Readiness is not just getting ready, but also staying ready. Maintenance means checking your bike every now and again. By the Law of Entropy, everything gets old and wears out, so maintenance is part of life. It lets you catch little problems before they become big. A little time spent checking your bike can prevent a lot of trouble later. Putting your bike in the shop regularly for a check is just part of the cost of running a motor vehicle.
Keep your bike clean
How shiny a motorcycle is doesn’t affect how well it runs, so why bother keeping it clean? Won’t a dirty bike run as well as a clean one? It sounds good in theory but in practice a clean bike means:
- You see problems. If you clean your bike regularly, you are more likely to see developing problems, like a nail in a tire, or a dry chain.
- Mechanics respect it. If you put your bike in for service, the mechanic sees if it is clean or not. . If you don’t care, why should the mechanic? If it is clean you check it regularly, so they will more likely do a good job.
- You feel good about the bike. Finally, a clean bike makes you feel more positive to your motorcycle. It means you care.
Check your mirrors every time you ride
Should you check tires, oil, chain tension etc every time before you get on the bike? Its a good idea, and some riders do, but if you never find a problem, as the bike is regularly serviced, it becomes a pointless chore and then you dont bother checking anything. But every time I ride, one thing I check without fail is that my visor and mirrors are clear. If not I clean them. Good vision is so important that this is not an option. Even if late, it only takes a moment to breathe on and polish a mirror or visor. Seeing is surviving, so never set off without clear rear vision mirrors.
Check your tires
My main weekly check is that the tires are not slowly deflating. If tires go down suddenly, you can tell, but if they go down slowly, you may not notice. You need a tire gauge to check the pressures. It only takes moment to check tires. If your ride feels a little “spongy”, check your tires right away. You can usually see or feel if a nail is in the tire
Every six months or so, your bike needs a maintenance check and tune up by an expert with the right equipment. Some things you can do yourself, like change the oil, spark plugs, air filter and grease the rear chain, which is important as a dry chain can break. Putting grease on a chain is not that hard and grease is cheap. You can change the oil yourself with an oil pan and oil. It can get messy but you need to keep some oil around anyway in case it needs topping up. Yet since you need a service check anyway, why not leave it to the mechanic?
The problem many people have with mechanics is they charge a lot. Some shops pressure mechanics to replace everything they can, even if it doesnt need it. They call this “efficiency” but you call it “being ripped off”. When you go into a big franchise to pick up your bike you talk to the front desk whose job is to tell you a story and take your money. You are talking to to the organ grinder not the “wrench monkey” who did the job. I always ask to talk to the person who worked on my bike. This is not being cynical, it is just that the best person to tell me about my bike is the person who worked on it. So find a personal motorcycle shop, where the person who talks to you is the person who did the work.
Use the service schedule in the bike manual to specify exactly what to check, and leave the manual with them on the bike with that page marked. They should give an estimated price. Give your cell phone number to call you immediately so if something comes up, they can check with you first. When you get the bike back, go down each point and ask about it, to learn not just what was done but also what is likely to go in the future. Was the oil low, maybe a leak? Was only one spark plug gone? Ask to see any replaced parts, like spark plugs, to see how bad they were. You are entitled to those parts, as they are yours. Then ask them to sign or stamp the service in your manual, with the date and mileage, as a record for next time.
Maintain your battery
The battery is the “heart” of a bike and a flat battery is like a bike heart attack. To make it easy to keep your battery healthy fit a battery tender. It provides wires from the battery terminals to an external plug point for convenient charging. To charge the battery, just plug the charger into the battery plug point when your battery is getting flat, say you haven’t ridden for a while. No need to take off a side cover or lift the seat to mess with battery terminals. With a battery tender, its just plug and play. The battery tender should sense when the battery is charged and stop charging.
Once a year, I waterproof my gear, usually on a sunny day in summer. Over time, jackets, gloves, boots and leggings tend to leak, mainly at the joints. Of the various waterproofing products, I prefer the solid ones that melt on with warmth, like Sno-Seal. The spray on types don’t seem to last as long. On a sunny day rub the proofing into your gear to keep the water out.