Basic Maintenance Every Rider Should Do Staff
by Staff

It’s fair to say most, if not all, of us prefer riding over wrenching, but as much as our beloved motorcycles provide us with happy memories and roadside therapy, these machines also need a little loving. Basic maintenance isn’t difficult, but it does require periodic attention. Adhere to the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance intervals and your machine will provide you with miles upon miles of trouble free riding. The best part is that most of the things we suggest below don’t require special tools! Curious what you should be on top of when it comes to motorcycle maintenance? Then keep on reading.

Check your air filter
basic maintenance every rider should do

For as important as an air filter is, it’s easy to neglect it. There really is no excuse, either, as this might be the easiest maintenance item for most any motorcycle and a dirty or clogged filter will hurt both performance and mileage. Air filters are located in numerous places depending on the motorcycle, but you can generally count on them being located either under the seat (on many sporty motorcycles with fairings) or to the side of the engine (say, on V-Twin cruisers), but check your owner’s manual for specifics. A simple inspection with the naked eye is a good start – does it look dirty or not? Depending on the kind of filter you have, a dirty filter will require either replacement or a proper cleaning to get back to primo shape. Don’t know how to do it? Thankfully, Evans has a nifty air filter maintenance guide to walk you through it.

basic maintenance every rider should do

Do you know the last time you changed the coolant on your motorcycle? If the answer is no, then a coolant change is definitely in order – even if it still has a green tinge to it (and if the answer is yes, then you’re probably on top of such maintenance items, anyway). Again, refer to your owner’s manual for specific coolant change intervals, but neglecting to care for your engine’s cooling system is a recipe for disaster. Over time (and miles) coolant can deteriorate and lose some of its anti-corrosion properties, so flushing it at the recommended intervals is important. Street riders can get away with 50/50 mixtures of coolant and distilled water, while track goers will want to use distilled water and an additive like Water Wetter to avoid causing a slippery track should any leak out. Or you can avoid the whole 50/50 nonsense with waterless coolants like Evans Coolant (no relation). And if your motorcycle is air-cooled, you can skip this step altogether.

Lube cables
basic maintenance every rider should do

It can be easy to forget about filters or coolant, but a clutch or throttle cable that’s hard or sticky to pull is something you’ll notice on every ride. Do something about it by lubing your cables. There are several inexpensive specialty gadgets out there designed to make lubing cables easy, but they aren’t must-have items. A spritz at least every oil change will make a difference as your controls move to-and-fro like buttah.

Brake inspection
basic maintenance every rider should do

Being able to stop a motorcycle is something you don’t fully appreciate until you can’t do it anymore. There are several reasons brakes can fail, but don’t let one of them be due to worn out pads. Like air filters, pads are super easy to inspect and replace. If you really wanna get obsessive about it, also check the thickness and trueness of the rotor to make sure it is within spec. While you’re at it, now’s a good time to give the brake fluid a good once-over, too. Brown or old fluid definitely has to go. Specialty brake bleeding tools make life easier, but also aren’t mandatory. An old water bottle, a hose, and typically an 8mm wrench are all you need.

Check the oil
basic maintenance every rider should do

If there’s one maintenance item that gets beaten to death it’s checking your oil. That said, it’s super crucial, too – for reasons we hopefully don’t need to explain. For many, all you need to do is look into a window on the side of your motorcycle. Others will actually have to put some effort in and check a dipstick. Depending on the condition of the oil and how many miles it’s been since the last oil change, it may or may not be time to do it again. Thankfully, oil and filters are cheap and the process is very simple. You can find tutorials everywhere on how to do it, but we’ll save you the trouble and suggest you read – and watch – the MO tutorial on changing oil. Staying on top of the lifeblood of your motorcycle will ensure it lasts for many more miles to come, and if you’re hesitant on doing the wrenching, this is an easy first project to start on.

Check your chain and sprockets
basic maintenance every rider should do

We’ll admit, even some members of the staff have been guilty of neglecting our chain and sprockets. However, keeping on top of these three components is important. A healthy chain and sprockets will help deliver maximum power to the rear wheel without any skipping or jumping. It’ll also help the engine run at its most efficient (we’ve seen fuel mileage worsen with a worn chain/sprocket combo). Even if these components are still within their workable range, be nice and lube the chain every once and a while to help it work at its best. Need some more reading on chain and sprocket maintenance? We have answer for the right amount of chain slack, motorcycle chain adjustment, and how to tell if your chain needs replacing. If your motorcycle uses a belt instead of a chain, check for any fraying or cracking of the belt. Belts tend to last much longer than chains, but eventually they wear out, too. Of course, if you’re the kind who lets a shaft transfer power to the rear wheel then none of this applies to you.

Keep an eye on your tires!
basic maintenance every rider should do

As the only things physically connecting your motorcycle to the road, tires are perhaps the most important item on your motorcycle – and yet many of us forget about them until they turn bald and the cords start showing. Like many of the other items on this list, maintaining your tires is super simple. Start with a good tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressures. Once a week is good. Your owners manual will have the suggested pressures, and sometimes it’s even included on the sticker on your frame or swingarm. Inflate or deflate as needed. While you’re down there, also check for possible punctures, tread depth (use a penny or look for the wear indicators on the tire), or any irregular wear patterns, as that can be a sign of possible suspension issues (which is outside the scope of this article). Catching a tire problem early can be the difference between a simple fix or a catastrophic failure.

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • Dain Bramage Dain Bramage on Sep 27, 2018

    Air filter replacement is a dealer only item on the GL1800A Gold Wing. I've had the entire top fairing/dash and gas tank off on mine to replace the starter, and I still don't know where the air filter is located. The highly detailed service manual basically gives up on the air filter.

  • TC TC on Sep 29, 2018

    If it ain't broke, work on it until it is broke.....