Exciting! You’ve paid the entry fee for an endurance race, dual sport ride, or major tour, and now it’s time to focus on the bike. While on race day you certainly expect surprises and challenges, you don’t want breakdowns or struggles with a lame steed to ruin the day. Here’s how to insure the bike performs.
It's important to start at least two weeks before the event, more if you have the time. First, grab the Owner’s Manual and find a comfortable seat near the bike. Think about your recent rides and make a list of all the things that you know aren’t right about it. Not so much needed mods, but the fixes you have been delaying because you could, parts that are broken or weak, or spares that were consumed.
Next read the manual. I always appreciate something new with each reading. Update the list of the maintenance required, either by mileage or simply from noticeable wear and tear. Like cleaning and re-oiling that nasty air filter. Across from each maintenance item identify the parts and consumables required. Also note any tools you don’t have but will need.
Plan to rehab your protective clothing, gear stashed in your fanny pack or backpack, bike-mounted tube and tool bags. Remember that spare tube you magnanimously gave away last time?
Once you identify maintenance needs, make sure you immediately obtain and order all the parts, tools and consumables from your favorite dealer. Now is not a good time to procrastinate! Some items may not be available from stock, so be aware of lead times. If it’s not practical to order everything on the wish list, prioritize. Leave the bling off until you’re flush with cash.
Some guys teardown a bike fully prior to each race, reassembling it carefully and properly. That's a stretch for me, but I try to arrange a series of small jobs, like an oil and filter change, cleaning all the oil screens, and servicing the chain, on different sessions leading up to the race.
Additionally, there are some jobs that going to a shop for help just makes sense. While I can install a new knobby myself, I’ll remove a wheel and pay $20 to a shop to mount and spin balance it.
Once you've decided on the work you’re going to tackle and where you're going to be able to get each item done, carefully work through the list. Usually it’s easier and more fun with a buddy for encouragement. A sandwich and a soft drink is solid compensation. Expect complications; often, routine maintenance reveals more serious problems. Make sure you allot enough work sessions to get it all done.
Now put the battery on a tender. While a weak battery may power the lights and GPS, it may not have enough current to crank the bike over (and can provide a nasty surprise on race day). Some dual sport manufacturers have dropped the kickstarter, which could be one big bummer away from home.
Wash and polish the bike. If you’re really disciplined, clear your workspace too. If street legal, give it a few test rides to insure your repairs were effective.
Riding on worn-out rubber is nerve-wracking and unsafe. A new set of tires and tubes or mousses can dramatically improve the experience, reducing the chance of flatting.
My old Ossa Pioneer two-smoker liked to fowl plugs. I’ve since gotten into the habit of confirming that the spark plug on my four stroke is clean, just for the peace of mind. I put a dab of anti-seize placed on the threads for good measure.
Fresh oil and grease; of course.
Preparing to win, or simply enjoying the day, takes planning and discipline. Remember, luck favors the prepared.