Quick Takes

 

iCAT USA

iCAT USA LLC.
P.O. Box 3533
Muskogee, OK 74402
Ph: (918)681-4868
www.icatusa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Sparks But Does It Bark?

 

The iCAT Spark Booster (for want of a better name) is a relatively small (about the same size, shape, and value as a fat hot-dog) and mysterious electronic device inserted between the stock ignition coil and the spark plug. It is said by iCAT to be more than just a simple capacitor device that shortens and/or increases the spark. Without providing any other input to the wire, mind you, they claim that the iCAT somehow electronically alters the spark pulse from the coil, changing its shape, speed, and strength, the results of which produce a longer and more powerful spark. This effectively means that if all the fuel mixture is burned inside the combustion chamber, we’ll get more power and fewer (perhaps none) unburned gases in our exhaust. That’s right, they claim as much as 100% reduction in noxious exhaust gases, despite the fact that burning any gasoline always produces noxious emissions.

 

Quick Facts

Manufacturer: iCAT USA http://www.icatusa.com

Price: $200.00

Warranty: 1 year

Net Weight Increase:: 3.15oz.

Hardware Included: iCAT device only

Instructions: Yes


They go on to say that the iCAT is a totally new and revolutionary approach to spark technology, unlike anything that has come before. It’s said to be compatible with all ignitions and spark plug engines, both two-stroke and four-stroke, in all engine sizes.

The iCAT device was born in England, originally designed to reduce the exhaust emissions for a particular application (indoor forklifts). It was later discovered, they claim, to improve performance as well, so it’s now patented worldwide by Motiv International. Easily installed on many different engine applications using spark ignition, the iCAT promises include:
1. Improve throttle response
2. Increased torque under load
3. Provides a cleaner, more efficient fuel burn
4. Increased fuel mileage
5. Reduces harmful exhaust emissions

Frankly, this device and all its promises struck me as just another worthless product designed to separate us from 200 of our hard earned dollars, while offering nothing of value in return. After all, how likely is it that a company we’ve never even heard of could come up with something truly revolutionary and useful, that hugely successful engine manufacturers worldwide have somehow overlooked? Possible? Of course. Probable? Hardly. And with all the ongoing research today seeking better gas mileage and lower exhaust emissions, why have we not heard about this revolutionary new discovery on the six-o’clock news? Why hasn’t Ford or GM bought the design for their cars? Claims of power increases coupled with cleaner exhaust emissions have been promoted and advertised for years, but have come to the market slowly, and usually only at great expense. A good example of this is variable cam timing, which effectively offers ever-changing, computer controlled valve actuation, to provide increased efficiency at cruising speeds, more torque at low RPM, and more horsepower at high RPM, high-throttle situations. It’s effectively like having numerous different cam profiles in your engine, any one of which can be called upon instantly. Variable cam timing works through known and proven technology, but it doesn’t come cheaply. Nor was it offered to gullible young motorcycle riders before it came to high-technology auto manufacturers.

The Podium

  • No detectable loss of performance.

Gimmicks like intake manifold vortex inducers, magnetic fuel line enhancers, free-flowing mini-superchargers, and many similar products are aimed at the blind sheep among us. Most such products do nothing more than lighten our wallets, while depending on our human tendency to believe such claims, and then convince ourselves that they really work after we’ve made the investment. It’s a psychological fact that we hate to admit it when we waste money! Ever notice how many people go to Las Vegas and then come home swearing that they won? People buy this junk, install it, and then swear up and down it works, without ever really putting it to a valid test. It’s either that or admit that they’re been duped. And for better or worse, this is the category for which I expected the iCAT device to qualify.

Nevertheless, at Ken’s request, I accepted the task of testing two iCAT Spark Boosters, one on a CRF250X , the other on a CRF230F.

Installation on the CRF230F was very simple. Remove the seat and gas tank to gain access to the ignition coil area. Then pull the spark plug cap off the spark plug, and unscrew the spark plug cap (mine is yellow, but some may be black) from the spark plug wire. Then, using the supplied rubber boots to seal the new connection, Screw the iCAT’s screw-end into the spark plug wire, and then screw the Honda spark plug cap onto the other end of the iCAT. Push the spark plug cap back onto the spark plug, and secure the iCAT to the frame tube under the fuel tank. Now reinstall the gas tank and seat., and you’re done.

Honda CRF230F and the iCAT

 

Installation on the CRF250X is a bit more involved. First you’ll need to acquire a screw-on spark plug tip from another spark plug. (The iCAT cost $200, yet they can’t provide a 2¢ part needed to install the product.) Then remove the seat and gas tank to gain access to the spark plug. Clean the area thoroughly before removing the spark plug cap with its built-in coil. You don’t want any dirt falling down into the spark plug pit. Then pull the spark plug cap upward and out of the spark plug pit. Clean it and then slide off the big round collar that seals the top of the spark plug pit.

Honda CRF250X and the iCAT

 

Now do your best to clean out any dirt that’s down in the spark plug pit. If you have compressed air handy, now’s the time to use it. You don’t want dirt falling into the engine when the spark plug is removed.

Now remove the spark plug, install the screw-on spark plug tip, and replace the spark plug. Install the round collar on the iCAT device so that it will seal the top of the spark plug pit when installed on the spark plug. Then press the iCAT down into the spark plug pit, and make sure it snaps onto the spark plug. Push the other end of the iCAT wire into the end of the Honda cap/coil. A little spray detergent like Windex or 409 will help the rubber collars and sleeves slide into place.


Now you have to secure the Honda coil somewhere down low so that it won’t interfere with the gas tank, which pretty much occupies all the area above the spark plug. I used three nylon wire-ties to secure mine to the radiator hoses in front of the cylinder. Once everything is secure and tight, replace the gas tank and seat.

Research

I spent several hours surfing the web looking for other reviews and opinions of the iCAT. At advertising-hungry commercial websites and motorcycle magazine websites, I found several favorable reviews of the iCAT. One even claimed that the iCAT gave performance improvements similar to installing a big bore kit, except it worked even better and cost less. One website said “you won’t believe how many pro riders are using it!” Hmm. Don’t pro riders use whatever they’re paid to use? Where are some testimonials from regular riders?

Actually, I did find one testimonial from an unknown individual, who said he bought it used off E-Bay. (Now there’s a great testimonial in itself!) He liked it, saying that it made the bike feel stronger at all RPM. But he didn’t say he’d actually tested it in any way. His opinion was followed by another individual who said he had tried one and seen no improvement whatsoever. I didn’t find any more private praise for the iCAT, but I found a few more riders trying to sell them.

I also visited iCAT USA’s website and found nothing regarding a return policy. Does it come with a money-back satisfaction guarantee? If not, why not? If it works as great as they say, why would they be concerned about people wanting to return it? Rekluse offers a money-back satisfaction guarantee on their auto-clutch, as does Flatland Racing and some others for their products. Don’t you ever wonder why some companies have that much confidence in their products, while other companies don’t?

Testing

We hauled both bikes out to an inactive airport. While Mike unloaded the bikes, I marked the start and end points for a 1/10 mile straightaway on the pavement. Then we started the bikes and rode them around the old airport grounds for about fifteen minutes to fully warm the engines. Okay, maybe we had a little fun too, but that’s beside the point. Then we stopped each engine, re-started it, let it idle for a moment or two, and noted that all seemed perfectly fine. We logged mental impressions of the starting ritual, idle, and throttle response characteristics. Then I made four series of five full-throttle passes through the measured 1/10 mile, with Mike manning the stopwatch. Each pass was followed by a slow return to the starting line to allow the engine to return to normal temperature. The quickest and slowest times of each five-pass series were discarded, and the three remaining times were averaged.

With the iCAT device installed, the 247cc CRF230F averaged 11 seconds.
With the iCAT device installed, the Rekluse-clutch equipped CRF250X averaged 9 seconds.

Then the iCAT devices were removed from both bikes, and the test runs repeated.

Without the iCAT device, the 247cc CRF230F averaged 11 seconds.
Without the iCAT device, the Rekluse-clutch equipped CRF250X averaged 9 seconds.

Strangely enough, Mike and I both agreed that the CRF230F seemed to idle better with the iCAT installed. I don’t know why, but I do know that this bike needs re-jetting since the big bore kit was installed, so that may have something to do with it.

Just for grins, I even tried one iCAT on my home lawnmower. It was just as hard to start, it still smoked badly, and it didn’t win any races!

I also polled the local dirt bike club email group, asking if anyone else had tried an iCAT Spark Booster. The typical response was, “What’s an iCAT?”, but there were others. “If you try one and like it, I have two gallons of horsepower I’ll sell you.”
“You need more than an iCAT, Banks, you need an iTiger!”

“I read about it, Banks, but I’m not that stupid. You, on the other hand...”

The Pits

  • No detectable improvement in performance.

And that’s just how I feel after spending two full days cleaning the bikes, installing the devices, taking the photos, editing the photos, testing the devices, and then writing, editing, and re-writing this review. If it helps any of you avoid wasting your money, then fine. I’m glad. Otherwise, it was just a waste of good riding time. And yes... that’s stupid!

I then took the #02015 unit apart. Inside the plastic and rubber wrappings I found a hard plastic tube with another label on it reading: “GBsixT Electron Catalyst”, a serial number, and the words “Patent Pending”. At this point I turned to the internet again and looked up “GBsixT”. The one and only entry I found was the following, from an English club for the Pan European Honda ST1100 touring motorcycle: “GBsixT Electron Catalyst is the first fundamental change to the spark ignition in the last 90 years and is now available for the Pan-European. Tests prove that with GBsixT units fitted to a Honda Pan-European, fuel figures of up to 350 miles per tank can be achieved. The Pan-European requires two units, one for each coil, at £150 each. Available from (a local dealer’s name) with excellent discounts to Pan-Clan members. Full technical article in the January 2001 Pan-Clan Magazine.”

This tells me that the iCAT device, originally called the “GbsixT Electron Catalyst” has been around at least since early 2001. Now maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t a product that was known to improve engine performance and reduce exhaust emissions at the same time, have made a bigger impact on the automotive world by now? Nevertheless, I called an automotive engineer at the University of Alabama and asked if I could bring in the device to be analyzed. When I explained the whole deal for him, and described the “GbsixT Electron Catalyst”, he declined. “Don’t bother. We’ve seen those things before. They’re just big, useless capacitors.” Then I had to endure a five-minute lecture which I’m sure should be entitled, “How can you be so Gullible?”

Gee. What was I thinking?

CRF's Only Review By Gordon Banks, June 2005
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