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Jan 9, 2014

Motorcycle Maintenance

Maintaining a classic motorcycle in tip top condition is easy. Ideally the owner will have a copy of the manufacturer’s recommendations for basic service and parts replacement and will follow these recommendations. However, when a motorcycle lasts considerably longer than the manufacturer anticipated (as is the case with most classics and all vintage bikes), the rate of service and repair will be based on a developing knowledge of the particular make and model.

For the majority of motorcycles, a common sense approach is all that is needed to maintain them in working order. For owners with little experience of service and repair requirements, the following list, although not exhaustive, will help them to keep high mileage or older motorcycles in good working order when used in conjunction with regular services.


The age, tread depth, and visual condition (looking for cracks or uneven wear) of tires is a must do on older machines, especially when the service history is not known. It must be remembered that an old tire may look good but offer little grip (especially in the wet) as the compound has become hard with time, for instance.

Headstock bearings

The head stock bearings on a motorcycle can develop flat spots in ball race guides. They should be replaced if the steering does not turn smoothly from side to side with no appreciable interruption in the smooth rotation of the handlebars. Bearings in good condition must have their associated grease replaced periodically—typically every five years.


In general, the inner cable of a control cable will begin to fray first. It is, therefore, very important to inspect the cables at the point of connection to levers or throttle bodies, for example. In addition, the routing of control cables is very important--a zip tie may become loose or break over time allowing the cable to come into contact with a header pipe, or steering stop etc. Therefore, the mechanic must also check the condition of all ties and the cable’s routing.

Chains and sprockets

For the most part, a visual inspection followed by regular lubrication is all that is required of chains and sprockets to check their condition. Chains can, however, be checked against their manufacturer’s recommendations for wear by measuring their compressed and tensioned lengths.

Sprockets will typically show signs of wear at their teeth which will appear hooked. (Note: Severe wear on the sides of a sprocket’s teeth indicates wheel misalignment or bearing wear.)

Brake pads and shoes

The friction material thickness of pads or shoes should be measured and the conditions of drums and rotors checked. Older brake shoes had their friction materials riveted and glued for location; needless to say, the rivets on this design must be below the surface of the friction material.

Brake lines (hydraulic)

Brake lines should be checked for any signs of leaks or corrosion and the fluid should be replaced every two years. The lines should be replaced every five years ideally with more modern designs such as the stainless steel braided units which are much stronger.

All fittings on brake lines must be checked for tightness. However, it is important not to over tighten them by adding torque each time they are checked. To avoid this possibility, the mechanic should slightly loosen the fitting before re-tightening it. (Note: This procedure must be done in conjunction with brake bleeding as by backing off a fitting you can allow air to enter the brake system.)

Oil lines

Mechanics should follow similar maintenance procedures with oil lines as their brake line counterparts.

Front forks and swing-arms

All bushes should be checked for correct clearances, then cleaned and regreased as part of a regular maintenance schedule. However, on older machines (lacking grease nipples, for instance) the mechanic should clean, inspect, and regrease as required all pivots every two years as a minimum.


Hardware should be replaced (especially locking nuts or washers) on a regular basis. For example, if a Nylock nut has been tightened and loosened two or three times, it will inevitably offer less locking properties over a new item and must be replaced.

Rubber fittings

Footrest rubbers, gear change and kick start rubber covers, and handlebar grips should all be replaced as they show signs of wear or aging. This is particularly important in the case of handlebar grips as these have a tendency to work loose or come off completely over a number of years, which can result in a serious loss of control.


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