4 top tips to keep your motorbike running sweet

motorcycle maintenance tips

Had your bike parked up for a bit? Don’t go for a ride until you’ve gone through our 4 top tips to keep your motorbike running sweet.

Owning a bike or scooter is exciting and, like anything, has a learning curve. Finding a good workshop or service centre is like finding a good GP, and building a relationship pays dividends for you and them. We reckon asking your workshop how to do the basics on your new bike is a great starting place, and most will be only too pleased to help you out.

Once you’ve mastered these basic mechanical pre-ride/regular tasks, then you’re set to focus on why you bought the bike – riding. As we start emerging from lockdown, it’s vital everyone performs these simple checks on their bikes to make sure they’re safe to ride. Don’t just assume everything will be okay.

Check the tyre pressure

Checking your tyres’ condition and their pressure is crucial for safety and comfort. The job is super easy, and you should do it at least once a week if riding every day or before each ride if you’re a weekend rider. 

For this exercise, we will work with pounds per square inch or PSI for a unit of pressure. Make sure you always run your tyres at the recommended pressure. Why? Because the correct pressure will improve the bike’s handling and braking performance, and tyre wear. 

Invest in a good-quality tyre pressure gauge because you need to check the tyres before you ride while they are cold. That way if you need to head off to put some more air in you have the exact starting pressure reading in PSI. Once you’re at the air source you can check it again. If you use a servo airline, use it to fill the tyres but check the pressure with your own gauge – servo gauges are renowned for reading under or over-pressure; neither is helpful. 

Here’s an example. You checked the pressure at home and got 26psi, which is possibly low for your tyre/bike. By the time you reach the servo your tyres will have generated heat in relation to how far you’ve just ridden. So your pressure is now, say, 28-30psi. So all good? Well, nope. 

If the correct cold pressure for your tyres is 30-32psi (and you had 26psi at home), pump it up the four psi you need or even put an extra 2psi on top and adjust it at home knowing you have a little leeway to adjust downwards. If you have a portable compressor in the garage, of course, all this becomes much easier.

Use this time to visually inspect your tyres for nails, screws, staples, etc. and any damage that’s appeared following your last ride. 

While you’re down there

Examining the tyres is also a good time to have a look at brake pads and disc(s) to check the pads are wearing down as they should and you have plenty of actual pad material left. Most bikes have an audible brake pad wear indicator, but in all the usual excitement and noise you may never know what it is if no-one tells you. 

Making sure you replace pads within their wear limits will prevent damaging your brake discs and save you expensive replacement costs. It’s common for workshops to receive bikes with pads’ down to the metal’ and blissfully unaware riders nonplussed as to why their bikes won’t stop. A quick visual sweep of your forks to check for stone damage and leaking seals is good to do at the same times as you’re working on the above.

Chain links

Next item on the list is to lube the drive chain on your motorcycle. Frequency of this job depends on your riding habits and the weather. Lube it more if you ride every day, and in the rain, and if you’re a weekend rider, lube the chain at the end of each ride and it will be right to go next time out. Although following short rides, maybe alternate trips. 

Your local bike shop tech will be able to help you with the correct way to lube the chain. It’s important to get the coverage right so that the lube stays on to do its job and doesn’t end up being flung all over the tyre and your bike once the back wheel starts spinning.

Before you lube up your bike chain it’ll need to be cleaned. You can do this with a rag and a can of chain cleaner. Spray the cleaner onto the chain, give it a moment or two to soak in and loosen the crud. Then, use a rag and give the chain a good wipe. You’ll need to rotate the back wheel to be able to clean the whole chain.

Once you’ve used the cleaner and rag, grab a wire brush and give the chain another once over. With the chain now clean, you can now lubricate the chain. And you’ll need a piece of cardboard as well as a can of lubricant. Place the cardboard between the wheel and the chain and start spraying. Move the wheel so that you’re able to spray lubricant across the whole chain on the top and the bottom. Once you’ve covered the chain, you can run a rag across it to clean off any excess lubricant.

Those with more motorbike experience will likely attempt chain adjustment once the thing’s been cleaned and lubricated. But this isn’t something we’d recommend a novice rider attempt. Get it wrong and the whole thing could go bang.

Oil crisis

Don’t wait to be freaked out by the low oil pressure warning light. Make sure your bike’s engine oil is topped up, always. But don’t just tip it in, and not any old oil either. Your bike’s handbook should show the correct method and oil/filter specs. Again, talk to your technician, because modern bikes are specific in what they require. While it ranges from bad to catastrophic to run your bike low or out of oil, too much can result in other headaches. With any oil change you do, dispose of the old oil and filter responsibly, at the waste station (tip) and not in the bin at home or down the drain. 

A little knowledge is a good thing

As we said, if you have a relationship with your local workshop, you can ask them to show you how to do all of the above. The staff might charge you the first time, but once you have it down pat, you can do it yourself knowing it’s spot on.

However, if you do it a few times and still aren’t 100% confident, drop past your workshop and ask them to do a quick visual check to be sure. We were speaking to the workshop staff at Close Motorcycles for this story where they reckon it’s a situation that helps their customers feel more confident in riding knowing their bike is good to go. A little knowledge is a good thing if it was good advice to begin with. 

It is also good for the ongoing relationship between service centre and customer. Remember your local service centre is there to help. No-one starts out with 20 years’ mechanical experience – that’s why we’re saying ask for this advice. 

The first time you have a crack this stuff might take you awhile but before long this is a pre-ride check that will take no time at all. 

Some riders are happy to do the oily tasks, and some aren’t so if you feel that all of this is beyond you it’s not a failing – that’s what workshops are there for. However, by learning these basic jobs you can feel that bit more in tune with your ride and that you had a hand in its smooth operation. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

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