There are over 8.4 million motorcycles registered to be ridden on America’s roads. If you own one of these two-wheeled machines, there are a few things you need to do to keep your bike in running order.
By following a regular motorcycle maintenance schedule, you can be sure your bike is always ready for the next ride. This will make riding more enjoyable.
Use this guide to create your maintenance task list.
Break It in Properly
Let’s start at the very beginning; if you buy a brand new bike, then you need to break it in. Even if it’s build by one of the best motorcycle brands in the world.
This means taking it easy for the first 500 to 1,000 miles. Manufacturers recommend that you avoid going full throttle and high engine speeds.
You should also avoid aggressive stopping and starting. Be gentle on the engine when it is cold. You want to give it a chance to warm up before you start revving.
You also don’t want to let the engine lug. This means downshifting before you start to hear the engine bog down.
Usually, at this point, you will want to take your bike in for a mechanic check-up. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s specific directions for breaking in your bike model.
One Year or 6,000 Miles
When your bike hits one year old or 6,000 miles, you should bring it in for a maintenance checkup. They will go over all of the components from headlights to taillights.
Two Years or 12,000 Miles
While the one year mark calls for an extensive and in-depth checkup, the two-year mark is much less intensive. This maintenance checklist includes the following tasks:
- Replace air filter, fuel filter, brake fluid, and coolant
- Service the air injection system
- Check the evaporation system
- Lubricate steering head bearings
Do Your Own Motorcycle Maintenance
Taking your bike into the shop isn’t everyone’s style. Plus you can do many of these tasks yourself. Give your bike a regular once over before you take your bike out, or at least once a month.
Your tires are your connection to the road, so it is vital that you have high-quality tires. Before you ride short or long distance, you need to check your tire pressure. This will ensure you have even tire wear and the correct amount of traction on the road.
Tires that have too much pressure will have not enough tire touching the road. Under-inflated tires will have too much and flex in the sidewall. You’ll feel the bike wanting to “collapse” in when you go around a turn or curve in the road.
You also need to check the tread on the tire. If you start to see the wear markers getting worn, then it is time to replace your tires. Expect that your back tire will wear out sooner than your front.
Start by checking your brake fluid reservoir. Only add brake fluid from a new sealed bottle. This fluid tends to absorb moisture over time, and that isn’t good for your brakes system.
Next, check your brake pad thickness. If they are too thin, you’ll need to replace them. This will ensure that you have the stopping power you need when you hit the brakes.
You will typically find your motorcycle’s battery under the seat or fuel tank. This makes it a bit of a pain to check. Your battery can go dead if you don’t ride your bike often enough.
Most owners put their bikes on a trickle charger or battery tender to keep their battery charged. If you go to turn the bike on and nothing happens, then you probably have a dead battery.
Your battery should last about 2-3 years, but this depends on the climate where you live. Colder temperatures tend to make a battery die faster.
Chains and Belts
If you have a chain drive bike, then you need to keep the chain clean, lubricated, and properly tensioned. You need to spray a lubricant on your chain about every 600 miles or so. After you come home from a ride, spray your chain with a lubricant.
Let it soak into your chain and coat all of the components. Do not do this maintenance task before a ride.
If you have a belt instead of a chain, then there is less maintenance required of you. Check that the belt tension is correct. Then look to see that the belt is clean and free of cracks.
When either your chain or belt becomes too loose, you’ll need to adjust the tension. You’ll need to loosen the axle nut and tighten the bolts. Be sure to tighten the bolts on either side of the tire evenly.
If you fail to do this, you will adjust your bike right out of alignment. Once you have the chain or belt adjusted to the proper tension, you’ll re-tighten the axle bolt.
Before you head out on a ride, you need to check that your lights are in working order. This should be a part of your pre-ride inspection. Check your low beams, high beams, turn signals, and brake lights.
You also need to make sure that your headlights are correctly aligned. You don’t want to be blinding head-on traffic.
Just like your car, you must regularly change the oil in your motorcycle. You need to check your owner’s manual to know how often and what type of oil your bike needs.
Most people don’t ride enough to hit the miles threshold for changing their oil. You should change the oil about every 3,500 miles. If you don’t hit this number in one year, then you should change your oil every year.
When you change your oil, you should also change your oil filter. Then check your oil level before each ride.
Keep the oil level between the minimum and maximum mark. Too little and you risk your engine not getting enough lubrication, and it will eventually overheat. Too much and you risk flooding your engine’s air cleaner with oil.
Engines need clean air for them to function correctly. You should clean your motorcycle’s air filter about every 10,000 miles. However, it could be a lot sooner if where you ride is dusty.
It is a good rule of thumb to check your air filter every time you change the oil. This way, you can catch it when it needs replacing.
If your filter looks dark brown or gunked up, then it is time to clean or change your filter.
If your motorcycle has a paper filter, then throw away the old filter and replace it with a new one. These filters are not designed to be cleaned.
Consider replacing your paper filter with a washable one. These tend to clean the air better, which will help your engine perform better.
Foam or Cotton
If you have a foam or cotton filter, then you don’t need to replace the filter. Just give your filter a thorough washing and then let it dry well before putting it back in your bike.
While your cables don’t require a ton of maintenance, having them adequately adjusted will give you a smoother and more responsive ride.
Your cables have grease in the housing that enables smooth action. This grease degrades over time. No grease means you have an impaired clutch or throttle motion.
While you are greasing, adjust them to get rid of any excess unwanted slack.
If your wheels have spokes, you need to check if they are loose. These are typically wheels with several thin spokes. Give them a grab and a little squeeze.
You can also put them up on a stand and give each one a tap. A dull thud means you’re good. A light ting means they are loose.
If your wheels are all one piece, then you don’t have to worry about this task. Lucky you!
Nuts and Bolts
The nuts and bolts are what hold your motorcycle together. Give them a once over and check that they are securely tightened.
Just be careful not to over-tighten them and cause them to get stripped. Check the torque specifications outlined by the manufacturer.
Get Out There and Ride
With this motorcycle maintenance schedule, you can be confident that your bike is always ride ready. You should start your bike off on the right wheel by breaking it in correctly.
Then plan to bring your baby in for a professional maintenance check-up. Then follow these tips by checking your bike every month and before you head out on a ride.
For more great advice on caring for your motorcycle, check out our parts and accessories section.