniel Boone suede jacket soon camouflaged the box, and an old leather cat collar did the job as a battery strap. Very cool, even if I do say so myself.

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Didn’t like that jacket much anyway. Or the cat.

With the battery in its new home, I was able to shift all those other bits around – including mounting one of the coils onto the new battery box. Of course, pretty much every wire on the bike was now either too short or too long.

Gulp.

Never mind. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Snip.

And snip. And snip and snip and snip and snip. And snip and snip some more.

Nerve-wracking stuff it was, but eventually every snip was snipped and everything was reconnected again. Frequent testing kept me confident that I had dash lights and indicators and brake lights and all those other things that needed batteries and wires and such to work.

Feeling confident and, to be honest, mighty proud, it was time to take the old girl out of the shed for the first time in a couple of months and go for a squirt.

Jacket on, boots on, helmet on, gloves on, climb aboard, ignition on, hit the starter and … nothing. Not a single revolution. The dash light just dimmed. Uh oh.

Maybe it just needs charging, I prayed …

No such luck.

It took a few weeks to solve the puzzle. Turned out the battery was old. Not used, just old. About two years old. And apparently sitting in a box unused for a couple of years was enough to make this super-duper high-tech feather-light snazzy battery totally useless.

Great.

After quite a prolonged discussion with the retailer here in Australia, the manufacturer in the USA, and after sending the battery to the retailer for testing, it was agreed the battery was no good. Yes, he would give me my money back. No, he would not give me another battery. He was no longer importing them.

Remember all that snip, snip, snipping? Remember measuring and cutting and bending that aluminium into shape, mounting it to the transmission, covering it in leather, killing the cat so I could make a strap? Running all those new wires to the new battery location?

You think I wanted to start again with a different battery? No sir-ee. I would not be able to get another battery the same size and shape unless it was another Ballistic. I found a retailer in California happy to sell me another one. A fresh one. But he warned me … there was no warranty outside the USA. Was I sure I wanted to do this?

Sure I was sure.

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That’s better. Remember, if you can’t see through the middle of it, it ain’t a cafe racer.

The battery has been in place for a little over a year now. I can’t believe how much power it generates. It cranks the big Guzzi much, much faster than the original battery, so the bike starts in an instant. I did once leave the parking lights turned on and by the end of the day the battery was flat as a squashed possum on a freeway. But it charged up fine (with my trusty old battery charger, incidentally, nothing special) and it hasn’t missed a beat since.

I love this battery. And I’ve never before owned a battery that I loved. If I were building this sort of project again, I’d buy another one in an instant.

But I’d be careful. I have seen huge variations in pricing on these batteries and, as I discovered, you need to start with a fresh one. And, unless the situation has changed in recent times, you might have to live without a warranty.

SUMMARY

What is it? A small, light, powerful battery

What does it cost? Around $400

Does it work? Yes

Would you buy another one? Yes

What’s good? Really small, really light, really powerful.

What’s bad? Expensive. Beware old stock. Beware paying too much. Be aware of warranty matters outside the USA

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Megapacks fork gaiters

2 Comments on "Ballistic battery review"

  1. I concur on your review. I have the exact same battery in my Guzzi cafe racer and am very happy with it. One big advantage when you have many bikes is the battery will hold its charge for many months. No trickle charging needed. The battery was small enough to mount hidden away in a tray in front of the rear tyre under the gearbox. I now have another one in my BMW project hidden in the seat duck tail. Highly recommended.

    • Peter Terlick | January 9, 2016 at 11:16 am |

      Thanks for the comment, Fangit. I’m glad I perservered after the first one let me down, and also that it recharged with no trouble when I accidentally ran it flat. I’ll be interested to see if it lasts as long, longer, or not as long as the old-tech original. Cheers.

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