Bike maintenance is strangely something very important, yet a lot of people would skip it in the past in favour of just getting out there. Needless to say, that’s a bit of a dodgy attitude, as the last thing you want is your bike having a problem on the track, or plastics and wheels falling off. But by regularly checking over your bike before you go to the track, you’ll be able to find what bolts are loose, and what needs to be done before things go sideways, ensuring that you will have an enjoyable, safe ride.
Chain and sprocket care
Keeping your chain lubricated helps with the life of the chain and reduces the risk of it snapping. You don’t want to be riding with a dry chain. Before you go riding, always lube the chain and sprockets with chain lube. This will prevent it binding up and rusting while not in use and will also prevent extra wear on your sprockets when it’s time to hit the dirt. After you have finished and washed your bike, however, we recommend getting some WD40 or similar CRC-type product and spray the chain with that. This will help disperse all the water from the wash, which can cause as much damage as anything else.
Don’t forget, you always want to keep an eye on how tight or loose your chain is. It always varies as a brand-new chain will loosen up a lot. The last thing you want is for your chain to snap or de-rail due to being either too tight or too loose. To check your chain tension, a rough guide is to put 2-3 fingers between the chain and the chain guide, if there is pressure against your fingers the chain is tight enough. If it’s not, then make some adjustments until it is. Your bike’s manual will have specific measurements.
Most of you should know that when your air filter is dirty, it needs to be changed or cleaned. You don’t want all that dirt to get past the filter and into your motor, as it’ll cause some very costly problems. After all, an air filter will always be cheaper than a rebuilt kit. If you’re using a reusable air filter, make sure you go through the steps to clean your air filter properly, then make sure its dried and give it a re-oil before reinstalling it on your bike. If its mid-summer and super dusty, a little grease around the rim where the filter sits on the airbox can be a little extra protection too.
Before each weekend’s worth of riding, check your wheels for loose spokes. An easy way to tell if you’ve got a loose spoke is to spin your wheel with your bike on a stand and use a spanner/screwdriver as if it is one of those tickers you see on the mid-week Lotto winning wheel. Your spokes should all make a high pitched “ting” noise, so if any make a dull thud instead, you know you’ve got a loose spoke that needs tightening.
Now, if you don’t have a spoke wrench, you need to get one. Spoke tightening can be done with another tool like an adjustable crescent, but it’s not that easy and we don’t recommend you try. A spoke wrench makes things a lot easier, especially the variety with a torque function built in. The best way in our experience is to do every third spoke as you work your way around the wheel, completing three full rotations to know you have done every spoke, so they have all been tightened evenly.
For any stroke bike, it’s good to occasionally check the muffler packing. Over time, the packing in the exhaust gets compressed and can be ineffective, making the bike obnoxiously loud, reducing the amount of back pressure in the exhaust and losing you power. The easiest thing to do is to buy and change the packing in the exhaust once it gets to this stage. You also want to keep your pipe clean to stop it from rusting and developing nasty corrosion.
This is increasingly important on a 2-stroke where the extra un-burnt oil reduces the life of the packing faster than on a 4-stroke.
Cleaning and lubing cables
Your ability to control the throttle and clutch are obviously critical in riding your motorbike, so keeping these cleaned and lubricated is essential. It’s not a big job thankfully, just checking how they look after each ride and cleaning out the dirt that may get in your levers. Then apply a good amount of lube to keep them functioning properly. Using a proper cable lube device is the only way to get full coverage of the entire cable, so look into investing in one of those, too.
Coolant is something a lot of you wouldn’t think about, but it’s what keeps the motor cool and stops it from blowing up. Greater use in hotter temperatures can see more coolant used, so by checking the cap on top of the radiator and seeing the level of coolant, then topping it up if need be, you will keep your bike running cool and avoid the risk of it overheating. You want a minimum 50/50 coolant to water ratio. Some coolants are made to be diluted and some are not. Check the container. And don’t take the cap off when the bike is hot – obvi!
Oil and filter
Your oil and filter need to be replaced regularly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations found in your service manual. The benefits of regular oil changes include things like engine wear prevention, all the way through to better engine cooling. The same way you’re keeping your air filter clean and tidy, you want the same for your oil filter, as this is the last line of defence to stopping shit getting into the motor and causing carnage.
For your bike’s many bearings (think steering head and wheel in particular) you want to be check they are not dry or rumbly, or have excessive play, and in fact are moving freely with no oil leaking. If they don’t seem right, don’t chance it – replace, replace, replace!
Your tyres are what keep you grounded, so you want to make sure they’re in tip-top condition. Some tyres are multi-directional, so you can spin them around when they get worn. Check for any damage or wear, and pump them up to the correct pressure. A spot between 10-13psi should keep you right. Lower pressures for soft terrain and sandy conditions, as well as small, light riders. Higher pressures for harder terrain, roots, rocks and heavier, bigger riders. Remember to always pack a spare tube or repair kit when you head out for the weekend, as no matter how well you look after your hoops, a flat is always a possibility.
Front and rear suspension
Checking for blown seals, seepage and leaks is important, as your suspension plays a massive part in how controllable your bike is. With air forks, make sure they can hold pressure, and set them to the recommended psi settings. While on oil/spring forks and shocks, make sure they are not leaking any fluid and have a smooth action with minimal adhesion. A little bit of CRC lube on the fork sliders and shock shaft can help with that.
After doing any maintenance and before any ride, make sure you do a complete check that every bike bolt, nut, fasteners, and cable tie is secure so it doesn’t fall off during a ride. Ever pulled a wheelie and had your front hoop come off your bike? Neither…but it could technically happen. Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but this would end the day’s riding and cause serious bike damage or worse; either you or a mate getting injured.
The check list
Chain and sprockets clean/lubed
Air filter clean and installed correctly
Wheel spokes all tight front and rear
Exhaust pipe packing in good nick
Control cables clean and lubed
Coolant at the correct level / mixture
Oil and Filter changed
Suspension moves smoothly?
Nuts ‘n’ Bolts – all tight?
Hit the dirt!