Introduction To Motorcycle Maintenance For New Bike Owners
So you’re licensed, geared up, and now you’ve got a new bike. Have you thought about maintenance yet? If you want to fill up the odometer with many thousands of fun and safe miles in the coming years, it’s time you did. Motorcycle maintenance requires more vigilance and monitoring than you may be used to giving to your car, because every time you ride your motorcycle your safety depends critically on every part of that system operating properly. You’ll probably put the first few thousand miles on your bike faster than you can imagine, so it’s important that, starting now, you’re aware of the basic parts of your bike that need freshening up every once in a while.
Whether you intend to work on your own bike or let a professional mechanic handle things, the following is just a guide to help you get to know your bike a little better and to know what to look out for. Be sure to read your bike’s manual and refer to it for specifics, such as tire pressure guidelines, oil weight information, and maintenance intervals. We’ve also included the names of some bike mechanics below that work on our bikes and who have always taken good care of our customers.
Two small patches of rubber, each about the size of a half dollar, comprise the only contact points your bike makes with the road. Motorcycle tires must withstand incredible pressures, be sturdy, strong, and long lasting, but also provide enough grip and flexibility to allow you to fully enjoy the contours of the road. For this reason, monitoring and maintaining your tires is of the utmost importance.
One of the most frequently overlooked and important maintenance tasks is checking tire air pressure. Check it routinely and always check it before a long ride. Keep your tires inflated at minimum to the levels listed in your motorcycle’s manual. If you ride two-up or fully loaded with luggage, you should consider inflating the tire closer to the maximum PSI indicated on the tire. Maintaining properly inflated tires is vital to getting the longest life and a safe ride out of your tires. Under-inflated tires wear unevenly, form cup-like and scallopy lumps, and then begin to break apart, significantly shortening the tire’s life and endangering the rider. Not only will under-inflating your tires ruin them before their time, but it will also hinder your bike’s handling and fuel efficiency.
When it does come time to replace your tires, you can head to Road Rider’s tire shop for mount and balance services. You’ll need to remove your wheels at home or remove them while you’re here–you can use our stands and tools if you want to do the work in our parking lot. If you aren’t up for removing your own wheels, call one of our preferred local repair shops, Sporttech or Superbike (see the bottom of this page). They’ll work with us that same day to get you back on the road ASAP and without any hassle.
Expect your new tires to be a bit slick until you’ve ridden on them for a little while and worn down the shine. It takes about 100 miles to break in a new set of tires, so go easy and don’t lean hard into turns for the first few days.
Next time you visit our tire shop, ask your tire tech to refill your new tires with nitrogen. It’s free, and using pure nitrogen to fill up your tires instead of compressed air will make your tire pressure more stable. Air travels through rubber more readily than nitrogen, and because of the water vapor present in compressed air, it is also more subject to expansion and contraction with heat changes.
There are a few different kinds of batteries available for motorcycles, but Advanced Glass Mat, or AGM, type batteries are the most common. AGM batteries have an excellent lifespan and, with proper care, an AGM battery will last for three to five years, often longer. Check out our Battery Buyer’s Guide for more information.
Get Charged Up
Ensure the life of your battery by maintaining a healthy charge. Use a battery charger (like a Yuasa Smartshot or Deltran Battery Tender) regularly, and keep your bike on the charger during months when your bike is not in use. If you are using a gel-type or LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery, make sure your battery charger is compatible with that type of battery.
Some batteries need to be filled with electrolyte and charged before installation. The initial charge is critical to the amperage and longevity of your battery, so be patient and wait for your battery to charge COMPLETELY that first time.
When you visit Road Rider, our parts department associates will make sure you leave the store with the correct battery for your bike and with the information you need to prep it and care for it properly. If you aren’t sure about the correct kind of charger for your battery, ask us!
Brake Pads and Brake Fluids
Brake pads should typically be replaced when they are worn down to about 2 or 3 millimeters, but check your owner’s manual for specifications for your bike. You should also check for any loose bolts or screws while inspecting your brake pads.
Regardless of how often you ride, brake fluid needs to be replaced every 1 to 2 years because it degrades and loses pressure naturally over time. It is very important that you use a brake fluid with the correct DOT rating for your bike. As always, check your manual before you start any project for indications specific to your bike. You can pick up brake pads, brake fluid, and a variety of different brake bleeding tools at Road Rider.
Check your manual for your bike’s correct oil weight and for recommended oil change intervals. Following the manufacturer’s service indications is especially important during a brand new bike’s first few thousand miles.
When it’s time for an oil change, you’ll find about fifteen different brands of oil and many different formulations to choose from at Road Rider. Mineral oils are organically-based and usually derived from petroleum oil; synthetic oils contain primarily man-made chemical lubricants.
A third category of ‘semi-synthetic’ oil blends are part-mineral and part-synthetic. Synthetic oils, while more expensive, offer a lot of benefit such as better friction management, more efficient heat dispersal, and significantly longer life between change intervals. Not every bike runs better on synthetic oil, though, so if you aren’t sure check with a Road Rider associate or your dealer before you switch.
Change your oil filter whenever you change your oil. K&N and HiFlo manufacture high-quality oil (and air) filters for thousands of bike models. There’s a good chance you’ll find the one you need in stock at Road Rider, but you can always call us at (408) 227-6936 to check before you make the trip.
Air filters catch airborne particles, dust, and debris that would otherwise be heading towards your engine’s internals. When those unwanted elements build up, airflow is restricted and your engine’s performance and fuel efficiency suffers.
Check your air filter for buildup as often as you change your oil and oil filter, or if your bike has been sitting idle for a long period of time. Consider upgrading to a K&N High-Flow Air Filter to save money in the long run – they can be washed, oiled, and reused over and over again.
Chain and Sprockets
Keep chain gunk to a minimum throughout the year by routinely cleaning and re-lubing. Make it easier on yourself by picking up a Simple Solutions Grunge Brush and some chain cleaner like Motorex Chain Clean.
Chains can stretch out over time, while individual chain links can loosen or tighten. These inconsistencies will wear down your sprockets, so a worn sprocket is a good indication of a worn, irregular chain as well.
You should also make sure that your chain is correctly aligned from front to back and has the correct tension throughout a full rotation. Your bike’s manual will indicate how to check if your chain is too loose. If it is time for a new chain, save yourself some work down the line and change your sprockets at the same time.
Don’t overlook suspension. Everyone from newbies to advanced riders can benefit from a suspension checkup and setup. Properly tuned suspension will make your riding smoother and safer, so it’s especially important to consider suspension tuning when you first get your bike. It is possible to study up and fine tune your suspension yourself, but for most people this is something best left to suspension experts.
Your bike’s cables do a lot of the heavy lifting on your daily ride and usually get little attention, but cables require occasional TLC, too. Once a year inspect your cables for damage. If they don’t need replacement, apply cable lube using an inexpensive lubing tool. You can pick up everything you’ll need at Road Rider or your own local shop.
Let the Pros Handle It
For many of us, it can be tough finding the time, space, or the confidence to do your own motorcycle maintenance. If getting greasy isn’t on your agenda, take your bike to the same pro mechanics we trust with our own bikes.
Sporttech and Superbike are both less than a mile from Road Rider and will coordinate with our tire and parts departments to make sure you get back on the road as fast as possible after repairs, upgrades, tire replacement, or maintenance. Please call the shops for more information or to schedule work.
2744 Aiello Drive, Unit 110, San Jose
Sporttech is on Yelp!
Superbike Performance Center
2845 Monterey Highway, Suite 19, San Jose
Superbike is on Yelp!