"On a bike trip, you are as fit as your motorcycle" :Anonymous
Less than a week ago we had written about the importance of some of the things you need to carry with you so that you don't end up hurting your plans or your own self on your journey of a lifetime. This is the part where we will talk about the essential things you need to take care of so that your bike doesn't turn into a liability or a kid that needs to be spoon fed all the time. These tips do not guarantee a magnificent luck neither do they encourage you to turn into a character from our mythology that could defy gravity or some of the rules Physics loves a lot. But they can surely help you have a happy motorcycle that will do anything to make you reach home safely like a dedicated lover.
The first thing that you should go for before you start packing. And we will recommend you to get it done a few days before the D-day so that if something is not feeling right can be rectified before it takes an ugly shape. The engine oil level, the coolant level (if you have one of those fancy motorcycles with radiators), gear oil and clutch oil level should be checked and topped up if needed.
It's like a love hate relationship between tyres and the rider. Personally, I have not encountered a single model of any tyre manufacturer that performs brilliantly on every kind of road. The simply means you should be able to understand the terrain you are going to witness and choose the set of tyres accordingly. Well, it is next to impossible to do some calculations in your head and come out with an answer that is right every time. It is always a hit and trial affair. The tyres with too many grooves are pretty bad on tarmac and the tyres that are exceptionally good on tarmac often fail the dirt test. A soft compound tyre wears out early, but functions well depending on the way it has been made. A hard compound tyre, on the other hand, survives for long and can sustain through the harsh terrain a little more easily without getting breathless. For Indian hilly terrains, a semi-solid compound works good for people like us who love to explore the lesser inhabited Lahaul Spiti region in Himachal Pradesh. Another category in which tyres can be put in is based on the availability of a tube inside your tyre. A tubeless tyre of course gives the rider an edge as, in most of the cases, it is not urgent to take care of it in case a needle makes its way through it. A tubeless tyre with a needle in it can go on for thousands of miles provided the tyre pressure is checked regularly, but if it goes flat, most of the rural mechanics will have a hard time to put some air in it again. To ensure that the ride doesn't come to a halt abruptly, a puncture repair kit always comes handy and it takes hell lot less effort in case of a tubeless tyre. A flat tyre with a tube in it is more troublesome, but has more chances of a roadside mechanic fixing it in no time.
Some wise ones have also put a tube in their tubeless tyres to have best of both the worlds. Do consider it if you have never heard of it before.
The power house of every motorcycle, it is, as the name suggests, highly important. Unless you have a machine that works on CDI ignition that doesn't necessarily need a battery to start and uses the dynamo to propel the horns and headlights, you better check yours before leaving. The dry batteries need less of your time and attention in terms of maintenance. The water level doesn't need to be maintained on a regular basis hence letting you take it for granted. But, and this is a big one here, if it has served you enough or has started to give you trouble (like a dying horn sound or a bleak headlight beam) you better get it replaced. Depending on the availability or what your mechanic or friends recommend, you can go for any of the various options available in the market.
In case of a wet battery (Nickle Cadmium), make sure that the electrolyte level is maintained. Try using distilled water to enhance the life as the minerals and chemicals in the tap water can prove to be harmful for your batter, but it is still better than no water at all.
A good motorcycle should be obedient enough to stop when asked to. And this will happen only when friction works well between your tyres and tarmac, and your tyres and brake pads.
In case of disc brakes, make sure that the brake pads have enough leather on it to make grip as if it gets over in the middle of your ride, it will end up ruining your disc which any given day is a more expensive proposition. The brake fluid level in the master cylinder should be constantly checked even though it is kind of impossible to not look at it. Its position just on the handle bars makes it impossible not to see it every time you sit on the motorcycle. But the motorcycles with a rear disc brake have the cylinder somewhere near the rear foot-peg, so make an effort and make sure that it is well above the 'minimum' mark.
Things are not so easy in case of motorcycles with drum brakes. The wheel needs to be taken off (in most of the cases) and the brake shoes need to be inspected. Again, if the metallic part of the shoe is dying to make contact with the drum, you better get rid of it.
But if you are putting new pads or shoes, make sure that you use the bike for a few days before departing so that the new pads or shoes start getting maximum grip on the disc or the drum after a little wear and tear.
Chain and Chain Set
That's the thing with motorcycles. Every time you start writing anything about any part, you find that particular part to be more important than anything else mentioned before. Chain set, here for example has suddenly got me thinking, and just now I realised that if in a bad shape, it can hurt you bad if not kill you. A loose chain, over a period of time turns into a hungry monster that loves to eat your sprockets; both front and rear. You leave it dry or unattended and it will create noise that will keep giving you mini cardiac arrests every few kilometres.
In order to transfer the maximum power to the rear wheel and doing so safely, just follow these points religiously and the motorcycle Gods will be with you in the long run:
- Check the chain regularly and keep it lubed and clean all the time. A dry chain has more friction working between itself and the sprocket hence the sprocket starts losing its teeth causing immense power loss.
- A loose chain has more chances of slipping over the sprocket and getting struck in the sprocket. This can lock your rear wheel especially on a corner which can prove to be very lethal.
- If any of the sprockets or the chain needs to be changed, try getting the entire chain-set replaced. Just replacing one of the parts might not be a good idea as the other older parts will eat the new part in no time and you will end up spending more in the long run.
In the end, always keep a spare chain lock on your ride. It is coming straight to you from our very own experiences and hardly 1 out of 100 riders carries a spare chain lock. To make the situation worse, it might not be necessary that the chain lock you manage to find in the time of dire need will fit your chain as chains have different types too.
Most of the Royal Enfielders will know the importance of carrying spares on a long ride. But it does not anywhere say that the owners of motorcycles other than Royal Enfields are less prone to breakdowns. Here is a list of some essentials, we feel should accompany you on your journey to salvation. These parts may not be everything you might ever need and might not be able to empower to battle your way out of every gloomy breakdown.
- A couple of headlight and taillight bulbs
- Clutch wires, accelerator wires
- Chain lock
- Spark plugs
- Spare fuses
- Air pump
- Extra engine oil in case of an emergency
Also carry loads of good wishes and dry fruits to keep yourself energised and physically fit till the time you are back in your house.
Ideally, the tool-kit that comes free with every motorcycle is sufficient to tackle usual situations, but not every situation is usual. Especially in India. Some close friends have spent a fortune building their tool-kits over the years, but not everyone is a geek when it comes to motorcycling. Spanners of almost every size up to size 20, and an L-key set for the hexagonal screws should be enough along with your usual tool-kit to open most of your motorcycle to the tiniest of bits.
Last but not the least, just get your wiring and electricals checked from an experienced mechanic who likes to play with current and such thing. One short circuit can result in anything from misfiring to a fused headlamp to a motorcycle on fire. If the wiring has served for some good number of years, get it replaced and get your peace of mind free with it.
And to avoid an undesired situation, just keep a list of the local mechanics or the authorised service stations along your way. Consider it as an investment of time and effort that will pay you returns gradually over the years. You can either use the vast database veterans have or the power of internet to make a list that is as extensive as your plans and dreams. And to sum it up, just consider the motorcycle as a part of your own self and it will keep telling you exactly what it needs to tell you.