Having a motorcycle is like having a pet; you must take care of it and sometimes deal with its tantrums. But it’s a rewarding experience that, for many of us, makes our life so exciting. But your motorcycle is also unlike your car — since it handles the demands of your shenanigans, it needs regular service and upkeep. It’s part of the journey of owning a motorcycle.
But most bikers take their motorcycles to the service center occasionally and don’t pay much attention to it. Don’t make this mistake with your bike. One of the best ways to become a better rider is to understand your bike more deeply, and you can do this by servicing your bike at home. Some tasks may be too complex initially, but try to service your bike as much as possible. So, grab a cold one, call a friend, and start servicing these components on your motorcycle.
Looking at forum reports and various motorcycle service manuals, we have put together a list of 10 components that you must service regularly and on time to keep your motorcycle running smoothly for years to come.
10 Front Fork Stanchions
Your bike’s front forks take a lot of beating, so you need to check them regularly. Inspecting and servicing the forks sounds scary, but it’s not. Get on your bike, hold the front brakes, and push the bike’s front end down a few times. Then, check the seals for any oil leaks. If the oil is not seeping out, you’re good, but if oil burps out of the tube, you need to replace the seals and refill the forks with fresh oil. And even if the oil is not seeping out, you should still replace fork oil at least once every two years.
9 Triple Tree Clamp
The triple tree clamp holds the forks in place, and its bearings are notorious for going bad if you ride your bike in harsh conditions. So, while checking the front suspension, you should also check the triple tree clamp’s bearings. This can get a little tricky, so ask your friend to accompany you. You can find many guides on how to check the triple tree bearings on your motorcycle on the internet, but if you’re not a fan of grease, let your mechanic take care of it. It’s tricky to fix, and you need specialized tools.
Another tricky component to fix is the valves, but you should inspect them as per your manufacturer’s recommendations. Over time, your bike’s valves may lose their timing or tension, which can change how the engine fires, leading to knocking, loss of power, or inefficient fuel consumption. Don’t fix it, and you are inviting a seized engine — we found this the hard way, so don’t make the same mistake. Let your mechanic inspect and adjust the valves on your bike on time. And hope that you don’t have a Desmo engine.
The radiator is something that doesn’t need to be serviced often, but it doesn’t hurt to inspect it. Here, start by examining the coolant level and condition. If the coolant is low, top it up; it’s normal for bikes to lose some coolant, but start worrying if your motorcycle is drinking coolant like it’s its bachelor’s party. And if the coolant is dirty, flush the lines with distilled water and add a new coolant.
You should also check the condition of the radiator. The thin fins on the radiator are fragile and often get bent out of shape due to flying debris on the road. So, inspect the fins and use a thin screwdriver to straighten them gently. Also, check for any leaks; even minor leaks can lead to significant problems down the road, especially if your bike tends to run hot.
6 Air Filter
Let’s start with the easiest one to check and service — the air filter. Depending on the type of bike you ride, the air filter would be under the seat or the fuel tank, so look for this sucker — literally — and clean or replace it if it looks dirty. Ideally, you should check the air filter during every service and more often if your bike gets dirty. This little origami-like component can keep your bike’s engine running smoothly and sounding healthy as long as it’s clean, so don’t ignore it.
5 Spark Plugs
While under your bike’s fuel tank, you should also pull out the spark plugs and check them. Spark plugs have a long life — a good set can last a few years — but they are a good indicator of your bike’s health. Learn to read spark plugs; if you think they are on their way out, replace them. Like the air filter, a healthy set of spark plugs will keep your bike’s engine firing clean and consistently, so you don’t feel like you’re riding a lawn mover.
4 Controls And Cables
Remember, kiddos, WD-40 is your best friend. Start by spraying down all the control units with WD-40 to clean and degrease them, especially if your bike has taken regular showers in the rain. WD-40 is a contact cleaner and rust remover, so it is terrific at fixing minor issues with the controls. Then, check and adjust the clutch and accelerator free play. It’s an easy process that takes five minutes but can make your bike’s clutch feel and throttle response much crispier. Skip this step if you have ride by wire.
3 Brake Line And Calipers
Your motorcycle’s brakes are the most critical component of the bike — they stop you from turning into graffiti on the road. So, service them as often as you change your bike’s engine oil. Start by removing the calipers, inspecting the brake pads, and cleaning the calipers with a brake cleaner and a stiff brush — do not use anything other than brake cleaners!
Once the calipers are clean and brake pads are reinstalled, move to the reservoir. The brake fluid level should be between min and mix markings and look fresh. If it looks cloudy or old, bleed the entire brake line with new brake fluid. It’s a time-consuming process, but its benefits are unparalleled — it will save your life, and you may even find the process therapeutic.
2 Engine Oil
The most no-brainer task of a motorcycle service is engine oil. Follow the owner’s manual’s recommendations and replace your bike’s engine oil on time. It’s an easy process that takes 10 minutes unless you have a faired motorcycle, in which case, God help you. Still, even newbie riders can and should learn how to change the oil on their bike; it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Pro-tip: run your bike for 5 min before an oil change to loosen up the oil, but be careful of hot oil — it can burn your skin.
1 Final Drive
Whether you are servicing your motorcycle or preparing for a long ride, one component that you should never ignore is the chain. You should clean and re-lube the chain every 300 to 500 miles. It’s a super easy job that takes 20 minutes, a can of chain cleaner (or kerosene) and chain lube, and a hardy brush. Dedicate your time to the chain, and it will last longer than a few sets of tires on your motorcycle, and ignore it, and your bike will feel jerky and vibey to ride. Also, you lose street cred if your chain is dirty or lose!
Use Your Bike’s Service Manual
You didn’t need us to tell you what to service on your bike, but you’re a new rider, so we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. All this information is already written down for you by the manufacturer; you need to look at the right place — in this case, the right manual.
Every motorcycle has two manuals: the owner’s manual and the service manual. The former is about the essential functions of your bike, but the service manual is the Bible for your motorcycle. It tells you everything you need to know on servicing, maintaining, and repairing your motorcycle, down to specific torque figures for every bolt on the bike and valve clearances. These manuals are usually free on the manufacturer’s websites, so download them now and save yourself the expensive repair and service bills.