Tips for Motorcycle Brake Maintenance

Brakes are one of the most essential parts of any vehicle, including your motorcycle. When out riding, they are crucial for helping you slow down and stop your bike. Poor or insufficient maintenance can decrease brake performance and increase crash risks. Especially come springtime, brakes should be high on your motorcycle maintenance list.

Many of today’s motorcycles use disc brakes, which are less likely to overheat and need fewer adjustments. Typical modern brake models feature twin disc brakes in front and a single disc or drum brake in the rear.

Each brake is supported by a caliper, which is powered by up to six pistons, and the brake pads will be clamped to the disc. Your brake usually sits in the wheel to adjust to temperature changes as you ride and may feature anti-block system (ABS) technology.

Much like a car, motorcycle brakes experience wear and need to be replaced. The system’s fluids may run low or hold onto debris and moisture, so it’s a good idea to give the brakes a once-over before every ride.

Brake Fluid

closeup motorcycle front brakeBrake fluid helps reduce wear on the system’s mechanical components. Over time, the amount of fluid starts to decrease and may trap moisture or debris. Based on how often you ride, it’s recommended the old brake fluid is flushed out and a new supply added every one to two years.

To avoid air bubbles in the brake fluid, you may want to have a professional perform the job if you’ve never done it yourself. Additionally, the substance can be damaging to your bike’s exterior, eating through the paint or plastic if it splashes outside the reservoir.

Do not get in the habit of only checking the brake fluid when you suspect it needs to be replaced. Riders should inspect the fluid level and color at least once a month.

If the fluid is brown or black instead of clear, it needs to be flushed out. Delaying fluid replacement reduces brake lubrication and decreases performance.

Motorcycles are equipped with two brake fluid reservoirs, one located toward the handlebars and one in the back. Both should be opened as you monitor the fluid levels.
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Why Pests Go After Your Motorcycle in Storage

During winter when our bikes are in storage, motorcycle riders have to think about the battery, fluids and reducing rust. One factor often gets pushed to the bottom of the winterization list: Pests.

Although this can happen any time of year, mice, rats and squirrels looking for warmth in winter may target your motorcycle, especially if your garage is not fully sealed. They can burrow into the exhaust pipe or air intake box, build a nest in your saddle bag and may chew through wires.

Before you discover pests living in your bike or have to pay for extensive repairs once spring arrives, here’s what you should know about protecting your motorcycle.

How Pest Infestation Happens

man working on bikeMice and squirrels do not hibernate during winter, but they still want a warm place for temporary shelter from the cold. Your motorcycle, particularly if stored under a cover, can look like the perfect home.

If you periodically check your motorcycle while it’s in storage, you know you’re dealing with a rodent problem if you spot droppings around the bike. You may also see scratches or bite marks on the seats, saddle bag and anything else that’s not made out of metal.

Unfortunately when you spot these signs, you have other things to worry about. Most importantly, rodents constantly need to gnaw to keep their teeth from growing too much. To do this, they will go after wires and other hard surfaces of your bike. As such, if you haven’t checked your motorcycle in a couple of months, mice may have gone after the electrical system.

Additionally, mice that have been there for a while will likely make a nest, tearing parts of leather, rubber and paper to create one in an enclosed area. You might see a nest inside a saddlebag, between the handlebars or on the seat.

Rodents also carry various diseases that are harmful to humans and pets. Through their presence and droppings, your motorcycle has been exposed to whatever they may be carrying. Touching or taking a ride in the spring could become a health and safety hazard.
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How to Prevent Motorcycle Cover Condensation

When it comes to motorcycle winterization, a temperature-controlled environment is safer than leaving your bike outside, exposed to precipitation and UV rays. Yet not everyone has the same options for winter storage.

Whether in a garage or securely covered in the driveway, you assume your motorcycle will be safe throughout the cold season but the risk of condensation increases under a cover.

Condensation can accumulate underneath, resulting in rust, corrosion and mold after months in one place. Learn how you can keep your motorcycle protected this winter.

How Condensation Occurs Under a Cover

cover on parked motorcycleThe air contains a percentage of water vapor, known as relative humidity. When the temperature drops, water vapor gathers on cool surfaces.

A motorcycle cover can trap moist air underneath that starts to condense when the air temperature rises, but the bike’s metal parts are still cool. As a result, it might appear as if the cover is leaking.

The condensation cycle may be intensified by the ground below, particularly with dirt or cement that absorbs moisture. Especially in New England, snowfall can also increase the amount of moisture that may gather below a motorcycle cover.

What Can Happen As a Result of Condensation

If this process goes unchecked, you may be dealing with more issues than the condensation itself. Other potential damage includes:

  • Rust: May affect the metal or damage the gas tank. A rusted tank can decrease fuel economy, affect how fluids flow through the bike or cause pressure buildup.
  • Corrosion: Can be accelerated by rock salt or substances like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide – two byproducts of the engine’s combustion process.
  • Mold: Can start to form on non-metal components.
  • Fuel Breakdown: Water vapor gets inside the gas tank and mixes with ethanol.

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Motorcycle Winterization Mistakes to Avoid

Plenty of motorcycle guides provide advice on how to winterize your bike. Yet, conflicting opinions can make it difficult to know which tips to follow. Once spring comes, your bike could have sludgy fluids or visible rust on the exterior without the right winterization checklist. While having a plan is crucial, you should be mindful to avoid the following mistakes.

Not Filling the Tank

closeup motorcycle wheelBefore placing your bike in storage, fill the tank with fresh gasoline and add fuel stabilizer. Run the motorcycle, so the stabilizer goes through the system.

Settling for Older Fuel

Fuel that your bike has used all season can pick up debris and start to thin out. As gasoline breaks down quickly – especially when a vehicle is not in use – these deposits remain and you’ll end up with varnish deposits in your tank, fuel lines and carburetor.

To avoid this, drain old fuel before winterizing your bike, add gasoline to your tank and fuel stabilizer. Especially if your bike will be sitting in a garage for months, this approach decreases the likelihood of deposits and clogs.

You Use the Same Oil

Your bike’s oil goes through the same process and pattern as your gasoline: It picks up substances and breaks down through repeat use and exposure to heat and oxygen. In storage, this process will continue, resulting in a thick, cloudy consistency when you take your motorcycle out for spring riding. Instead of skipping this crucial step, replace the oil and all other fluids during the winterization process.
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Tips for Storing Your Motorcycle Under a Cover

When a motorcycle is left uncovered, it doesn’t take long for the outdoor elements to affect its main components. While age can play a factor – newer models are designed to handle UV rays, moisture and cold better – any bike left outside can succumb to corrosion, cracked seals and rusted bolts.

To avoid these issues, you need to keep your ride covered. Experts recommend storage in your garage or another climate-controlled shelter, but what if these options aren’t available to you? Consider a motorcycle cover that’s designed to breathe, keep out moisture and shelter the bike from inclement weather conditions.

Finding the Right Cover

two covered motorcyclesNot all motorcycle covers are created equal. You may come across canvas, medium and heavy-duty polyethylene, and vinyl varieties. The goal is to find a sturdy material that offers UV and moisture-resistance but still provides a degree of breathability to prevent water droplets from getting locked in.

For long-term storage, you’ll want to look for waterproof, puncture-resistant materials that offer venting and include a soft fabric liner to lessen scratches to the finish.

Avoid selecting a light fabric motorcycle cover. These can blow off and tear easily after long-term exposure to the elements and won’t provide the degree of protection your bike needs.

Clean Your Bike

Dirt and debris can do more than dull your motorcycle’s finish. Long term, these particles can accelerate rusting and cause the metal to develop a pitted appearance. With this in mind, thoroughly wash off your motorcycle before covering it for long-term storage.

As moisture can also contribute to corrosion, let the bike fully dry. If you’re winterizing for the season, go through the usual steps of lubing components and replacing fuel and fluids. Focus on the essential parts for operation that can rust quickly when exposed to moisture.
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Tips for Cleaning & Disinfecting Your Motorcycle

Whether it’s your car, truck or motorcycle, all vehicles need to be washed regularly. Debris and dirt can tarnish its appearance, while corrosive substances like road salt can cause metal parts to rust. As such, washing your motorcycle is an essential maintenance task.

Yet, a motorcycle cannot be taken through the car wash like a passenger vehicle, as its exposed components are too delicate for a high stream of water. Failing to wash or using high-pressure water could affect your bike’s structural and operational components.

To keep your motorcycle clean and ready for your next ride, get started with these 6 tips.

1. Have All Your Supplies

polishing motorcycle wheelAlong with water, it’s recommended you have multiple cleaning tools on-hand. Sponges are ideal for removing dirt without scratching paint, brushes are crucial for the fine components, and flannel or microfiber are gentle enough to dry off the bike. Also have a separate cloth for removing any debris on the vehicle before you finish with a detailing product.

At most dealerships, you can purchase specific cleaning and soap items that also help eliminate scratches. If you have an older bike with chains, you will need to apply a specific type of lubricant. Be sure to avoid the detergent you would use on your car and never use dish soap to wash a bike.

As the final step, you’ll need to replace the lube that was cleaned off, especially on the chain. Have some additional lube ready for application once the bike has fully dried.

2. Avoid These Techniques

As we mentioned above, high-pressure hoses are out of the question when washing your motorcycle. In addition to avoiding the car wash, don’t use a pressure washer on your bike, even on the lowest setting. Instead, carefully wash all parts with a bucket of water.

Washing should be avoided on hot days, when your motorcycle has been in direct sunlight, or if the engine is still hot. These factors can cause the soap to dry quicker and stick to the bike’s components, requiring you to work harder.

3. Preparing Your Motorcycle

Before using water and cleaner, it’s a good idea to check all electrical connections and cover or plug the exhaust pipe to prevent moisture from entering the exhaust system. If you have bags or other accessories attached to your vehicle, remove them for easier access to all the bike’s surfaces.
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How to Care For Your Motorcycle Tires

Motorcycle tires literally set the pace for your ride, in terms of handling and performance. When tires show significant signs of wear, your bike may feel drastically different, which could increase the chance you’ll lose control. Whether you perform motorcycle maintenance yourself or have a trusted mechanic, here’s what you should know about taking care of your bike’s tires.

Regularly Check the Pressure

man checking tire pressureBefore taking a ride, use a tire gauge to check the front and back pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). If you’re unsure about the recommended PSI, check your owner’s manual.

It’s important to ensure both tires are properly inflated. Multiple factors can affect pressure, including how long you’ve been riding on the tires and current weather conditions.

If the pressure is low, you’ll need to pump both tires with compressed air to reach the desired PSI. If the tires are over-inflated – often a result of warmer weather or the load you’re carrying – bleed them via the Schrader valve.

As a note, some dealers use nitrogen instead of air, which makes the tires run cooler.

When you return home, give both tires a thorough once-over to check for nails or glass shards embedded in the rubber, cracked material, tread separation, bubbling or bulging. These factors not only affect tire pressure but also increase your risk of a blowout.

If you test the pressure after riding for a few hours and notice it has slightly increased, you may need to reduce your bike load or travel at slower speeds.

Check the Treads

Worn treads are a telltale sign your tires are on their last legs and will no longer effectively handle slippery or rough conditions. Get in the habit of checking your tire treads every time you go out for a ride.
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Why Replace Your Motorcycle’s Fluids Before Spring?

You followed the proper winterization steps, including gas and fluid replacement, before placing your motorcycle in a secure, climate-controlled storage location. After periodic checks throughout the season, you assume the bike is good to go come springtime.

Unfortunately, fluids can break down even when you’re not riding. While your motorcycle is in far better shape than letting old fuel sit in the tank, it’s not quite ready to ride. To make sure your bike is completely road ready, learn why you should replace the fluids first.

Drain the Gas Tank

woman inspecting motorcycleCome springtime, you have a few tasks to complete before your motorcycle is ready to ride:

  • Examine the fuel and drain the tank, especially if it has a brown, gritty texture.
  • Refill the gas tank. Add fresh fuel along with a fuel stabilizer to move any stale gas through the system and prevent clogs or misfiring.

Oil Breaks Down

Oil may attract condensation during winter and has been known to separate when your bike is not in use. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to check your oil for condensation before you ride, then change the oil and filter. Otherwise, you risk damage.
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How Oil Quality Affects Your Motorcycle

Lubricating your motorcycle seems like a straightforward task, but everyone has their preferred method. You may use conventional solutions, while another rider uses synthetics.

Bike lubrication is not one-size-fits all. There’s a range of oils are available, but riders have to be careful about solutions that may negatively affect the bike’s overall performance.

Start with the Basics

riding on a sunny dayFor modern-day bikes, oil has many essential functions, including:

  • Reducing friction and wear between moving parts
  • Working as a coolant
  • Gathering debris to deposit into the oil filter
  • Identifying and neutralizing acids and moisture created through combustion
  • Protecting against oxidation

Oil has evolved with bike design. Earlier models did not circulate oil; it passed through the engine and was eventually discharged onto the ground. Today, engines recirculate the oil and need filtration systems to catch and remove any dirt and buildup.

In this setup, the detergents essentially suspend the foreign particles until they’re captured by the filter. Unless you’re riding a vintage model, your bike has a filter and will need a detergent oil.

With these points in mind, run synthetic oil through your bike that has additive in the final formulation to improve corrosion resistance. This solution:

  • Offers better oxidative stability, or resistance to chemical breakdown
  • Resists heat better
  • Keeps its viscosity without thinning out, yet offers a dependable pour point

If you are unsure, it’s always a good idea to use the oil recommended in the owner’s manual. More advanced riders should look out for consistency between API, ILSAC and JASCO classification and viscosity.
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How Bad Is Rust for Your Motorcycle?

For many riders, their motorcycle is their most prized possession. As such, the last thing you want to see is rust on your bike. Rust forms when the vehicle’s steel components are exposed to a mixture of moisture and oxygen. Cold Northeastern winters and road salt can also speed up the process.

In addition to these factors, inefficient maintenance often creates a straightforward path for rust to attack metal. As you get ready to put your motorcycle away for the winter, consider the following points to avoid dealing with rust once spring arrives.

Rust in the Gas Tank

waxing red motorcycleThere’s a reason nearly every winterization guide recommends filling your gas tank before putting your bike in storage. If the tank is not kept full, condensation occurs. When moisture gets trapped inside, the metal interior begins to rust.

Ethanol gas, more corrosive than pure gasoline, also affects the metal in your tank after a certain point and is not recommended for long-term storage. As one common method, blend fuel additives or stabilizers into the ethanol to stave off potential corrosion in storage.

What could happen to your bike if the gas tank starts to rust?

  • A rusted gas tank decreases the bike’s value – an issue if you plan to sell in the future.
  • Rust affects how well the fuel flows through your motorcycle.
  • Clogged filters and fuel lines, resulting in pressure buildup.
  • Rust can start to circulate inside the engine, which impacts the amount of air mixing with fuel.
  • If your bike’s tank is rusted beyond repair, finding a replacement tank isn’t always easy.

Poor Motorcycle Maintenance

Beyond key components like the chain and tank, rust can eat away at other motorcycle parts, which will then need to be replaced.

To combat this, regularly clean off your motorcycle, washing off dirt, debris and grease, as well as waxing and protecting the surface. Rather than hosing everything down, use a nylon- or soft-bristled brush to loosen up any debris. While doing this, check all parts for signs of rusting.
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