This site is generally about being a responsible biker that can enjoy biking without putting yourself or anyone else in danger.

The thing is, being a safe and responsible rider is about more than just riding well and obeying the law. It’s also about keeping the machine in a good condition so that it doesn’t fail at the worst possible time.

Most of the maintenance your bike needs can be done by you and, to be honest, I think a rider should be the one to do basic, daily maintenance. When it comes to under-warranty servicing or serious mechanical stuff, leave it to the pros, but for the rest, do it yourself. You’ll appreciate your bike more.

Tired of this #^%^#%

Your tires are probably the most important component of your bike when it comes to both performance and safety. The tires have several important jobs and they have to endure enormous strains and pressures.

You should inspect your tires every time before you swing your leg over the saddle. Make sure you know what the correct pressure is and keep the tires up to that. Having an under-inflated tire will cause all sorts of wear and performance issues. Check the tires after every ride for damage. A tire with a nail or other sharp objects in it can fail at speed, and on a bike that sort of blowout can be fatal.

Also, make sure your tread is still at the minimum condition recommended by law or the manufacturer. Don’t wait until the very edge of this; replace the tire when there’s 1-2 mm of tread left.

Brake Dancing

Engine failure stops you from going faster, or at all. In the greater scheme of things that’s not such a disaster. Brake failure on the other hand, prevents you from coming to a safe stop. That’s bad, bad news.

So make sure you inspect your brakes at least once a day before you ride. You usually need to check the brake fluid level for each brake independently – follow the manufacturer’s instructions in this regard.

Also check the thickness of both the brake pads and disc in the case of a disc brake. Don’t let them get too thin, since the damage can be expensive.

Always top up from a new bottle of brake fluid, since once opened brake fluid absorbs moisture. Don’t forget that brake fluid destroys paint! So be careful when pouring it; use a funnel if possible.

Unchained

Most bikes on the market today, and historically, have used a chain drive. The chain is exposed to the elements and can get gummed up with dirt and other debris. The metal of the chain also stretches and becomes slack over time. A chain mustn’t be tight, though! There should be between 3/4″ and 1-1/4″ of sag at the midpoint between the two sprockets.

Keeping the chain lubricated is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can do, since that prevents metal to metal wear between the different components.

Some bikes, especially dual-purpose ones, have a little oil reservoir that drips automatically onto the chain. Make sure this reservoir stays topped up.

For the rest, I recommend you get a good chain lubrication spray and spray your chain at the end of every day when you get home. Follow the instructions for that specific product.

Getting Shafted

Some bikes, such as many models from BMW, use an enclosed shaft drive. This really cuts down on the amount of needed maintenance. In fact, all you need to do is replace the drive shaft oil when you do an engine oil change.

Belters

Belts are a third alternative as a final drive for a motorcycle and they have special maintenance considerations. The amount of maintenance is minimal, but whenever it’s time to change your engine oil, check the belt tension as well and adjust it if needed. You should check that the belt is clean on a daily basis to prevent damage and slippage.

Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire

While you don’t have to do this daily, you need to periodically check your fuel filter to make sure that it isn’t clogged up with gunk that prevents your engine from getting an adequate flow of clean fuel.

Slick Operator

Your bike uses various forms of lubricant and the engine is no different. You have to make sure that your engine has enough oil or you are in for some serious and expensive problems. Do not wait for the oil pressure light to come on before you think about oil. Check the oil level every day before you start your bike for the first time, since it should be inspected while cold, if possible.

Also, you should not overfill the oil reservoir! The oil dipstick will have notches indicating the maximum and minimum levels.

When you top up the oil or check its level, your bike should be level. If you have a center stand make use of it or ask someone to hold the bike upright for a minute or so while you fill it up.

Change your oil with the frequency indicated by the manufacturer. Though performing this task is quite easy, if you are having your bike serviced by a professional shop anyway you might as well let them do it – an oil change is included in a standard service.

Battery Operated

Lots of people forget about the battery, but it is another component that needs maintenance inspection, especially if you have a bike that spends a lot of time in storage, such as over the winter.

These days most batteries are maintenance-free and sealed. My view is that if yours isn’t you should replace your battery with a maintenance-free model of the correct size and specification. If your bike will spend long amount of time just standing around, you should either start it up every few days and let it idle on the stand a bit or invest in a plug-in battery maintenance device.

If you have a battery that can be user-maintained then you should only use distilled or de-ionized water. Never use tap water, since all the minerals and chemicals in our drinking water do a great job of permanently messing up your battery.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Most of this regular maintenance is dead easy to do. Every biker should be able to inspect these components and make sure that the bike is fit to ride before cranking the engine.

It’s also important that you get your bike serviced at the prescribed intervals. The shop will inspect stuff that’s just as important, but impractical to check on a daily basis. Skip or delay services at your own peril.

That’s it. If you do these basic things you maximize the chances that you’ll have years of trouble-free biking.