Today's bikes aren't cheap, so getting your money's worth out of your bike is critical to your enjoyment of the sport. It's possible to offset the cost of riding and greatly extend the life of your bike if you keep up the necessary routine maintenance. There are many little chores that are easily neglected; such things as lubing the cables after you wash your bike or tightening the spokes properly can allow your bike to not only last longer but to operate better. Some of these tech tips may seem simple, but we feel these seven areas are often overlooked—and have the most potential to save you money in the long run. So we caught up with Pro Circuit's ace wrench Dave Chase and asked him about routine maintenance.Chase is an experienced mechanic and fabricator, with off-road and motocross credentials. Plus, earlier in his career he earned the SCORE No. 1 plate by making fragile Husqvarnas survive distance races. He's worked with budgets of all sizes, so he was the ideal source for information. Here's what he said about exhaust-pipe maintenance, carburetor care, spoke maintenance and tightening procedures, proper chain treatment, the cleaning and lubing of cables, diagnosing reed-petal problems and doing a "quick fix" at the track should you break or crack plastic parts on your bike.Cleaning and Lubing CablesLubing your cables is one of the cheapest ways to keep your bike feeling new. Water and dirt seep into your cables when you wash the bike. Using a pressure washer is even more of a problem. Cleaning and lubing your cables not only eliminates the water and dirt but also increases the cable's life. To clean and lube your cables, you have to remove the cable from the perch and lever. For throttle cables you must disconnect the carburetor end; you don't want to flush water and dirt into the carburetor. Put on a standard cable lube tool and flush the cable with contact cleaner. The contact cleaner will cleanse any dirt and grime in its path. Then flush the cable several times with a lubricant.About every third time you lube the cable, reassemble the lever with some light grease around the pivot hole. The light grease will give the lever a smoother feel and reduce the effort required to operate it. The grease will also attract grit, so you will need to clean the lever and perch more often than if you leave it dry.
Pipe MaintenanceWhen installing your exhaust system, you should remember the seal between the cylinder and the exhaust spigot is crucial to your bike's performance. On a two-stroke, whenever you remove the pipe, the rubber O-ring (or crush gasket on some Hondas) should always be inspected for any cracks or blemishes. Even if it just has a flattened look to the outside, replace it. Some bikes have a thin metal ring that goes into the exhaust port to prevent the steel pipe from damaging the aluminum surface the pipe butts up against. Make sure this ring is still in place and in good condition. If new O-rings don't make a tight fit, you may need to use a thin coat of high-temp silicone to get a secure seal.Install all pipe springs before you bolt the exhaust into place. This will allow the pipe to get the best seal with no binding. Installing the springs first will allow the somewhat-delicate vibration-canceling rubber mounts to do their job without being torn in half. After every wash, scrub the entire surface of bare steel pipes with a Scotch-Brite pad and some cleaner. Scrubbing will rid your pipe of any corrosion and make it look new again.If you have a four-stroke, you should always wipe down the header with a Scotch-Brite pad. Keeping the surface looking like new will ultimately make it last longer.Chain and Sprocket CareThe key to good chain life is always having your chain adjusted properly and keeping it lubed. Whenever you install a new chain, you must replace the sprockets. When you have a new chain and new sprockets, they wear together. Replacing the whole drivetrain also allows you to get the most out of your chain and sprockets. Putting a new chain on a worn-out sprocket will wear out the chain immediately. Similarly, a worn chain will ruin new sprockets. For all but the most-serious 125cc-class racers, replacing the standard chain with an O-ring chain will save a great deal of money. An O-ring chain lasts much longer, so it doesn't wear out sprockets as quickly.Whenever you install a new chain, make sure the master-link clip opening is facing the opposite way of the travel, so there is no chance of the clip hitting something and getting knocked off. If you ride in any mud, watch to see that the master-link clip doesn't get worn. The clip can wear so thin it breaks! Always make sure your chain is adjusted correctly and is lubed every time you head to the track. The best time to lube your chain at the track is right after you pull off. When the chain is still hot, it will allow the lube to flow inside the rollers and pins where it is needed most.Spoke Maintenence and TighteningThere is a definite science to tightening spokes; you can't just crank them tight with a spoke wrench and call it good. When tightening spokes, always space out the tightening, skipping five spokes at a time. It will take about seven wheel rotations to tighten every spoke. Skipping those five spokes allows them to be tightened evenly; you won't be pulling one side of the wheel more than the other.When tightening, go a quarter turn at a time with your spoke wrench to avoid pulling the wheel out of true. If any spokes are loose but the nipples are hard to turn, give them a drop of assembly lube or motor oil so they turn with more ease.
Carburetor Care and MaintenanceFour-stroke and two-stroke carburetors are very similar in that they both require general maintenance on occasion. If the bike sits for a while, gas will evaporate and leave a dry, powdery or sticky buildup in the carburetor. The residue may plug all the jets, but almost certainly it will block the pilot jet. Ideally, you should drain the float bowl after riding and store your bike with its fuel petcock turned off. If you fail to take those steps, it's important to disassemble the carburetor if your motorcycle hasn't been ridden in a while. Some of today's fuels can go bad in just a month.On four-strokes you also have to take apart and lube the hot-start cable just as you do with all your other cables. When you wash your bike, water runs down the cable, gets into the hot-start mechanism and causes corrosion in the carburetor. If the hot-start mechanism corrodes badly, it could demand a new carburetor body.Check your float level based on what the owner's manual says. The floats can come out of adjustment over time and with extreme use. The carburetor is the heart of your bike, and it should be serviced and cleaned on a regular basis.Emergency Plastic RepairsIf you break a fender or a shroud while at the track, there are quick and dirty ways to repair the crack or break so you can finish your ride. You can stitch up your plastic just as a doctor would stitch up a cut. Just drill a few holes on both sides of the crack and run a few zip-ties across. Also, you must drill a hole at the end of the crack so the crack doesn't continue. Don't space the holes more than 1/2 inch apart. It may not be the prettiest way of repairing your bike, but when you're out at the track, it's an easy fix and it really works!
Reed MaintenanceWhen your bike becomes hard to start or won't carburet cleanly at small throttle openings, you should begin to suspect your bike has a reed problem. When you pull out the reed cage, look at the outer corners of the reed petals. Usually, the first area to wear is the outer corners, which will chip or fray. Any chipping or fraying will keep the reed from sealing completely. Whenever you see any damage or wear to the reed edges, you must replace the reed petals. Simply remove the screws that hold the petal in place and install a new one. Use a quality screwdriver, since the screws are often sealed in place with a thread-locking compound. Plus, the heads are tiny, and you don't want to risk stripping them. When you install the new petal, make sure it is indexed properly. Simply match it up with the shape of the cage and the petal stop. When you screw the petal back into place, be sure to use a thread-locking agent on the screws so they have no chance of backing out; digesting a reed-petal screw is bad news for a two-stroke engine. Also, make sure you use a fresh gasket (if any) when you put the reed cage back in the motor.