The Motorbike Up-Keep Guide
Summer is nearly here which can only mean one thing… The biking season has arrived! Here at Number 1 Plates we are super excited to get our bikes out, clean them up and dust them down. But do you know how to efficiently clean your bike and get it in prime condition for the road? Well, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks for you to ensure that your bike is on top form!
Our first tip to share with you, although you may not be overly enthused about it, is to read your manual! As monotonous and boring as it may seem, you should read it through and stick with it. Not only will it provide useful information but it will of course be specific to your bike and model. Although the basics remain the same throughout most makes and models, there’s always a chance your machine might have a few quirks!
Cleaning Your Bike
First things first, you should always try to avoid using products that contain harsh chemicals, high-pressure water hoses and air pumps, abrasive products and rough tools.
You should always try to use products that are specifically designed for cleaning vehicle surfaces, such as those from one of our favourite brands “Go Detailing”. Anything else could seriously damage the metal, paint, plastic surfaces and other bodywork.
- Always wait until the engine has cooled down before you attempt any cleaning or maintenance, as there could be serious damage done, both to you and the bike!
- You should use sponges and soft clothes for the majority of the work, with mild detergent and water (or of course car shampoo and other such cleaning products).
- Always keep brake fluid and other chemical products away from surfaces as they could ruin them.
- Clean and wash the bike carefully and gently with care and precision. Be careful of fiddly bits so not to break them, however you should ensure that they are thoroughly cleaned.
- Once you’ve washed all the parts, gently wash all suds off with warm water, making sure that all soapy suds are gone.
- Dry the bike thoroughly after cleaning, making sure that everything is dry so that when you start the bike up it is like new. This also can help prevent any further damage.
- After drying, you can use some polish, wax and other products to get that shine and protective layer to help prevent your bike from the outside extremities.
Here are some possible issues you could encounter and what to use for cleaning them:
|Dirty Interior Parts||Soft cloth / Sponge||Neutral Soap Solution / Car Shampoo|
|Dirty Exterior Parts||Sponge||Neutral Soap Solution / Detergent and Water / Car Shampoo / Car Polish|
|Very Filthy Exterior / Dead Insect||Soaked Sponge and Low-Pressure Hose||Water / Soap or Detergent|
|Bare Metal Parts||Soft Cloth / Small Soft Sponge||Chromium Polish / Water|
|Corrosion Marks||Steel Wool / Hard Sponge||Soap and Water / Polish|
Within your manual, there should be easy to follow tips, pictures and diagrams. If you still get stuck however, there will most always be YouTube videos, blogs and forums about your specific bike where people will have spoken about their bike and tips and tricks. You should be able to find exactly what you need with a quick Google search!
There are some general do’s and don’ts for all bikes however:
- Starting Up
Don’t start your bike up and rev the engine rapidly and aggressively. You should start the bike slowly and gently, allowing around 30 seconds for the oil to heat up and circulate. Wait until the temperature indicator gets to normal level as this will allow the oil to do what it is supposed to do without being overworked.
Modern motorcycle batteries don’t require too much maintenance however they still should be looked after just as much as everything else. Sometimes due to vibrations etc, dirt can weedle its way into the box where the battery is kept. The dirt can affect the terminal connections and so these should be cleaned with a cloth.
You should always check your tyre pressure before you ride when the tyres are cold. The correct PSI is listed on a factory sticker on the bike – whereabouts it depends on the model and manufacturer! Go over the sidewall on both sides and look for bulges caused by damage from potholes and curbs. Check how much tread is left (wear can happen surprisingly quickly in hot weather or under a heavy load) and look for any foreign objects that you may have run over. The UK law states that all tyres must have a minimum tread of 1mm across 75% of the tread area, with visible tread across the other 25%.
When checking the wheels, you should look that the bearings are not failing and check that the grease hasn’t leaked out of any of the seals. Ensure that the wheel isn’t allowing any side to side play in the bearings and that the wheels roll freely. While spinning look for flat spots or wobbles that would indicate the wheel is broken or out of place; even some cast alloy wheels have been known to be knocked loose due to potholes or minor accidents.
The chain should not be either too loose or too tight, as being loose could mean that they fall off of the sprockets, and too tight would mean there could be damage to the other parts.
To check, place two of your fingers under the lowest part of the chain and slightly lift it. Typically 1.5 inches of play is about right but make sure that you double check this in your user manual! Heavy loads, riders and pillions will increase the tension by a considerable amount, so we advise to check again if these apply to you. Adjustments can be made by the rear wheel nuts and adjustment screws.
All of the engine, clutch, brakes, cooling system and steering need some form of fluid to allow pressure or lubricate the parts. They all have a reservoir or storage area where you can check levels. Your user manual will show you all of the locations for them all, with instructions and diagrams to help you safely check them and top them up!
Aside from the brake fluid levels, you should also check the thickness of the pads. These are the bits that grip or clamp your brake disc and slow you down. As you tend to use these all the time, it’s no surprise that they wear down. Replacing them can be done by a mechanic if you don’t fancy it or aren’t experienced, but checking them is easy enough. The pads come in pairs, and you can tell if you need to replace them as they will look thin and well-used whereas they should be thick!
When the suspension is faulty, you will most likely know about it. However you should regularly check for signs of blown seals (an oily dusty residue) in the fork and shock or shocks. Test again by bouncing a little whilst on the bike and check that nothing is binding or bent. With the front wheel off the ground, test that the steering stem bearings are tight with absolutely no play and no resistance when steering. We advise that you check the drive belt or chain for proper tension, and damage or wear; and after every time make sure to lubricate!
- Cables and Lighting
You can simply take a look at the cables and inspect them – if they are broken then you know you’ve got an issue! All cables should be safe, secure and attached, otherwise they could get caught and cause some damage. If cables are worn, they could lead to failure of breaks, clutch or lights and so they should be replaced immediately! Lights are easy enough to check by starting the ignition and turning the switches of each light in turn. Brake lights, indicators, headlamps and beams. Your manual will show you where on your headlight you can find the adjustment screws in case you need to adjust any of these lights!
- Air Filters
Air filters ensure a smooth flow of air and therefore improve performance of the bike. It does this by trapping dirt and dust, yet if the air filter is damaged and clogged up, performance will decrease and therefore you need to clean or replace ther filters. This is an easy task as you only have to remove the filter, wash it in kerosene (and then dry it!) and then replace it again after covering it in a light coating of engine oil.
- Nuts and Bolts
It’s important to spend a few minutes before you go out for a ride, to check some essential nuts and bolts. Put your bike on the central stand and check the wheel nuts, handlebars, side panels, luggage racks, wing mirrors, mudguards and anything else that could be working free overtime.
Sometimes, it can be unsafe to attempt certain jobs yourself. That’s why with these jobs, it is almost essential that you get a mechanic to do this. They are experts in their field, and can remove, replace and fix things in the correct order and way.
Read, check, carry out light maintenance and get curious. Build on your knowledge and add to the tasks you can complete.
You also need discipline and focus. Don’t develop untidy habits, it’s easy to ignore signs that your bike is not ‘well’, or even make a half-hearted attempt at a fix. You should also be wary of keeping a tidy workplace, as you’ll be able to find things easier, be less frustrated and keep your bike in tip top condition!