Summer is just around the corner, and for those of us that are in the northern portions of world, that means that motorcycle season is coming up! Time to awaken our beasts from slumber and prep them to rule the roads once again.
So, how does one go about getting their bike ready for the road? There are a few maintenance items that need to be addressed before you can hit the road.
First things first. Oil. Oil is what lubricates the bearings inside your engine and keeps your clutch cool (assuming you don’t ride a older ducati). Oil should be changed every 5000KM or so. Depending on the duty cycle.
To change your oil, the first step is to locate the oil drain plug on your specific bike. On my Suzuki for example, it’s a 14MM bolt. On my dad’s BMW however, it is a 10MM Allen key.
Once you’ve found the oil drain bolt, warm the bike up to let the oil flow a little easier. Turn the bike off, remove the oil drain plug and A: immediately make a mess because you didn’t align the drain pan right and B: drop the drain bolt in the pan where is going to be immediately be submerged in oil. Go fishing to retrieve the bolt.
Once you got the bolt out and cleaned, check for the washer. Usually made of copper, this little guy helps seal the bolt so that you aren’t dripping oil all over the road as you are riding along. It’s a pretty good idea to replace it, though if you don’t have one handy, and the one you have looks to be in serviceable condition, it’s not the end of the world to re-use it.
Now that we have the old oil out of the motor, let’s take a look at that oil filter. Most manufactures say you can replace it every second oil change. Personally, I replace them every oil change. Its $15 for some piece of mind, well worth it to me.
Locate the oil filter (some bikes may have a cartridge filter, in which case, find where the cover is). Grab your filter wrench/strap and pull that sucker off. (Word of warning: there is still some oil in the filter itself, so keep your drain pan close by). Once you have the filter off, double check the sealing surface to make sure that you didn’t leave the rubber gasket behind. Once you have established that you haven’t, you can throw that old filter out and pull the new one out of the box. Smear a little bit of oil on the rubber gasket and screw that new filter on. How tight? Refer to your owner manual. (I usually go hand tight + a turn). If you have a cartridge filter, refer to factory specs for the cover.
Now we have a new filter, new crush washer in the bolt and no oil in the bike. So, let’s put in some oil!
There are a few things you need to learn NOT to ask on a motorcycle forum.
1: what are the best tires?
2: what PSI do you run your tires at?
3: what is the best oil?
Look in the owner’s manual, choose whatever weight works best for your temperature range and get some oil.
The only thing to watch out for is that the oil is MOTORCYCLE oil. Most car oils have a few friction modifiers mixed in to help the oil lubricate better. This is all great in a car, but remember that bikes keep their clutches bathed in the same oil as the engine. Any friction modifiers in the oil will ruin the clutch plates and you will then have a very expensive bike that can’t go anywhere. So make sure you use the right type of oil and the right amount (again, check your service manual for how much is needed) Right, we have oil in the bike. What’s next? Well, that power has to get to the back wheel somehow. This is usually done via a chain, belt, or shaft.
If you have a belt or shaft, you can skip the next part. Buggers.
Still here? Great, let’s talk chain maintenance. Your chain provides the crucial link (get it? Because the chain is made of links? I’ll see myself out the door) from the engine to the rear tire. To work at its best, the chain has to be clean and well lubricated. So, step one, let’s get that chain clean.
I throw my bike up on a maintenance stand, and take a can of de-greaser and apply it liberally to the chain and sprocket. Then I take a brush, and scrub all of the gunk and crap off. Then I take a roll of paper towels, wipe off the now loosened grime, and hit it again with the de-greaser just in case I missed anything the first time around.
After the chain has been wiped dry, I take my can of lube and spray it onto the actual rollers. I see this done incorrectly a lot of the time. The lubricant doesn’t need to go on the outside of the links, it has to go on the rollers and in the actual pivot points of the chain.
NOTE: NEVER EVER EVER CLEAN YOUR CHAIN WITH THE BIKE RUNNING! It may seem like a quick and easy way to get it done, but it’s also a very quick and easy way to lose a couple of fingers in the sprocket.
Once all that is done, make sure the chain is tight (loosen the axle, turn the adjustment nuts EQUALLY until chain is as tight as you need it, right tighten axle) and you are on your merry way. Now that we have fresh oil in the engine, and our chain is nice and clean, we should check the brake pads to make sure that we still have plenty of stopping life. Checking them on bikes is relatively straight forward, as you can simply shine a light one the calipers and see how much life you have left. If you want to take a closer look, the calipers themselves are easy to take off. Two bolts (usually) hold the caliper to the mounting bracket, and once those two are undone, the caliper just slides right off.
Now with the caliper off, take a nice long look at the brake pads. Hmmm. Dirty.
When it comes time to put them back on, you may want to spread the pads apart just a little bit, to make sliding the caliper back over the brake disk easier for you. Just take a flat screw driver and use it like a lever. If you are fancy/feeling flush with cash, you can get a dedicated tool for the job. Re-tighten the bolts to w/e the factory specification is (mine are 27lb-ft) and give the lever a quick squeeze to bring the pads back into contact with the rotor.
If you have a drum brake, you will have to take the wheel off to inspect the brake pads. You pull the wheel, and then one on side you will find a removable hub that carries the lever and the brake pads. Pull it off and check to see if you still have any life left in it. Putting it back together, it’s simply the reverse process. Don’t forget to reconnect both the brake bar and the stabilizing bar.
Now we have oil, we have a nice oiled chain, and our brakes are in working order. Ready to ride yes?
Not quite. We still have ONE more thing that needs to be done. Check your tire pressures. After sitting over the winter, those big rubber bands have probably lost a couple of pounds (unlike me…curse you Christmas feasts) so it’s worthwhile to pump them back up to recommended pressure, lest something happen.
And with that, we are ready to ride. Remember as it is the start of the season, there will still be a lot of sand and salt on the streets, and people are not used to motorcycle on the road, so take extra care out there. Happy riding!