So, everyone here loves to ride. A bike is your gateway to freedom and your passion otherwise why would we be doing it? Now unlike a car, if we don’t treat our bikes well they can get angry, throw a wobbler or throw us off and hurt us. So, I’m going to walk you through a few different levels of maintenance and the legal side of it to keep you in the know. Let’s start with what we know and have been taught at ELAM.
Powders (basic level)
P – Petrol. We all know this is the go-go juice that the engine wants. On a daily basis you want to make sure you have enough for your journey.
O – Oil. Is the oil level correct? Don’t assume, check. Some bikes have a dipstick in the oil cap others have a sight glass, 9 times out of 10 you will check the level with the bike upright. You might need a paddock stand, a brick to rest the kick stand on or a family member to hold the bike upright while you check it.
W – Water. This is for your engine coolant. Is your radiator topped up? Have you checked the expansion tank level? If not, you should. What do you top it up with? The correct answer is anti-freeze, avoid using water as this will bring the freezing point back toward zero rather than keeping in the minus teens to twenties.
D – Drive. What have you got? Chain, belt, shaft? All three need a level of maintenance. Chains need to have a correct tension, this changes over time when they stretch, or you carry a passenger. You need to keep them nicely lubricated up as well, every 250 miles is a good ballpark figure for a re-lube schedule.
Belt, as with chains they need to be tensioned but they don’t need to lubricated like a chain.
Shaft, these and not maintenance free but low maintenance. Check your handbook.
D – Damage.– Have you had a fall? Has someone kicked the bike over? Or was it the wind? Check over the bike, make sure your mirrors are aligned still, look for faring damage or if your handlebars are broken? Make sure its safe to drive away.
E – Electrics. Battery, start-up, lights, horn. Is your battery healthy and charged? If it’s over 5 years old, you might want to get it checked. Do all your lights work? Yes, good now check their colour. It sounds strange but having a brake light that gives of white light is a MOT test failure. Same for the indicators. Horn, is it audible and loud? Test it.
R – Rubber. Let’s talk about the black circles, not the other ones. How old are they? What shape are they? Did you know that a tyre has a ten year shelf life? Do you have enough tread? The legal limit is 1mm of tread.
Are your pressures up or down? Check your handbook for the correct pressure. Even a slight pressure change will affect how the bike turns and handles. Have you squared the tyre off in the middle and low on tread? Might be ideal to put a new one on and see how it handles.
S – Steering – Suspension – Stopping.
Steering – Try turning the handlebars and if you feel resistance, then check your tyre pressures. It could be something else though.
Suspension – Is it bouncing? Good, but you need to check there’s no oil leaks and that the springs are not broken.
Stopping – Push or sit on the bike and paddle it slowly down the street, apply your front brake slowly and see what happens. You should stop straight away. Now check the rear.
Let’s take it to the next level!!!
Same format though, some might sound strange or repetitive.
Powders (intermediate level)
Petrol has a shelf life and it can go stale over time which can affect its performance and how the bike starts if it’s been sitting around for a year. Your fuel filter might even be blocked.
Oil, some say its all the same, it’s not. All have different grades, how thick it is, and each type of oil has different physical properties. Have you had the oil and oil filter changed recently? If you can’t remember, probs best to get it changed.
Water, coolant has a shelf life as well, normally between 2-3 years, after that the protective properties start to diminish and can cause damage to the metal work and gaskets in the engine, possibly causing bigger issues in the future.
Drive chains need a clean every so often and the sprocket and chain covers often build up an excess of grease, that can cause issues if it falls on your exhaust. On belts, you must keep them clean and make sure it is free from cuts and not torn. Drive shafts, if your feeling brave you might want to get your tub and grease gun out and make sure all the joints on the shaft are greased up.
Electrics. Blown bulbs and fuses can be easily changed, most issues are going to be easy to resolve, but if you’re struggling it might be worth buying a Haynes manual to help.
Rubber. If you find that you have a puncture you can most likely plug it yourself or get it fixed by a tyre shop. Depending if you use your bike on the road or track it up to you if it’s a patch or a new tyre.
Steering – Suspension – Stopping Steering can be affected by a lot of things. Tyre pressure is the main cause of these, also abnormal tyre wear can cause this too if the tyre is square? Is it worn on one side? If it is this can change how the bike reacts in the corner.
Suspension. Now most bikes come with a preset system that can only be changed by changing springs and oil. Some bikes come with adjustable tensions and compressions, if so get them adjusted. You can do this yourself or pay a specialist to do it for you, mostly £50.
Stopping power comes from your right hand or right foot. These levers are mostly adjustable so you may want to adjust them so they feel right to you. Sometimes the hand brake can be adjusted closer or further away for a better grip.
Let’s take it higher again, last time I promise.
Powders (experienced level)
Petrol. Depending on how old your bike is, you might have fuel injection or carburettors. Each have their pros and cons. If you leave the fuel in the system, it can clog up the lines and then you will need to clean the system, if you’re not riding over winter it’s best practice to pop out and run it half an hour so it doesn’t clog up.
Oil. Did you know that oil is a form cooling for the engine, less oil means that there is more chance the engine will overheat. The colour of it is also a great visual indication of its condition.
Golden colour – this shows its at its best.
Dark yellow – this is still a good colour showing it’s good.
Light brown – you might want to think about changing it.
Black – the oil is burnt from over heating and should be changed.
White – you might have a water leak possible a head gasket as blown. Seek help!
If you change the oil, make sure you have enough for the engine and the correct grade. Too thin and it will over heat. Too thick and the oil might not be able to move around correctly when it’s cold and the engine could seize solid from lack of lubrication. It is also best practice to change the filter, why I hear you ask. Why put clean oil in with a dirty filter? Because soon as you start it up that dirty oil left in the filter is pumped straight back in the engine.
Water. If you are getting a hot coolant reading you might want to check you oil level and coolant level, both might be in need of a top up. It could also mean you might have a water leak, blown radiator, the thermostat could be shut or the water pump is broken.
Drive chain systems use sprockets and these also wear away like a chain can get slack. These can be changed easily but fitting a chain is a bit harder. Belts are a similar sort of system and but best check what you handbook says. Shaft, unless you have specialist equipment you will have to take it to a workshop for big repairs.
Damage. You might be able to change a panel, wing mirror or light unit at home with a a few spanners or screwdrivers.
Electrics. More in depth problems would require tools, manuals, time and some will power. If not seek help.
Rubber. Other than what was said above on tyres, all I can say is know the law, no cuts in the tread or sidewall. No cord showing. 1mm of tread is the legal limit but over ¾ of the tread patten in a continuous band. Doing burn outs is a no no.
Steering – Suspension – Stopping If the steering is notchy the head race bearing might need changing or your steering damper might have a lack of fluid or gas in it. Notching is when the bearings wear in a particular position, usually when the steering is straight, and this causes the steering to ‘sit’ in the notch instead of rotating freely. You will need to raise the front wheel off the ground to check for this.
Suspension, like an engine, the oil in shocks needs to be changed periodically. Over time the oil might degrade and cause handling issues. If one shock has more oil than the other it can cause some tyre wear issues too. Also, the oil has different thickness, thicker oil might help keep the bike more stable.
Stopping. Pads and discs wear, using some simple tools you might be able to change them yourself to save a few quid. Also, when was the last time your brake fluid was changed? Do you know how to check it and how to check for leaks?
I hope this has helped. Mr social