You don’t need to know how to take your bike apart and put it together again to get the most out of it – although full credit to those who can – but having a basic handle on motorbike maintenance will keep your bike on the road a bit longer, and probably save you a small fortune in garage fees. And what’s the point of owning a motorcycle if you’re not going to get to know it a little better anyway? So let’s have a look at a few of the basic things you should probably get to grips with.
Change your oil
A regular oil change is the easiest way to prolong the life of your bike, and you should do it every six months or 3,000 miles. First, remove any bodywork blocking access to the engine using a Phillips screwdriver or Allen wrench (be careful not to lose anything, and take photos as you go to remember what’s what) and unscrew the oil filler cap with a pair of pliers.
Place a bucket under the engine and use a socket wrench to remove the drain plug. Hot oil will start to spill out, so be careful. Separate the crush washer from the drain plug, give the plug a wipe down and replace the washer. Unscrew the oil filter and clean with compressed air or a clean rag.
Screw the new oil filter to the engine case and replace the plug. Re-fill the engine with oil by placing a funnel in to the filter. Make sure the bike is completely level, start it up and let the engine idle for a minute before shutting it off so the new oil can settle.
Be sure to dispose of the oil properly – at a qualified hazardous waste disposal facility. Dumping oil is incredibly bad for the environment, and illegal to boot.
Lubricate your bike’s chain
You should inspect your chain every 500 miles or so, or every couple of weeks. First, grasp the chain half way between the front and rear sprockets and pull it up and down – it should move about an inch in each direction. If not, it will need tightening or loosening depending on if it moves too far or not enough.
Check that the sprocket teeth mesh well with the chain too, as if they’re too worn then you may need new sprockets.
Whether it needs adjusting or not, it’s important to give it a quick clean and keep it well lubricated. Use an o-ring approved cleaning agent to spray it down, give it a wipe with a rag, and then rotate the wheel as you spray a layer of lubricant across the chain.
Check your tyres
If you want to get in to some good biking habits, giving your tyres a quick look over before every ride should be top of the list. Look for any signs of punctures, bulges or cracks, and ensure you rotate the wheels to check them all over.
You should also check your tyre pressure every couple of weeks. Do so before a ride, not after, as it’s best to check when the tyres are still cool. You’ll need a pressure gauge – you just take off the dust cap on the tyre valve, fix on the pressure gauge, and measure the result against your owner’s manual’s recommended levels. Use compressed air to fill them to the recommended level, or bleed them if pressure is too high.
It is also important to check tread depth. The legal limit of tyre tread depth in the UK for motorcycles over 50cc is 1mm across three-quarters of the width of the tread pattern, and with visible tread on the remaining quarter. Many tyres have wear indicators in the tread grooves, so keep an eye on them and replace them when they’re close to level.
Keep your bike in good health
These are the most basic checks you can do on your bike, and you really should get in to the habit of doing them regularly. It could lead to a much longer life for your ride, and go a long way to preventing a break down, or even an accident. Even if you never learn more advanced repairs – not everyone has the time after all – these basics will go a long way over the years. Don’t forget!