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BikeWise 2018

BikeWise 2018

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Respect Your Machine And Your Machine Will Look After You.

As the start of motorcycle season looms upon us PC Tony Richmond one of the motorcycle section instructors offers the following advice …   
Many machines will have been laid up over the winter and you really don’t want to be left standing at the side of the road waiting for recovery as your mates ride off into the distance or more importantly facing a sudden and dangerous mechanical failure that has you off your bike facing all that brings with it!
So ideally a full service from a competent mechanic at the start of the biking season sets a good benchmark and you know the machine is safe.
Whilst modern motorcycles are pretty reliable they’re not immune to wear and tear or component failure so relying on the service is not enough, a few basic checks before every rideout will help you identify problems that you can resolve to keep you safe over the next few weeks and months.                                              
The best way to start a rideout is not on the bike but a few minutes in the comfort of your own garage with a warm brew close to hand.
Get into the habit of performing a systematic drill of the key issues that need checking on your bike and if you perform this in the same order each time it’ll  become instinctive so you’re less likely to forget something.
I like to start with a brief general visual check over the machine then I grab at parts of the bike such as mirrors, rear rack, Reg plate, body panels, panniers etc. just to make sure nothing has vibrated loose during the last ride it’s surprising just how much vibration a bike can produce and even the tightest fittings can loosen over time.
Whilst doing this I also check the floor under the bike for any fluids a sure sign of a leak and also and the bike itself, if you see fluids trace them back before you move the bike to see where they’ve come from and if in doubt seek advice.
So fluids …
Manufacturers (with a couple of exceptions!)  have made it easy for us to check fluid levels with generally nothing other than our, we generally have four types of fluid to worry about oil, clutch/brake, coolants and suspension.
Oil is the lifeblood of the engine and many bikes will use oil in normal conditions so it will naturally go down.
It’s critical that you monitor the oil level and top it up as necessary using the correct grade of motorcycle oil – an engine with no oil will eventually seize and if you’re riding it at the time that could have serious consequences.
On most bikes you can check your oil through the inspection glass, some have a  tube or dipstick but remember irrespective perform this check in line with the manufactures guidelines which can vary from model to model. (Warm oil, Centre stand, Bike upright etc.).
Clutch and brake fluid levels are readily checked through small inspection windows in the reservoirs or through a translucent reservoir, most bikes have a front and rear reservoir for brake fluid and some have an additional clutch reservoir although many rely upon cables for the clutch , make sure you know where yours are.
If they do need topping up check for leaks and then only use new brake fluid from a sealed container.
When checking the brake/clutch fluids also pull the levers to ensure the correct resistance is present.
Coolant levels can be checked through the translucent expansion bottle marked with Max and Min levels, the location of this can vary but in many bikes is to be found in the front inner fairing close to the radiator and again if the levels are down first check for leaks and top up as necessary.
Fluid is also present in the suspension so check front forks stanchions for signs of oil loss through the seals which will impact upon handling and stability and also a rear shock absorber may rarely blow a seal dumping oil on the back tyre – it’s nothing other than a quick visual check and a feel about but a blown rear shock in particular can make things very interesting! 
If your bike doesn’t have a fluid based clutch and brake lever then it will rely upon cables so test each lever to see if your cable is moving freely and smoothly whilst keeping an eye out for any damage or frayed areas and lubricate the cables from time to time following the manufacturers advice on the correct lubricant.
Wheels and Tyres…
Tyres keep you on the road it’s as simple as that.
Consult your handbook or a label attached to the bike for the correct tyre pressures and in the main these should be checked using a tyre pressure gauge when cold to give the most accurate reading – the wrong pressures can dramatically alter the grip and handling of your bike as well as increasing wear rates.
Also check the tread depth around the entire circumference of the tyre, look at the surface for signs of damage or objects such as nails, glass etc. stuck in the surface that may not have caused an obvious puncture and feel for bulges – if you’re in any doubt get them checked a sudden tyre failure can be catastrophic.
Remember the minimum legal tread depth for a motorcycle tyre is 1mm and towards the end of a tyre’s life it can get down to this level very quickly particularly on sports bikes so make sure you can complete your journey legally!
Check the wheel rims for dings or cracks as a dented rim can cause a tyre to suddenly deflate and can also cause handling problems.
Spoked wheels also demand special attention and you need to make sure the spokes are all still under tension, do this by gently tapping them, a loose spoke will have a lower and dead sound. If necessary tighten any loose spokes but make sure you aren’t just compensating for a dented rim.
You should take a look at each and every light, operate all of the switches on and off several times and check for warning lights on the when the engine is running.
So include your headlights, both high and low beam, brake lights, tail lights and indicators and make sure the brake light operates from both the front lever and rear pedal and don’t forget to test the horn too and make sure your lights are clean they’re no good if they can’t be seen.
Drive Chain/Belt
A chain failure when you’re riding can cause can cause massive and critical damage to the bike and to the rider neglect it at your peril!
Start by simply looking at your chain (Assuming it’s not shaft driven !) it shouldn’t look dry or rusty and shouldn’t have a significant sag at the bottom, make sure it’s lubricated on a regular basis with an appropriate product and then feel the play to ensure that it’s tensioned correctly (check the manufacturers specifications), lift the back wheel if possible and spin it to check that all the links are links in good condition and haven’t seized.
Also check the front and rear sprocket for any excessive wear or damage to the teeth.
A worn chain and/or sprockets should be replaced and again seek advice if you’re unsure.
You should inspect a belt driven bike in a similar way but be guided by the manufacturer.
This may have taken a while to put into typed words but in reality it takes only a few minutes at most to carry out and it give you a better understanding of your machine, the confidence that your motorcycle is safe for the road and less likely to break down on a rideout leaving you to focus on your riding skills and the road ahead.
More importantly a motorcycle is the sum of its parts it’s no good checking the chain when you have no oil or having a perfect machine with no brake fluid so get in the habit of checking everything, remember respect your machine and it will look after you !
Safe Riding
PC Tony Richmond