If you are headed out for that weekend ride, storing your bike for the winter or currently on a road trip around the world, the proper maintenance of your motorcycle is a crucial part of any of these scenarios. Your safety is in your hands when it comes to motorcycle maintenance; avoid it and you’ll potentially be paying for it with your wallet or well-being.
The good news is that today’s modern bikes require less maintenance than 50 years ago and you also don’t have to be a certified MotoGP technician to perform simple maintenance. Some elbow grease and basic tools are all you’ll need to keep your bike in great shape and help you prevent costly repairs in the future.
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Let’s break it down to eight simple categories:
Things to look for are proper pressure (PSI), tread depth, and unusual wear patterns. Under inflated tires can cause a blowout and severely affect bike handling due to the inability of the tire wall to cope with its exterior forces. Overinflated tires have less surface area to grip the floor and can negatively affect the vehicles handling, and even cause the tire to wear out faster. Be sure to check your pressure when the tires are cold with a quality PSI gauge. I personally check tire pressure every day before I jump on the bike.
The longevity and health of your engine is directly related to this viscous liquid. Changing your oil and filter is an easy task that usually takes a few tools, and should be done routinely according to your manual. Your bike most likely has a glass viewer, with a min and max marking, to see the oil inside. When checking your oil be sure to warm up your engine to avoid the most common mistake of over filling. You should also prop your bike up on a level surface, or put it on its center stand if possible. I usually glance at the oil every few days at home, and daily when I’m on a trip, in case the bike gets hungry, that way I can prevent any serious damage.
Brakes are an often-overlooked part of your bike and they are extremely crucial to your safety. Often there will be two fluid-filled reservoirs for front and rear brakes that should ideally be replaced every one to two years and topped off from a new sealed bottle. Brake fluid absorbs moisture as time passes. A visual inspection of the brake pads for signs of wear or thinning is important as this will prevent expensive damage or replacement to the brake disc. For basic maintenance, take a look over, remove dust and dirt when necessary, and top off the liquid.
4. Shaft Drives, Chain and Sprockets, Belts
Shaft and Belt Drives require little maintenance. Specs usually recommend to change shaft drive oil every oil change while belt specs also suggest checking tension and adjusting with every oil change as well. Chain specs suggest lubricating with commercial chain spray, oil, grease or wax every 500 miles. Chains should not be tight like a belt, instead it is suggested to have sag of 3/4″ to 1 1/14′ at midpoint between both sprockets. After a ride I usually give a visual inspection to make sure no debris, pebbles or asphalt has made its way to the chain.
If you are a frequent rider, a monthly inspection is recommended to top off fluid, especially if the bike tends to stay in the garage. For longer storage, a battery tether or trickle charger is a good investment to keep it in top shape, usually for those who take the bike out only on the weekend or once or twice a month. An alternative is to start up the bike for 5-10 minutes once a week to make sure the alternator does its job in recharging the battery, because no matter the type battery, if it’s connected it gets slowly drained over time.6. Fuel
The basic maintenance of your fuel lines and fuel filter involves a brief visual inspection. When storing your bike for any duration of time, turn your petcock (fuel tap) off to prevent carburetor flooding, and treat your gas in the tank with treatment as normal gas is good for six months and treated gas can last up to two years.
7. Signals, Headlight, Horn
Be sure to occasionally check your lights and horn to make sure they work including turn signals. It’s difficult to prevent burnt fuses or light bulbs as they have different life spans of use, but there are signs they need replacement or are about to go out, like flickering or diminished light strength.
By keeping a look out for these eight things on your motorcycle, you can keep safe on the road, save money, and maintain your bike at home and on the road.