Riding a motorcycle is quite possibly one of the most exciting things out there. Especially if your motorcycle of choice sits on the high-performance side of things. If that’s the case, then chances are you’re the owner of quite a technologically advanced motorcycle. Now, whether or not you have the technical aptitude to work on and maintain your motorcycle, there are a few things you should always check before hopping aboard your two-wheeled steed.
Admittedly, even as seasoned motorcycle riders, we tend to overlook some important, potentially life-saving maintenance items on our bikes. Having said that, here’s a gentle reminder for you to always ensure that your motorcycle is in tip top condition every time you swing a leg over it. Here are 5 essential things you should always check before going out for a ride.
Tires are by far one of the most important parts of your motorcycle. After all, they’re the only things which ought to remain in constant contact with the ground. The old saying “rubber side down, shiny side up” holds a lot of truth, in a sense that a tiny patch of rubber is really the only thing keeping us away from disaster. On top of this, overlooking our bike’s tires can be all too easy, especially if they seem to be in good condition at first glance.
Alas, there could be some hidden gremlins hiding in plain sight. Double check the depth of your tires—are there any noticeable gashes, tears, or missing bits of thread? How do the sidewalls look? Are there any lumps, punctures, or other deformities? Ensuring your tires are in top shape is a great first step in ensuring that your motorcycle is able to perform its best, give you the most enjoyment, and most importantly, keep you safe.
Just like your tires, it can be all too easy to overlook checking the oil level and overall condition of your motorcycle’s engine oil. Most motorcycles are equipped with either a sight glass on the side of the crankcase, or a dipstick built into the oil filler cap. When checking your oil level, ensure that it’s right in the middle of the high and low level markers. Having too much or too little oil can have detrimental effects to the performance and longevity of your motorbike’s engine.
Apart from oil level, checking your engine oil’s condition is a slightly more involved process. If your bike has a sight glass, shining a light onto the oil will allow you to examine its color, or if there are impurities such as gunk, metal flakes, or worse, coolant mixed into your engine oil. If your bike has an engine oil dipstick, wipe some of it off onto a clean paper towel to check its overall condition. Remember to follow your motorcycle’s recommended oil change intervals.
If you own a liquid-cooled motorcycle, your bike’s coolant serves as a vital element in keeping your motorcycle’s engine safe and performing at its best. Coolant serves two purposes. The first of which is, of course, to dissipate heat from your bike’s engine after passing through channels designed specifically to cool your motor. The second is to prevent rust and corrosion in your bike’s coolant system, which consists of the water pump, radiator, hoses, and coolant lines.
Brakes are quite possibly one of the most important safety features on any motorcycle. Responsible for slowing you down and putting you safely to a stop, there’s nothing worse than losing your brakes in the middle of a ride. To make things worse, it can be rather difficult to inspect the overall condition of your brakes, as it’s composed of quite a few parts.
The first thing you should inspect should be the brake pads and rotors. Make sure that there’s still enough meat on the pads. Double check that there isn’t any scoring or warping on your rotors. Once you’re done with that, check the overall condition of your brake fluid. Does the lever feel spongy? If it does then chances are some air has gotten into the system and your brakes may be in need of a bleed.
Last but not least, always make sure to check your motorcycle’s chain. There are three things which you should particularly look out for. The first would be visible signs of wear. If surface rust has begun to form on your chain, this is an indication that it’s in dire need of lubrication. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to remove the rust with a steel brush, reapply chain lube, and be on your way.
The next thing you should look out for are stiff links on the chain. Stiff links can be caused by rust, corrosion, or dirt which managed to make its way in between the chain links. Lastly, check your motorcycle’s chain tension. A chain which is too loose can slap around and unseat itself from the sprocket and cause the rear wheel to lock up and have you crash your bike. Conversely, a chain which is too tight can cause undue wear on your drivetrain as well as a lot of resistance to the smooth rotation of your rear wheel.