01 Buy (and use) a torque wrench. If you care to take a gander at some of the maintenance charts in your bike’s owner’s manual, you’ll notice a small number associated with a maintenance task. This little digit is known as a torque specification, and it can save you a lot of hassle later on. You see, the various nuts and bolts on your bike were designed to function at a certain torque, and anything outside of this range can cause an endless amount of problems. Tightening an axle nut under spec could have your wheel falling off in midair, while cranking down an oil drain bolt way too tightly may strip your threads and drain your oil all over the trail, causing your piston to seize. The easiest method of prevention is to pony up and add a torque wrench to your toolbox. With a little shopping, you can usually pick up a nice one for under $80. We’ve found that a standard-length, 3/8 drive torque wrench can do just about anything you need on a dirt bike, and it doesn’t take long to memorize the most important specs for easy maintenance. The factory mechanics use their torque wrenches so much they couldn’t work without them. So why should you?02 Know your medical insurance. Sounds simple, right? Believe it or not, most riders have no idea how their medical insurance works, and a surprising number of individuals don’t have any coverage at all. If you haven’t guessed by now, this is a big no-no! The medical industry is a huge machine, and the massive amounts of fuel required to drive this machine come from more fees, bills, charges and costs than you can shake a stick at. Step No. 1 is making sure that you’re covered whenever and wherever you ride, with absolutely no exceptions. You don’t want to find out that you’re only covered at a few small hospitals after you get hurt, so dial in this info now and let’s hope you never have to worry about it. Once this is done, step No. 2 is to know how your insurance works. Basically, a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan is usually one of the cheaper options you can go with when given the choice, but you’re only covered when visiting doctors or hospitals on a contracted list. Conversely, a preferred provider plan (PPO) is generally more expensive but allows access to a greater number of doctors and facilities, making it a good option for traveling racers and adventurous weekend warriors. As much as it sucks to admit, in almost any case where you actually have a claim, you can pretty much bet your insurance company is trying to pull one over on you. Massive amounts of paperwork, red tape and confusing language are often used to mask hidden fees and charges, so do a little homework and know just how your coverage works. We’re not saying that you’ll need your insurance for a huge claim someday, but even something as simple as a few stitches can run upwards of $1000 if you don’t have the right insurance. Don’t flirt with disaster for the sake of saving a few bucks every month; get your insurance figured out and don’t ride until you’ve handled it.03 Get a good padlock. You work hard for your money, which means that you toil for all the nice parts and gear that you buy with it. Protect your investment with the purchase of a good padlock and cable which you can use in a number of spots to ensure that your stuff remains yours and doesn’t become someone else’s. Most padlocks are better than nothing, but a good, strong combination lock can be opened by anyone you trust without the use of a key. Looping a cable through the handle of your gear bag can mean the difference between keeping your favorite helmet or losing your unattended gear to a thief. It may be a hassle to always lock and unlock your stuff, but someday you might regret it if you don’t!04 Start stretching. If we had to pick one thing that riders don’t do enough, it would be stretching. Honestly, you work hard to maintain your bike after every ride, so why not do the same with your body? While it’s much easier to come home from the track and plop down on the couch, stretching only takes a few minutes and can seriously improve your recovery from a hard ride. Not only does more flexibility yield better performance from your limbs, but when done correctly it can also help aid in injury prevention. That said, it’s important to learn to stretch the right way, and then do so with dedication after every day spent on the bike. Let’s recap: Stretching is a semi-quick, cost-free way to make you a stronger rider and keep you from getting hurt. Remind us again why you don’t stretch?05 Adjust your cockpit. Your motorcycle is a very personal thing. There are adjustments on almost everything to accommodate you. Handlebar sweep and length are adjustable or resizable. If it is too low, then aftermarket companies make accommodations for that as well.Your levers are also a big deal; you can move them up or down, side to side and change the engagement point to get the desired pull or feel that you like. However, you don’t want them to be sticking over the side of the bar, which may cause breakage in even the smallest of tip-overs.06 Clean your air filter. The modern motocross and off-road machines are fire-breathing, high-performance monsters. Don’t neglect to maintain them. And as they say, a clean bike is a happy bike. Same rule applies to the air filter. If you ride in dusty, muddy or sandy areas, then listen up: Your filter is what keeps your bike alive, even more so if you ride a modern four-stroke. Your valves don’t like dirt whatsoever; tiny dirt particles are what ruin your valve seats which damage the valves, which in turn, damages the head. Valves are expensive, and unless you’re capable of lapping your own valves, installation can cost you big bucks. You can easily get twice the life out of your valves just by keeping the filters clean and well oiled.07 Adjust your brake and shifter. The foot controls are another big one. If you can’t reach the brake pedal, then you can’t use the brake. You don’t want to be searching for the brake when you’re in trouble and need to slow down. And if the shifter isn’t in the correct setting, then you could miss the shift that makes or breaks your day.08 Tone your gears. Gearing is by far one of the most critical parts of tuning a motorcycle. Gearing a bike for a certain location or event is crucial to optimizing your bike’s performance. To gain top speed you add teeth to the front sprocket or subtract teeth in the rear sprocket, but know you’ll be subtracting some bottom-end grunt. Beware of clearance issues for the front sprocket. If you go too big, it may cause the chain to hit the case. To gain acceleration, subtract teeth from the front sprocket or add teeth in the rear sprocket. Also beware: If you undergear, then the bike will run out of power long before it should, but overgear and your bike will never reach the peak speed that it’s capable of for the location, and it’s stressful on the clutch. For the track, most modern motocross bikes come with a gear ratio that works quite well all-around. But some people have different riding styles than others, some like to shift a lot to get as much speed as they can out of a certain section while others like to leave it in one gear and ride around the track. The most efficient way is the first option, but to obtain the latter you’d gear the bike shorter so that the power is more readily available in whatever gear you leave it in. For off-road there’s no definite gear ratio that’s best; it just depends on the terrain and the condition of the soil. If you’re happy with how your bike performs now, then you don’t have to stress on gearing. But for all of those power-happy motoheads out there, play with your gearing a little and you might notice a huge improvement in the functionality of your motorcycle.09 Check all the suspension fasteners with a torque wrench. Modern suspension has grown so technical that small things can have a big effect on suspension feel. One of those small things is the list of torque specifications in your bike’s manual. No doubt, the most critical and “feelable” of the effected fasteners are those on the lower triple clamp. Overtightening the fork clamping bolts will result in harsh suspension. But the bolts in the rear suspension linkage can have an effect as well.