Maintaining your bike to ensure that it is safe and in good working order is essential. Today’s modern machines require a lot less maintenance than the machines of the past, but there are still things for today’s riders to check. Some of these will of course be model specific, but there are a range of common issues that should be regularly checked, and some before each and every ride.
Many general checks can be carried out by the owner but there may be safety and implications. For guidance, a skilled technician should be referred to for help in accordance with the manufacturer's service schedule and the owner's manual or whenever you are unsure about what to do.
The most important thing to check on a regular basis are your bike's tyre pressures, which should always be maintained at the bike or tyre manufacturer’s recommended pressures. Keeping your tyres at the correct pressures will ensure your bike handles as it was designed to and will avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
Always use an accurate tyre pressure gauge and avoid relying on the gauges on garage forecourt airpumps as they can be unreliable. Always check pressures when the tyres are cold.
Many modern machines have electric tyre pressure monitors/sensors. It is best not to rely solely on these and to carry out regular physical tyre pressure checks.
As well as checking pressures, you should regularly check the condition of the tyres, including tread depth. A quick visual check of the overall condition of your tyres is important, check the side walls for any bubbles, or cracking, and the treaded area for stones, cuts, nails or other foreign objects. Most motorcycle related breakdown call-outs are tyre related.
The law requires the grooves of the tread pattern to have a depth of a least 1mm throughout a continuous band measuring at least three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre.
Check the wear indicators built into the tyre for a visual indication of when the tyres should be changed, but don't rely soley on this check.
1mm is the legal minimum but it is wise to change the tyres before then as their profile will have altered, which will affect the way your bike handles. Remember that tyre wear is gradual and you adjust to the changing handling characteristics of your bike as the tyre wears. Changing your tyres can be a revelation in terms of the handling, response and feel of your bike.
It is important to check your drive chain. Check the slack first - your chain should have between 5-6 cm of travel in an upwards and downwards motion and this should be measured at the chain’s tightest point.
If it's slack, adjust according to your bike’s manual. Remember to lubricate your chain on a regular basis with a good quality motorcycle specific chain lube (or fit an automatic lubrication device). Once a week or every 100 miles is a good rule of thumb, and it’s easy to do, especially now with the range of products widely available.
Also check the condition of the chain sprockets to ensure they don't become 'hooked' or broken. If you have to replace your chain through wear, it is recommended that sprockets are changed at the same time.
The brakes on your motorcycle are the single most important safety feature on your machine and it is essential that they are maintained in excellent working order.
You should check your brake fluid – front and rear – and top it up if necessary using fluid recommended for your particular bike. Brake fluid should be changed once every two years, as it can absorb moisture and become less effective (brake feel will become ‘spongy’). Keeping fresh fluid in your bike will help ensure your brakes work to their full ability. Check the condition of brake hoses and ensure there are no brake fluid leaks.
Brake calliper pistons should be checked and kept clean to avoid sticking, to ensure effective braking performance.
Do a visual check of the brake pads every once in a while. Today’s bikes have brake pad wear indicators, which give a visual indication of pad wear and clearly show when pads need to be replaced.
Regular oil and filter changes will keep your motorbike’s engine healthy and in tip top condition. Oil is an engine's lifeblood.
Modern machines have electronic oil pressure/oil level sensors, but not to rely solely on these and make regular visual / physical checks.
The oil level is checked most commonly through a sight glass on the side of the engine casing, or via a dipstick attached to the oil filler cap (refer to your bikes manual for the specifics for your particular bike). Make sure you regularly check your oil level and keep it at its HIGH or MAX level.
It is best to check your oil level on the bike’s centre stand (if it has one) or when it is in a level position (on a paddock stand or held upright by a friend).
Always use a good quality oil suitable for your machine.
Motorcycles should be serviced by an authorised dealer or qualified motorcycle mechanic, unless the owner has proper tools and service data and is mechanically qualified. The information supplied on these web pages is for advisory purposes only. In no way is it meant to replace the professional service and care offered by manufacturer authorised dealerships, qualified independent mechanics or emergency breakdown companies. Please seek professional advice should you need further help and assistance.