Motorcycles may be dangerous, but you can vastly decrease the likelihood of a crash by taking care of your bike. While major repairs should always be done by a professional, there are a number of simple maintenance tasks that you can do yourself. While on-road safety is always a must, set yourself up for a safe ride, whether a couple miles or a weekend trip, with these DIY maintenance tips.
Tires are among the most important and simplest parts of your bike to maintain. Many motorcyclists neglect their tires, especially tire pressure, from week to week. The danger in low tire pressure comes from how it affects the wayyour bike handles and the responsiveness of your brakes. When a tire is under-inflated, the tire walls can’t support the amount of pressure put on the tire when you turn and brake. In other words: the rubber flexes more, causing more play in the handlebars. On the other hand, over inflated tires minimize the contact patch, which can decrease your bike’s traction, especially when your use the brakes. Use the owners manual to determine the PSI of your tires, and use a quality pressure gauge at least once a week.
The oil change is a healthy foundation for vehicle maintenance in general, and your motorcycle is no exception. Most motorcycles share a standard simplicity in terms of oil changes, though a few are different. No matter what type of motorcycle you own, check the owner’s manual as a guide. Whatever the steps, you’ll need a drain pan, socket set, strap wrench, and funnel. You should also replace the oil filter when you change the oil. Here’s a helpful video that’ll walk you through the process.
Before you can maintain your chain, determine what kind of chain is on your motorcycle. The most common, especially on older bikes, is the non-sealed chain. A non-sealed chain is bare and exposed to the elements every day of its life. Therefore, it will need the most maintenance in the form of repeated lubrication, because it has no way to self-lubricate. While this may sound like a drawback, non-sealed chains create less friction than other types of chains, and older motorcycles are typically not compatible with anything else.
O-ring chains require far less upkeep. These chains have small o-rings between each link. The top rubber seals, commonly made by Apple Rubber, keep the lubricant inside your chain. Of course, o-rings can become worn and even dried-out if they aren’t cared for. An o-ring safe lubricant will increase the life of your o-ring chain considerably if applied during maintenance checkups.
A battery’s juice can be sapped for a number of reasons. Be it the cold of winter or too few electrolytes, if your battery isn’t cared for you might find yourself asking for a jump. First, check those electrolytes. The owner’s manual should address what a healthy level is. If you top it off, only use distilled or deionized water. The cables and connectors come next. Make sure that they’re snug and that there isn’t a build up of corrosion or rust on them. If you store your battery, make sure you place it on a non-conductive surface. Concrete or metal will slowly drain the life from it over time.
Author information: Alex Clark-McGlenn is currently taking his MFA in creative writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He has been published in eFiction Magazine, Inkwell at Evergreen, Slightly West Literary Magazine, and appeared in Smokebox Literary Magazine July, 2014. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington.