Most of us know that motorcycle ownership includes its fair share of spanner time. We have compiled some maintenance tips for everybody, no matter your skill.
Most motorcyclists are far more akin to looking after their bikes with most liking to carry out tasks themselves.
But why should you care about maintaining your motorcycle?
Proper maintenance can save you money, prevent excess wear on components whilst keeping you safe on the road.
Broken lights and bald tyres can be fineable, risk penalty points or even seizure from the police but also be a major safety issue. A quick check before or after rides can save big issues later on.
Speaking of The Police, they also like bikes to be Taxed, insured and MOT’d, so while not strictly maintenance, it’s always good form to check these are in place!
What should you include in your maintenance checkup?
You don’t need a MotoGP race crew to keep on top of maintenance. Simple tasks can be done easily, and on your own and even more complicated tasks can be done with some basic knowledge tools.
Checking your oil level and running the engine for a short while to listen for odd ticking, rumbling, or popping noises which can give early warning signs to future problems.
Checking your tyre pressures is also a must-do. A good starting point is the manufacturer’s recommended pressures, usually found on the swingarm. From there you can adjust to your preference as small changes can make a big difference in handling.
It is also worth inspecting your tyre tread for any punctures, slices, or bulges. Keep an eye on the wear markers that indicate they are below the legal tread depth of 1mm.
Keep an eye on your lights!
Pay attention to all your lights and electronics. Ensure your indicators are working, brake lights, high and low beam as well as park and hazard lights.
Lubing your chain and checking the tension is a simple task and should be done frequently, with a chain clean every few weeks. This can prevent pick up sticking to the chain causing components to wear faster.
If you know you’re not riding for a few weeks, looking at getting a trickle charger on to ensure your battery is in tip-top condition. This can also help to condition an old battery to better health. Be careful, as Lithium batteries will require a different charger to regular lead-acid, or dry cell batteries.
What basic tools do I need?
The majority of tasks can be done with basic hand tools, plus some consumables like engine oil, an air pump (one from a car will be ample good enough) a tyre pressure gauge, some chain lube and some time.
More complex tasks can require Allen and Torx sockets, with ratchets, extension bars, and torque wrenches, pipe clip pliers and trim clip tools. These can be costly, but will always come in useful.
What if you commute on a motorcycle?
This is where you should be extra vigilant and a bit more clued in for motorcycle maintenance. Using your bike more often will wear components like sprockets or tyres at a faster rate than a Sunday only rider. You may also be at a higher risk of blown bulbs and punctures so it is worthwhile keeping a close eye on these.
Consider a weekly bulb/light and tyre check and a quick oil check too through the sight glass.
More long term checks can include checking brake fluid colour. Fresh fluid should be a very light almost clear colour, and this darkens with age and use. Normally it is recommended to change brake fluid every few years, with fresh fluid. Again this isn’t a hard job and can be done easily with the relevant knowledge, but this can transform your brakes.
Braking system checks are essential!
It is always worth looking at the condition of the brake pads through the calliper. Braking systems rely on friction material being present, and when the level wears low this can increase lever travel, reduce performance and even make bad noises.
Proactive checking here can prevent damage to discs which can be a costly replacement.
If using a paddock stand (another great tool to get hold of) it is worth quickly spinning your wheels to ensure that your brakes aren’t catching or binding. This can cause additional wear, reduce fuel economy but can be an easy fix. A simple cleaning up the brake callipers can solve any issues.
As always, if you are feeling low on confidence for simple tasks and you have a worthwhile local dealership, ask them and most of the time they will show you how to do simple tasks.
Some dealerships put on classes to teach basic skills. Failing that, or if something really feels wrong, get the bike booked in to be seen by a professional.
Carrying out simple tasks can be rewarding, both to save money and increase confidence. Personally we like to work on our own bikes so we know our high standards (OCD) are met. We’re not saying your bike should be a triggers broom, but it can make a massive difference. There should always be a motorcycle maintenance day every month just to check the basics like oil, tyre pressure and chain tension.