Product Review: Optical Ignition by C5 Performance Ignitions

| May 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Nowadays it seems that to increase performance it always means more issues to deal with like timing chips, control modules for those chips, advanced ( and expensive ) metals, etc. etc. . And it almost always means a decrease in efficiency. But what about something simple like an ‘all in one’ kinda solution which doesn’t require more space or complexity? How about accommodating vintage, or even 2 stroke bikes?  Just a pipe dream?  Well, then I heard about C5 Performance Ignitions.

encoder photo

C5 Performance Patented Encoder

C5 Performance has created an optical ignition system which they claim not only increases performance and efficiency, but that their simplified design makes setup simple and adjustments don’t require extensive modification ( or a degree in rocket science ).

I was given the opportunity to try one of these out myself, but I decided to ask an expert instead.  Deyne ‘Sid’ Stocker of SIDS Speed Shop agreed to put one of these to the test. We were asked to pick whatever we wanted to try, American or metric, and Sid chose a dual fire system to test on a Harley. But what I didn’t know was that Sid was going to try this out on an actual problem bike.  The following is an interview I did with Sid on his evaluation.

without cover

Utah Cafe Racer: So, from right out of the box, what were your first impressions of this system?

Deyne ‘Sid’ StockerI was a little leery about it just because it’s not metal housed. You can see the circuit board, and most of the time when someone doesn’t run a gasket on their points cover, water gets into it. But then, when you do run a points cover you obtain a lot of heat. So I didn’t know how it was going to work out. The instructions were great though, it was simple as shit to install.

UCR: And everything that came in the kit was what you needed?
SID: Yes, there wasn’t anything missing. There were plenty of shims to space the timing wheel back and forth if needed. As far as the everyday guy being able to install this, I’m not too sure about that just because the spacing of the shims, setting up the fly wheel, tolerances, motor theory, etc. .

UCR: Please describe the bike you installed this on.
SID: We installed it on a 1999 Sportster 1200, with an open header and a performance carburetor.

UCR: And you said this bike has had ignition problems from the start?
SID: Yeah, from day one it was loosing spark intermittently and we hadn’t been able to trace the problem. It would loose spark, pause out for two seconds, then gain spark again and the bike would just cough out and croak. We’d replaced two ignitions, both within a month and a half of each other, and it did it both times.

UCR: So when you popped it in, did you notice anything right off the bat?
SID: You could immediately tell a dramatic difference in timing, as far as it idled. There was no detonation at all, it was just solid right out of the hole and we didn’t have to advance or retard timing at all. Everything was right off the static timing, everything was just spot on.
SID: We also noticed an extreme improvement up top. From 4000 to 6000 rpms it really pulled twice as hard as before, and it just had a really smooth power curve to it. Whatever they have the timing curve set at, it is ideal.

UCR: Right on!  So, you’ve been running it for a couple months now, how has it held up?
SID: As far as reliability goes, we’ve only had it on for two months, and this has been ridden through the rain a couple times. In another month and a half to two well have a good idea how it holds up, especially since we’ll be doing a couple 1000 mile trips. But for performance all around, it is ideal.

coils and ignitor

Ignition and Coils

UCR: Is there anything you’d wish was different or included in the kit?
SID: As far as the kit goes there was everything I needed. Instructions were solid, plenty of diagrams on the instructions  and that was it. Maybe beef up the encoder wheel, just because we can’t stop someone installing this at their house from possibly bending it. It’s pretty thin material, but aside from that there wasn’t anything I’d change right now.

SID: The wiring coming from the ignition to the coil is encased in some really good coating. I liked the size of the coil; is was small and wasn’t a nuisance  The spark plug kit was spot on for a ‘build it yourself’ spark plug kit, and most guys screw those up.They could consider offering the kit with a length of spark-plug wire pre-cut to fit a specific model, but if not then just have them suggest specific wire. We get guys in here all the time that try to build their own and continuously ruin them.

After the review with Sid, I sent Paul of C5 Performance an email asking for some clarification on how susceptible this system is to water, and why the circuit board is exposed. Here was his answer –

As for water, you can’t get a bunch of water or oil on the encoder, or it wont let the light beam through, but moisture is not an issue. The electronics are actually molded inside with soldered connectors on the outside that can be repaired. We like it to be ventilated slightly, so moisture from heat cycles can escape. The encoder wheel is stainless steel.

They have lasted almost 20 years on farm tractors so i doubt life on a motorcycle could be worse…lol



Facebook: C5 Performance

Contact: C5 Performance Inc

N1259 Shaky Lake Rd

Fremont, WI 54940 USA

920-403-0555 or 920-810-0946


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