Depending on what style adventure riding you do, maintaining your bike is a necessary chore, even if you’re only doing ‘gentle’ road miles. When you start adding a little dirt or gravel in the mix, that maintenance becomes even more important.
Imagine taking that scenic route through the mountains, kicking up some dust and enjoying the solitude, only for your bike to break down and leave you regretting that solitude; what are you going to do to get yourself back to civilization?
Sure, we all know the basic hacks to fix simple problems (like stuffing your tyre full of grass to get you home – who hasn’t done that!), but what if it’s more serious?
Performing regular maintenance won’t stop you having a terminal breakdown, but hopefully, it will minimize it.
My riding tends to cover everything from fast road riding through to adventure and off-roading. Each of my bikes has different needs, but there are some simple tasks that’s common between all of them.
My philosophy is simple; do the maintenance after the ride and that way, the bikes always ready to go, even if I’m not.
Truthfully, we would need an article for each style of bike to cover everything, but there are a few things that make sense for all riders.
When I’m going off-roading, I take as many spares as I can realistically manage; brake and clutch levers, tubes for tyres (even with an anti-puncture solution already in the tyre), electrical connectors, spark plug, water dispersant, Vaseline (super important for chafing and water-proofing), bulbs, duct tape (a million uses!) and whatever else I can fit in, and then of course we need tools!
This sounds like a lot, but nearly every time I’ve been riding with a group, I’ve been able to ‘fix’ a bike that otherwise would have been stranded, or at the very least, difficult to get home.
I always make sure that any spares are replaced as soon as I’m back after the ride – otherwise they’ll get forgotten.
Clean and Inspect
Cleaning your bike after a ride is a great way of inspecting for damage or wear – a properly fast road bike can run through a tyre in around 2,000 miles when ridden hard (even with the multi-compounds) and you need to know if it needs replacing before your next adventure.
Checking for tyre wear is easy – a simple visual inspection usually gives you all the information you need, but look closer and you’ll see wear markers moulded between the tread, if you’re wearing these markers, you’ll need a new tyre.
If you’ve owned your bike for a while, you’ll know whether it uses oil or not, but it’s worth checking it – for the sake of 30 seconds work, you could head-off a potential disaster.
Equally, a number of riders use an automatic chain lubricant, make sure there’s oil in the reservoir, and while you’re there, clean, inspect and adjust the chain.
Depending on what you ride, a good number of bikes have grease points, usually on the suspension linkage. It takes five minutes to make sure that fresh grease is in there, and while having dry or contaminated grease in the linkage most likely won’t lead to a terminal failure, it will wear out the linkage in short-time, leading to further and bigger mechanical issues.
If you regularly maintain your bike, this isn’t quite as important – you’ll know what does or doesn’t need checking. But think of this; carrying a spare tube for a tyre is one thing, but if you can’t release the wheel-spindle to remove the wheel, then it’s all for nought – it’s not like you can take an impact gun to remove any stubborn fasteners.
Most of us drop the tyre pressures when riding off-road, it gives better traction thanks to the wider surface area and compliance, but always make sure you run them at standard pressures when returning to the road; a low pressure could lead to overheating of the carcass, and no-one wants a tyre blowing out when riding at road speeds. It hurts!
Another handy tip: If you’re going to be storing your bike’s tyres for a while, make sure that the pressures are correct and be sure to rotate your wheel every couple of weeks to avoid any damage to the carcass.
Road VS Adventure
Whether you choose to ride on road or go deep off-road, your bike is all that stands between you (at the very least) enjoying your adventure or having a tale to tell around the campfire as you wait to be rescued.
In all honesty, there is very little that can’t be fixed by the roadside, depending on how well prepared you are (I have pictures of a friend splitting a crankcase from an old classic BSA on the side of a mountain, using the most primitive tools imaginable).
Of course, you can never account for every type of mechanical issue that you could face while out on your travels, but at least with some forethought, you stand a chance of being able to do something about it, and the better maintained your bike is, the less chance there is of it breaking down.
It’s worth understanding just what stresses the type of riding you do has on your bike – dusty roads can eat through badly maintained chains in no time, whereas pushing 170+ horsepower through it will mean regular tensioning, and of course, once the chain has stretched and is running loose, your chain sprockets won’t be lasting for long.
Most of these tasks here are fairly easy to carry out, but if you just about know where to put the gas and not much else, try and get a friend to help or show you how to do the basic motorbike checks.
Should all else fail, getting professional advice on what needs to be done is a must – simple things failing can lead to catastrophic results when it comes to a bike; at best you can be stranded, at worse, you could sustain a serious injury. Ever seen a drive-chain split at 80 MPH? It makes a mess.
Written by Giles Kirkland, Yorkshire, UK