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Nine Tips to Make Your Bike Run Longer

Dual Sport Riding
1999 Suzuki SV650. Photo by Mark Robbins from FreeImages

Bad stuff can happen to your motorcycle. Parts break. Electrical circuits short. Batteries die. But you hold the power to prevent or delay most of those bad things.

Here are nine ways to help your precious bike last longer.

Follow the recommendations in your manual. As hard as it may be to admit, the manufacturer probably knows more about your motorcycle than you do. Information about the oil type, maintenance schedules, fuel grades and service procedures provides a solid foundation for ongoing care. If you plan to tackle more sophisticated maintenance, get the service manual.

Break it in properly. The first few hundred miles you put on your bike are the most critical for its long-term reliability. Follow the break-in guidelines provided by the manufacturer. This information should be in the owner’s manual.

Change the oil. Follow the recommended schedule in the owner’s manual. If you ride in dusty or dirty environments, change the oil more often. And change the oil filter at the same time. If the oil breaks down, the engine has no protection.

Clean the air filter. Or get a new one. A clogged air filter stifles your engine, depriving it of the oxygen needed for efficient combustion. Some filters require proper oiling to work correctly and keep dirt and dust out of your engine’s cylinders.

Air up. Running the wrong air pressure in your motorcycle tires can negatively affect everything from fuel mileage to handling. Check their air pressure once a week. Your tires will last longer. Your rides will be safer. And you will be able to travel farther on every tank of fuel.

Grease the bearings. While sealed bearings on modern bikes are relatively maintenance free, exposed areas—such as suspension linkages—need routine care. Even with regular greasing, bearings eventually wear out. So check them periodically. Raise the front of the bike onto a stand and turn the handlebars. Any notches indicate a need for new bearings. Play around the front or rear axle also calls for a bearing replacement. Check the swingarm, too. No side-to-side movement should be evident.

Watch the drivetrain. Depending on the type of final drive you have, keep an eye on chain stretch, belt cracking and the condition of the drive shaft, as well as the oil level in the shaft housing.

Charge it. The life of your motorcycle’s battery can be extended by ensuring that it is charged when the bike is parked or stored. The best way to keep it charged is to use a trickle charger. If you are not using a sealed, maintenance-free battery, be sure to keep an eye on the electrolyte in the cells.

Preflight, er, pre-ride check. Establish a routine for checking your bike before each ride. Take a look at the motor oil level, tire pressure, fuel and brake fluid levels and lines, bolt tightness and electrical switches and controls. Airline pilots do it. So should you.