These simple maintenance checks and balances will keep your bike running smoothly and help it last longer.
As a motorcycle owner, it's crucial to realize that what you have is its own unique entity. You're the one in charge of taking care of those two wheels and helping it live out the long, successful, fun life that every bike yearns for. Buying one is the easy part, but keeping it in proper shape is a responsibility. Responsibility doesn't have to be that hard, though.
The most important thing is that you care about it and pay it attention. Neglect can quickly turn a great bike into a steaming mess before you even realize it was happening. Check out a few of these tips to make sure you keep your motorcycle in orderly running condition.
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There are three things you need to pay attention to when it comes to your rubber: wear, tread, and pressure. If you ride frequently, take five minutes to look for bubbles or irregular wear every week or two (no such thing as checking too much). Then check the pressure (when the tire is cold) to make sure it's up to the PSI standard set in your owner's manual. Improper tire care can be detrimental to handling performance, stopping power, and to a lesser degree, gas mileage. You're also subjecting yourself to the possibility of the worst case scenario, a blow-out. Checking frequently will extend the life of your tire and keep your spending to the regular minimum.
Where there is an engine, there is friction, and friction requires lubrication to prevent wear. One of the easiest ways to ruin any vehicle is to ignore its lifeblood. Oil breaks down, becomes less effective, becomes contaminated with debris, and holds build-up over time. Or sometimes it burns off or leaks out completely. That's why it's important to frequently check your oil (and other fluid) levels and change it, along with your filter, on a regular basis. Consensus is that oil should run well for about 3,000-4,000 miles before needing a swap.
Chain and Sprocket
The chain and sprocket are two of the most important parts to your drivetrain and motorcycle in general. In order to keep them rolling along in tip top shape, they require regular cleaning and lubricating. You can buy products specifically for this at a local shop or online, or you can use kerosene as a cleaner. If you use a degreaser that is too harsh, you could damage the o-rings, and in turn, the effectiveness of the chain. It's also a good idea to use a brush to break up the grease and a rag to wipe it away. When it comes to lubing, spray the lube on the inside of the chain while you slowly rotate the wheel.
Your owner's manual might tell you a more specific schedule, but as a general rule, try to clean and lube around 300-500 miles. If you ride in dirtier or dustier areas, this might be needed more frequently. If you ride less, then maybe clean it less. The point is that doing so will keep the o-rings on the chain in better shape (if you have a sealed chain), the chain will ride quieter and smoother, and you will maximize power and fuel efficiency. A well-lubricated chain will also prevent metal-on-metal friction between the chain and sprocket. If the teeth on the sprocket are worn down, the chain could slip, which is obviously not safe for riding.
And remember, never, ever try to do this by turning the bike on and spinning the wheel and chain. It's far to much of a risk to save just a few seconds or minutes of your time.
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Even when your motorcycle is tucked away in the garage or parked out on the curb, its battery is still self-discharging. Basically, this means there are still chemical reactions happening in the battery, even though it's not busy powering a motorcycle. If it is left alone too long, this self-discharge can damage the battery or even deplete itself to the point that you have to jump it. And this doesn't just happen during winter either.
Although it's the dream to ride every single day, many people don't get to take their bikes out nearly as often. So it's be a good idea to get what's known as a battery tender or battery minder. Hook one up when you know your motorcycle will be sitting for a semi-extended amount of time. Maintaining the correct balanced charge will extend your battery's life and eliminate the chance of a dead battery.
What do you know, more items that needs oiling. Sensing a theme here? This applies to both the clutch and throttle cables. Preventative and attentive lubrication typically means a healthy bike on its way to a longer life. Unlike oil and chain lube, cable oil might require a tool to properly inject the lube, though it's not absolutely necessary. Just make sure you're not using a lube or grease that is going to eat into the tubing or one that is too thick and will gunk up the cables. There is literal cable lube you should be able to pick up at your local shop. While you're at it, adjust those puppies and make sure you have a velvety, responsive pull.
BONUS: Wash Your Bike
I know, "Thank you, Captain Obvious," right? It might be apparent, but the reality is that most people are just lazy when it comes to a lot of these things. A basic principle for just about anything mechanical is that keeping it clean is better for the long run. Dirt is detrimental. Plus, removing it helps keep your beauty looking nice.
Just remember that, because a lot more is exposed on a motorcycle, there's a right way to do it and a wrong way. Make sure you never wash right after a drive when the engine is still hot. Wash it in the shade. Be aware of what type of materials you have on your motorcycle; whether there are different types of paint finishes, different plastics, or different metals. Some of the cleaning agents, compounds, polishes, and waxes will have different reactions or results on certain materials. And if you're using something like a bug and tar remover that has a heavy degreaser component, and you accidentally get some of that on the chain, you might need to re-lube your chain. In general, just be aware of what products you're using, what you put them on, and how they work.