Something a bit different this month. Up until now I’ve concentrated on specifics, how a clutch works, that kind of thing. This month I’m talking about maintenance, more of what than a how.
So, you fancy doing a bit more yourself, you’re fed up with handing over the cash to people who you suspect do nothing more than stamp your service book? OK, well I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but if you won’t be swayed, here’s the skinny. First off, get real. If you own a modern, fuel injected sportsbike, hyper tourer or the like, you are probably not going to be able to do everything that may be required at service time if your previous experience is replacing the wiper blades on your wife’s Morris Marina in 1972. But there is much that can be tinkered with safely, so stay with me.
What does a bike need to stay fit? Mostly and much like you and I (well, you anyway) it needs to be fed a quality diet. In this case, lashings of sumptuous oil, to keep the engine, gearbox and final drive lubricated. It also needs to have various bits replaced from time to time, a bit like you if you are getting on a bit, but rather more frequently. So in order to find out which bits need replacing (or maybe just adjusting a bit) it needs to have lots of things checked on a regular basis. Most important of these are probably the parts that help you to stop – the brakes. Brake pads or shoes wear out over time and need to be kept in good order, discs occasionally wear out too and callipers seize up, brake fluid gets dirty and full of water, brake hoses perish and brake linkages rust. It’s amazing you’re still alive really.
Believe it or not, bulbs occasionally blow on bikes, so check that all your lights work, do this more often if you commute home in the dark every day. If your bike has a chain, it needs a bit of regular love, it doesn’t take long and it’s not difficult, but a lot of people ignore it. New chains and sprockets are expensive, so the end result of neglected chain maintenance is at best a lighter wallet. At worst, premature death or serious injury due to a snapped chain wrapping itself around and locking the rear wheel or sawing through your foot. Best and easily avoided by occasionally lubricating and adjusting your chain. You might want to put some air in your tyres once in a while too, it does tend to creep out over time and can radically alter the way your bike goes around corners. Whilst you are at it, have a squint at the tread patterns in the rubber, if there aren’t any, or if they are very shallow, it’s time for
The best way to pick up on anything that’s wrong with your bike is to clean it yourself, carefully and by hand – not by standing five feet away with a pressure washer. As you clean it, you’ll maybe notice that the brake fluid is a little low, could that mean that the brake pads are wearing down? Have a look. You might notice the odd loose fastener, or something going a bit rusty, get the spanners and oil can out. Even if you don’t know that much yet, you’ll probably spot things that just look a bit odd, so ask someone that does know if it’s a problem or not. Even if you only keep a weather eye on all of the above and nothing else, your bike will thank you for it. It will last longer, suffer fewer breakdowns and feel better on the road. You might even live a bit longer. Yes, it’s true, this magazine now has the power to extend your life!