Kelly’s Korner: Heart Your Ride With These Maintenance Tips

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Kelly's KornerGiving Your Bike Some Love: Basic Maintenance Tips

As riders, and, presumably, motorcycle owners, it’s important that we know our bikes like we know our four-wheeled vehicles, our houses, or any other possessions we want to last. This means taking care of them, of course. And since we’re in the doldrums of August, with fewer people out and about on two wheels in the heat and humidity, now seems the opportune time for getting down and dirty with your ride, especially if you’re new to the experience. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for basic bike maintenance.

I-Love-My-Bike-Patch-300x240Love the chain. A chain that’s too loose or too tight, too wet or too dry, is bad news. Best case scenario if you don’t maintain your chain is that it flies off while you’re on the road, ruining your engine and damaging you. I don’t even want to contemplate the worst-case scenario. So keep the chain at optimal tension and keep it lubricated; your owner’s manual and the all-knowing Internet will have specific information about your make and model. Check the chain every 500 or 700 miles or so, and replace it, and the sprockets, as needed. For an in-depth look at caring for your chain and sprockets, read this Sport Rider column.
Check the oil. I actually kind of enjoy changing my bikes’ oil. There’s something satisfying about getting my hands dirty and giving my trusty steeds a thorough going-over. And am I glad I now have naked bikes. Removing fairings for an oil change is a pain in the butt. Anyway, here are some thoughts on oil-changing basics:
  •      Keep track of the myriad nuts, washers and bolts you have to remove; it’s no fun when you’ve put the bike back together and there’s an extra nut/washer/bolt just hanging around.
  •      Always replace the filter when changing the oil. There’s no point running clean oil through a dirty filter.
  •      Look at the old oil under a close, sharp light. A lot of metal shavings point to bigger problems, the intricacies of which I’m not qualified to discuss. That’s why we have mechanics.

Check the brake fluid, too. While you’re changing oil, now’s a good time to also inspect brake fluid levels. Top them up if they’re low. 

woman inspect motorcyclePay attention to tires.  Check your tire pressure often. A blowout simply is not worth forgoing the few minutes required to apply a gauge and an air compressor nozzle. And please, please be sure to check pressure if you haven’t ridden in a while. Air is sneaky; it can leak without your realizing it and, boom, unnecessary wear on the wheel or, worse, a blown tire. When it comes to changing a tire, that’s not a few-minutes task. Expect this to take several hours, if not more. Timing depends on factors including your level of expertise and the tools you have on hand. Once again, though, changing tires is not part of my expertise. I’ve watched bike tires changed in a garage and it’s a tedious, unlovely process. Consult the web gods, friends who know what they’re doing or your favorite mechanic for more help here.

Remember the cables. Clutch and throttle cables wear out, like any other part on a bike. Look them over every now and then for any fraying or breaking. You don’t want to end up on the side of the I-10 outside of Tucson inventing a throttle cable so you can ride back home to the Valley. (He knows who he is.)

So there’s a short list for basic bike maintenance. And the basics are crucial.  For a longer list, check out the T-CLOCS sheet for a more in-depth review of your motorcycle.  For more in-depth service, we recommend seeing your local dealership or qualified mechanic.   Tell me your must-dos and, in the meantime, stay safe and have fun.