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K&N – Is This The Last Word In Performance Air Filters?

Well, it may just be. K&N certainly is to performance air filters what Hoover is to vacuum cleaners. Way back in 1969, K&N was founded by Ken Johnson and Norm McDonald (hence the K&N from Ken and Norm) who initially sold motorcycles and motorcycle performance parts. It was not long before air filters became their focus and the rest, as they say in the classics, is history.

Image source: K&N

What sets K&N filters apart from regular original equipment air filters is their serviceability. The filters can be cleaned and re-oiled and used for the lifetime of the vehicle. Countless independent tests have been conducted which have proved conclusively that you will increase the engine performance of your vehicle by fitting a K&N. K&N uses oiled cotton gauze in their filters as opposed to the common use of paper filters as original equipment by most manufacturers.

Photo credit: ZA Bikers

There is a school of thought that to allow better airflow the filter must be less restrictive, which will also make it less efficient at trapping dirt. There is a degree of logic to this, however surfing the web I came across a number of K&N users who do a lot of off-roading, who swear that they have experienced superior performance from their K&N’s versus paper filters. This is on their 4x4s which, unlike most bikes, have their air intakes positioned behind their grills, and as such are more exposed to dust ingress than bikes, which more often than not have air intakes under their seats. Studying the airbox upstream of the filter will show you how effective your filter is. You want it to be pristinely clean.

Image source: K&N

Your bike’s engine creates a vacuum in the inlet tract, sucking air through the filter. The better the flow, the less the drag on the piston, which results in a more efficient motor and more power. The better the flow, the better the combustion, the greater the power produced. This efficiency also translates to better fuel consumption. Back in the day on our carburettor-equipped bikes, you would sometimes forget to totally release your choke after starting the motor. The result was reduced air intake, and unburnt petrol coming from the exhaust in the form of black smoke. The motor would also not rev out cleanly. This was a graphic illustration of how important good airflow into your bike’s intake is.

Photo credit: ZA Bikers

The engine will try and suck in air, even if your air filter is not efficient. It is a good idea to use rubber grease around the part of your filter which mates with the airbox. This prevents air from being sucked past the filter. This seems to be the main culprit for some dust in the airbox. So, the fact is, K&N filters are categorically going to flow better than your original paper filter. Understand that whilst you will have a measurable increase in power and torque, it is not going to be of a magnitude that you will feel it via the old ‘seat of the pants’ dyno. I slipped a K&N into my Triumph Tiger Rally Pro and cannot honestly say that I could feel a performance increase from the 2,24% more power that the Tiger is producing. But here is the thing.

Image source: K&N

I have bought my last air filter for the Tiger. From now on it is simply clean, re-oil and refit at each service or after any long dusty ride. The higher initial cost of the K&N (the one I’ve fitted to my bike ranges between R1400-R1900) is offset by the knowledge that whether I feel it or not, my bike’s motor is happier and more efficient. In time I will also save a lot of hard-earned loot. Why do I use fully synthetic oil in my Tiger? For exactly the same reason. I won’t feel the difference in what is already a superbly engineered piece of kit, but the peace of mind of knowing that I am maxing out all that technology just gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. When it comes time to write the next chapter in my motorcycling story, and the Tiger moves on to its next owner, the fact that I have invested into my bike to keep it in pristine condition both inside and out, will give the new owner a lot of peace of mind. The lifetime benefit of the K&N will favourably impact their ownership cost too.

Photo credit: ZA Bikers

If you plan to keep your current ride for the foreseeable future, see if there is a K&N for your bike. You will have a happier bike and save loot while you are at it. A no-brainer, I think…

For more information on K&N Air Filters contact Graeme Pienaar (GP Bike Accessories) at 0861 001 043 or [email protected]

Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.
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