6 Best Practices for Motorcycle Maintenance
Remember that old adage, ‘you only get as good as you give’? Like any machine, your motorcycle needs routine care and maintenance for it to give you years of motoring bliss over its lifespan.
The current generation of motorcycles are generally very well-built, and given a routine and religious maintenance schedule, they should last you a lifetime.
Below are some of tips on helping your bike reach its twilight years.
1. Maintenance schedule
When coming up with a maintenance schedule, your best bet is to flip through the owners’ manual as it will be your best resource for finding a maintenance schedule specific to your make and model. You will notice that, like cars, motorcycle maintenance schedules are defined both by distance and time. This ensures that both daily-ridden and weekend-only bikes get the required maintenance and care they should receive.
Here’s an example of a general routine maintenance schedule:
10,000km / One year
Engine Oil - Replace
Oil filter - Replace
Coolant - Inspect; top off using an approved coolant
20,000km / Two year
Air filter - Replace
Fuel filter - Replace
Brake fluid - Replace
Imagine this, the patch of rubber that’s keeping you on the road every time you ride is no bigger than the size of your palm and maybe even half that on smaller motorcycles. That image alone should underscore the importance of your tires. They are second only to your brakes.
Firstly in order to choose an appropriate tire for your bike, you need to decipher what all those letters on the sidewall means.
Image: Benjamin Kline
A – Tire width
B – Aspect ratio: The smaller the number the lower profile of the tire. In metric this is a ratio between height and width. ex. A 170/80 means the width is 170mm, and the height would be 80% of that. )
C – Rim diameter: Corresponds to your wheel size
D – Load capacity:
E – Tire speed rating
F – Tubeless (TL) or Tube Type (TT)
Bias-ply or Radial tires?
This refers to the construction of the tire and has everything to do with the handling and comfort characteristics of the tire you choose. While bias-ply tires last longer and offer a longer ride, they don’t provide as much grip as radial tires which are stiffer and provide better traction but don’t last as long.
There are no absolute rules in choosing either option. It depends on the type of bike you ride and what your motorcycle manufacturer recommends. If you’re going to mix different tire types, the rule of thumb is to use bias-ply in the front and radial tires in the back. Using it the other way around can be dangerous.
Besides tires, your brakes are the most important components on your motorcycle. When you’re caught in a bind or when the driver in front decides to stomp on his brakes, these two components combine to prevent you from becoming a squashed bug on his rear windshield.
Similar to automotive brake pads, motorcycle brake pads come in three distinctive types.
Sintered brake pads
Made through the fusing of metallic particles under heat to create a compound that is resistant to friction, these pads perform well in both wet and dry conditions and are excellent in demanding conditions for providing incredible stopping power.
Naturally this has made them the most popular choice and are provided as standard OEM on more than 99% of motorcycles. The trade-off is that the greater amount of friction means greater wear on your rotors and if your manufacturer does not specify this type of brake pads for your motorcycle, do not use them.
Organic brake pads
Organic brake pads are made with a mix of metallic and non-metallic particles together with non-asbestos organic materials blended together with solid polymer resin. They are softer than sintered brake pads, create more brake dust and don’t last as long in comparison. However, they reduce wear and tear on your brake rotors whilst providing smooth and controlled braking. This makes them ideal for the casual rider.
Kevlar and Carbon organic brake pads
Like their four wheeled counterparts, these exotic brake pads are found only on top end motorcycles. Chosen for their high heat resistance and longevity in high performance situations, they provide incredible stopping power and have a long and race-proven record.
Semi-sintered Brake pads
If you’re on the fence and can’t decide between sintered or organic, these brake pads give the best of both worlds. They provide good bite whilst reducing the wear and tear on your rotors because of their organic blend.
4. Engine Oil
Literally the lifeblood of your machine, choosing the right engine oil can mean life or death for your motorcycle. The engine oil performs a critical function within the engine by lubricating all those metal parts rubbing together several thousand times a minute while keeping all of it cool. On top of that, it also acts as a cleaner that removes dirt and metal debris from your engine and chucks it out into your oil filter.
Engine oil is usually determined by viscosity which literally means the thickness of the oil. The higher the viscosity equals a thicker coating of oil on your engine parts and the better at withstanding pressure. What you want is a perfect balance of oil that’s thick enough to coat your engine’s internals but not so thick that it creates friction and slows down your engine’s performance and could cause damage.
While you should always consult your owners’ manual for the correct engine oil for your bike, the general rule of thumb is that American choppers or V-twins typically use 20/50w oil while Japanese and other performance bikes will do well on 10/40w.
Considering the importance of this liquid gold, always use the best engine oil you can afford. This isn’t the place to cheap out on as it could have an adverse effect on your motorcycle’s longevity.
Synthetic or petroleum based oil?
The answer depends on your riding style. If you’re performance oriented and have a habit of pushing your motorcycle to its limits, synthetic is the way to go as it provides specific characteristics (eg. Higher temp resistance) for the performance you’re looking for. But for most casual riders who follow their maintenance schedule, petroleum-based lubricants will be more than sufficient.
The debate on what go-juice to put in your two-wheeled mean machine is as old as the motorcycle itself. But what it really comes down to is the type of motorcycle you have.
Don’t believe the marketing hype that a higher octane number equals better performance. If your engine isn’t a high compression race-derived engine, you can go with the lowest octane number presented in your motorcycle owners’ manual.
Contrary to popular belief and the millions spent by petrol companies to perpetuate this hype, all the octane number really means is the petrol’s resistance to pre-ignition. The higher the number, the greater the resistance to ignition.
Engines create power by compressing a mixture of fuel and air and igniting it with a spark. In order to create more power, high performance engines compress this fuel air mixture more intensely but the higher compression can cause the fuel to ignite prematurely which leads to the term ‘pre-ignition’. It’s also known as ‘knock’ because it makes a soft knocking sound when it happens.
In sport bikes (and high-performance cars) that use higher compression ratios in their engines, the higher octane number delays this ignition and prevents ‘knocking’ from occurring.
Despite what the petrol companies tell you, using a higher octane fuel in your regular motorcycle (or car) does absolutely nothing for your performance.
Just as important as the rest of the items on this list is a good insurance plan. Income’s Motorcycle Insurance includes a 0% interest installment plan, giving you no excuse not to be insured by Singapore’s leading motor insurer.
Income keeps their policies affordable by offering three different type of plans that ensure maximum flexibility and affordability to suit every rider and budget. With Income’s Comprehensive plan, the policy guarantees coverage for third party damage up to $500,000 and unlimited amount for third party injury claim and/or death.
And to make sure every policyholder has access to the best help possible, Income even has its own response team to assist in an accident. Orange Force will arrive anywhere in Singapore from 7am – 10.30pm daily to provide you onsite assistance in removing accident vehicles, safety coverage from oncoming vehicles and to ensure that your interests are protected.
And in the unfortunate event of an accident, the company’s own Motor Service Centre will help the policyholder through the (sometimes) difficult process of accident reporting procedures. Specially trained executives are on hand to take your official Singapore Accident Statement (SAS), assess any damages on the vehicle and liaise with Income’s appointed workshops on repair matters, all without the hassle of dealing with multiple parties. Upon collection of the repaired vehicle, Motor Service Centre even provides you with a free courtesy vehicle check.
To sweeten the deal further, policyholders get a 5% loyalty discount if they’ve been insured with Income for three years or more. And on top of that, policyholders get access to Income Treats which includes discounts and vouchers from lifestyle, dining, entertainment and even beauty retailers.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.
This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.