A motorcycle is a fascinating amalgam of science, engineering, and mechanical innovation. When we ride down the road, we’re sitting on top of a metal box filled with thousands of explosions a second, balanced by our body weight and steering inputs.
There are dozens of functions that all need to work in harmony in order to keep us riding, and to ensure these happen, basic maintenance is key.
Factory service intervals
One of the first things you should do upon purchasing the bike you’ve been pining over is check the factory service intervals.
If you plan on doing all the maintenance yourself, this is will be your primary resource. These typically run in intervals of every 6,000 or 12,000 miles.
Oil changes for your motorcycle
The first task we DIYers usually undertake is an oil change, and it’s a great introduction to working on your bike! Different types of engines require different oil types and viscosity classes, with synthetic and fossil being the main types.
Vintage machines tend to sip on dinosaur fuel, as the interior engine components and gaskets are more sensitive to modern formulas. Your manual will typically recommend a range of viscosity classes to run, which vary depending on temperature.
In a 15W-50 weight oil, 15 is the viscosity when cold, and 50 is the weight when running at operating temperature. The higher the number, the thicker the oil will be when hot. In the summer, a heavier oil will help with cooling (especially in an air or oil cooled engine), but in the wintertime, the higher weight can prove to be sluggish at lubricating a cold engine.
How to change your oil
No matter what oil weight you chose, make sure it’s motorcycle-specific oil. Motor oil for cars has different additives, which can cause the wet clutch plates in a motorcycle to slip. The process of changing oil varies from bike to bike, but the core process is typically the same.
Plan on changing the oil after riding for at least 10 minutes. When the bike is up to temperature, oil flows easier, and you’ll ensure a proper flush. Your bike will have some sort of drain plug for the oil to flow out of, and it’s imperative that you replace any sort of washer or seal on the bolt. These are typically called crush washers and are one-time use seals that will leak with reuse.
Next is removing and replacing the oil filter, which will be either a screw-on canister or an insertable filter tube. After resealing the bolt and filter to the proper torque spec, fill the bike up with oil, and you’re good to go!