Motorcycle Maintenance:
How Much Is Needed?

There are 3 levels of motorcycle maintenance:

  • Level 1: Absolute minimum of motorcycle maintenance for a safe ride
  • Level 2: What you can do if you would like to keep the value of your dirt bike
  • Level 3: What you can do if your are a borderline lunatic who loves spending too much time in the garage

For me dirt bike riding was always a hobby. Something you do purely for the fun of it. And the fun part definitely started once you were on the bike.

All the preparation, the cleaning and the fixing was just a necessary nuisance. So clearly the motorcycle maintenance had to be brought down to the bare minimum.

My husband on the other hand was a professional racer for years. His bike and materials were sponsored so it was his "job" to come to every race with his bike looking like new. Besides he always was involved in mechanics. Being somewhat gifted with his hands, he loves spending hours on end on motorcycle maintenance, tweaking and fiddling with his bike (I am sure the occasional kiss also gets passed onto his bike).

Now let’s have a look at what there is to do for minimalists like me or fanatics like my husband in the field of motorcycle maintenance. (Follow the links to specific topics)

Absolute minimum of motorcycle maintenance for a safe ride

1) Wash your bike

First you have to wash your bike. That might sound trivial. You might even wonder why washing has anything to do with safety. I am almost ashamed to say, but in the beginning of my riding career, I would only wash my bike when the accumulated dirt was becoming a weight hassle.

Washing is important for proper motorcycle maintenance though, because you can't see what is broken under all that mud. There might be a loose screw on the brake caliper. I know from experience that this can lead to an almighty crash. There could be an oil leak that you won't see if the bike is not clean etc.

So don't underestimate the importance of washing. My husband washes his bike after his ride on Saturday when he knows he goes riding on Sunday as well. Even when it is not dirty!

2) Clean the air filter

Especially when your ride was dusty cleaning the air filter is an absolute must! If the ride was muddy you should at least check your air filter. If it looks like new, then use it again. If it looks at all dirty then clean it. You shouldn't take the risk of ruining your bike with a dirty air filter.

It is useful to invest in a second air filter and then just pop the second one in the bike while the first one gets washed or is drying.

3) Lubricate

The next step in your motorcycle maintenance is Lubricating the chain. It is important after washing the bike, otherwise the chain will rust. At the same time you check the tension of the chain.

When the chain is too loose it can jump off the sprocket. If it is too tight it will have a bad influence on the performance of the shock or it might even snap.

If you are on a budget and your bike is older with worn gas and clutch cables, you might consider putting a drop of oil onto those cables. Otherwise rather invest in new cables or leave them dry as dirt sticks nicely to oil.

You should also lube your fork seals, as that helps tremendously with friction. Your forks will have more comfort. It also helps to prevent leaking fork seals.

4) Do a quick check

This doesn't take long but it's a vital part of basic motorcycle maintenance process. You just look for lose screws, broken parts or parts that need replacement like worn brake pads.

  • Check the hours on your bike and the service intervals for motor as well as the service intervals for suspension
  • Check the oil level (how to change oil).
  • Check the brake pads and the brake caliper.
  • Check the wheel bearings front and rear
  • Check the steering bearings
  • Check the engine mounting
  • Check the suspension mounting
  • Check the tyre pressure. Never run more than 1 bar in your tyres or traction and comfort will be badly compromised
  • Trouble shoot any problems with your motorcycle electronics

That's it. You bike is ready for the next out-ride. All in all you can be finished in an hour.

What you can do if you would
like to keep the bike’s value

If you have some more time, or if you are really keen to keep your bike looking as on the first day, you can dive deeper into the endless sea of motorcycle maintenance.


  • Check your spoke tension and tighten any loose ones. If any spokes have seized in their nipples, the tire will have to be dismounted so the spoke can be cut out and replaced.
  • Check that the wheel bearings are in good shape.
  • Ensure that the brake disc is straight and not approaching its wear limits. If a rim is cracked it will have to be replaced. Don't worry about small dents in the rim, but large ones will have to go to a specialist for straightening.
  • Make sure tires are in good shape or mount new tires
  • Mare sure tubes are in good shape or fit new tubes
  • Make sure rim-locks and mousses are in good shape
  • Once you have removed your front wheel make sure to fit it correctly for unrestricted fork action.

This is Andy who's mechanical wisdom and writing skills are woven all over the maintenance section. Notice the facial expression that one has to display in order to do proper motorcycle mechanic magic...



  • Replace worn motorcycle grips
  • Inspect cables at the nipple ends for any damage. If even one wire of the cable is broken, it means that the rest are on their way out and the cable should be replaced
  • Replace any levers that are bent, broken or worn at the pivot.
  • Check that the throttle snaps back. Replace the throttle tube if it is cracked at the end
  • If your brake pedal is wobbling, replace the bearings at the pivot.



  • Replace top end according to indicated rebuild hours in your manual
  • Inspect barrel for wear and re-Nicasil if it is required
  • While barrel is off, measure the play at the big end and re-do the bottom end of the motor if necessary
  • If required change main bearings
  • Clean grease starter motor gear train if you have one


  • Check valve clearances. If your shim thickness is approaching valve wear limits, relace the valves.
  • While head is off, replace the cam chain, and remove the barrel.
  • Check the barrel for wear and re-Nicasil if necessary.
  • Measure the piston. If anything is out of spec, replace it.
  • Change oil and replace oil filters and strip out and clean any internal gause filters

All Bikes

  • Measure the clutch plates and replace the clutch as a unit if any plates are approaching wear limits.
  • Check sprocket shaft oil seals and replace if required.
  • Change oil and spark plug.
  • Strip and clean the carb
  • If your air filters are becoming thin and worn replace them.
  • Blow out, weld or replace any damaged exhaust components, repack your silencer.
  • Check that the battery is holding the correct charge for the correct amount of time.


  • Strip, clean and grease headstock bearings, swingarm bearings and rear suspension linkage bearings. Replace worn ones.
  • Inspect rear shock top and bottom bearings. Replace if worn, otherwise strip, clean and grease.
  • KTM owners should service or replace Heim joints
  • Check chain slider and chain guide, replace if necessary
  • Chain and sprockets should be inspected and replaced as a unit if worn.
  • Check radiators and straighten them if bent. Drain old coolant and replace with fresh.
  • Go through the wiring and repair chafed or damaged wires.
  • Replace broken plastics. Fit a new seat cover if yours is torn



  • Polish your plastics with silicone spray
  • Polish the exhaust manifold with the rough side of a kitchen sponge (will keep it shining in beautiful purple colors instead of starting to look blunt and brown)
  • Polish the rims with the rough side of the kitchen sponge
  • Fit stickers that will protect your rims
  • Fit guards that will protect your fork foot
  • Fit stickers that will protect your fork

Obviously you don't have to do it all at once. If you decide to spend some time on motorcycle maintenance just pick out one part at the time and go through it.

What you can do
if your are a borderline lunatic

You can spend an unlimited amount of time in the garage. There is never an end to pampering your bike.

You can take your motorcycle maintenance to the next level by doing the following things:

  • Fit aftermarket products like titanium screws
  • Fit personalized decals or stickers
  • Go through "Step 2 of motorcycle maintenance" again and again, do some more stripping and cleaning, and replace parts that might need replacement sooner or later
  • Polish some more or polish parts that you haven’t polished yet like the bottom of your fork foot

If you are looking for some more solid down to earth advice on specific maintenance work then check out this link

Click here to visit the author of the garage manual.

You think that is not enough? You have more ideas how to spend some time on motorcycle maintenance? Well, let me know. I am sure my husband would appreciate it!

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