Perhaps the motorcycle manufacturers are to blame. They’ve made their products so reliable that we take them for granted. We almost feel that if we just keep our bike’s tank full and spoon new rubber on the rims when necessary, we’ve got our machinery handled. Well, that’s not quite true, and consequently, many riders tend to overlook basic maintenance for extended periods. While lots of riders have the off-season in which they have the time away from riding to take care of annual upkeep, many little things need to be done on a regular basis throughout the riding season.
Here is a list of maintenance tasks that too many riders fail to do as often as they should.
Anything that pivots on your motorcycle needs periodic lubrication. If you live in a rainy environment this task is even more important. Every now and then, take the 15 minutes required to brush a little grease onto your lever pivots and your sidestand and centerstand pivots. The payoff will be smooth operation, the prevention of rust, and the knowledge that you’re taking good care of your bike.
Out of sight; out of mind, right? When was the last time you changed your bike’s coolant? Don’t remember? Well then, I guess we’ve made our point. At the very least, you should check your bike’s coolant overflow tank on a monthly basis and for its freeze-protection qualities annually. We recommend changing it at least every two years.
Antifreeze does more than protect your engine from damage in freezing weather. Antifreeze also performs several other important duties. The aluminum internals to your engine are prone to oxidizing. Coolant and other products, such as Water Wetter, form a protective coating over the bare aluminum, keeping it from eroding at high-heat areas and from building up on cooler locations, which would reduce the efficiency of the cooling system. Coolant also lubricates the water pump and prevents foaming.
Don’t wait until your bike’s throttle or clutch cables start to bind or feel like they’ve got grit inside of them. Instead, a quick spritz of cable lube a couple times a season will keep everything slip-sliding away. If you just can’t be bothered, you should, at the very least, lube them at every oil change.
News flash: motorcycle brake discs are expensive! And in associated news, brake pads wear out over time. So, if you don’t want to hear that dreaded metal-on-metal sound of the brake pad backing material contacting your disc, give your pads a quick look-see a couple times a season – more frequently when the pads start to wear thin. The good news is that brake materials are better and longer lasting than ever. So, when you do change your pads, it’s likely to be relatively cheap upgrade from stock. How do you know when the pads are due for a swap? If the material is 2mm or less.
Yes, modern motorcycles don’t burn oil like bikes did in the Bad Old Days, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your bike’s oil level on a weekly basis. If you ride infrequently, consider checking before every ride. With regular checks, you are more likely to notice symptoms of little problems before they get bigger. For the best way to check your particular bike’s oil level, consult your owner’s manual. For a list of things you can learn from checking your engine’s oil, follow the link below.
Your bike’s hydraulic fluid is another one of the unsung heroes of motorcycling. Imagine how you’d feel if you came bombing down into a tight right-hand turn with oncoming traffic and had your brake lever pull back to the grip. Yeah, that’d probably ruin your day. The reason this could happen is that most hydraulic fluids are hygroscopic, which means they have a taste for water and will gradually suck moisture past the rubber seals in your calipers. If your fluid is contaminated with water, heavy brake use will raise the temperature to the point where the water will boil (at a significantly lower level than pure fluid would), leading to brake fade and the dread-inducing, lever-to-the-grip braking experience.
So, again we have to ask: When did you last change your hydraulic fluid? That’s okay, as it’s an easy thing to remedy.
We used to only talk about fuel treatments for long-term storage, but with the advent of ethanol-laced fuel, we need to modify our recommendation to include bikes that aren’t ridden on a regular basis – particularly those that reside in a humid environment. Ethanol has a taste for water – which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t precipitate out of the fuel mixture when it had quenched its thirst. Yep, once ethanol has absorbed the most water it is capable of holding, it can turn into goo that settles in the bottom of your tank. Here is where fuel additives, like Sea Foam, are important. Add the treatment and go for a nice, long, tank-draining ride every now and then, and you’ll keep your fuel filter and injectors happy.
We can’t believe that we have to include this on the list, but as oil-change intervals have gotten longer, we’ve noticed an increase in people who simply forget to change their oil. Remember that your engine’s oil doesn’t just lubricate parts to prevent metal-on-metal violence. The oil is also the janitor that cleans up after the combustion process and keeps things squeaky clean. Do you really want to damage the thing that brings you so much joy?
The payoff of good chain hygiene isn’t just saving money, though. You’ll also get smoother throttle transitions out on the road. Have you thanked your chain recently?
We don’t get it. People spend tens of thousands of dollars on their motorcycles and then ride around on under-inflated tires. Really? Aside from the fact that your safety is at stake – low pressure increases tire wear and, in extreme cases, the chance of tire failure – the real issue is that your bike just plain doesn’t work as well when tire pressures are incorrect. Acceleration is muted, handling becomes soggy, steering slowed. Go figure. If you don’t know what pressures to run on your bike, take a look at your owner’s manual. While you’re checking your tire’s pressure, take a moment to look over the tread to assess its condition and see if anything – a stray screw or nail – might be lurking.