One of the most satisfying things about owning a motorcycle is learning how to take care of it. Even if you don’t have experience doing any kind of repair work on a car, there are many basic maintenance tasks you can do with your bike to keep it roadworthy.
Fortunately, motorcycles are usually much simpler than their four-wheeled counterparts. Case in point: you can perform a full oil change without having to raise the bike or lay on the ground. This makes it easier to diagnose your bike and see if one or more of its components need repair or replacement.
With that being said, below are some of the most common signs that your bike’s different parts need servicing.
Knowing when you should replace your motorcycle tyres can be as easy as checking the Tyre Wear Indicator (TWI) on the sidewall of each tyre. This sign usually comes with a triangular arrow or the initials “TWI,” and indicates the level of wear on the tyre.
If the tyre’s curved surface has worn out up to the TWI, then it’s time to swap it out for a new one. The good news is that for regular motorcycle use, this usually happens only after several thousand kilometres.
Another sign of tyre wear is scalping or cupping on the front tyre, which appears due to uneven wear caused by irregular bouncing of the wheel resulting from poor suspension set up. In this case, be sure to have your suspension checked and serviced before putting in a new tyre.
Few things are worse than being already late for work and realising your bike’s battery is dead. To avoid this problem, check your battery health every now and then. Unfortunately, this can be a complicated task depending on your bike.
In older machines, for example, the battery can be tucked at the side behind a cover. In newer models, the battery can be hidden under the seat. It’s best to consult your manual to make sure.
Once you’ve gained access to your battery, remove it from the holster and place it gently on a level surface. Check the acid level—if it’s low, fill the battery up with distilled water and charge it using a proper motorcycle charger.
3. Spark Plugs
Spark plugs don’t usually have to be replaced after several thousand kilometres, but it’s still a good idea to inspect them regularly for wear and tear. Your spark plugs’ health also can also be an early indicator of other problems, such as worn seals and gaskets, or worse, the need for an engine overhaul.
Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to remove your spark plugs. If it’s a simple job, take out each spark plug one at a time and inspect the electrode, cleaning it with a wire brush if necessary. Check the gap between the electrodes and put them back in if there are no signs of wear or warping.
Figuring out when to replace a motorcycle clutch can be tricky, but the most common symptom of a clutch problem is an issue with acceleration. More specifically, if you give the bike throttle and see that the RPM increases but your speed does not accelerate at a similar rate, your clutch may be worn and close to the end of its life.
If this is accompanied by a chatter or metallic sound that’s faint at first but becomes progressively louder over time, it’s time to take the bike to the shop.
There are different ways to determine when to replace your motorcycle chain. In terms of mileage, you can do it every 20,000 kilometres, although your owner’s manual may state otherwise.
However, if you regularly clean, lubricate, and tighten the chain, you can wait longer between changes and perform physical inspections instead. If it appears stretched or twisted, or if the individual links are worn, it’s time to replace the chain. Avoid taking out bad links in the hopes of extending the chain’s lifespan—replace the entire thing to avoid malfunctions and accidents.
There are three ways to determine whether your brake pads have to replaced:
- Appearance – Check your owner’s manual if your bike’s brake pads are equipped with a wear groove indicator. If the groove has nearly disappeared or is completely gone, it’s time to bring it in for servicing. If there is no indicator, a technician will have to measure the pads with tools.
- Feel – Sometimes you can feel that your brake pads are going bad. If the brakes take longer to engage or cause the bike to vibrate, this could be a sign that the pads or rotors have to be serviced immediately.
- Sound – If you hear squealing or squeaking sounds when you engage the brakes, this doesn’t necessarily mean the brake pads have to be replaced. The pads or rotors may simply be wet or dirty. But if it’s a consistent noise, it could be a sign of something more serious.
What about mods and motorcycle upgrades?
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is specific about which motorcycle upgrades and modifications are allowed in Singapore. If you want to “pimp” your ride, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the most exotic mods are probably banned or highly restricted. You’ll find a full list of upgrades that don’t need approval, need approval, and are explicitly banned by the government on the LTA’s website.
Prohibited upgrades for motorcycles include air horns, aftermarket daytime running lights, and unauthorized exhausts, as well as removing chain guards and disabling automatic headlamps.
Anyone caught in violation of these rules by the LTA or the Traffic Police could face a fine of $600 to $700. If you aren’t sure if an upgrade or mod is road-legal, even if you think it’s purely cosmetic, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid it.
Proactive maintenance to prevent expensive repairs
Whether you’re a gearhead or someone who prefers to just ride a motorcycle every day to work, a little proactive maintenance goes a long way to preventing costly repairs and accidents. Given the risky nature of riding a bike, the last thing you want is for your drivetrain or brakes to malfunction and cause a motorcycle accident in the middle of a busy expressway.