Even if they aren't experts, every bike owner has some motorcycle maintenance tips they adhere to as if their lives depended on it. In truth, their fun and, indeed, their lives might very well depend on these tips.
Your motorcycle is a machine, and as is the case with every machine, its maintenance is essential to keeping it running smoothly. Whether you've had your bike cooped up in storage for some time or ride it every day, you must have a maintenance checklist to keep those gears turning.
With that in mind, here are a few motorcycle maintenance tips that should keep that Crotch Rocket functional and efficient.
1. Visual Checks
Make it a habit to walk around your bike before and after every long-distance ride. This allows you to try and see anything that could be out of place. Be on the lookout for things like:
- Oil leaks
- Signs of wear and tear on moving parts such as pivots
- Suspension leakages
- Examine the bushings and bearings
- Check your lights by turning them on and off
- Check your insurance
Simply be on the lookout for anything out of place. This will allow you to fix it before it causes any more damage or becomes more expensive to fix.
2. Check and Change the Oil
Your motorcycle will need regular oil changes. It's important to check with your owner's manual to determine how frequently you need to do this since the requirements for different motorcycle models vary. In general, however, you should expect to perform an oil change every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.
Other factors that come into play when it comes to oil changes are:
- How frequently you ride your bike: Those who ride daily will need more frequent oil changes than those who ride occasionally.
- Seasons: Your motorcycle will tend to burn through its oil faster during the summer than it does in winter.
- Bike age: Newer motorcycles have engines that run more efficiently and can operate well for longer periods between oil changes.
Remember to change the oil filter along with every oil change and check the oil level every time before you get on the road. If you take your motorcycle in for regular mechanical check-ups, your mechanic probably includes oil changes with those visits, but it's often best to confirm.
3. Battery Life
Many motorcycle batteries are designed to last two years. Within this time, there are things you can do to ensure that it lasts longer. These include:
- Charging it: Batteries regularly charged to capacity last longer than those that discharge all the way. It's important to keep your battery charged even when you aren't riding, like during the winter.
- Use a multimeter: If you are concerned that your battery might be low, use a multimeter to measure its health. You should get a reading of 12.5 V DC. Anything below indicates a problem. In many cases, all you have to do is charge it back up.
The litmus test, however, is to see how easily your battery cranks up your motorcycle. If it's struggling, it might be time to get a new one, as it indicates that the current battery is on a downward spiral and might die on you while you are on the road.
Remember to keep an eye on the spark plugs. They need to be changed every 4,000 to 8000 miles.
4. Check the Chain and Brake Pads
If you have a motorcycle that uses a chain, you need to keep an eye on how tight it is before you get on the road. Motorcycle chains are designed to last 18,000 miles, so they won't need to be changed as frequently as the oil. Be sure to lube it up after every ride. This ensures that the oil gets to all the parts of the chain.
It's vital to keep your brake pads thick and healthy. Even though you should change your brake pads every 6,000 to 9,000 miles, make it a habit to check them before every ride. If your brake pads are thinner than 2mm, you need to change them immediately. It's also important to check the brake fluids to ensure that the braking system is in good working order before heading out on the road.
5. Check the Tires
Tire maintenance is crucial to your riding safety. The first thing you should do is go over them quickly. Check for any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, holes, bald spots, and tread depth. Although some of these issues may appear minor while your motorcycle sits in the garage, they will worsen depending on the terrain once you get out on the road.
You should also check the tire pressure before going on a long road trip. It should be noted that tires can and do rot. The best way to keep this from happening is to change them as soon as they are worn out.
Try to inflate your tires to the recommended pressure levels as much as possible. Going over it will reduce the amount of contact your motorcycle will have with the riding surface, compromising the grip. If you under-inflate your tires, your bike won't have the necessary stability to give you adequate handling.
There are other motorcycle maintenance tips, such as cleaning and changing your air filter every 6,000 miles to protect the internal workings of your bike. You also need to ensure that the coolant is topped off before every ride to prevent the engine from overheating.
Finally, give the motorcycle a ride around the block to get a feel for its handles before embarking on a long road trip. This should give you some insight into the current operational state of the bike, especially if it has been in storage for a long time.