Neduro's Spring Bike Maintenance and Setup Guide

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by neduro, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. neduro

    neduro Addict

    Jul 8, 2003
    Colorado Springs, CO
    'Tis the season when our minds turn to the road less traveled, to sunny days and miles of exploring and experiencing all the reasons we frequent this site first hand, instead of through zeros and ones.

    Beyond dragging crusty old faithful out of the garage, throwing fresh gas at her, and calling the operation a success when she starts, there are a few things that need to be done with some frequency, and I thought I'd offer a sort of checklist of things to consider.

    This is generic advice not specific to any single model, you get what you pay for, your mileage may vary, investments may be worth less as well as more, blah blah blah. Use your head.

    What I intend here is a checklist, not a complete "how to" for everything you ever would want to do on a bike. If one of these jobs is confusing or you want to do a tutorial or whatever, by all means ask, and start a thread which we can link back here as appropriate.

    Your bike should be clean. Working on dirty things is a great way to shorten their life and your temper.

    Let's start at the front of the bike and work back.

    1) Wheel bearings. With the front brake off, grab the front wheel between the forks and try to move it toward either fork tube. (or for the rear wheel, first between the swingarm and then test the swingarm for play). Front to back can give a false read on fork bushing play, we'll get to that. For now, you want to know if your bearings are good. If the wheel moves side to side, you need new bearings. Break out the hammer and drift. Get your bearings and seals from an industrial bearing supply place, unless you like paying 5x the normal cost.

    2) A complete checkup on brake pads, pins, and so on. Creeper already did a great job of this here, so I'm not going to reiterate. You should definitely change your brake fluid every spring, and probably multiple times per season. You should definitely completely disassemble and clean to make sure that these components will work as designed when you most need them.

    3) Forks. At a minimum, you're going to put fresh fork oil in, the procedure is covered fairly generally here. Even if you don't have that many hours of riding on the oil, condensation will ruin things by rusting them, get fresh oil in there. On some of the japanese forks, you'll be amazed at the gunk that pours out, I changed my XR's suspension oil and engine oil at equal intervals, usually dictated by the former.

    In addition, you want to make sure they are properly aligned and don't have excessive stiction. The first (and easiest method) is to push down on the bars without holding the brake. It should be possible to get a very small motion with a small amount of force. If not, your bike rides like shit and deflects where it shouldn't, and you need to fix that.

    If you have to push hard, and the smallest motion you can get is a big one, quantify the problem by measuring from a fixed point on one half of the fork to a fixed point on the other half. First, pull up and let the bike settle to the resting point. Then, push down and let the bike rise to the resting point. The difference between the measurements shouldn't be more than a few millimeters, if it is, take everything apart, try to find the source, and reassemble carefully until the problem goes away.

    Some older KTM forks (03 USD WP's seem to be bad this way) have a lot of stiction that it's hard to get rid of... now you know why it's hard to hold a line through the rock garden. :deal

    4) Triples/ steering head. The slightest imperfection in steering head bearings plays hell with the handling of your bike. I've replaced lots of sets of races on fairly new bikes, because the tiniest bit of notchiness or stiffness ruins the ability of the bike to stay on line. At a minimum, you're going to grease after careful inspection. At a maximum, you're going to replace. Laramie LC4 did a good thread here which is focused on LC4's, but the advice applies to anything.

    Some advice on tensioning the steering head upon reassembly- my rule is that it should be as tight as it can be, that the forks still fall to one side from center with no wheel. This isn't real scientific, but it's worked for me, so that's what you get. :D

    On USD forks, be very careful with how tight you run the lower triple bolts. My experience (on KTM's) is that overtorquing these can result in decreased suspension performance, so I run the uppers at torque spec and the lowers tight enough that I don't think the bolts will fall out, and very evenly tensioned between bolts. On RWU forks go as tight as your conscience allows. :lol3

    5) Controls: I could write a book on this topic, so I'll try to keep it short here.
    - Replace grips. Worn grips suck, use a lot of energy, and cause blisters and discomfort. I love the black Domino grips sold by KTM, just the right diameter and enough cush, but whatever you prefer, no grip glue, but 4 pulls of safety wire to lock them in place.


    - Replace throttle cables. You are not saving money by waiting until the bike breaks in the middle of nowhere to maintain these things. New cables give light control feel, which is hugely important by the end of a long day. New cables will not strand you. I run them dry, always, to avoid attracting dirt.

    Further, on 4-strokes which generally have a push and pull cable, I take the push cable out and set it on a pile to reinstall for the next owner. It's a lawyer piece as far as I can tell, by always keeping fresh cables in (several times a year in my case) I'm not worried about the cable jamming, and it makes the pull lighter still.

    - Here's another hot tip: On the throttle side, put a fender washer under your bark buster, to prevent dirt being shoved inside the throttle tube in the event of a drop.


    - Replace clutch cable or fluid, however your bike is equipped. Take the lever assembly apart while you're at it and clean everything up, and run it with just a hair of lube so that it's smooth but won't attract dirt. If your fluid comes out yucky or stinky or laden with metallic particles, find the cause of the problem and fix it now, while you have time to order parts.

    - For those who run a Scott's damper- have you ever changed the fluid? Yeah, me neither until the seal blew and I had to get a bullet tool and seals... it's not a hard job, it doesn't cost much, and the damper works much better with fluid that is less than 1.2 million hours old.

    - This is also a good time to loctite and antiseize everything in the control area. My rule of thumb is: If it'd hurt if it fell out, Loctite (bar mounts, etc). If it is ferrous going into non-ferrous and it would be an inconvenience if it fell out, antiseize. If it is ferrous into ferrous and would inconvenience if it fell out, grease. Everything gets something.

    - While you've got everything in the dash apart, have a look at your wiring loom. Address any obvious chafing issues. Look for improved routing possibilities. Make sure that nothing gets fouled at either steering lock. Di-electric grease any unsealed connectors (and sealed ones if you feel like it). Generally, spend an hour making yourself useful on tasks that you couldn't name, these are things that will eventually bite you.

    OK, real work beckons. Another installment soon.
  2. Eugene

    Eugene -

    May 29, 2007
    Good stuff. As always, it's appreciated. :freaky

    Candidate for a sticky?
  3. Olas

    Olas the darkness

    Aug 14, 2007
    Lakewood, CO
    Great advice, man. I just checked my swing arm yesterday, time consuming but well worth it.
  4. ramz

    ramz Professional Trail Rider Supporter

    Dec 11, 2006
    Salida, CO
    So how come the picture shows both throttle cables installed?

    And what's the 'trick' with the zip tie on the brake lever? A secret setup? :eek1

    Fess up :wink:
  5. neduro

    neduro Addict

    Jul 8, 2003
    Colorado Springs, CO

    1) I didn't get around to it yet.

    2) It's a good way to finish bleeding brakes.

    3) Did you also notice the new bike doesn't have a fender washer installed yet? I may as well get that out right now...
  6. Zen Slug

    Zen Slug Spineless Adventurer

    Jul 22, 2005
    Near Vana
    thanks for the thread, and especially for including the links.:1drink
  7. Milhaus

    Milhaus Made in Denmark

    Sep 11, 2005
    Northern Colorado
    :lurk...great info!!
  8. MSH

    MSH The Salt

    Mar 17, 2007
    Thanks Ned!
  9. Eurobiker

    Eurobiker Vintage Cat Herder

    Apr 23, 2002
    Albuquerque, NM
    :thumb Deserves a Sticky
  10. intheways

    intheways Been here awhile

    Apr 2, 2006
    Stuck in the city
    Saturday morning is now planned.
  11. InfoManiac

    InfoManiac Always Learning

    May 26, 2006
    San Antonio, TX

  12. Thinc2

    Thinc2 Paciugo

    Apr 15, 2004
    Thanks Ned :thumb

    This should go straight to Sticky and to Hall of Wisdom.

    Where's a mod when you need one :D
  13. neduro

    neduro Addict

    Jul 8, 2003
    Colorado Springs, CO
    6) Round things: Skinner Pm'd an excellent suggestion, check spoke tension. Do this by 'dinging' a screwdriver or wrench off every spoke in the wheel, and tightening those that 'thud' instead of 'ding' after you've made a trip around the wheel and taped the spokes that are loose (to look for a pattern, if they all relate somehow there may be a bigger issue at play). Even pitch everywhere is the key, small adjustments are the key. Often you'll find a spoke or two that the nipple has somehow lost like 10 turns, just tightening it back up will make your wheel much stronger.

    Now is also a good time to install new tires, if you've been putting it off. I know those knobs have 1/8" of hardened, rounded old rubber left, but believe me, it'll work a lot better with the full 3/8" and sharp edges to boot. KLR guys, you listening? :lol3

    7) Remove the tank and seat and as much plastic as is easy. Clean aggressively, a pressure washer can help if used with care, as can a bunch of WD-40 sprayed on everything and then blown off with air and wiped with shop rags.

    Look for cracks (in anything, frame, tubing, etc), chafing of wires, misrouted or kinked cables, worn radiators or radiator hoses, airbox boot cracks, loose fasteners or hoseclamps, in general, just take your time and inspect everything while you've got it apart and are cleaning. Dielectric grease on all connections. My general rule is that if I see shiny spots, I try to understand what's happening there. If I see non-dirt-grit, I try to figure out where it's coming from. If I see dirt collecting on something, I figure out what the leak is. Your choices are to do it now, or when it strands you. :dunno

    8) Engine: an engine oil and filter change goes without saying, as does a check of valve clearance. New coolant is a good idea too, and if your motor has any weak points you haven't addressed (KLR Doohickey, whatever) you may as well do it now, before you're riding the thing all the time.

    This is also a good time to inspect the plug, plug wiring and so on. Obviously, look at the carb and check for vent lines that are hardened or kinked, any leakage issues, and if the engine runs rough, you may want to disassemble and clean the carb and all associated jets and passages, as well as throwing a new spark plug at it. If you've had your tank on and off a bunch, replace the fuel line, all those times being pulled and pried and grabbed aren't doing it any good.

    In general, people pay the most attention to their engine so I won't belabor the point.

    9) Swingarm pivot and linkage (if equipped). I know you've been putting this off, so have I. :deal Worn or sticky bearings will do more damage to your suspension action than any amount of suspension tuning can fix. If things are gritty or rusty, get out that hammer and drift and start replacing. As usual, Creeper's been here and done a great job for the LC4, his guide is relevant to anything.

    10) Drive: Inspect sprockets for any hooking or wear, and the chain for stretch by pulling back on the rear side of the sprocket. If it comes up off the sprocket more than a tiny bit, break out the Visa and get new stuff coming. Again, getting the last 1000 miles out of these components comes at the risk of being stranded or holing your cases or etc, and that's not ultimately cheaper. Replace as a set, and there's very little reason to run aluminum in the rear, steel is cheap and lasts a lot longer.

    11) Clean or replace the air filter. I'm a big fan of the No toil line of products for foam elements, also sold as Pro Honda and Kawasaki. Use really hot water if you are using these products for the best results.

    While you're at it, clean your airbox top to bottom, inside and out, for a few reasons. First, it will help you identify if there's a leak anywhere. Second, it will minimize the chance of dropping sand into the intake tract when you're doing that hurried pre-ride filter change later in the season. Third, the rest of the bike is now clean, and you're going to leave that oily mess? :deal

    12) Shock: If you haven't had the oil replaced in a while, it really does have a life expectancy of less than the rest of the bike, and you really would be well advised to do it. Call around for a local suspension guy, almost every town has one, who can throw fresh oil and nitrogen in there, and may cut you a good deal on some revalving while he's at it. You will never be sorry for money spent on suspension.

    After reassembly, check your sag. Millimeters count, so it's worth paying attention to with some frequency as you change the load on your bike, you've been working out all winter and lost 20 lbs, etc.

    13) Before you put the seat back on, evaluate your toolkit. Refresh the supply of zip ties and duct tape, patches and CO2 canisters, and look at some of the great tips in this thread. Inspect your spare tube for chafed holes (or throwing the bad one under there and forgetting, DAMHIK).

    14) Replace any worn fasteners as you reassemble. Worn bolt heads, stripped allen and phillips head screws, cheesy OEM hardware in whatever location- these are the stuff of nightmares when you have a small issue just before darkness falls on the trail. $5 spent at the hardware store will do wonders for ease of working on the bike.

    Remember, as you work on this bike, it's going to take you places you can only dream of, and potentially, also only dream of hiking out of. Either it goes back together capital R Right, or it's wrong and you should redo it. Shortcuts in wrenching rarely lead to somewhere pretty, unlike on the road.

    I urge replacing things because it's cheap relative to the alternative. A bunch of fasteners, a fuel line, chain and sprockets, a throttle cable and a few other odds and ends add up to less than the cost of a weekend of riding, and so many people are frustrated when they finally get the time to go and the bike lets them down. New bikes are no exception, I go through everything with anti-seize, loctite, and grease before I even ride it.

    Reassemble, and then sit back with a beer where you can see the bike in your garage. I'm serious about this. Does everything look right? I've found lots of things I forgot in the heat of the moment by just letting my attention rest on the bike in general rather than any one part in particular.

    OK, what did I miss! :deal
  14. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

    Jan 20, 2007
    Good stuff!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together ... very timely too, as I'm got some maintenance planned for tomorrow :D

  15. HOT DAMN!

    HOT DAMN! ♪ ♪ ♪

    Aug 31, 2007
    Hammond, IN.
    I spend a lot of time using the search button to glom information from this site and your posts come up quite often. This is just another testament to the solid info you selflessly and continually bring to the table.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Thank you sir! :thumb
  16. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Aug 16, 2002
    Thanks Ned!! Excellent setup resource :thumb
  17. Weirdo

    Weirdo Welcome to you're "DOOM"

    Oct 2, 2003
    Prince Rupert BC
    You are a class act Neduro.

    That is good stuff.
  18. neduro

    neduro Addict

    Jul 8, 2003
    Colorado Springs, CO

    Shows what you know... :lol3 :wave

  19. Redline

    Redline Been here awhile

    Nov 21, 2007
    Northern CA
    First of all, thanks for the great post! I just want to make sure I read this right. If you tension your steering head bearings with the front wheel off, the forks should still fall to one side with no assistance? If I go that loose on my 640A it gets very unstable at freeway speeds. I have to tighten it so that, with the wheel on, it just barely bumps the steering lock after a tiny push of the wheel to one side.

    Going off your description, I'm thinking mine might be overtightened (though there's no "wandering" like you'd get from overtightened steering head bearings). If that's the case, I wonder what's causing the headshake? :huh I've loosened and realigned the front end, as well as repacked the bearings recently.
  20. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul

    Jul 12, 2004
    Pickwick Lake, Tennessippi
    Thanks Ned, this is all great advice. I have seen many adventures FUBAR'd by poor bike prep. If you want to be cheap, ride alone - your riding buddies don't like to watch you fix your bike in faraway places. Trust me.

    Another thing to consider is a new battery. A four year old battery is a lousy thing to carry into Baja, especially if you have no kick starter. I replace them yearly on my road less traveled bikes, and they are relatively cheap HERE.