Having your bike in the shop is the worst, but is sometimes necessary when you need larger service or maintenance performed by a professional. However, when it comes to routine maintenance, you can easily do that yourself right at home (where your bike belongs). Regularly taking care of your bike will keep it running well and help it last longer. You’re also more likely to spot big issues early so you can get them taken care of before they cause you problems on the road. Here are six things to make sure are on your routine bike maintenance schedule.
Your bike’s oil and coolant are the two fluids you most need to keep an eye on. Since the oil helps your bike’s engine run and the coolant keeps it from overheating, we’d say they’re both pretty important. During your routine maintenance, you want to make sure their levels are steady and there aren’t any leaks. You should plan to change your oil at least one a year and your coolant every other year. Remember that oil changes should be done when the engine is warm (but not red hot; stay safe!), while coolant changes should be done when the engine is cool.
When you change your oil, go ahead and change out your oil filter too. You’ll need a filter removal wrench to do this, so make sure you have that close by before you get started. You should also check the air filter once a year. This keeps all kinds of road debris from getting into your engine, but all that mess can eventually clog the filter. The air filter is easy to clean — just hit it with some compressed air — but it can be hard to access sometimes, depending on your machine. If removing the gas tank or other parts to get to the air filter is above your skill or comfort level, add it onto the list of requested services next time your bike is professionally serviced.
The battery can typically be found underneath the seat of your bike or under the gas tank. You want the battery to be fully charged at all times to help extend its life. If you’re riding regularly, that will keep your battery charged, but if you plan to let your bike sit for a while, put the battery on a trickle charger. You also want to regularly check the acid level of your battery. To do that, remove it from the bike and place it on a level surface. If the level looks low, add some distilled water. Before you put the battery back, grease its terminals to prevent corrosion.
Monitoring your tires is the maintenance task you’ll do the most, as you should check your tire pressure and tire tread every single week. Tires inflation impacts how your bike rides. Not enough pressure means that your tire walls may not be strong enough to handle the weight of the bike, while too much pressure can negatively impact the grip. Check your owner’s manual for the info on correct tire pressure for your specific bike. As for the tread, you just want to make sure that your tires are wearing evenly. If they’re starting to thin out, be aware you might need new tires in the near future.
5. Drive Chain
The drive chain is a fairly important part of your unit, since it’s how power gets from your engine to your back wheels, so making sure it’s taken care of is definitely something you should be doing on a regular basis. After each ride, while the bike’s still warm, drop your unit in neutral and lube the chain. Doing this when the bike is still warm allows the lube to remain viscous and fully coat the entire chain. If you start to notice your chain’s got some build-up or that it’s getting grimy, you can use a gentle bristle brush to clean it off before re-lubing.
The other thing to watch out for with your drive chain is the tension. Having the chain set to the right tension prolongs the life of your bike. You can find the correct tension in your owner’s manual. When you go to adjust the chain, make sure you have someone sitting on the bike because your chain tightens more accurately with a rider.
Similarly, you want to make sure all the cables on your unit are well greased. Bikes come with grease included in the cable housing, but that eventually degrades over time and can impair your unit’s throttle and clutch response. Once you make sure they are correctly greased, make sure there’s no unnecessary slack in your cables. You want cables to have some tension to give you a smoother, more responsive ride.
Conclusion: Making sure your bike is ready to hit the road doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. These are all straightforward things you can do on your own to keep your bike running in between major service appointments. And if you need a new ride, check out CycleTrader.com for the largest selection of new and used bikes across the country.