Motorcycle maintenance: 10 top tips

Maintaining your bike needn’t be too challenging, even if you’re not mechanically minded. Here are 10 simple ways you can keep your bike safe and help to reduce the chances of having to make an insurance claim.

Maintaining your bike needn’t be too challenging, even if you’re not mechanically minded. Here are 10 simple ways you can keep your bike safe and help to reduce the chances of having to make an insurance claim.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
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Posted 26 JANUARY 2021

Top tip

When you first start your bike up in the morning, give it a good 30 seconds or longer before revving the throttle. This allows the oil time to flow around and lubricate the parts.

If possible, wait until the temperature indicator rises to the normal operating level. This will ensure your bike is ‘warmed up’ and ready to go.

1. Give it a wash

Yes, a good old-fashioned, wash, dry and polish is top of the list. This isn’t simply to keep you looking good on the road (though it will help with that too). It means you’re more likely to spot if something is loose, worn, or missing from your bike.

2. Check your tyres

Some experts advise checking your tyres at least weekly, while others say before every ride. Certainly, you should check them regularly and at least once a week.

Tyre pressure is particularly important. An under- or over-inflated tyre can affect handling and braking, making for an unsafe ride. Investing in an air compressor should give you accurate readings at home and prevent regular garage visits.

You should also check the tread at least once a week. Some bike tyres have tyre wear indicator bars included in the tread grooves. Once the indicator is level with the tread surface, your tyre will need replacing.

Under UK law, the minimum tread depth across three-quarters of the width of the tread pattern must be 1mm. There should also be visible tread on the remaining one quarter of the tyre, too.

If your bike is 50cc or under, all tyre grooves from the original tread pattern have to be clear to see. However, they don’t have to show 1mm of tread. While you’re checking the tread, also check your tyres for any signs of wear, cracks, cuts or scratches.

For more guidance on tyre tread, see GOV.UK.

3. Test chain tension

The wrong chain tension could not only lead to poor ride quality, but to more substantial damage to the chain, sprocket, gearbox or even rear wheel.

As every bike is a little different, it’s worth having a look at your manual before undertaking chain tensioning. Also remember to keep your bike chain lubricated with wax or oil.

4. Check your battery

You should check your battery when you do an oil change, making sure it’s fitted tightly and that it’s crack-free.
Many modern batteries are sealed so they can’t be topped up.

If your battery is of the sort that needs topping up, be very careful when handling it – you don’t want to come into contact with the acid inside. If needs be, consult a professional or ask them to do it. If the level is low, top up with de-ionised water before placing it on charge.

5. Change the oil regularly

Your bike will benefit from regular oil changes, every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

All bikes are different so check the manual, but typically you’ll need to place a tray under the bike and remove the sump plug. The oil will drain away, allowing you to change the oil filter too. After replacing, refitting the plug and refilling, run the bike and test for leaks.

If you’ve never done an oil change before, it’s a good idea to ask someone with experience to watch you the first time, or you could pay a qualified mechanic to do it.

6. Clean the air filter

The air filter stops debris getting into the engine and the internal components, ensuring better air flow and a smoother ride.

Because the filter can get clogged up with dirt and grime, it should be cleaned regularly. Air filters can vary in price and depending on your budget, it might be better to replace it every now and then, instead of constantly cleaning it.

7. Look at your cables

Make sure all cables are in good condition with no fraying or other damage.

Worn cables are extremely dangerous and could result in sudden brake, clutch or lighting failure. Damaged cables should be replaced immediately.

Adding a little lubricant occasionally can help ensure cables don’t dry out, which would otherwise impair the function of your clutch or throttle. It also makes for a smoother and more responsive ride.

8. Check your lights

Regularly check your lights to ensure they’re all in working order. This includes brake lights, indicators and headlights.

Make sure the headlight’s beam is at the correct height to give you good road coverage and ensure it doesn’t dazzle oncoming vehicles.

9. Check the nuts and bolts

Make a habit of checking all visible nuts, bolts and pins for tightness. Don’t rely on your fingers: use a spanner or wrench to make sure they’re tight.

Nuts and bolts can work themselves loose, which could have unpleasant or even dangerous consequences when you’re riding.

10. Book regular services

While all our tips can help you maintain your bike, it’s worth arranging regular servicing, particularly if you’ve any long trips planned or ride-outs in winter weather.

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