Necessity Is The Mother Of Motorcycle Wiring

Just ask Ryan Burke, masterpiece harness builder.

Ryan Burke
If you want the kind of success Ryan Burke (above) is having on a modern superbike, you better get comfy with electronics. For the 2019 Motorcycle Roadracing Association (MRA) season, Burke went beyond learning the electronics, he started building it… And he’ll build it for you too.Nick Ienatsch

The fact that Ryan Burke now builds ultra-trick motorcycle wiring harnesses has a wonderfully logical balance: When his team updated from Yamaha’s YEC electronics package to a MoTeC M130 on their R1 at the beginning of this season, the wiring harness was so custom that it had to be built per customer. Ryan, a journeyman electrician, didn’t hire it out; he built it himself.

He was hooked—and good at it. Ryan quit his electrician job and hung out a shingle. His Colorado-based The Collective Ltd. immediately picked up work from teams like Team Hammer M4 Suzuki, thanks to his friendship with Team Hammer M4 Suzuki supported rider Ben Fox. Fox mentored Burke through the first harness and then Burke whipped out three custom harnesses for M4, including the unit that fired Alex Dumas to the MotoAmerica Twins Cup Championship on his Suzuki SV650. The electrons running around that bike were put in place by Ryan Burke, and he wants to build a harness for your racebike too; contact him at (720) 297-4001.

YCRS
I’ve always felt that if you want things done well, hire a successful roadracer. Ryan Burke has worn this number for five straight years in Colorado and teaches for me at YCRS. I’m thrilled to see this entrepreneur step into the business end of our industry with The Collective Ltd. | Photo: Luke HummelLuke Hummel

Meanwhile, he piloted his own self-wired Yamaha R1 to his fifth consecutive MRA number 1 plate. This championship, one in which he was such a player on the bike and in the shop, could count as his most precious. In many ways, building wiring harnesses and winning roadraces are extremely similar because thousands of things can go wrong, and the working combination must be precise.

I love this kind of stuff, men and women with huge motorcycle passion who find a niche in the industry and then kick ass in it. And Burke makes it look easy, even though we all know electricity is magic and it’s an act of Merlin that anything works when the key turns. (Hmm, I might be a bit too self-revealing in that last sentence.)

Who Needs Wire?

Ryan’s customers come from a variety of motorcycling tangents, but the majority are racers looking to simplify the wiring of a motorcycle that does permanent track duty, or racers who are moving to high-end engine-management and data-acquisition systems like Burke’s MoTeC.

Ryan estimates a weight loss of about 5 pounds on a typical production bike that gets rewired for track use. With that weight reduction comes the ability to improve everything from the quality of the wire and connectors, to the opportunity to add connectors to make servicing simpler. Burke’s knowledge as a racer and tuner gives him hands-on experience when assembling a custom harness, knowing that ease of use is almost as important as function.

My AHRMA racing friends are learning about Burke and The Collective Ltd too. Decades-old wiring and connectors are not always eager to work, so upgrading all electron-carrying systems makes sense when you know the work will be top-shelf. Even vintage bike owners who want the exact look with upgraded function find that Burke can almost always track down the old connectors and has had good luck reusing the stock hardware. “I’ve got some trick tools,” Burke claims.

wiring
Burke gets the party started with solid-core wiring laid in to the necessary components in the most efficient locations. But before this party, each system must be identified, and future systems must be planned for. Burke uses spreadsheets for each bike and scours the internet or reverse-engineers systems to find the necessary information well before the solid wire gets placed.The Collective Ltd.
wires corresponding
Each wire is numbered to correspond with Burke’s key, and connector locations are marked. It’s noteworthy that Burke adds extra connectors based on his racing experience so cameras and additional data components can be added down the road. Burke uses Raychem and Deutsch Autosport products.The Collective Ltd.
Harness board
After all components have wire running to them, the harness is pulled off, straightened, and mounted on its own 4-by-8-foot whiteboard. Once Burke has lengths and connectors figured out; the next step is working with the books, specifically Ohm’s law, to determine not just the type of wire that is best, but the lightest wire that will function without fail. Words like “ampacity” get thrown around and the differences in wiring for fuel pumps versus sensors. My eyes glaze over, but Burke loves it.The Collective Ltd.
Desk with wiring
With wiring lengths and gauges selected, the puzzle begins to take shape on the whiteboard. “Splices are never soldered,” Burke says, “because solder can become brittle and snap. Special crimps are used for splices then encapsulated in epoxy-lined heat shrink. The wire will break before the crimp fails.”The Collective Ltd.
Trick parts
Trick parts to do the heavy work of protecting splices against vibration, wear, and weather. Placing these Raychem products is all part of the puzzle when building wiring harnesses for a situation where failure can be catastrophic, such as a broken crimp on a traction control sensor.The Collective Ltd.
Wires heat-shrinked and wrapped
Wires are now heat-shrinked and wrapped, awaiting connectors. Wires are twisted unidirectionally to provide even tension on each wire inside the heat shrink. This helps create a harness that is round, less prone to breakage, and an overall more flexible harness that looks nice and forms to the motorcycle.The Collective Ltd.
Labeling
Labeling is just a small part of the organization necessary to wire a modern superbike, and Burke uses heat-shrink labels with excellent durability. Burke wires in fuses and relays where necessary, and has done entire fuse panels for more-streetable motorcycles.The Collective Ltd.
Wiring
Done and ready for war. High heat areas and wear areas get special attention. Even once installed, Burke can add connectors to ease maintenance: “We can add connectors to the throttle bodies, for instance, so they could be removed and worked on in record time. Speed is everything when a bike needs to get back on track.”The Collective Ltd.
tools
Burke’s 22 years as an electrician included electrical system design, work on power distribution systems, motor controls, lighting controls, temperature controls, elevators, and building automation, equipping him with vast knowledge and some pretty cool tools. He’s added high-end crimpers and magnifying glasses for the fine work of motorcycle electronics.The Collective Ltd.
harness
Burke builds his harnesses with an eye toward crash rebuilds as well, separating systems as much as possible with connectors that allow the team to swap components quickly. His attention to detail also extends to the appearance. “I want my work to look at home on a MotoAmerica Superbike grid,” Burke says.The Collective Ltd.
Burke with wires
Burke’s words: “The main reason I started down this path was necessity. I was upgrading the electronics on my R1 to the MotoAmerica electronics package from MoTeC. That is basically a dash and an ECU. Nothing else. A wiring harness is not available as an off-the-shelf unit; it needs to be handmade by a pro and for top dollar. I thought that with my experience that I could tackle this project on my own with a little help and guidance from Ben Fox.”The Collective Ltd.
electrical work
Many of you know my own passion for working in the shop. I sent The Collective Ltd. a résumé and some pictures of my best electrical work (above) in the hopes of landing a job in the mystical, magical, elusive, sometimes-it-works world of motorcycle electrons. Still waiting to hear back from Ryan…Nick Ienatsch

More next Tuesday!