Category Archives: safety

Motorbike maintenance

 

IMAG0796

Nobody is born with mechanical knowledge.  I remember when  I purchased my first bike, I had no clue about motorcycles at all. It was a friend who had a bike already who came to my house and got my bike to start as I kept on flooding it. He removed the spark plug, cleaned it, dried up the piston head and started up my little two stroke 50cc. That was all new and unknown to me, since then I have learnt a lot and I am still learning.

Motorbikes do  ‘speak’ to us and it’s vital that we listen!!!

Noises, vibrations, grinding, rattling, rubbing, whistling, odd smells, exhaust smokes, sudden loss of power, is the language of the motorcycle telling you to pull over, get off and take a look before it is too late. It is imperative to constantly check for faults and to understand what the bike is asking us.

Reading the owners manual (if you have it) will help developing the ability to identify components,  possible faults and to know when to do a routine service. Or if you don´t have the owners manual the internet is a powerful tool to find out more about your motorbike. You won´t only be safer as you will reduce costs greatly and it will prevent you from being stranded on the road.

B.E.S.T. C.O.P.S.

 

BRAKES:

Brake pads are like a soap bar. They get used every time you apply the brakes and eventually will wear out. You have to replace them periodically in order to be safer on the road and to avoid unwanted extra cost.

From time to time inspect the front and rear brake pads. If they show to be close to the end or if they are gone you will listen a squealing noise meaning that the pad is nearly to the end of their life (probably it´s the wear indicator rubbing against the disk). A grinding noise on braking is usually caused by a lack of brake pad material; the pads and disk brakes are now metal to metal, with no braking material left and damaging your disc.

Also check that brake calipers, disc brakes and brake lines are all in good working order and brake fluid is at the level (see note at the end).

brake pads.jpg

 

ELECTRICS:

 Check if all lights are working properly  (indicators, headlight, back and brake lights, number plate light, horn and dashboard lights). If something isn´t working, check the bulbs, the connections, fuses or if the switch has some bad contact. In case the battery is low maybe it is better to replace it; if it is discharging quickly maybe you should check if it is charging properly ( A faulty rectifier is a common issue on bikes). In addition if you are just the occasional biker and your bike is not ridden regularly it is always a good idea to buy a battery optimizer and put the battery on charge the night before you ride.

 

 

 

 

SUSPENSION:

Inspect the fork seals or dust seals from time to time as you have oil inside the fork. Also check if the inner forks have any dents or chips as they can also increase the chance of premature leaks and fork seal early damage.

That oil residue or a dirty greasy ring around the fork is a sign that you have a problem. Oil is getting past the fork seals and attracting dirt. You should replace the fork seals sooner rather than later as once they start, things will quickly get worse and oil will flow down to your brakes or font tyre.   You really don’t want to let that happen or you will be exposed to unnecessary risks.

In modern bikes you should be able to adjust settings such as the pre-load, compression and rebound damping but if you are unknown to these don´t worry, normally motorbikes are sold already optimized for the road with a standard set up so let´s leave that discussion for a different day!

 

TYRES:

             Condition:  have a daily visual check on your tyres and side walls. Look out for nails, bulges, cracks and cuts. If you have a nail stuck in it, don´t remove it and take your bike to the nearest garage to repair it. As an alternative you can buy a puncture repair kit and repair it yourself in case you know how to, otherwise leave the job for a professional. Bulges, cracks or deep cuts should  can indicate internal damage and should be checked immediately by a specialist.

Tyre condition

              Tread: The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your motorbike tyres  is 1mm across 3/4 of the tread. The tread is designed to give a good grip on the wet and to prevent aquaplaning by dissipating water out of the tyre. You can either measure the tread by buying a little gauge specific for tyres or by looking at the tyre. Normally there are some bumps in the grooves indicating the wear. If your rubber starts to be close to these marks, it´s time to get a new tyre or your safety is seriously compromised, just not to mention that if you get pulled over with a bald tyre you will get a heavy fine and possibly points on your license.

Tread

 

            Tyre pressure: Once a week check and re adjust your tyre air pressure when the tyres are still cold as riding under or over the ideal pressure not only affects handling drastically as it will damage and wear out your tyres, and may increase fuel consumption. Go to a petrol station or buy an air pump with a gauge to check this.  The air pressure units can be measured in P.S.I or BAR. Be aware that air pressure varies according to your bike type, if you ride with a passenger or heavy luggage . Check your owners manual for an accurate ideal pressure for your bike or check on your bike. (Ignore the pressure indicated on the tyre wall as that valor is the max pressure for heavy loads on the bike.)

tyre_pressure

Note: When you fit brand new tyres they will need a running-in period around 100/150 miles. Pay extra care on bends, avoid excessive acceleration or abusive braking during this early stage.  This should be done in order to scuff in the tyre surface and remove the superficial gum as it is extremely slippery. After that period you can start riding your bike normally.

CHAIN:

chain and sprockets

The first sign that your chain might not be in its best state is that your gearshifts start to feel a lot less fluid than they once did. You should look at the tension of the chain. A new chain will need a slight adjustment between 300 to 600 miles as it needs to adjust to the new sprockets and after that you should check it and adjust it every 500 to 700 miles depending of how you ride. A loose chain wears out the sprockets and reduces its lifetime, or if it is too tight it can damage the sprockets teeth or the rear wheel bearings. More severe consequences include the chain breaking up increasing the risk of injury or fall. Your chain should have around half inch to one inch of slack for optimal adjustment.

loose chain

 

Every time you adjust the chain you have also to align the rear wheel. Normally there are marks on the swing arm for a fine alignment and a nut to align, stretch or lose the chain tension as you need. If you are adjusting the chain too often perhaps your chain needs replacement or you just bought a bad one.

chain

The chain should also be always lubricated. Inspect it and if it shows that it is dry, it should be re-greased, especially after an extended journey in the rain.  Over time, oil, dust and worn materials clog together and form a kind of a paste.  These will shorten the service life of the entire chain kit through increased wear.  A dry and clean chain is more desirable for quality effectiveness of the chain spray. You can clean it using a brush (non metal one), a chain cleaner and a cloth. Spin the wheel while spraying the chain with the cleaner and let it actuate for a couple mins, then wipe it out with a cloth. Once this is done you can now apply the lube on the chain and lubricate it again. Don´t ride immediately and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes so the lube will penetrate in the chain components. 

products

If you just need to lubricate the chain, apply the chain lube after riding as the chain will be hot and the lube will adhere better and leave the bike to rest. Ideally you can do this at the end of the day when you get home.

Note: The chain and sprockets (Can be a belt or shaft but that´s different) are the final drive of a motorbike and should be checked periodically. There´s no economy at all when you buy a cheap chain as they will wear out 3 or 4 times quicker than a good one. My piece of advice is, buy a decent chain and always replace it together with the sprockets to avoid these to damage the new chain.  A good chain and sprockets should last around 20/25 thousand miles easily and without much hassle depending of how you ride. Of course, maintenance is mandatory in order to get it to last.

 

OIL:

Maybe one of the most significant motorbike maintenance points. Engine oil!!!! The oil is the lifeblood of the motorbike. It lubricates the engine protecting moving parts from wear and tear caused by friction and thereby prolongs the engine´s life. Oil also helps to cool down the engine, collects debris and prevents oxidation inside the engine internal components.

 An engine running with a very low oil level will have a poor lubrication and therefore will generate more heat risking wear and tear rapidly or even a massive breakdown by seizing the engine it if runs dry. An engine with excessive oil level may affect the bike performance, it might burn together with fuel and give a sluggish feeling just not to mention that it will blow up the gaskets and consequently oil leaks will come due to too much pressure in the engine.

Due to all these reasons it is extremely important to check regularly the oil level. Some motorbikes have a glass window in the engine others have a deep stick so we can check the oil level. You should do it when the engine is cold so the oil is all in the engine pan and the bike on a flat surface  or you won´t have a accurate reading.

 

 

Oil changes and the oil type are vital in order to prolong your engine´s life, keeping it running smoothly and without faults. There are different types of oils, so you need to check your bike manual in order to find which one is appropriate ( there are mineral oils, semi-synthetic oils and fully synthetic oils. Four stroke oils and two stroke oils). A good quality oil also helps prolonging the engine life.

Your motorbike manual will indicate the oil change intervals and I do really recommend any biker to stick to that. Or, if you want some peace of mind, change your oil a bit earlier, keeping it always fresh in the engine. Every bike from the little 125cc to the big 1400cc has a specific time to change the oil, again, check your owner´s manual. For example, for my bike I should change the oil every 5000 miles, however I do it every 3000/3500 miles. A broken down oil has little lubrication properties, creates more friction in the engine components which generates more heat, increases risk of damage, reduces performance and potentially the life time of the engine. ( One of my bikes has 95000 miles. The engine runs smoothly thanks to oil changes before the recommended).

Old and New OIL

Note: Worth to mention that you should change your air filter and oil filter every second oil change to keep your engine always at an optimal performance and to extend durability. If you have an aftermarket air filter element then you don´t need to replace it, perhaps just to clean it. 

Apart from the oil you should check other fluids such as the coolant level and the radiator water level ( don´t do this last one after riding or you risk burning yourself.)

 

PETROL:

This is more for those who don´t ride daily and only take the bike out once in a blue moon. Nothing wrong about old petrol in a bike tank, however be aware that if you leave it for a long period of time it might deteriorate and leave some residue. That residue can go to the fuel filter so, maybe better replace the petrol filter (if the bike isn´t ridden for years). Also don´t ride with your bike near the reserve constantly as normally tanks may have some particles of dirt, rust that can go to your fuel system. If you are the occasional rider, make sure you leave enough petrol in your tank at least to ride to the nearest petrol station to then fill up with fresh petrol.

 

STEERING:

The steering has a major effect on handling and requires regular maintenance. The steering has head bearing and connects the front wheel to the rest of the motorcycle. On big bikes the brutal acceleration and slow down pressure,  sometimes up to 1G forces have a direct impact on the steering bearings.  If you feel and hear a knock coming from the steering or you feel weird vibrations as you ride perhaps the steering bearings need adjustment. ( It is an easy job but I do recommend a professional to do so). Now if the steering is stiff as you move it from side to side that could mean two things. The steering bearings are now gone and need replacement, or, maybe there´s a cable, wire or pipe obstructing your steering preventing its natural course.

steering head bearings

 

OTHER:

Bolts and nuts, check mainly the joint points of the bike, fairing bolts and wheel nuts as you don’t want your wheel to come off or to lose fairing panels as you ride. Check cables such as the clutch cable as sometimes they tend to snap. Check if the throttle is working freely and optimally. Look for any visual damage such as cracks, dents, or scratches on the motorbike´s body, mirrors etc. Don´t forget to wash your motorbike from time to time, especially during the winter time (in countries like the U.K) as roads might be gritted to help de-icing. Grit is very acidic and penetrates in everything that is metal corroding it, so a regular wash will slow down that process.

On a non regular basis, every two years and for optimal performance you should replace the brake fluid and the suspension oil as both are mineral oils and therefore they deteriorate. A brake caliper rebuild is also advisable as the washers will eventually wear out, especially if you live in a country where the winters are severe. Keep an eye on the cam chain, if you listen a rattle coming from the engine could be the cam chain tensioner or the cam chain at the end of its life. If that the case replace cam chain, cam guides and the tensioner.

Note: I only mentioned aspects about basic maintenance of a motorbike, for more detailed information check your owners manual or seek advice with a professional in case you have some kind of anomaly. However, if you regularly check these points I mentioned, your motorbike should not give you much hassle!!!

Thanks for reading!!!                                 

Feel free to comment or share!!!

 

Riding Safely

Commuting to work every day on two wheels may greatly cut costs and time at an expense that we are more vulnerable to the weather and more exposed to injury, so here’s a few tips to ensure that you stay safe:

Clothing:

With more traffic on the road than out in the country side, not forgetting pedestrians and cyclists all over the place, it is imperative that we get better seen by other road users. Therefore make sure you have reflective clothing on, such as a hi-vis vest or reflective stripes on your jacket/trousers and rucksack (if you carry one) to ensure you are seen. Also clothing with elbow, shoulders, back and knee pads are well recommended just to offer that extra protection in a fall event. Make sure you wear gloves to protect you from abrasion and weather elements. Boots should be comfortable and able to protect your ankles and feet in general ( avoid steel toe cap boots as they may collapse. If a vehicle goes over your foot it can chop off your toes like butter). Adjust your clothing to the weather conditions as it is very important to feel comfortable and to be  warm while riding, especially during winter time where temperatures are very low (you can always put some layers on to keep you warm). Remember that the wrong gear during a heat spell may affect your concentration levels on the road as well, getting you more exposed to unnecessary risks.
Motorbike clothing
What should we wear on the road.

Slow down:

Often when riding in a city centre you won’t have the choice to go fast because heavy traffic will prevent it. Overtaking a car in heavy traffic won’t save you more than 10/15 seconds along your journey. When a small gap appears, there is the temptation to go through it quickly; chances are that if you have seen it, maybe other bikers or cyclists spotted it too… Slow down, take your time, watch your surroundings and make sure it is a safe move. By doing everything slower you will have more time to think about your (and other people’s) decisions, which also increases your hazard perception and the amount of time you have to react to them. ( As an example, think of that pedestrian or cyclist who is completely unaware of your presence or approach and jumps into your path coming from in between parked up cars)
When you ride in heavy traffic ( especially during the rush hours) you will find impatient drivers who will behave in an unsafely manner in an attempt to beat traffic. Consequentely they are more subject to be angry and distracted with gadgets such as mobile phones (unfortunately), talking to other occupants and might not see you as you approach, pass by or respect you as a road user; at the end you already have the advantage towards them as we rarely get stuck in traffic, meaning that their impatience and imprudence has to be your patience and prudence in order for you to do a safe journey. Again, when in heavy traffic in the city, RIDE DEFENSIVELY  AND SLOW DOWN!!!
 

Filtering:

One of the major advantages of being on a motorcycle in the city is that you can filter in-between traffic queues and it is legal to do so, however this should be done cautiously:
  • people tend to cross roads in between queueing cars and don’t expect bikes or bycicles to appear in between. You may want to consider doing a slow speed not exceding more than 10 mph to the traffic around, constantly looking ahead and trying to have a visual for pedestrians or bycicles that can potentially emerge in front of you coming from the front of queueing cars. If ahead there´s a van or a lorry and you can´t have a good visual of what´s ahead of it, take extra care and slow down just to be prepared that you may have to come to a sudden stop as you approach its front.
    filtering
    Always scan for them and be prepared for the unexpected
  • Watch out for cars changing lanes suddenly without indicating;

Filtering

  • Car doors opening and car mirrors;
Filtering
If you are going too fast you you will have a problem here.
  • Be aware that a driver may do an unexpected U-turn without signaling as he might not be considering a motorbike filtering;

    Filtering
    If you go too fast you won´t be able to escape it!!
  • Be careful of hidden cars turning right or cars coming from a left road when you are flitering;

     

  • Avoid filtering in between two long large vehicles;

    Filtering
    If one of those need to avoid an obstruction you will be in a very compromising and dangerous situation.
  • Careful when filtering on the opposite lane and there is a road coming from a left road;
    Filtering
    The green car turning right won´t be expecting you in the wrong lane!

Positioning:

You should ride normally in the middle of your lane in the front line of vision of the driver behind you, not in their peripheral vision such as too close to the kerb or too close to the opposite lane as it may be not very safe. ( Of course, sometimes we have to sacrifice that mid lane positioning, for example if there are parked up cars on the side of the road, if there´s an obstruction or if it is a secondary narrow road, bend etc).
Positioning
Preferable riding position when the road is clear ahead.
Also you want to consider your lane positioning when you are turning to the left or to the right at junctions. It is always a good idea to be the closest you can to the pavement if you are turning left at a junction or close to the right end of your lane if turning right. By doing so, you are claiming your position and preventing any other road users to put you in a compromising situation. Also by doing that you are not blocking traffic from going to other directions. Here are a few examples:
Positioning
Junction left turn example
Positioning
Major road to a right minor road example.
Positioning
Junction right turn
Often people fail to use their turn signals, or even fail to check their blind spots, so keep alert and out of the blind spots of other vehicles. Place yourself so that if the driver unexpectedly moves into your lane, he will do so without hitting you. Be ready to use the horn or rev the engine to alert others of your presence. Plan ahead; look for obstructions like traffic islands, bollards, side roads where vehicles might emerge or turn across your path and be always prepared to take an action if necessary.

Parking:

In the U.K. parking can be a bit tricky, specially in the big cities where traffic wardens are always looking to fine that badly parked motorbike. Avoid parking on single yellow lines or double yellow lines for too long during daytime, never on single and double red lines. Different councils have different rules as well, so the best would be to find a motorbike parking bay or a motorbike designated area. If you actually commute to London or other major city, motorbike theft may be quite on high levels, so consider chaining your motorbike into a rail or to use at least a good disc lock to discourage thieves from stealing your mule. Some motorcycle bays are constantly packed with bikes, so a bike cover would help to prevent scratches on your bike done by someone not being careful enough and to protect from weather elements.

Very Important:

A bike will always lose in a collision with a car. You may have had the right of way, but do you really want to be dead? Making yourself more visible to other drivers, and most of all remaining aware of what is around you and in your line of travel will make you safer on the road. you must always consider these three questions;
  • What can I see?

  • What can´t I see?

  • What may happen?

Ride defensively; Expect the unexpected; Be prepared; Plan ahead and anticipate at all times by constantly scanning for hazards.
In the U.K we teach riders to always do the “Lifesaver” or “shoulder check”.

What’s that?

  • Its something as simple as to turn the chin to the shoulder to the left, right or both sides and look in order to cover the spot that the mirrors can´t. (also known as BLIND SPOTS)

When do we do it?

  • Before you change lanes;
  • positioning in lane to turn left or right;
  • before avoiding an obstruction;
  • before moving off from traffic lights or stationary traffic;
  • Basically before any maneuvre (such as a U-turn or an overtaking maneuvre in between others)
You’d be surprised how many times you’ll find a car or another motorbike riding along or even a bycicle stopped on a red light just next to you in your blind spots. Also when riding in the city get used to give a glance at your mirrors often ( Ideally with an interval of 7-10 seconds).
I could develop this post into way more detail and cover other points, but you will have to wait until the next post.

Hope you found this helpful!!!