At this point, most of the English-speaking world is in some sort of lockdown mode, either voluntarily or involuntarily. That means, for a lot of us, that we’re going to miss spring riding season (unless you’re in Australia/New Zealand. I guess they miss fall riding season?). That’s a major bummer. But, no point in spending weeks bumming around the house in your underwear, watching Ren & Stimpy re-runs and eating cold cereal for lunch! No, it’s time to perform some often-overlooked maintenance projects on your bike!
We’re assuming, of course, that you’ve already done the proper spring maintenance on your bike—changed the oil and gas, aired up the tires, checked the lights still function, and so on. If you were a good little motorcyclist and properly prepared your bike for winter, it should start right up in spring. But now that there’s nowhere to ride, what should you do? How about some of the motorcycle upkeep that would normally sideline you during riding season for a day or three? You’ll be all ready when coronavirus clears up!
Adjust your valves
Plenty of riders leave this chore off longer than they should, especially on bikes that use shim-and-bucket valve adjustment designs. Shim-and-bucket designs are a bit more finicky, and often when riders do this, they’re able to swap their shims out at a local dealership to save a bit of money. You might not be able to do that now, but you should still be able to order shims online, even if your local dealer is closed. If your bike has screw-adjustable valves, it should be a much easier chore. Either way, get this out of the way before it costs you a day of riding this summer.
Tools for Valve Adjustments
BikeMaster Tappet Feeler Gauge Set
These feeler gauges have bent tips, to allow for easier reach under tappets.
Hot Cams Valve Shim Set
If your valvetrain uses shims, you’ll have to replace them if they’re out of spec.
Bleed your brake lines
This could be the most-neglected maintenance task by casual riders. It’s not difficult, unless your brake caliper fittings have become corroded—in which case it’s time to free them, don’t you think? You should be able to get brake fluid at a local auto parts supply store, as these are still open in most jurisdictions. Or order the fluid online, otherwise.
Tools for Bleeding Brakes
Motion Pro Mini Brake Bleeder
Combines a wrench and bleeder valve into one tool. Simple to use.
BikeMaster Brake Bleeder Vacuum Test Kit
It makes bleeding faster and makes finding leaks easier. Comes in a protective carrying case.
Change your fork oil
Another oft-neglected maintenance task. Fork oil is out of sight, out of mind, but it gets dirty and should be changed periodically—and if you can’t remember the last time you did it, it’s probably due. Depending on your bike’s design, you may be able to accomplish this with the forks still on the bike, but you might have to remove them. No worries; taking the forks off means some of the other chores listed here will be easier to do as well (greasing the steering head bearings and front axle/wheel bearings, for sure).
Maxima Fork Oil
Replace your fork oil for better suspension performance.
Bel-Ray Fork Oil
Replace your fork oil for better suspension performance.
“Rotate” your tires
Some dual sport tires are uni-directional. They’re made to spin in one direction. Others can be reversed, and removing them, then installing them in the reverse direction, means you’ll get more even tread wear. Think of it like rotating the tires on your car, sort of. It’s not as noticeable on the rear tire, but it can have a very noticeable effect on the front tire, as fronts often end up scalloped from uni-directional braking forces. If your tire can be reversed, it will help fight that problem.
Tire Changing Tools
Motion Pro Tire Spoon
Lighweight spoons are useful at home or on the trail.
Motion Pro bead breaker
Tackle tough tire changes with this rugged set of dual-purpose tools.
Grease your bearings
Offroad-oriented riders are often pretty conscientious about this, but the guys/girls who are only occasionally in the dirt are often forgetful (I know I’m guilty!). The rear suspension on a monoshock bike typically has a few sets of bearings and spacers that should be periodically checked, cleaned and greased. Do this job now, along with your wheel bearings. While your rear suspension linkage is apart, remove your swingarm bolt and grease that as well. If your bike has a wheel-driven speedo cable, now’s a good time to lube that as well (just make sure it’s re-installed correctly, so you don’t fray the cable). And if you’ve got the capability and tools, you can also apply some grease to the oft-neglected steering head bearings.
Chances are you’ll find some worn bearings, if your bike is older or you’ve missed some maintenance in the past. Normally, you can order these through your local dealership. For common items like wheel bearings, an industrial supply store can also provide the necessary parts, and usually at a better price. But if you can’t go with either of those options due to quarantine measures, then you can order what you want online.
Maxima Wheel Bearing Grease
Your bike’s bearings in the wheels and chassis need regular greasing.
All Balls Wheel Bearing Kit
All Balls bearings are affordable replacements.
Re-pack your exhaust
If you’ve got an aftermarket exhaust, now’s a good time to replace the packing, if it’s getting old. You can buy the packing online, but should be able to find something locally as well.
FMF Muffler Packing
Re-pack your muffler for more performance, and peace and quiet.
Grease your electrical connectors
Not many riders get too fussed about this, but it’s not a bad idea, especially if you’re an all-weather rider, or you face a lot of water crossings. Packing your electrical connectors with a dielectric grease will take you a while, but in the long term, it’s a good way to avoid trouble on the trails. Don’t forget to coat the spark plug caps, too.
Fix “that thing”
This is the most important one. You know “that thing” you haven’t gotten around to fixing yet? Maybe it’s a scratch in the paint, or broken bodywork, or stuck header bolts, or whatever. In my case, it’s an oil leak in my DR650’s top end. Whatever the bugbear is that needs fixing, but has always been too much of a bother to get to—now’s the time to do it. Take your bike, or bikes, and write down a list of the niggly things that have been annoying you, and get it done.
Permatex Dielectric Grease
Dielectric grease keeps water and corrosion at bay.
Some of these are maintenance items that you should be doing, quarantine or no quarantine, and others are less important, but often ignored. Take care of them all, and you should be able to enjoy your riding season to its full extent whenever it shows up.
If you’re unsure about how to do some these tasks, there are three great resources available: First, there’s your standard shop manual, either the expensive factory book, the affordable Clymer alternative, or the cheap-as-free pirated version of either (which is probably illegal and unethical). Then, there’s YouTube; many formerly mysterious mechanical processes are now demonstrated in YouTube videos that make it all much more simple. And finally, there’s the ADVrider forum! Just about any adventure bike/dual sport has plenty of how-to experts who will talk you through something, if you get stuck.