If you own a motorcycle, it’s natural that you’ll want to make your bike last forever. The good news is that motorcycles have the capability of lasting much longer than most other vehicles with the proper maintenance and steps.
I have owned over a dozen motorcycles in the last few years and most of them were at least 30+ years old. I’ve seen first-hand how far a little TLC can go and what can happen if a motorcycle isn’t well taken care of. Here is a list of helpful tips that’ll keep your motorcycle lasting for years to come.
Wash It Regularly
It may seem strange that suggesting to regularly wash your motorcycle will make it last longer. How does washing have an effect on it’s longevity? It actually has a huge impact.
Over the last few years, I’ve been restoring motorcycles. I’ve bought motorcycles that were well maintained while others were left in fields for years. I saw the effect that dirt and grime can have on a motorcycle and it isn’t pretty.
The build up of dirt can actually cause the components of a motorcycle to break down much faster. Dirt absorbs water and will keep the metal in contact with that water so rust is more likely to happen. Regular washes prevents dirt and dust from getting inside the engine. As a rule of thumb, give your motorcycle a good scrub down about every 2-3 months.
Keep It Out Of The Rain
Water can be one of the worst enemies to a motorcycle. That’s not to say that letting it get rained on once in a while or riding in the rain is going to completely ruin your motorcycle. But letting it sit outside in constant moisture will.
Without getting too technical, rust (or iron oxide) forms when oxygen and iron react with moisture. In other words, the process of rusting happens much faster the more a motorcycle is exposed to water.
Aside from rust, water also has a tendency to find itself in place it shouldn’t. This can include inside air filters and even inside the engine. Water getting inside the engine could be detrimental to it. If possible, keep the motorcycle inside either a garage, shed, or storage unit. If those aren’t available, use a cover when the bike isn’t being used.
Keep It Out Of The Sun
On the flip side of keeping your motorcycle out of the rain, it’s also important to keep your motorcycle out of the constant exposure to the sun. Occasionally leaving your motorcycle outside during a hot sunny day isn’t bad, but it can have an impact if it’s constantly outside in such conditions.
The sun emits UV rays that is harmful to several components to the motorcycle. You’ll likely start seeing the clear coat starting to peel off the tank then ultimately fade the paint altogether.
The rubber components will also start to take a hit. UV rays will break down the components of rubber, making them less effective. Such components may include foot pegs, handlebar grips, and gaskets.
Again, keep your motorcycle stored inside and away from the sun when possible. Click here to see my article about why it’s bad to leave a motorcycle in the sun.
Check Fluids Regularly
I could go on forever about the importance of regular maintenance needed for your motorcycle. But chances are if you own a motorcycle, you’re well aware of the maintenance it requires. So in addition to regular maintenance, it’s always a good idea to occasionally check in on all the fluids of your motorcycle, even before you need to change them.
You may be following the correct intervals of oil changes, coolant flushes, bleeding the brakes when needed, etc. But some motorcycles may run out of fluid before you’re even aware. And a lot of motorcyclists don’t pay attention to the fluids in their bike until it’s time to change them.
To help keep your motorcycle lasting longer, check all the fluids several times before you actually need to change them. My rule of thumb is that I check all fluids about every other time I fill up my motorcycle tank with gas.
Keep It Locked Up
Motorcycles are a hot commodity among thieves simply because they’re a lot more accessible compared to other vehicles. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were 44,268 motorcycles stolen in the United States in 2017.
If your motorcycle is stolen, you won’t have a motorcycle to maintain in the first place. Lock up your motorcycle properly so you don’t become a victim of theft.
Several methods should be used on a motorcycle at once to prevent it from being stolen. Simply using a disc lock may not be as effective as you’d like it to be. There are some simple steps you can take to keep your motorcycle safe; click here to learn more about how to prevent your motorcycle from getting stolen.
Pay Attention To Acceleration
It’s almost instinct to go fast, do sudden accelerations, and rev the engine of your motorcycle to show it off a little bit. While that is fine in moderation, doing so on a regular basis can start taking a toll on your bike and it’s engine.
Think about how a motorcycle engine works; the pistons inside are moving up and down very quickly to generate the power the motorcycle needs in order to go. Constantly revving your bike and riding it to it’s limits will begin to wear down those major components within the engine much faster. Those who are mindful of how they’re using their motorcycle engine (and not maxing it out all the time) are more likely to have a motorcycle that lasts much longer.
There’s a lot more to tire maintenance than simply making sure it has the correct PSI. Tires are a vital part of how a motorcycle works, not to mention the impact it has on your safety as a rider. Yet they’re a element that don’t really seem to get much attention.
Aside from ensuring the correct pressure, take some time several times throughout the year to simply inspect the tires. Notice the amount of tread it has left, if there are any cracks on the side, or if any bald spots have formed. Signs like these can sometimes indicate another problem on the motorcycle.
Without proper tire maintenance, you could find yourself with a blown tire often at the worst times. Blown tires during a ride can cause accidents which is dangerous for the rider and often detrimental for the motorcycle.
Ride It Regularly
One of the very best things you can do for your motorcycle to make it last longer is simply riding it regularly. Motorcycles were made to be used and not stored in the corner of the garage 11 1/2 months of the year.
A lot of people are under the misconception that rare use of the motorcycle makes it last longer since you’re not “wearing out parts” or risking getting it damaged. But the truth is, the parts on a motorcycle break down much more quickly when they sit dormant than when they’re being used.
Gaskets start to become brittle, gas gets gunked up, condensation builds up in the carbs and engine, and the chain becomes more stiff. You’re “exercising” the motorcycle when you ride it regularly, similar to how human muscles need to be used in order to stay strong. See my other article here to learn more about what happens when you let a motorcycle sit.
Wax Tank Once A Year
As we have previously discussed, the weather elements can be pretty harsh on the life of a motorcycle. This is especially true for motorcycle gas tanks. Over time, they become susceptible to paint chipping even from simple wear and tear. A sustainable motorcycle tank means a sustainable motorcycle. A motorcycle can’t run without fuel and you can’t have fuel without a durable tank.
Waxing your motorcycle tank once a year will make it last much longer. The components inside a good wax and polish kit protect the clear coat that’s on the motorcycle tank which makes the paint and clear coat much more durable during harsh conditions.
Use A Fuel Cleaner
Over time, residues and deposits will develop inside the fuel system and engine of a motorcycle, especially when the cheapest type of gas is constantly used. It’s always a good idea to use a fuel cleaner, such as Sea Foam, once in a while for your motorcycle to clean out those deposits.
A good fuel cleaner will clean things such as the intake valves, carb passages, and combustion chambers. Most fuel cleaners also act as a fuel stabilizer in case you’re planning on storing your bike some time soon. Pouring some fuel cleaner in your fuel about once every year should work wonders for your fuel system and engine and make your motorcycle last much longer.
Use Ethanol-Free Gas
The type of gas you use in your motorcycle actually does matter. Cheap gas is cheap for a reason; this can lead to the development of deposits and grime inside the engine.
Ethanol-free, high octane gas should always be used in a motorcycle, especially if you have a carburetor. Ethanol readily absorbs into water which ultimately leads to carbs getting clogged and gunked up. See my other article here to learn more about why ethanol is bad for motorcycles.
Know When You’re In Over Your Head
Since motorcycles are much more simple than cars and other vehicles, it’s much more doable to perform DIY fixes on them. This not only saves you money, but it also teaches you a new skill.
While I am all for doing repairs on a motorcycle yourself, there are some instances where you need to call it quits when you’re completely in over your head. It can be hard as the motorcycle owner to have to admit you can’t figure out a certain problem on your bike.
But in reality, since you have no idea what you’re doing, you may cause further damage to your motorcycle which may cost you. Know your limits and acknowledge when you need a professional mechanic’s help. Your motorcycle will greatly appreciate it.
Your driving habits have a huge impact on how long your motorcycle lasts. Safe, defensive riders will be able to own a motorcycle much longer than those who aren’t as aware of their surroundings.
The lack of defensive riding means a higher chance of an accident or crash. If your motorcycle is totaled, there’s no bike to maintain in the first place. A motorcyclist should abide by some basic safety rules such as always wearing the right gear, never staying in the middle lanes on major highways, going the speed limit, not swerving in and out of lanes, and assume that no other drivers can see them.
Set Reminders For Maintenance
Basic maintenance is crucial for the life of a motorcycle and it’s longevity. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to remember when it’s time to do said maintenance. There’s a handful of components that require care at certain times, so it’s no wonder it’s easy to forget when they need to be serviced.
Forgetting to do maintenance means a higher risk of a break down. I like to make some sort of reminder for myself so I don’t forget to perform certain maintenance on my bike. This can either be written in a calendar, a day planner, on your to-do list, or programmed in your phone.
Whatever method works for you, be sure to put in a reminder of when the next type of maintenance is due so you won’t forget and do it too late.
Get The Right Insurance
Insurance is one of those things most people understand they need, but may not completely understand how it works. As frustrating as motorcycle insurance can be, it’s extremely important you have it and that it has good coverage.
Most states require that motorcyclists have at least liability insurance. This is used in case you cause some sort of accident and damage to another party. But liability does not cover you or your motorcycle if you cause the accident.
Do some research and look into having more than just liability. Other add-ons such as comprehensive or uninsured/underinsured can help repair your motorcycle if you’re in an accident. Click here to see my other article that discusses why it’s important to have motorcycle insurance.