Motorcycle Maintenance Tips
There’s not much to maintain on a day-to-day basis on most modern motorcycles, but do what you can do, including your pre-ride checks. Here are some basic tips to follow to keep your bike running at its best.
- Your bike has a regular maintenance schedule, listed in the owner’s manual. Unless you are an accomplished mechanic, we recommend that these services be done by motorcycle tech.
- Keeping your bike clean is a good idea. It’s astounding how dirt can cover up something that is about to go wrong.
- Always take your tool kit along when you go for a ride. You never can tell when it will come in handy. Use the tools to go over the bike occasionally and make sure no screws or bolts are loose.
- You should always have your owner’s manual with the motorcycle. It also tells you where the fuse box is, in the unlikely chance a fuse blows. It tells you how to get a wheel off, should you have the misfortune of a flat tire.
Tips for Checking Your Motorcycle Before You Ride
- Check the tires. They are the most important parts of your bike. If your engine quits, you roll to a stop. If a tire quits – trouble! Make the effort to check the surface of the tires, looking for cuts in the rubber or foreign objects – like a nail. Check the tire pressures with a good gauge. If a tire is low every time you check it, even though you have added the proper amount of air each time, you have a slow leak. Fix it before it becomes a fast leak.
- Check the controls. Cables are quite strong and rarely break, but look for kinking or stiffness or anything unusual in their operation.
- Check your lights, including brake light, headlights, and turn signals to make sure everything works. Also check your horn and adjust the mirrors.
- Check the oil and fuel and, if the bike is liquid-cooled, the coolant levels.
- If your motorcycle has chain-drive to the rear wheel, make sure that the chain is properly tensioned and in good shape. Chains do need an occasional cleaning and dose of lubrication.
- Make sure the side stand and center stand fold up properly, and stay up. If one of the retraction springs is weak, or broken or missing, replace it.
- As you roll off, check your brakes. Just to make sure they haven’t gone away.
Motorcycle Safety Gear
Motorcycle safety gear is one of the most important aspects of staying safe on your motorcycle. It can protect you in the unfortunate case of an accident. At a minimum, we suggest that you wear the following gear each time you ride:
- Helmet — always choose a DOT- (Department of Transportation) approved helmet which can be verified by a sticker placed on either the inside or outside of the helmet. To ensure a proper fit, you should have a professional help you choose an appropriate helmet.
- Jacket — either leather or Kevlar® that is equipped with reinforced shoulders, back/spine and elbows
- Pants — made of leather or non-leather material and should also have padding, removable liners and reflective material
- Riding suit — one that boasts reflective material and armor pads with good ventilation
- Gloves — there are different types of gloves for warm and cold weather. Warm weather gloves are usually equipped with perforated holes for airflow. Some also have a carbon fiber shell over the knuckles and padding on the palm. Cold weather gloves provide the same protection, but are insulated.
- Safety vests — constructed of sturdy material, including the zippers and straps. The reflective material should deflect light in all directions.
Types of Motorcycles
From popular manufacturers including Yamaha, Harley Davidson, Suzuki and Honda, motorcycles have been built for a variety of purposes, but most fall into one of three categories: street, off-road and dual-purpose. Street motorcycles are designed for being ridden on paved roads and include: cruiser, sport bike, touring, sport touring, standard and scooters.
- Cruiser — This type of motorcycle is typified by the design of the American models of the 1930s through 1960s. Due to the feet-forward riding position, these models are generally more comfortable for long distance riding.
- Sport Bike — Sometimes referred to as performance bikes, sport bikes emphasize speed, acceleration, deceleration and maneuverability.
- Touring — These models incorporate features designed to address the needs of long distance touring and commuting riders.
- Sport Touring — Sport touring motorcycles combine the features of both sport bikes and touring models. They are designed for comfortable long distance travel with good handling and high performance.
Off-road motorcycles, also known as dirt bikes, are light weight with small engines and large wheels with long suspension and high ground clearance. Most are designed specifically for off-road sports, including motocross, rallies, trials or track racing.
Dual-purpose motorcycles are a cross between on- and off-road bikes. They are designed to be driven off-road, but have added equipment, such as signal lights, to make them street legal. Dual-purpose motorcycles include adventure-touring, enduro and supermoto.
Motorcycle Theft Protection
Motorcycle theft is common – in the U.S., one motorcycle is stolen every 7.5 minutes. However, by following the strategies below, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of motorcycle theft:
- At home, don’t park your motorcycle in easily visible locations. Whenever possible, park your motorcycle in a locked garage. If thieves don’t see your motorcycle, it won’t be an easy target. If you must park outside, cover your motorcycle with a plain cloth or tarp, not a cover with a cycle logo emblazoned on it – that just announces to thieves what is hidden beneath the cover.
- If you’re parking in a public lot, pick the safest spot. Park where you can easily see your motorcycle from a window or door or near a security camera. At night, park in a well-lit portion of the lot.
- Always remove your key from the ignition. It would take a thief less than 60 seconds to ride off with your motorcycle if you leave the key in the ignition.
- Lock your motorcycle to a secure, stationary object. This makes it more difficult for a thief to get away with your motorcycle.
- Use steering locks. Steering locks make maneuvering a motorcycle difficult, so your bike is less of an easy mark for thieves.
- Uniquely mark and then photograph your motorcycle. If your motorcycle is stolen, you will have identifying evidence to aid in the return of your bike