By Tim Scarrott
Motorcycle Superstore is proud to announce weekly Tech, Tips and Product Highlights provided by Pacific Track Time! Our goal is to offer an informative guides intended to help motorcycle enthusiasts make sure their bikes are in good shape and that they are prepared for a great day on the street or track. This is our Motorcycle Prep & Inspection Guide.
Our first “tech” piece is going to talk about how to conduct a general inspection and preparation of your motorcycle as part of your periodic maintenance. This guide is intended to be useful for a street rider before their weekend ride as well as minor preparation details that apply to someone heading to a track day event.
Inspecting your motorcycle is very important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Many people ignore warning lights in their cars, drive with a nail in the tire or forget routine maintenance and never know any different. As motorcycle riders, we can’t do this because the proper function of our bike directly impacts our safety, performance and our overall riding experience. At Pacific Track Time, we recommend your motorcycle is clean prior to inspection as this will help you better identify any problems that exist. Plus, you want your motorcycle to look its best for your street ride or track day.
Let the inspection begin: Pacific Track Time recommends starting at the throttle and front brake on the right side of the motorcycle first. This is because these two items are probably the most important controls on the motorcycle in regards to ensuring you will have the ability to operate the bike in a safe manner. Make sure the throttle operates smoothly and that it closes immediately when released. A bound-up throttle cable or sticky-grip can cause the throttle to stick and that is never a good thing. Next, your front brake lever should work smoothly too. Check to make sure you can feel it builds pressure and feels solid when you squeeze the lever. Now that you know the controls that will allow you to accelerate, decelerate and brake safely are in good working order, you can move on to the next step.
Work your way to the back of the motorcycle, inspecting your oil filter, drain plug and oil level along the way. If you’ve recently changed your oil or had it changed at a dealership, it is always a good idea to double check the drain plug is tight. When you reach the right rear set or foot peg area, take extra care to make sure your rear brake pedal functions properly and visually check your rear brake pads for wear. This is a good time to swap-out some new brake pads if you’ve been riding you bike for a while. You’d be surprised how quick rear pads wear out.
Once you reach the back wheel, inspect your axle alignment blocks and make sure that your chain is track straight and true with your sprockets. Keeping your rear wheel and chain aligned is not as easy as it sounds. There are even tools like the Motion Pro Chain Alignment Tool which can help you take care of this maintenance task. Your axle blocks have indicators but they are not always 100% accurate. Use them as a guide to getting it close.
Inspect your rear wheel and rear tire for any damage. Be honest about the remaining tire life and check your tire pressure at the same time. A general rule for setting pressure on the track is to start at 32-PSI front and rear. Double check with your tire manufacturer specs and don’t be shy about asking for input from the track day staff or the on scene tire distributor. They are professionals and are there to help you. Moving forward on the left side of the bike, make sure your chain is clean, lubricated and adjusted correctly as we mentioned above. Check your left rear set and the gear lever for proper shifting operation. Some people ride their bikes after they’ve been down a couple times so we often see shift rods that are bent or levers that are broken. These items are cheap, if they are bent or broken they should always be replaced.
Continuing along the left side of the motorcycle, you should inspect your switch gear and clutch lever. Make sure your clutch lever has a slight amount of “slack” or cable play and that the clutch actually disengages when you pull the lever into the bar. Moving on to the front wheel, inspect the right and left brake calipers for cleanliness and pad life. Your front brakes provide the majority of your stopping power so you want them to be operating in top form no matter where you ride. If the pads are worn replace them. A good set of brake pads will make a huge difference under the heavy braking conditions that are associated with sport bikes.
Look closely at your fork tubes. Verify they are clean and make sure there are no leaks. For seals do go-bad and they can adversely affect the handling of your bike so if they are leaking, they need to be repaired immediately. Inspect your wheel and tire for damage and check your air pressure again. Finish your inspection by returning to the controls, checking your key for function and start your motorcycle to verify there are no leaks and no warning lights are activated. If you are inspecting a street legal motorcycle, finish your inspection by verifying your headlights, high beams, tail and brake lights, side marker and turn signals, horn and any other desired functions work properly.
A proper motorcycle inspection can be conducted in less than five-minutes and should be part of your weekly routine. They are a must-do prior to a track day event because if you show up with an unfit motorcycle we are obliged to our customers to make sure you repair the questionable areas before you are allowed on the track. Remember that worn parts can often lead to failure and damage of other parts so putting off a repair will likely lead to more serious issues down the road. Worn out brake pads can grind into your rotors, requiring rotor replacement instead of just a set of new brake pads. A worn out chain can effect suspension operation, premature wear on your transmission or countershaft seal. They can even adversely affect braking during operation which can lead to bike damage or even personal injury. Inspecting your motorcycle routinely or a week or two before your ride or track day event will allow you enough time to order parts, correct any issues and be ready for your ride.
If your motorcycle needs service and you are not comfortable performing these basic maintenance tips then be sure to contact your local dealership or reputable motorcycle shop. There is something that feels right when you know your bike is in tip-top shape whether you are heading out to your favorite back road or your favorite track.
About Pacific Track Time: For over 10 years, Pacific Track Time has hosted hundreds of motorcycle track day events, schools and riding courses for thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world. Pacific Track Time conducts its track day events at premium facilities such as Buttonwillow Raceway, Laguna Seca, Sonoma Raceway and Thunderhill Raceway Park. In addition to quality track time, Pacific Track Time is also heavily involved in the community providing riding schools, race-licensing courses, organized street rides and training seminars at local dealerships. Pacific Track Time has a fully qualified staff that in AFM/AMA for 2013 took 35 top three finishes in overall championship points and racked up a total of 193 podium finishes. These same staff and instructors are available for on and off track help at every PTT event. For more information, visit pacifictracktime.com
Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts participate in track day events across the United States each year and their reasons are as varied as the motorcycles they ride.
For our first Riding Tip we are going to discuss the most important factor while riding a motorcycle and that is Riding Safety.
Track days continue to be one of the most popular activities for sport bike riding enthusiasts across the United States so if you haven’t been to one, please come join us.