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Motorcycle maintenance tips from an experienced rider.

Guest Contributor August 12, 2014
Close up of motorcycle chain.
The universal theme for Canadian motorcyclists is the general dismay over having to park their bikes for the winter. The arrival of spring and warmer weather brings on a restless horde of two-wheeled travelers eager to get out after not being able to ride during the winter. Unfortunately, some riders will dust off their trusted set of two wheels without having a look at anything beyond fuel and oil. With motorcycles not being used for extended periods, some components like brakes and suspension can be prone to seizing due to lack of use. Carburetors can get clogged or gummed up if proper additives are not put in with the fuel before being stored for the off-season.

Motorcycles (like any motor vehicle) require regular maintenance and care. The nice thing about motorcycles is that a lot of the mechanical components are out in the open and easy to get access to.

Motorcycles can require more frequent attention than automobiles for the following reasons:
  • Motorcycles engines tend to vibrate more than automobiles due to smaller engines, fewer cylinders and reduced isolation from the frame.
  • Motorcycle chassis are exposed to more severe vibrations due to less isolation from the road than automobiles. Suspensions are often stiffer and tires are often more rigid than passenger car tires.
  • Braking and acceleration forces are much higher which exerts greater forces on the rest of the vehicle.

It’s always best to have your motorcycle serviced by a trained and licensed technician, but there are things riders can do in between servicing that can help to prevent damage and breakdowns.

The best place to start is where the rubber hits the road:

  • Visually examine the tires for any cracking, damage or embedded items (screws, nails, glass, etc.) that may cause a slow leak or worse, a blowout at high speed.
  • Always check tire pressures before you ride. Proper pressures ensure that the bike performs well and that the tires wear properly.
  • Make sure that the valves have caps to prevent dirt from entering the tire during inflation.
  • Ensure that your tires are the proper size for the motorcycle – multiple sizes will often fit onto a given wheel rim.
  • Check your owner’s manual for proper tire sizes.

Get to know how to check the oil level and how to top up the oil:

  • Many bikes have a simple visual gauge called a “sight glass”. A small round piece of glass is built into the bottom of the motor to enable easy checking of the oil level.

Brake pads can easily be seen since motorcycle brakes are out in the open:

  • It’s easy to regularly inspect brake pads and check for wear.
  • Brake rotors should also be inspected for cracks.
  • While checking rotors and pads, look at the brake hoses going to the calipers and check for fluid leaks, bulges or cracks. The rubber hoses are subject to high pressure and with age and exposure to UV rays can crack and allow fluid to leak.
  • Brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture and if left unchanged for too long, becomes saturated with water and may boil prematurely, leading to the possibility of brake failure. For this reason it’s wise to have brake fluid changed on a regular basis.
  • Ensure that the technician uses the correct type of fluid, identified by the DOT number, e.g. DOT-4.

Drive chains are exposed to the elements and need periodic cleaning and lubrication:

  • Keeping yours clean and lubricated will help to increase its lifespan.
  • When replacing a chain it’s necessary to replace the sprockets, otherwise the new chain will wear out very quickly.
  • Bikes with shaft drives require less maintenance than chain drives however it’s often advised by the manufacturers to have the rear drive fluid changed periodically.

The battery terminals should be clean and free of corrosion and securely attached to the battery:

  • Wires going into the terminals should be securely attached as they can come loose over time.
  • To protect battery terminals from corroding, apply a bit of grease to each one.

Many motorcycle engines are liquid cooled so the coolant will need checking as well as periodic replacement:

  • Watch for leaks underneath the bike that can indicate a possible coolant leak.
  • Be familiar with the location of the overflow reservoir which typically provides a level indicator molded into the plastic reservoir.

Maintaining your motorcycle is time well spent because it will help ensure that you don’t experience unexpected breakdowns.  own the road, your bike will also last longer if it’s kept in good condition, leading to years of trouble-free riding.