Motorcycle Maintenance: Your Go-to Checklist
Like you, I myself absolutely love getting around on a two-wheeler. No hassle of finding a parking spot roomy enough for a car or having to deal with stubborn drivers not letting you pass.
I’ve owned a lot of bikes over the years – from a humble Honda CD-125 to a meatier, more “oomphy” GSX-R 600. And I must declare: bikes quite simply are beautiful mechanical creatures! They look cool, and sound heaven-like (in a menacing sort of way).
I should warn you though, getting carried away in it all is easy, and before you know it, you’ve missed your first scheduled check-up. You get around to it eventually while unknowingly another issue creeps up on you. This is something no bike lover should have to deal with.
Keep this checklist handy to make sure your dream ride is purring and cooing like a well-fed baby.
Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious one: your tires are your primary form of contact with the road and interaction with the bike.
Check for unusual wear and usage patterns. Being aware of the tread depth is important, as is having the correct tire pressure; over-inflated tires tend to wear out quickly, while under-inflated ones can lead to an unexpected blowout.
Try the Washington head quarter test: insert a quarter between the grooves of your tire. If the top of the tire does not extend below the top of Washington’s head, you need new tires. As for the correct tire pressure, it can vary from model to model as well as the road surface and rider’s bodyweight. Check with your manufacturer’s specifications or recommendations.
Two things you need to track here: brake fluid level and brake pad thickness. Any time you feel the bike’s not stopping quickly or efficiently enough, the brake pads might have worn thin. Level off your brake fluid to where it’s marked “full”; check the owner’s manual if needed.
Get your pads inspected; replace if necessary.
This should ideally be checked every week and topped off if need be. Changing oil does not take up too much time, and is a good way of keeping your bike running in tip top shape.
If you ride long distances or own an older model, you need to check the oil more often. Synthetic motorcycle oil is generally costlier, though you’ll be changes the oil less frequently. Again, the owner’s manual is a good place to get the specifics in order.
Check your battery (including cables) for loose connections and corrosion. Baking soda, along with water and a toothbrush work great to scrub off gunk.
A voltmeter can be used to check the battery’s charge. A bike that won’t start when you really need to get going can not only be inconvenient but also mildly embarrassing, in some cases.
A commercial spray does the job well when it comes to keeping the chain lubricated, particularly if you’re an everyday rider. The last thing you want is a dry, abrasive chain; excessive friction can adversely affect performance or lead to a worst-case scenario – the chain breaking down completely.
Inspect and tighten the handlebars and steering nut. Turn the bars; your steering should feel smooth, tight and responsive. If it feels loose or generally dodgy, have the bearings replaced.
Lights and Turn Signals
Regularly check your brake and headlights, hi/low beam and turn signals/indicators. These bike functions can just quit without warning as they show no active signs of wear and tear.
Keep a journal and set up reminders or set alerts on your smartphone to prompt you for regular check- ups.
There’s not much to do here except inspecting fuel lines and making sure there are no leaks or signs of damage.
Filters – Oil, Air and Fuel
Refer to your owner’s manual to know replacement intervals. Check these according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, in order to maintain optimal engine performance and operational efficiency.
In addition, you should also make the following a part of your maintenance routine:
- Yearly tune-ups – No matter how much you feel there is to know about bikes and maintenance, nothing beats a good old fashioned pit stop every now and then. A professionally trained mechanic is armed with the knowhow and experience to identify issues you may face down the road or any potential hazards you may have missed. Also, knowing about the right motorcycle tools for the job can save you unnecessary headaches over the course of your bike ownership.
If your bike’s been tucked away during the winter season, it’s highly recommended that you take it for a service appointment. Speaking of which, you should be storing your bike away properly during the winter season to prevent future service issues; sitting in the cold season can lead to issues such as battery drainage, fuel line damage or corrosion resulting in the body accumulating rust.
- Get geared up – This has no direct connection with bike maintenance, however, wearing appropriate riding gear is something that not only keeps you safe but also makes the experience generally more enjoyable. You’ll feel more confident riding your favorite two-wheeler.
Get a Snell-certified helmet, complete eye protection, higher-than-ankle boots, and leather gloves that let you grip the handlebars well, without compromising comfort too much.
- Be prepared – Breakdowns are unpredictable. In fact, at times, they are inevitable. If your motorcycle permits, keep a tire inflation and general repair kit handy. Many models also come with the option to add a storage pouch, so have your bases covered in advance.
Now get out there you adventurer, you! Stay safe and take good care of that engineering marvel.