We know it’s a cliché, but look after your bike as it will definitely look after you. It is not necessary to know one end of a spanner from another in order to perform basic motorcycle checks. Mainly it is a good idea to perform a systematic check on a regular basis. One acronym that many use is POWDER.
You won’t get far without it and you will be guaranteed to annoy your mates if you have to stop twenty miles into a group ride. Remember full tank, empty bladder. Many tanks have gauges and countdown readers but it is best not to push your luck in this regard.
This is the lubricant of the engine and it is important not to let it get too low which could cause a seizure. Be sure to also check the oil levels on level ground and if you do not have a centre stand ensure that the bike is held upright off its side stand. Let the bike run to operating temperature and then give it a couple of minutes for the oil to settle. Bikes either have an oil window or dipstick. In terms of the dipstick you are looking for a blob that should sit above the minimum marker but not above the high marker. Slowly top up the oil and check it as you go to avoid overfilling. Be sure to check the particular grade of oil that the bike needs with either the dealer or as per manufacturer guidelines.
If appropriate, check your bikes coolant levels through the expansion tank. Be aware that coolant expands within the tank so do not fill coolant to the max (unless you like the feel of warm liquid in your boots). Indeed, many manufacturers top the coolant to just above the minimum level to allow for the expansion.
You should check that the bike does not have any damage that may be a danger to your ride. If your bike has one, regularly lube the chain particularly after a wet journey. A quick spray of chain cleaner followed by an application of chain lubricant will mean that you are not spraying over layers of dirt. A clean chain will extend its life and reduce the need for maintenance. Make sure that you adjust the chain as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. When tightening a chain be sure that it is not too tight as this can cause excessive damage to the gears. When adjusting the chain take account for your own weight on the bike as well as that of any pillion or luggage. A quick check is to see if you can pull the chain away from the sprocket. If you can then it is far too loose and needs immediate adjustment.
Check your electrics (indicators, brake lights, headlights- full and dipped beam) and make sure that your headlights are clean from road grime and salt before setting off on every journey.
Regular checks of tyre pressures will give you ultimate grip and braking response. Be sure to check them according to the manufacturers guidelines and when cold. Bike manufacturers will often recommend particular makes of tyre most compatible with their bikes. Also be sure to check your tyre tread wear, it is advisable not to wait until the legal limit of 1mm is reached. Other regular checks should be for brake wear, front fork wear (push down on the forks and they should come back up smoothly), and smooth steering with no catches (raise the bike of its front wheel and move the bars from side to side). Be sure that you keep to the servicing schedules and consult with an expert if any real doubts arise.