Cycle Care

By Valerie Lemke

April 3, 2009 5 min read


Maintaining your ride is as easy as 1-2-3

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

For almost 150 years, the motorcycle has sent out a siren call to thrill seekers, nature lovers and romantics. Today more than 4 million of the two-wheeled steeds are registered in the United States, the majority purchased for recreational use.

While automobiles far exceed them, there's much to be said for these motorized marvels.

"A motorcycle is very simple and very elegant, " said Paul James, director of product communications for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee, Wis. "Motorcycles are not nearly as complex as automobiles. They are inherently a smaller, simpler vehicle, and with fewer moving parts there are far less things to break."

Such simplicity extends to the care of the machine. With the rider's attention between regular maintenance visits, keeping a bike in tip-top condition is as easy as 1-2-3.

The owner's manual is the definitive resource in terms of upkeep and the operation of your two-wheeled wonder, according to James, who for more than 24 years has also been a recreational cyclist.

To get started, the number one thing to do is read the manual, he said. "Everything you need to know about your motorcycle is there. Even though you want to skip it and get to the fun stuff, read the manual first and keep it close. While your dealer is a good resource for any questions you may have, for ready reference anytime, pack your owner's manual in the bike."

If you buy a second-hand cycle and have no manual, you can obtain the specific one for your bike at the local dealership.

The number two tip for the responsible owner is to keep a watchful eye on your tires. Here, literally, is where the rubber meets the road. Are your wheels up to the ride?

"As opposed to an automobile, you only have two tires and these contact patches with the road are what keep you upright. They are your lifeline," James said. "Visually check tires for wear and possible damage before and after you ride, every time you ride. Then routinely check tire pressure each time you gas up."

Finally, James goes through a quick checklist before taking off.

"When I first get on the bike I sit up in the saddle and make sure the headlight is on," he said. "Then I check any indicator lights, turn signals and the brake lights. I'll test the clutch and throttle to be sure they're operating, too." Should there be problems with any of the equipment, they need to be solved before riding.

Leave most maintenance tasks to the experts, James said. He also advised that you take your cycle to an authorized dealer with certified, trained technicians whenever possible. When dealing with a technician who has received training in the maintenance and repair of your specific motorcycle, you know you'll be getting good care. "I always suggest going to the dealer if you can. But if you're unable to, be sure and get references before taking your bike in to a new mechanic."

If you've purchased a new ride, you should receive a notice from the dealer to bring it in after the first 1,000 miles. They'll change the oil and inspect the oil lines and air cleaner. They'll also check, adjust and service the throttle, brake and clutch as necessary.

"Not all motorcycles have spokes, but those that do should also be checked and spokes tightened during routine maintenance," James said.

"Following that first service, you should take your bike in every 5,000 miles."

In keeping with its simplicity, ease of maintenance and pure riding enjoyment, today's cycles offer other dividends.

"If in peak condition, motorcycle mileage can range from 35 up to 65 miles a gallon," James said.

In addition, while new car prices start at about $12,000 and can go to hundreds of thousands of dollars, new bikes range from less than $10,000 to over $30,000 for a limited production, high-end model with all the bells and whistles.

"You can get all the Harley DNA in a new Sportster for $7,000," he added.

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