First motorcycle maintenance lesson
To start this blog thing going I’m going with the 2 biggest things we see overlooked at the shop, which are also pretty easy: keeping your tires properly inflated and using chain lube.
Tire pressure is critical to safety, handling, and tire life. Because a motorcycle tire flexes left and right as you turn, tire pressure is much more important than on a car. It is very common for us to find tires 10-15 lbs. low on tires that spec 30 psi. That’s way too low! Don’t be that person. Your tires will slip when you don’t want them to, steering will feel heavy, the bike accelerates slower, and the tire is wearing unevenly. The slipping part should really get your attention. Low tires are dangerous and might mean you end up on the ground.
Steps to proper tire pressure:
*Get a good quality tire gauge that clearly reads each pound of pressure. A big dial or a digital readout is good. Expect to pay $20-$100
*Learn the spec for the front and rear tire for your situation, solo riding or two-up/packing luggage. Frequently there are 2 sets of numbers for different weight loads.
*Check your tires regularly: once a month at the bare minimum, weekly is good, definitely when the temperature changes drastically, and always before a long ride
*Be picky. If the spec is 32 psi in the front and 39 psi in the rear, 30 and 37 is not good enough. 2 pounds matter.
Lubricating your chain is a required part of motorcycle ownership, unless your bike is belt or shaft drive. Going over 1000 miles without lubricating your chain is wrong. Some recommend as often as every 500 miles. The important thing is no not let your chain get dry and noisy. A lubricated chain should last 10K miles or more. Not lubricating it will put its life at under 5K and it will wear out the sprockets too. Be sure to clean the chain first if it’s dirty. Clean the chain with chain cleaner and a rag every 3-4 times you lube it, perhaps more or less depending on conditions.
Steps to lubricating your chain:
*Choose a good quality chain lube, either petroleum based or wax based. Most use a petroleum based lube for a longer lasting result. Some prefer a wax based lube for a cleaner look. They don’t mind applying it more often.
*Figure out how to get the rear wheel off the ground safely. Some bikes have a centerstand that makes this easy. If yours does not, a common solution is to invest in a rear stand that will safely hold the bike perfectly vertical with the rear wheel off the ground. Be careful using a motorcycle jack to lift the whole bike off the ground. Research this. There are a few other solutions out there. Find what works for you.
*The last step is to actually do it. It is common for the can of lube to go unused. Don’t be that person. To lubricate your chain safely turn the rear wheel clockwise (backwards) and spray the inside of the chain where it is moving toward the motor (the bottom). And an extra note: if your chain can pull away from the rear sprocket, it may be in need of replacement. If you can see light between the chain and sprocket, it’s definitely time for a new chain and possibly new sprockets. Worn sprockets wear out a chain prematurely.
So that’s it. If you actually do these two things, you are maintaining your motorcycle better than half the motorcyclists out there. You are also safer and your bike is happier. You can do it!