Springtime Chassis Checkup
by Lee Meyer
Finally, the wait is over! Let’s drag that cycle from the corner of the garage, dust it off and give the chassis some pre-riding attention for spring.
Start by looking for the obvious. Check the tires for excessive or uneven wear, weather cracks and foreign objects. If you have doubts about the tires, replace them, and while doing so check the wheel bearings with a finger. The bearings should rotate with a smooth feeling not one that is bumpy or gritty. If the tires look good, air them up and move on.
Examine the sprockets for excessive wear and the chain for tight spots and proper tension. Usually an inch or slightly less slack is about right, but look in your bike’s manual to be sure. Once everything looks okay and is adjusted, lube the works up.
As long as we are down here let’s check those brakes out. Make sure disc pads are in good shape with plenty of friction material left. Adjust drum brakes for proper free play, and make sure the linkages are free and lubed. Look over the hydraulic lines for leaks and cracks. Check the brake fluid, and change it if it looks anything other than clear. Flushing the brake system with new fluid once a year is a good idea, and now is a good time to get it done. If you keep putting this off, your brake fluid will turn into peanut butter – a bad thing.
Check swingarm play by placing the bike on a stand so the rear wheel is off the ground. Grab the wheel and feel for side-to-side play. Now, check the bike’s manual to find out how much play is excessive. Determine if your bike needs adjustment and how to make the adjustment. If the swingarm has grease fittings, give it a grease job.
Then move on to control cables. If you have a pre-1980s bike with original cables, give them a lube job. Newer cables have Teflon liners and do not need to be lubricated. Any lube on Teflon cables will just attract and hold dirt that will wear the cables out faster. Cables are cheap, if they are binding replace them. Take up any excess free play in the cables.
Examine the forks for leakage and damage. Change the fork oil. Locate the fork drain screws and remove them (if your bike has air forks, be sure to let the air out first to avoid a messy spray). Pump the forks until fluid no longer drains out. Let them sit a while then pump them again to ensure complete drainage. Install the drain screws and check your manual for the proper amount and viscosity of oil needed. Now put the bike on its center stand with a jack or blocks under the frame. Take the top caps out, but be careful of the spring pressure. You may have to loosen the upper fork clamps to get the caps out. Fill the forks with the appropriate fluid and install the caps. Pump the forks a couple times, and you are good to go.
Of course you removed the battery last fall and kept it warm and charged up through the winter to insure an easy first start-up this spring. If you left it unattended in the bike over the cold winter, it has probably had it. Check the acid levels and try to charge it over night. You may get lucky, and it will come back to life. Install the battery and turn on the ignition. Check that all the lights and turn signals are functioning properly. Before you fire it uptake a peek into the gas tank to make sure the Stabil treated fuel is still okay. If you have any doubts, drain the tank and fill it with fresh gas.
If the bike ran good last fall, it should fire up just fine. Ride the beast around the block and change the engine oil and filter while the engine is warm. You shaft drive folks can change the transmission and final drive gear oils as well.
Give your pride and joy a final look over and maybe some last minute adjustments on the clutch, throttle etc. You are ready to ride. Remember that you have not ridden a motorcycle in months, so your skills are probably stale. Take it easy until your memory pulls your riding skills out of the dustbin and the street sweepers clean the winter’s sand and junk off of the roads. Ride on baby!