To be forward, motorcycle adventure bike prep should not be taken lightly. An ill-prepared motorcycle can sabotage even the shortest of trips and puts the operator at risk. Lean on our checklist to help ready your motorcycle for its next adventure.
#1 | Change the Oil
The most important component of a motorcycle adventure bike prep will not only add life to your machine but bring reliability to the adventure.
We’re not going to tell you which oil to choose (as we want no part of the ongoing “which oil is best” debate) but do highly recommend you establish a maintenance schedule that includes routine oil changes. How often? We always defer to whatever the manufacturer recommends in terms of hours or miles–unless we’ve been riding under circumstances that caused us to abuse the clutch. Regardless, it’s best to start longer motorcycle adventures with fresh oil in the cases.
#2 | Install a New Air Filter
Literally, the only line of defense between your engine and the enemy, dirt. Unless the existing air filter is nearly spotless, we prefer to start longer adventures with a clean and freshly-oiled air filter. No need to swap out for new if yours is reasonably clean & you aren’t going to ride too far. Under those circumstances, just check your filter to make sure it isn’t too dirty before the ride.
Any ride of considerable length will require that you change your air filter a time or two. We prep and carry replacement filters in Ziploc bags on longer, adventure rides. Air filter manufacturers like Twin Air also offer packed, pre-oiled filters.
#3 | Check Other Fluids
Unless you’re riding an air-cooled bike, you’ll need to have a look at the fluid levels in your radiator(s). If you’re topping-off, be careful not to overfill.
Has it been a while since your radiator fluid was changed? Prior to riding-off on a long adventure might be the right time. As a point or reference, we change our radiator fluid out once a year.
Clutch & Brake Fluid
Odds are, you’ll have at least one hydraulic brake and perhaps a hydraulic clutch, too. Unless our brakes were boiled for some reason, we change out the hydraulic fluid in these master cylinders once per year. Take a look through your sight glass & make sure levels are appropriate.
You should also take a look at the fluid. Is it dark and discolored? If so, go ahead and replace it. When you do, you’ll have the opportunity to bleed any air that may be trapped in the hydraulic system. When finished, the brakes should be working fantastic.
Fresh fluid in both ends will provide a much-improved ride for your adventure. You won’t be able to “check” suspension levels and unless there is a significant and noticeable problem, the levels should not have changed. All the more reason to establish service intervals on both ends. Because of the action of the shock, the size of the reservoir, and proximity to the engine, the fluid inside is likely to heat up and break down much quicker than inside the forks. We like to change our shock fluid every 15 hours and the forks, every 30.
#4 | Check the Brake Pads
Speaking of brakes, don’t forget to scope out the brake pads for excessive or uneven wear during motorcycle adventure bike prep.
#5 | Inspect the Chain & Sprockets
For starters, chain adjustment is crucial to the life of your sprockets. Too tight or too lose will promote premature wear. Even scarier than premature wear, a chain that is overly-tight or loose could break–leading to injury or catastrophic damage to the motorcycle.
Your manufacturers manual should tell you where to measure from and how much slack should be in your chain. Most of the bikes we ride and rent call for 2″ to 2.25″ of slack, measured from directly behind the swing arm chain slider.
Sprocket wear is pretty easy to spot. Seeing excessively sharp or rounded teeth during your motorcycle adventure bike prep is usually a good indicator for replacement. As a rule of thumb, and seeing as the counter-shaft (front sprocket) turns more revolutions, replace it one time during the life of the chain. Experience has shown us that chain & sprocket combos last somewhere between 40 and 60 hours of operation. As always, the machine, riding conditions, and how you maintain your bike, play a large role in longevity.
Lastly, make sure to check the torque specs on your sprocket bolts as they have a tendency to come loose. Both the counter-shaft and rear sprocket should have Loctite applied. On the rear, Nyloc nuts on the sprocket bolts are a good idea.
Note, when we replace our chain & sprocket combos, we also install new sprocket nuts, bolts, and washers.
#6 | Check the Bolts
Don’t let a $0.50 bolt unthread your adventure. Make it a habit to check most of your bolts before every ride. Proceed with caution, we’re not recommending you tighten (and ultimately over-tighten) every bolt during your motorcycle adventure bike prep–just check to make sure nothing has come loose. For us, this usually involves a handful of sockets, a couple of wrenches, and perhaps allen or torx wrenches. This check shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes but could literally save your adventure.
Remember, a lot of the bolts on your bike have a recommended torque spec. When performing routine maintenance on the machine, make sure to check that your reassembly involves these specs. In some instances, like with wheels and suspension, the torque specs have a great influence on how the machine handles & performs.
#7 | Inspect the Wheels
Wondering why your bike has a bit of vibration or wobble as you creep into the higher range of speeds? Perhaps you have a severely bent rim or your wheel is no longer true.
It’s worth your time to thoroughly inspect the rims and routinely check the spokes on any motorcycle. If your wheels are no longer true, wheel weights are an easy accessory to add on or have your local shop true them up.
#8 | Throw on a Set of New Tires
There’s nothing quite like having a fresh set of tires on for any ride or adventure. The good tread provides good traction across the board and in some instances may be absolutely necessary to get from point A to point B. That being said, tires are expensive so our tendency is to get as much life out of them as possible. For longer adventures, we’re always going to start with a fresh set. This allows us to experience good traction throughout and nullify any issues that might be brought on from a seasoned tire.
If you’re planning a shorter trip and have decent rubber on your bike, perhaps you can forego putting on a new tread. At the least, assessing the condition of your tires should be a part of your motorcycle adventure bike prep. In fact, it may be as simple as inspecting your knobbies for excessive wear in areas or any damage. Also, it is not uncommon to turn rear tires around for better wear (barring they don’t have a directional pattern).
When installing new tires, make sure to clean any dirt out of your rims (as this could promote a flat tire) and inspect both the rim strip and rim lock for excessive wear. Once you’ve mounted your tires and wheels, do a quick wheel bearing check by first placing your bike on the stand. Now, hold the bike firmly, press down & the tire & see if there is any side-to-side play. If you feel much play, it’s time to install new bearings.
#9 | Inspect Electrical Components & Connections
Electrical problems can be hard to solve in the middle of nowhere & the odds of having everything you need to fix or diagnose the problem are slim. Make it a motorcycle adventure bike prep habit to inspect your wires and connectors for wear. If connections look vulnerable, re-route them or wrap them in electrical tape for an extra bit of protection.
Riding roads where motorcycles are required to be street-legal. Check to see that your blinkers, lights, and horn, are all working as they should.
#10 | Grease the Pivot Points
The first thing we do to a new bike is grease the linkage, steering head, and swing arm. More times than not, the factory has done a great job of greasing these areas and it was not needed. By tackling this job early on, we establish a maintenance schedule (yearly) and ride with peace of mind–knowing these bearings are in good condition. If this is part of your routine maintenance, odds are, you won’t have to pull out the grease before your ride.