Motorcycle maintenance: top tips
These nine top tips will help to ensure your beloved motorcycle survives even the toughest conditions, whatever the weather, courtesy of a Honda mechanic with decades of experience.
Meet Matt Close. Matt’s been riding and working with motorcycles since he was 12 years old. Now, more than three decades later, he uses his expertise to answer technical queries from Honda’s network of UK dealerships. If you need to know something – anything – about getting the best out of your bike, he’s the right person to ask. Here are his nine top tips for winter motorcycle maintenance.
01 Check your tyre pressure
Cold temperatures alone are enough to reduce tyre pressure significantly, so it’s even more crucial to check your tyre pressure in the winter. When you’ve only got two bits of rubber on the road, even a small change can make a big difference to handling. Do regular checks using a gauge at a petrol station and, for consistency, try to use the same gauge each time.
02 Make sure your bike is well lubricated
Wet weather can wash away lubricant almost as quickly as you can put it on. A dry or rusty chain will wear out more quickly and take a chunk out of your fuel efficiency, so it’s worth getting into the habit of checking. But do it after your last ride, rather than just before your next one. Applying lubricant and leaving it to coat the links overnight works best.
03 Maintain the correct chain tension
Your bike’s chain is essentially a hefty piece of metal flying around at high speed, so it’s wise to make sure that it’s at the right tension. Different bikes will require different amounts of free play in the chain, so consult your manual. But whatever model you own, whether it's a big bike like the Gold Wing or a mini monkey like the MSX125, check regularly.
04 Wash your bike regularly – especially in winter
The salt on UK roads in the winter is rock salt. It works well enough for reducing ice, but it isn’t great for metal motorcycle components, which can get coated or clogged up when you ride through the salt. If left to sit, salt can even corrode metal, so get into the habit of washing your bike after each winter ride if you can. Soapy warm water is low-tech but highly effective.
05 Avoid jet-washing
It’s tempting – especially when the weather’s cold and you’re tired after a ride – but jet-washers are best avoided in favour of good old-fashioned elbow grease. High-pressure jets can damage rubber seals and even flatten the slanted fins of radiators. If that happens, water gets trapped, and you can end up with a hole where you don’t want one.
06 Listen for squealing brakes
Keeping an ear out for anything unusual is a generally a good idea, but especially when it comes to your brakes. If something doesn’t sound right, then ask your Honda dealer to give them a once-over. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
07 Keep your battery topped up at all times
If bad weather means that your bike spends a little less time out on the road, then it’s a good idea to take care of your battery. Either disconnect it (so it doesn’t run down) or hook it up to a float charger to keep it topped up to the brim.
08 Use a cover to protect your bike
If you took two identical motorcycles – say, two Africa Twins – and rode them the same amount, but kept one inside and one outside, they would look very different after just a few years. If you don’t have a garage or shed, a good-quality cover is the next best thing to protect your machine from the Great British weather. Just remember to wait until the bike has cooled off before throwing it on. Otherwise it could melt – and be stuck on for a while…
09 Always pack a toolkit
All bikes should have a small toolkit on board. It pays to check that yours is in good working order and that it contains a puncture repair kit. Losing tyre pressure is bad enough at the best of times, but if it also means that you have to wait on the hard shoulder in the cold and rain for a few hours, that really would be a let-down.