#1. Clean Your Bike (Properly)
When was the last time you really gave your machine a good wash? Cleaned the chain thoroughly, washed behind and underneath the swing arm, under the seat and in the airbox? Cleaned off the gunk on the linkage and underside of the motor? Removed the tank and the plastic and washed them—as well as underneath them? We’re not saying the average dirt rider never washes his or her bike. By doing it right, you see what condition the bike is really in and can inspect the bike like a factory mechanic. Look at the frame and sub frame and check it for cracks or stress marks. Inspect the chain sliders and see if they are past their wear mark. Check if all of your engine and suspension seals are in good shape. Make sure that everything is in good working order– the wiring connectors/ terminals, cables, battery connections, and so on. Consider the cleaning a double duty of giving your bike a check up. As a bonus when everything is all said and done you will have one sweet looking ride that’s ready to rip. That is if you don’t find anything wrong, which is rare.
#2 Bleed The Brakes
Most riders neglect is the brakes. Many just change the pads when they are worn but never look to see if the fluid is okay. If you feel the brakes are starting to fade or lever pressure isn’t what it should be then you need to check the fluid ASAP! If you notice that the fluid is either discolored or low in the reservoir then you have a problem. Brake fluid breaks down over time and absorbs water. It is good practice to flush the old fluid out with new atleast once a year.
A quick fix for mushy brakes, you can back bleed the system by simply compressing the caliper then pumping the brake back up. This simple trick will push out a lot of the air that gets in the brake line and allow some fresh fluid to get into the pressure side of the system. Remember you can’t go fast if you can’t stop.
#3 Adjust Your Cockpit
Your motorcycle is a very personal thing. There are adjustments on almost every control to accommodate most riders. Handle bar sweep and lengths are adjustable. If they are too low or high then aftermarket companies make accommodations for that as well. Your levers are also a big deal, you can move them up /down and even side to side and change the engagement point to get the desired pull or feel that you like, some riders are even picky about lever bend and lever diameter. Grip choice is another issue, there is an ocean of grips to choose from. Diameter, no waffle, full waffle, even vibration damping grips are all available. There are also different compounds soft, medium, hard, gel, foam, and the multi-density gels.
The foot controls are another big one, often overlooked. Reaching the brake pedal, finding the shifter, having the footpegs at the right height, width and angle can all add comfort and performance. If you think about it you have four very important places that you control your motorcycle from and you should be getting the most out of them. Sometimes just small changes can make a huge difference, so trying out the simple things can really pay off. You’d be amazed at how much time and money factory teams spend on these critical areas for their pampered riders. Treat yourself like one of those guys.
Gearing a bike for a certain conditions or an event is crucial to optimizing your bikes performance. To gain top speed you add teeth to the front sprocket and/or subtract teeth in the rear sprocket, but you will be subtracting some bottom end grunt and adding gaps between the shifts. Plus the ratio for first gear goes up and that can be difficult on the clutch in some situations. Beware of clearance issues for the front sprocket. If you go to big it may cause the chain to hit the case. To gain acceleration, or tighten up the ratios between shifts and lower the gearing, subtract teeth from the front sprocket and/or add teeth in the rear sprocket. This will lessen the use of the clutch for a lot of riders and make it easier to find the right gear for the conditions because the ratios are closer together and there are less “gaps.” Beware, if you under gear the bike will run out of speed long before it should and sometimes a larger rear sprocket is venerable in rocks and ruts. Want to know the end result of the gearing, it is simple math, just do the division of the rear sprocket to the front sprocket to get the ratio and compare the final drive ratio which tells you how many times the front sprocket will have to spin to get the rear tire to go around one revolution.
#5 Have Your Suspension Serviced
We all worry about the motor oil but many neglect the suspension fluid which is doing a lot of work. It not only controls the damping of the suspension, it lubricates high-wear parts that have tight clearances and excessive stress, just like the engine. The length between service depends on how hard you ride the bike and to some degree on the time, but it is wise to have it done at least every year for a normal rider. Just servicing the suspension, especially changing out the stock fluid on most bikes, can yield a performance gain as noticeable as a full revalve. When a good suspension tech gets inside your suspension they set the fluid levels to the proper heights, clean out the passages for the oil, remove debris, check the seals throughout the fork and shock (there are a few in the cartridges that go unnoticed) and make sure there isn’t excessive wear or damage. Most use good quality suspension fluid and then you have a standard or a baseline to work from if you indeed are thinking about a revalve. It is hard to know exactly what you will get when you change a lot of things at once, so a rebuild is a fresh start getting your suspension right. And while you’re at it a good lube of the linkage and headset on your bike is a great idea.