'Tis the season when our minds turn to the road less traveled, to sunny days and miles of exploring and experiencing all the reasons we frequent this site first hand, instead of through zeros and ones.
Beyond dragging crusty old faithful out of the garage, throwing fresh gas at her, and calling the operation a success when she starts, there are a few things that need to be done with some frequency, and I thought I'd offer a sort of checklist of things to consider.
This is generic advice not specific to any single model, you get what you pay for, your mileage may vary, investments may be worth less as well as more, blah blah blah. Use your head.
What I intend here is a checklist, not a complete "how to" for everything you ever would want to do on a bike. If one of these jobs is confusing or you want to do a tutorial or whatever, by all means ask, and start a thread which we can link back here as appropriate.
Your bike should be clean. Working on dirty things is a great way to shorten their life and your temper.
Let's start at the front of the bike and work back.
1) Wheel bearings. With the front brake off, grab the front wheel between the forks and try to move it toward either fork tube. (or for the rear wheel, first between the swingarm and then test the swingarm for play). Front to back can give a false read on fork bushing play, we'll get to that. For now, you want to know if your bearings are good. If the wheel moves side to side, you need new bearings. Break out the hammer and drift. Get your bearings and seals from an industrial bearing supply place, unless you like paying 5x the normal cost.
2) A complete checkup on brake pads, pins, and so on. Creeper already did a great job of this here
, so I'm not going to reiterate. You should definitely change your brake fluid every spring, and probably multiple times per season. You should definitely completely disassemble and clean to make sure that these components will work as designed when you most need them.
3) Forks. At a minimum, you're going to put fresh fork oil in, the procedure is covered fairly generally here
. Even if you don't have that many hours of riding on the oil, condensation will ruin things by rusting them, get fresh oil in there. On some of the japanese forks, you'll be amazed at the gunk that pours out, I changed my XR's suspension oil and engine oil at equal intervals, usually dictated by the former.
In addition, you want to make sure they are properly aligned and don't have excessive stiction. The first (and easiest method) is to push down on the bars without holding the brake. It should be possible to get a very small motion with a small amount of force. If not, your bike rides like shit and deflects where it shouldn't, and you need to fix that.
If you have to push hard, and the smallest motion you can get is a big one, quantify the problem by measuring from a fixed point on one half of the fork to a fixed point on the other half. First, pull up and let the bike settle to the resting point. Then, push down and let the bike rise to the resting point. The difference between the measurements shouldn't be more than a few millimeters, if it is, take everything apart, try to find the source, and reassemble carefully until the problem goes away.
Some older KTM forks (03 USD WP's seem to be bad this way) have a lot of stiction that it's hard to get rid of... now you know why it's hard to hold a line through the rock garden.
4) Triples/ steering head. The slightest imperfection in steering head bearings plays hell with the handling of your bike. I've replaced lots of sets of races on fairly new bikes, because the tiniest bit of notchiness or stiffness ruins the ability of the bike to stay on line. At a minimum, you're going to grease after careful inspection. At a maximum, you're going to replace. Laramie LC4 did a good thread here
which is focused on LC4's, but the advice applies to anything.
Some advice on tensioning the steering head upon reassembly- my rule is that it should be as tight as it can be, that the forks still fall to one side from center with no wheel. This isn't real scientific, but it's worked for me, so that's what you get.
On USD forks, be very careful with how tight you run the lower triple bolts. My experience (on KTM's) is that overtorquing these can result in decreased suspension performance, so I run the uppers at torque spec and the lowers tight enough that I don't think the bolts will fall out, and very evenly tensioned between bolts. On RWU forks go as tight as your conscience allows.
5) Controls: I could write a book on this topic, so I'll try to keep it short here.
- Replace grips. Worn grips suck, use a lot of energy, and cause blisters and discomfort. I love the black Domino grips sold by KTM, just the right diameter and enough cush, but whatever you prefer, no grip glue, but 4 pulls of safety wire to lock them in place.
- Replace throttle cables. You are not saving money by waiting until the bike breaks in the middle of nowhere to maintain these things. New cables give light control feel, which is hugely important by the end of a long day. New cables will not strand you. I run them dry, always, to avoid attracting dirt.
Further, on 4-strokes which generally have a push and pull cable, I take the push cable out and set it on a pile to reinstall for the next owner. It's a lawyer piece as far as I can tell, by always keeping fresh cables in (several times a year in my case) I'm not worried about the cable jamming, and it makes the pull lighter still.
- Here's another hot tip: On the throttle side, put a fender washer under your bark buster, to prevent dirt being shoved inside the throttle tube in the event of a drop.
- Replace clutch cable or fluid, however your bike is equipped. Take the lever assembly apart while you're at it and clean everything up, and run it with just a hair of lube so that it's smooth but won't attract dirt. If your fluid comes out yucky or stinky or laden with metallic particles, find the cause of the problem and fix it now, while you have time to order parts.
- For those who run a Scott's damper- have you ever changed the fluid? Yeah, me neither until the seal blew and I had to get a bullet tool and seals... it's not a hard job, it doesn't cost much, and the damper works much better with fluid that is less than 1.2 million hours old.
- This is also a good time to loctite and antiseize everything in the control area. My rule of thumb is: If it'd hurt if it fell out, Loctite (bar mounts, etc). If it is ferrous going into non-ferrous and it would be an inconvenience if it fell out, antiseize. If it is ferrous into ferrous and would inconvenience if it fell out, grease. Everything gets something.
- While you've got everything in the dash apart, have a look at your wiring loom. Address any obvious chafing issues. Look for improved routing possibilities. Make sure that nothing gets fouled at either steering lock. Di-electric grease any unsealed connectors (and sealed ones if you feel like it). Generally, spend an hour making yourself useful on tasks that you couldn't name, these are things that will eventually bite you.
OK, real work beckons. Another installment soon.