Basic Motorcycle Maintenance Guide – (Including pre-ride check list)

I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing with that wrench..prodding the drive belt?

There a few things you should check on your motorcycle on a regular basis. Smart Motorcycling Guide is about real world, honest motorcycling. I absolutely admit, I do not run through an entire pre-ride check list every time I ride : but there are some ‘primary safety checks’ that form part of my routine every single time I ride.

I encourage you to at least read the lists below as quick reminder of the things that you should be checking, every time you get a chance! My advice is to start doing at least the primary safety checks first, so that you build a routine. The plan should be for every journey:

1. Check your bike

2. then put on your helmet on

3. throw your the leg over it, and ride.

Motorcycle maintenance check lists are good at getting your mindset in the right place, especially if you do not have your own routine already established. Do make your own basic motorbike pre-ride checklist, and stick it on the wall of your garage, or use the one below!

Look out for where I mark some of the checks as “PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK” : these are the most important from a safety perspective.

Failure to prepare, is preparing to fail!

You should have a handbook with the specs for your bike, if not, go get one. It is fairly easy to pick up workshop manuals for various models on eBay in PDF or CD form for little money. (You may be able to find some data for your particular motorcycle on the net, or YouTube!)

Whereas with a four wheeled vehicle you may get away with being lax with things like tire pressures etc, this is not the case with a motorcycle. Motorcyclists pay the for the thrill, for the feeling of motorcycling freedom, with risk.

In essence, this exposure & freedom requires the acceptance of increased danger versus being caged and protected inside a car. (There’s no doubt the increased risk, is also part of the thrill). It is smart motorcycling to be as prepared as possible : make your ride as safe as possible so that you can continue to enjoy the thrill of two wheels.

One of the best things about motorcycling is learning Basic Motorcycle Maintenance.

It is ‘smart motorcycling’ not to compromise the safety and stability of your motorcycle, for the sake of a bit of routine maintenance.

Pre-ride check list

Tires – check condition and for foreign objects in the tread. It is also vitally important to keep your motorcycles tire pressures either on spec for you specific bike, for the riding conditions, or very close to it. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Oil level – always check with the bike on level ground, hold it upright off the stand if you can so that the oil settles level in the sump.

Coolant level – only if your bike’s liquid cooled, obviously.

Chain – check the tension and make sure it’s well lubed. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Brakes – check they work and that they feel good. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Lights – check all your lights, especially the brake light, you don’t want to get rear ended, do you?

Visual inspection – self explanatory.

•All ok? – hit the road.

Periodical checks

Check battery – see that the connections are tight. Also check the electrolyte level on some batteries, a lot of newer batteries are gel filled, sealed for life types, so no need with these. Have you got a trickle charger?

Carb balance – if your bike is multi carbed get yourself a Carbtune or similar [this is the one I’ve used on my Cafe Racer Build] It can be a little tricky the first time you balance them, but when you’ve done it once, the second time will be easy.

Ignition timing – only necessary on some bikes, most newer models have electronic ignition which does not need touching, normally.

Valve clearances – unless you’re a good home mechanic, take it to a dealer.

Wheel bearings – you’ll need a stand for this. The one below is not wildly expensive. grab each wheel with it off the ground and see if there is any sideways play. There should be none or maybe a trace at most.[PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Steering head bearingswith the front end off the ground, grab the forks and push and pull. There should be no play. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

Swinging arm bearingswith the back wheel off the ground, check for any sideways movement in the swing-arm, there should be none.

Brakes – check fluid levels, brake hoses for deterioration, and pads/shoes for thickness. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]

•Cables and levers – should operate smoothly. Get some grease on lever/pedal pivot points, and get some lube down the cables, if you can. A cable oiler is a handy tool.

•Nut and bolts – go all round the motorcycle with your spanners and check that all nuts/ bolts/screws are nice and tight.

Well, that’s about it for some basic maintenance, obviously, unless you’re a good home mechanic, any bigger jobs might have to go to a dealer or your mechanic.

The problem can be finding a good dealer with skilled mechanics you can trust, so I try to do as much as possible. Building my first cafe racer really helped me confidence, check our my blog for to see just how much mechanical know how I gained!

Ride Safe, Ride Smart

Smart Motorcycling Guide