There are a lot of minor things you can do to keep your motorcycle in perfect condition. Most of those things are often overlooked, and even some of the most seasoned riders forget a few items every so often. Because of that, I’m writing a series of articles on how to take proper care of your motorcycle.
This part is mainly the introduction and includes three of the easiest (yet sometimes still neglected) parts of motorcycle upkeep. Keeping your tires inflated, checking your motorcycle oil, and cleaning your motorcycle chain. All three impact your gas mileage, so make sure you don’t forget about them.
Keep your motorcycle tires properly inflated
The easiest part when it comes to taking proper care of your bike is to keep your tires inflated. Having properly inflated tires saves you in fuel consumption, makes the tires last longer, and improves both the performance and control of the motorcycle. There is no reason not to check your tires regularly. Even the best motorcycle tires need to be inflated well.
Some experts recommend checking your tire pressure once, or even twice a day! When was the last time you checked yours? I’ll be honest with you, I’m not checking my tire pressure daily either. But at the very least try to check once a week?
When it comes to actually checking your tire pressure, look what pressure your motorcycle manufacturer recommends. The proper pressure depends mainly on the motorbike weight, so if you change your tires the optimal pressure shouldn’t change.
One last tip: Check your tire pressure when your motorcycle has been off for a few hours, and it hasn’t been in the sun for a while either. The reason for this is that the pressure should be measured cold. Warmed up tires can have a 10% higher tire pressure, which is fine. The important part is that you measure your tire pressure when the tires are cold. For more tips and a short tutorial, check the video below.
Check your oil level and quality
There are two important factors when it comes to your engine oil. Firstly, there should be enough (but not too much) oil. Secondly, the oil should still be of a high enough quality. So let’s do exactly that!
Measuring oil level is a little bit tricky. There is a lot of debate about whether you should measure your oil hot or cold, but people often forget the most important part. Your bike should be standing straight when measuring the oil. Not on a side stand, but entirely straight. So either use a center stand or lift your motorcycle up a bit.
When it comes to hot or cold, it is generally best to warm the engine for a few minutes, and then let the oil cool down and settle. Measuring the oil cold isn’t too big of an issue, though. Just be very careful with hot oil.
Next step is to actually measure the oil. Some bikes have a neat little oil level sight window, with markings for both the minimum and maximum level of oil. Replenish the oil till just below the middle in between minimum and maximum and you’re done! Don’t refill it all the way to maximum, that is actually bad for your engine.
If you don’t have an oil level sight window you will need to use an oil level stick or plug. In that case, it’s best to grab the manual and follow the instructions there.
Depending on the type of oil you should replace the oil every 3000 to 7000 miles or so. However, some riding styles and locations are more taxing than others for your motorcycle. So I recommend checking the oil quality manually.
The easiest way to check the oil quality is to use a stick and put a few drops of oil on a paper towel. If the oil is transparent and almost invisible then it’s still in top condition. If it is darker then you should consider changing your oil somewhere soon. Furthermore, if there are sediments left on the paper towel or if the oil is dark black, change the oil immediately.
Synthetic oil tends to last a lot longer than other oils. Even within that category, some motorcycle oils are better than others. That’s why I wrote the best motorcycle oil guide.
If you are looking for instructions on changing the oil, I have written an article on how to change your motorcycle oil before.
Cleaning your motorcycle chain
Motorcycle chains can get very dirty over time, and a lot of people just let them be. Which is a real pity because the state of your motorcycle chain directly impacts your bike’s performance.
A clean chain will deliver the power of the engine better to the wheels, resulting in faster acceleration and higher top speeds. If you lube your chain as well, then the improvements will be even more noticeable.
How often you should clean your chain depends on the type of chain you got. The three most common types are non-sealed, O-rings and X-rings. Non-sealed chains are most common on older motorcycles, and they look like normal bicycle chains. They need to be cleaned every few thousand miles. O-rings and X-rings are sealed on the inside and tend to keep themselves clean. You can usually go about twice as long without cleaning them.
When it comes to the actual cleaning part, inspect your chain to see if there is any build up of grease or dirt. If so, lift your motorcycle up so that the rear wheel is in the air. You can rotate the rear wheel slowly in order to inspect (and clean) the chain entirely. A clean cloth is all you need for the actual cleaning.
Gently rub the cloth over the chain, and in case it is a non-sealed chain, try to remove all the grease from in between the links as well. After you have removed most of the grease, lube the chain up with some chain lubricant. You can use some WD40 beforehand, but keep in mind that WD40 on its own is not a lubricant.
The best way to apply the lube is to apply it on the lower part of the chain while rotating your rear wheel forward. This way the lubed parts of the chain will go up on the sprocket, spreading the lube nicely. When you have applied the lube you should remove any excess lube on the chain. Make sure to use a high quality motorcycle chain lube, as low quality lubes won’t last as long and might even harm your chain. Here is a video in case you get lost on the way:
Congratulations, you’re done! Enjoy your cleaned motorcycle, and see whether you can feel the difference. Most people can usually.