Bike Maintenance before a Trip
When planning a trip on your motorcycle the most important piece of gear is the actual motorcycle itself. Making sure it is in top form and ready to go can also be a task for those without funds to have a certified mechanic do it for them. Most if not all of these checks can be done for little to no cost in your own driveway or garage and won’t require much knowledge either.
If your bike came with a decent tool kit or you carry an aftermarket one (highly recommended) you should have the required tools to complete most of these tasks as well. If you keep up on your scheduled maintenance the list will also be much smaller and easier to complete. As with any of the items we will cover, always check your manual for specific maintenance steps. This is a basic discussion and different manufacturers have different ways to accomplish some of these tasks. For example some air filters may be able to be cleaned and some may need to be replaced.
Let us start with regular items that should be completed regularly at intervals that your manufacturer recommends. Oil and filter change, could be the most important item to do regularly and keep your bike running smooth for a long time to come. With most manufacturers recommending 6,000 mile intervals (check your manual for your specific model) this may be one you can skip if it has been done recently. on the other hand if you are close to the 6k interval it doesn’t hurt to change it early and is surely better than going over by a few thousand miles. Once that is out of the way your air filter or air cleaner some call it, is the next item that should be checked, if it has significant dirt or grime evident either clean or replace depending on your specific bike. These two tasks keep the bike breathing clean air and the parts lubricated for optimum performance and mileage!
Keeping with the engine theme let’s talk about spark plugs. They have come a long way in my lifetime and are so much better now than they once were. taking the plug out and inspecting it for trouble signs can tell you if the bike is running lean or rich (too little or too much gas). If either of these problems are evident a carburetor adjustment if you have them can be due, or maybe it just needs to be cleaned. If you find this problem and are not confident in your skills I would advise a trip to a certified mechanic for adjustment. That also goes for those of us who have fuel injection.
Turning to the bike itself and way from the engine first priority here is wheels and brakes. They are attached to each other and can be inspected together for the most part. Check your tires for any cracking in the rubber, this will indicate that the tires are at the end of their life span and in need of replacing. Also check the tread depth on your street tires or your knobbies on dirt or combo tires. Check your air pressure in the tires with the gauge you should be carrying at all times, hint hint! Next will depend on the bike you ride, spokes if you have them will loosen up over time and need to be tightened periodically. If you have no idea how to do this check out YouTube and see if you can find a video for your particular model or something similar. I can not stress enough that you DO NOT want to overtighten the spokes as this can lead to breaking them.
While we are here at the wheels, look at your brake rotors and calipers. Are there any gouges, grooves or pitting in the rotors? Using the nail on a finger you can lightly slide along the rotor and feel any imperfections to the smooth surface. Look in the calipers and see how much pad is left, as with everything else we have covered so far this should be done regularly and if let go can lead to dangerous consequences on the ride. Another problem with letting the pads go is they will eventually damage the rotors and cost much more to fix if allowed to get to this point. Lastly we need to check the fluid and lever/pedal operation. Low fluid can indicate brake pad wear, and require a more thorough investigation. Color can also indicate problems, black oil like color is not a good thing. the final check is the levers and the operation of them. We want smooth operation and brake light operation when activating both front and back brakes. To check the lights, back the bike up to the side of the house or a wall inside the garage, you can even use the trunk of a nearby tree. When using either pedal or lever the light should come on before you feel the brakes engage. This is designed specifically so you can’t use the brakes without the light shining, and makes the light come on an instant before you start to slow down. While you are testing the lights pay attention to the operation and try to notice any sticky spots, if using cables on your brakes this could indicate a frayed or kinked cable and further investigation is warranted.
As with any pre ride walkaround check all of your lights for proper operation, clutch and throttle for smooth operation with no sticky spots. A sticky throttle is both dangerous to you and to the bike itself. While we are at the controls also check your mirrors to make sure they are tight and adjusted properly. Nothing sucks more than driving down the road and your mirrors keep moving from the wind, vibration and bumps along the road. If this happens please pull over to fix the issue as your attention will be split and reaction time can be diminished in an emergency situation. Remember most people on the road are selfish and not looking out for your best interest.
Another area to explore is the items you may be installing for a long trip. Did you buy a new gps unit or install a charging port for your phone? If this is installed right before your trip it may cause you a headache with a drained battery one morning. even if you installed it correctly, if your bike does not supply enough electricity to run all of your accessories in addition to the lights it came with, it will drain the battery slowly and may not show up until a few days later. You should also install and check your luggage before the trip as there are a few problems that can show up. these can include muffler burns from a heavy load that is improperly shielded to binding from bad anchor points. A shakedown ride with a fully loaded luggage system is recommended before you venture forth on a long trip.
I am sure there are other points that can be brought up that have been missed here and if you think of one leave a comment down below to let us know what you do that we have left out. If you would like to hear the podcast about this topic click the play button below, you can also use one of the links below to share it with your friends!
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