10 THINGS YOU NEED TO CHECK ON YOUR BIKE
(1) Cleaning. It doesn’t take long for dirt, sand or any other tiny particles to find their way into the small crevices of your bike. Ultimately, this can lead to mechanical failure. That is why washing your bike every time you ride is important. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny when washing, but keep pressurized water away from linkages, wheel bearings or any other exposed bearings so you don’t wash away the grease that keeps them lubricated. When drying, it’s always a good idea to use compressed air. A towel doesn’t get into the electrical components and other hard-to-reach spaces as well as air.
(2) Precautions. Washing your bike is a priority, but there are safety precautions. Water and electricity don’t mix. Water can cause electrical failure to the system. Be sure to cover your kill switch with Saran wrap. Also, remove your air filter and install an airbox cover to keep water from getting into the engine. You need to remove the air filter to clean it anyway, and, if water hits air filter oil, it dissolves it, leaving spots where dirt can migrate through the foam.
(3) Fuel. It’s a good idea to purchase only the amount of fuel you are going to use for the day. Fuel goes bad very quickly, especially if you keep it in plastic gas cans. If you want to keep your fuel fresh for a long period of time, store it in metal gas cans or old VP fuel cans.
(4) Hour meter. An hour meter is a valuable tool if used properly. It isn’t just there to tell you how long you’ve been riding, it is best used to keep track of maintenance intervals. Keep a logbook and write down the hour meter readout every time you change the engine oil, fork oil or install a new chain. Then refer to the logbook to make sure that you are keeping on top of the required busy work. Your bike’s owner’s manual will tell you when to change certain parts. Checking your hour meter constantly can save you lots of money in the long run.
(5) Oil filter. Changing your oil filter when you change your engine oil is very important. The oil filter catches contaminants before they circulate through your engine. If you don’t change the filter when you change the oil, the filter just keeps getting clogged up with more dirt, carbon and slag. Eventually, oil will not flow through the filter. Yes, there is a blow-off valve to avoid engine failure, but the blow-off valve doesn’t filter the contaminants. Always check the color of your engine oil when you drain it. Is it black as ink? Does it have clutch plate debris in it? Is it milky-looking? Every one of those things points to a bigger problem. Go ahead and smell the old oil. It should smell like oil, not dead fish.
(6) Forks. Always run your bare hand down the back of your bike’s fork legs. Try to feel for bumps or nicks in the chrome plating. Even the smallest stone ding is big enough to tear the edge of your fork seal. Why the back of the fork leg and not the front? The front is protected by the fork guard, but the back is where rocks ricochet off the frame or are thrown up by the knobs on the front tire. Most nicks in fork legs are found on the back side of the fork legs.
(7) Footpegs. Factory riders have their mechanics file their footpeg’s teeth into sharp points. The riders are afraid of slipping off the pegs in the whoops. Be forewarned that if you sharpen your footpegs, the shark-like teeth will eat through the soles of your boots in half the time of the stock teeth. You have to balance the need for grip with the expense of chewing up $450 boots.
(8) Brakes. Take care of your braking system. Clean your rotors to remove aerosol over-spray. Spin the rotors to look for little wobbles in the rotor’s straightness. If you catch wiggles when they are small, the wobble can be removed with a crescent wrench prying in the proper direction. Never spray any lubricants or cleaners, like SC-1, near the rotors. They will contaminate the brake pads. If you blow a fork seal on the brake side of your forks, change to new brake pads and clean the rotor with contact cleaner followed by soap and water.
(9) Crashing. After a crash, it’s always a good idea to go over every part on your bike to make sure that it didn’t suffer invisible damage. Don’t just check for bent bars, levers or grips; also check the bar mounts and their rubber inserts. Look at the brake caliper mounting bracket to make sure it isn’t tweaked. Play your spokes like the strings of a guitar to make sure they are all aligned and tight. Check the engine for signs of water in the transmission oil or oil leaking on the cases. It’s best to pull the fuel tank and check the fuel fittings, fuel lines, electrical connectors and spark plug cap. You don’t want to find that you missed something on the first lap of the next moto.
(10) Safety checklist. Pilots never take off without reading through a checklist. A pilot’s checklist seems basic to an experienced pilot, but he knows that it’s easy to miss something important when he’s in a hurry. Motocross racers should have checklists also. Is the throttle snapping shut? Is the shift lever tight? Has the rear brake pedal cotter pin fallen out? Are the tires at the proper air pressure? Are the brake and clutch perches in the proper place? Is there free play in the clutch lever? And, most important, does the bike have fuel in the tank? One missed item can ruin your day.