It’s a question that gets thrown around quite a bit: how often should I tune up my motorcycle? One trip to the various motorcycle-specific Facebook communities will reveal hundreds, if not thousands of the same question—be it pertaining to “change oil”, air and oil filters, various other maintenance tasks. As it would turn out, how often you perform maintenance on your motorcycle is dependent on a plethora of variables.
First of all, let’s determine the maintenance jobs pertaining to the umbrella term “tune-up”. Of course, it goes without saying that oil is the most important, and most frequent maintenance item on any motorcycle. Up next would be the likes of coolant and CVT/ transmission oil if applicable. The rest, such as filters, brake pads, and chain maintenance are part of the equation too. As such, let’s go into detail concerning the variables that can affect how often you must perform maintenance on your motorcycle.
Consult your owner's manual
First and foremost, when it comes to basic maintenance intervals, all the information you need can be found in your motorcycle’s owner’s manual. We highly recommend reading your specific motorcycle’s owner’s manual from cover to cover once you buy a bike, as this gives you valuable information about the bike, as well as tips and tricks in troubleshooting various issues.
On top of that, if your motorcycle is a popular model available in multiple markets, you may want to take it upon yourself to acquire a copy of the service manual for that specific model. Unlike the owner’s manual, the service manual contains all technical specs and details down to the torque specs of each individual bolt. This makes it possible for you to learn virtually all maintenance and repair techniques pertaining to your particular bike. Do note, however, that the owner’s manual, as well as the service manual, serve merely as guidelines and don’t take into account other variables concerning the operation of the bike.
The way you ride
This brings us to one of the most determining factors when it comes to maintenance: the way you ride. Clearly, if you abuse your bike, ride it improperly, or with poor technique, then you’ll have to perform maintenance a lot more often than others. The same goes if you ride in a performance-oriented setting (i.e., the race track or off-road events). The high engine loads, cornering forces, and terrain all accelerate wear on your bike’s engine, brakes, suspension, and tires, making the maintenance intervals much shorter than usual.
For instance, a track day wherein you really push the bike hard lap after lap really takes its toll on your tires. It isn’t unheard of to use up a fresh set of tires in less than a day’s worth of riding. Furthermore, off-road riding in sandy, dusty terrain can easily wear out your bike’s air filter, potentially clogging it and causing performance issues down the road.
How often you ride
Apart from the way you ride your bike, how often you do so also plays a major role in the maintenance intervals of your bike. This is especially true if you commute long distances, say, intercity travels, on a day-to-day basis. It can be all too easy to lose track of the distance you cover on your bike. Before you know it, you’ve covered 5,000 kilometers in one month, and forgot about changing your bike’s engine oil or topping up your coolant. That being said, it helps to set service reminders by putting a sticker on your bike, or simply a note on your phone with the mileage your bike had when you last serviced it. This is especially nifty if you ride an older bike that doesn’t have a built-in service reminder.
Where you store your bike
Believe it or not, keeping your bike outdoors exposed to the elements drastically reduces the service life of some of its major components. Repeated and unaddressed exposure to the sun, rain, smog, and pollution can seriously take its toll on your bike’s paint, the saddle, as well as other rubber and plastic bits and pieces. Now, apart from these cosmetic issues, your chain, tires, and various seals and hoses can become brittle after prolonged UV exposure, causing premature wear and potential failure. Of course, indoor hazards such as mice, cats, dogs, and other animals can do a lot of unwanted damage to your bike. As such, keeping your bike in a covered, well-ventilated area not only preserves it and keeps it looking fresh, but keeps its vital components in good shape, maximizing their service life.