Hit the open road
There is nothing like the freedom of the open road: just you, your motorcycle and the winding road before you. It’s an exhilarating feeling that can’t be matched.
You have lots of rides planned, so don’t let a break down sideline you. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way to keeping your motorcycle on the road. To get more miles from your bike, check out this basic guide for motorcycle maintenance.
You rely on your brakes every time you jump on your bike, so it makes sense to monitor their condition. By periodically inspecting the brakes, you can take care of small issues before they lead to total failure. Examine the front and rear brake pads. Many have a line on the pad to indicate when it’s time to replace it. If there is no indicator, a good guide is to replace the pad if it is wearing close to the metal.
Make sure the brake levers are working properly and have normal pressure. If the levers aren’t responsive, the brakes may need bleeding. Consult your owner’s manual or have your mechanic help you with this.
Your tires play a key role in your safety on the road, so be sure to take care of them. Inspect the tread wear on both tires; riding on bald tires is extremely dangerous. There are a couple easy ways to check the tread. Current DOT-approved tires have wear bars running across the tread. On a new tire, the bars are invisible. As the tire experiences wear, the bars become prominent. Once the tread reaches the wear bar, the tire should be replaced. You can also use a penny to check tread wear. If part of Abe Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re in good shape.
Look for cracks, cuts in sidewalls, bulges and other damage. If you see any signs of damage, immediately replace the tire. Also be sure to check the pressure with a tire gauge and adjust as needed to reach the manufacturer recommended PSI. Be sure to do this when the tires are cold; heat increases tire pressure.
Check your air filter on a regular basis. It doesn’t take long for dirt, dust and debris to accumulate and clog the filter. A dirty air filter makes your engine work harder and, in extreme cases, can shut down the power supply. Replace a dirty paper filter and clean a dirty foam or cotton filter with compressed air or an air hose.
It is advisable to change your oil and oil filter on a yearly basis. Doing it at the end of the season or before the first ride of the spring, can make it easy to remember this key maintenance step. During the season, periodically check the oil level and top it off if necessary. Consult your owner’s manual for the proper oil filter and oil to use.
Check and top off all the other fluids in your engine including coolant, brake fluid, transmission oil, hydraulic clutch fluid and fork oil. Also take note of any changes in color or consistency. Consult your mechanic if anything seems amiss.
Take care of your battery and it will take care of you. Before setting out on a ride, be sure that your motorcycle battery is fully charged. If you notice that your battery is having trouble holding a charge, its likely time for a new one.
If you aren’t going to be riding for a couple weeks or more, connect the battery to a battery tender. That will ensure that it’s charged and ready to go the next time you want to take a ride.
Spark plugs are a key part of your motorcycle’s ignition system. Checking them on a routine basis ensures that your motorcycle is ready to go. Examine each spark plug for cracks or other signs of damage; replace any that are corroded or deteriorated.
A final word
For questions about the service schedule for your specific machine, consult your owner’s manual. Filled with recommendations and part numbers, your manual has a wealth of information that will help you keep your motorcycle in tip-top shape.
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