Time was when many motorcyclists did all or most of their own servicing and maintenance: bikes were simpler then and perhaps life was as well. As bikes have grown more complex and the profile of motorcycling has changed so many of us turn to the dealer to do anything and everything. Why is this? Obviously with a new bike we want to maintain the warranty; riders coming through direct access schemes will have not perhaps built up experience of running a smaller bike on a tight budget. Owners’ manuals are peppered with hair raising warnings of the dangers of not putting yourself in the hands of the approved dealer for any and everything.
In short many things which are perfectly straightforward have become a rather scary mystery. However, if you are able to put together a piece of flat pack furniture or a Lego set aimed at age nine and over you should be able to do many jobs on your bike.
Why should you though, why not leave it all to the dealer, after all they know best?
You can make considerable savings. I recently replaced the front pads on my Triumph. Cost of 2 sets of 4 EBC pads bought on line: £58, main dealer price for the job: £120, time taken – just over an hour. Motorcycling is expensive and savings can go towards new tyres, helmet or whatever else you’re bound to need.
You can do the job when it suits you, not when the dealer can fit you in. You save the time spent going to and from the dealer’s premises.
You can make sure the job’s done properly and that everything gets a good clean out. Not just a quick squirt of brake cleaner.
You can make sure you get maximum use of renewable components by replacing them when they need to be replaced, not just because a service is due.
Understanding of your bike
Working on a bike helps you to ‘bond’ with it, to understand how it works and how systems fit together.
There are a lot of resources now available, with YouTube videos giving step by step guides and owners forums covering a lot of common procedures and trouble-shooting guides.
Just about all parts are available on line – no more Saturday mornings spent at the parts counter before you can get cracking.
However; don’t get carried away. Build up your experience and never be afraid to ask for advice.
What jobs could I do?
While only an extreme enthusiast would want to adjust valve clearances or balance throttle bodies on a modern bike, there’s a lot we can do:
Replacing brake pads
This is essential for safe riding and makes sure that wear on the discs themselves is minimised. Generally a straightforward job and only basic tools needed.
Chain and sprocket replacement
Again fairly straightforward removal and replacement though you will need a sprocket puller and rear wheels can be heavy to take off. You can use the opportunity to give everything a really good clean before putting it back together. You will need to torque wrench for this job.
Can be fiddley and for anything electrical you will have to tap into the bike’s system. There’s a huge saving to be had for things like sat nav mounts and heated grips over the dealer’s price and you can often get the genuine parts at a good price on line.
12,000 mile or annual changes are now the norm but do you want to leave it this long, particularly if your bike gets used for commuting. Very easy now that bikes have car type cartridge filters. As Dr Dave says ‘oil is cheap, engine rebuilds are expensive’.
Dead easy as long as you make sure you order the right one! Available on line from Tanya and other specialist suppliers for around half the dealer price.
These are just some examples of what the average rider can do. But what else do you need to get started:
Somewhere safe and preferably dry to work
You don’t want to be doing any of the above jobs on the street.
A socket set, open ended and ring spanners, Allen keys, a torx driver set. Also WD40; silicone oil spray, degreaser, barrier cream/latex gloves.
Before you start
Read the manual and forum advice; watch the YouTube video at least twice, note the type and sizes of spanners, sockets and other tools you will need and make sure that you have them – you don’t want to have to break off the job to obtain a vital tool.
Photocopy or print off any diagrams or instructions you need – this avoids getting your owners’ manual dirty or damaged.
Make sure you have a clear area to work in and have containers to keep dismantled parts and fittings safe.
Take a photo of any area that looks complicated to put back before you dismantle it.
Be calm and methodical
If you find yourself getting stressed and frustrated it’s always best, hard though it might be to take a break. Sometimes a solution to a tricky problem will come to you if you sleep on it.
At the end of the job
Check there are no left over parts, bolts etc. Double check the all fastenings are done up to the correct tightness. Depending on what you’ve done make a visual check to ensure there’s no leaking fluid, oil etc. If you’ve worked on the electrical system make sure that all lights, indicators etc. work as they should. It’s a good idea to then take a short local ride to make sure everything’s OK.
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