The Importance of Knowing Your Motorcycle
In the past knowing everything about your motorcycle and being the mechanic was a part of being a motorcyclist. Things in the motorcycle industry have changed with time and motorcycles today are more reliable than in the past. Bikes have new technology, better designs, production quality regulations and a variety of fail-safe features that make it more unlikely for the motorcycle to breakdown. That does not mean you should not do any maintenance on the bike or have a routine check of the bike.
Knowing everything about your motorcycle makes sense, even though the manufacturing of bikes has changed. Knowing about the mechanics, systems, components work and what needs attention can reduce premature failure and may prevent being involved in a crash. The other thing that keeping up on your bike is that it will function properly, which can make it more dependable and the rider will have a perfectly running machine. When a motorcycle operates at its best performance, the ride is much more enjoyable. Every state requires inspections, but the problem with motorcycle inspections.
While they are a safety inspection they just cover the basics. This does not cover the regular maintenance items that should be inspected by the owner of the bike, like cleaning mechanical parts, lubricating and adjustments or replacement of parts. The operators manual for the motorcycle will have information about regular maintenance and will explain where on the bike to start and how often. Motorcyclists don’t need to be professional mechanics, but it is important to understand how the mechanics of the bike work.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has recommendations for a motorcycle inspection check list for riders to do their own maintenance, so they can get to know their bike and at the same time have optimum performance. The first suggestion is to inspect the motorcycle before getting on it and riding. It is also a good idea to check the bike out earlier, because if there is a problem other than fluid or an adjustment that will only take a minute you might not get out on the road when planned. The best time to check things out thoroughly is after a ride, this is when finding things wrong can be fixed before the bike is taken out for its next ride. This way the motorcycle will not be sitting when the owner wants to take it out, though the pre-ride check should always be done. One of the things that can help in checking the bike out are front and rear bike maintenance stands.
The Check and Maintenance List before Taking the Bike Out
Tires on motorcycle need to be checked regularly even when they are new, because it is not uncommon for motorcyclists to run over nails, screws and pieces of metal that can cause damage to tires. This can be extremely dangerous, since it can cause the damaged tire on the bike to blowout, not just result in a flat tire. When the object can be found in the tire during routine maintenance, the tire can be repaired before damage is done that is not repairable.
Once that happens to the tire, the only choice will be to replace the tire no matter how new or old. Checking the tires can be the one most important aspects of maintenance that can provide safe riding experience. This is done by irregularly rolling the tires to inspect them for foreign objects like nails and screws, or worn tread patterns.
Knowing how to set the pressure on the tires is essential and should be done weekly and it is also important to know that not all the tire pressure gauges are accurate. Depending on the gauge and especially if it is a dial gauge, dropping it can affect the calibration, which means the tire pressure reading will not be accurate. The way to ensure having the proper tire pressure depends on the tires themselves. If they are original tires the amount of pressure in both the front and rear tire will be listed in the motorcycle owner’s manual and aftermarket tire pressure information can be found through the manufacturer.
Depending on riding habits of the motorcyclist, tires may be in need of replacement before the tread reaches ware bar. These are generally motorcyclists that do more than just ride a motorcycle; they ride it hard, doing wheelies and hard launches. Squared off tires can be ridden, though they are not in the ultimate shape. Soft compound tires that are often found on large sports bikes may be a recommended tire. But, they can cup or feather and the tire on the front of the bike can have the center tread area wear out prematurely. Care and maintenance of motorcycle tires is crucial not only for safety reasons, but also for the proper control of the bike.
Brake System Checks and Maintenance are Critical
Checking brake pads, brake fluid and brake lines is critical to staying safe while riding and a schedule should be kept for when they need to be changed. The motorcycle owner can know when to change brake pads and brake lines by the manufacturers time table for the life of the parts. The brake pads can also be checked to see what kind of shape they are in and how badly they are worn. The brake fluid level should be checked often and changed according to the manufacturer’s suggestion or each time the spring maintenance is done.
When it is time to change brake pads, depending on what came on the motorcycle the owner may want to upgrade to an aftermarket higher quality pads. Brake pads can be upgraded to higher friction pads. The same is true for brake lines, there are aftermarket Kevlar brake lines or stainless steel lines, which are high quality, break lines the bike may not have had originally. The brake pads and brake lines a motorcycle comes with originally are fine. There is nothing wrong with them, but since perfect working brakes are essential on a motorcycle the option to choose a higher quality is not a bad idea.
Care and Maintenance of Wheels
Wheels on motorcycles can be damaged and if they are it is imperative to attend to them, rather than ignore the problem. The wheels on a bike can be dented or cracked just by going over a steep driveway lip, hitting a pothole or any other incident of this type where the wheels hit the ground hard. The bearings should also be checked often, as this can be a disaster waiting to happen.
One of the best times to check out the wheels and bearings is when the wheels on the motorcycle are being cleaned regularly. Checking the bearings is done by lifting the wheels of the ground and looking for tight seals. When the bearings are properly adjusted and in good working operation they should be smooth, quite and should not have easy side to side movement.
Care and Maintenance of Bike Suspension
One of the things a motorcycle owner should learn that is important is how to adjust bikes suspension to fit their needs. This includes understanding and knowing how to deal with sag, compression damping and rebound, all which can affect the control the rider has of the bike.
There are different methods that can be used to deal with the suspension on motorcycles, which usually take more than one person and involve taking measurements.
Oil and Coolant Care and Maintenance
Keeping a watch on the oil and coolant on a vehicle is crucial and the same is true for motorcycles. What type of oil or coolant is used is a choice between what the manufacturer suggests and what the owner of the bike likes the best. The owner’s manual for the motorcycle will have information about suggested times to change the oil, filter and coolant.
Care and Maintenance of Plugs, Bolts, Nuts and Critical Components
It is essential to check the spark plugs, the axle nuts, axle pinch bolts, the oil drain plug, brake calipers retaining hardware, shaft drive train bolts and other components. Even if you have worked done at the bike shop, you need to check the tightness of these components. The other things that should be checked are retaining clips and cotter pins to make sure they are in place securely.
These can loosen over time due to vibration on the road or at the shop they might not been tightened properly. One thing the owner of the motorcycle should do is check the specs to tighten any of the items on the bike. This can keep the bike in good riding shape to make being on the road safer and more enjoyable.
Care and Maintenance of Hand and Foot Controls
Checking the hand and foot controls on a motorcycle often is crucial, since having properly inspected and adjusted levers can provide optimum control, performance and keep anything from happening on the road. The issues that can occur when the cables and levers are not maintained often are an out of adjustment throttle cable, which can reduce control or a snapped cable clutch. Maintenance of these parts of the bike include lubricating the control cables and watching for any that are frayed, along with keeping them adjusted properly. Having properly adjusted levers and petals can mean more control and better performance.
Care and Maintenance of Electrical Components
This is one of the most important checks before taking a motorcycle out on the road. This is checking your brake light, is it coming on, are the running lights on and are the turn signals working. The other thing to check on is the output of the charging system that is supplying power to all of these lights on the bike.
Then there are some motorcycles that are equipped with extra devices or that owners like to add to their bikes, like GPS, Bluetooth, CB’s and other electronics. The question will be are they going to be distracting while riding and the electronic output again will need to be checked when these types of electronics are in use on the bike.
General Care and Maintenance
There are different types of motorcycles, the make, the model and the style. This can mean having different issues involved in the maintenance or check list before going out on the road. As an example, there are motorcycle models called sports bikes, cruisers, touring bikes, café racers and others. Then there is other things that all motorcycle riders should know that are not specific to their model or style of bike, like how many gallons of gas the tank holds, how far the rider can travel on the reserve tank and how many miles can be traveled before running out of gas.
What Motorcyclist Need to Consider
Motorcyclists need to consider certain things to make sure they have the safest and most enjoyable riding experience. When purchasing a motorcycle it is essential to choose the right size of bike. Unlike a car, the person riding a motorcycle is going to be balancing on two wheels and some styles of motorcycles can weigh hundreds of pounds and up to 1,000 pounds or more. Know what the bike weights and consider whether it is right or if a style weighting less would be better.
Then the individual purchasing needs to be sensible when they are selecting the power the bike has, new riders do not need the largest or fastest motorcycle. Experienced riders have a better understanding of horsepower and usually will choose the size of the bike they are comfortable with. Too much power and not enough experience can be dangerous and a bike that is difficult to control, which means the owner of this bike may not take it out as often as they would a motorcycle with less power.
Taking the bike out after having it stored all winter is exciting and should be ridden with caution. First the bike needs to be thoroughly checked out after sitting and secondly the rider has also been sitting. This means the rider should practice braking and take it easy on the bike until they are confident. Letting the bike stored for the winter, the rider has also rusty and should ride with extra caution or take a course for their level of experience to renew proper riding habits.