Get ready to ride with our 10-point inspection checklist and top-recommended items for your first trip of the season
It’s almost that time. You know what we’re talking about right? It’s that time of year when you can walk outside without fear of being melted by the sun and start thinking about taking that dirt bike out of your garage for some great weekend fun. If you listen closely, you can hear the call of others who are realizing the exact same thing. What call? It’s the roar of an exhaust from a dirt bike being brought back to life after a hot summer of hibernation. It’s time to plan the first trip of the year, but before you even think about making list of things to pack, you need to give your motorcycle a little TLC.
Sure it ran fine when you put it away 5 or 6 months ago, but that was a long time ago and a lot can happen in that amount of time. You might be wondering what we’re talking about. Well even though you might not have gotten near your motorcycle, it’s not uncommon for random critters to make a den in places like the air box or for fork seals to dry up and start leaking. One of the most common problems we’ve seen in bikes that have been allowed to sit for long periods of time is fuel going bad in the float bowl of the carburetor and turning to varnish that plugs up every jet and air passage possible. If you don’t take the time to inspect things like this, you could end up out in the desert trying to figure out why your motorcycle doesn’t run and having to work on it in a dirty environment and under extreme pressure so you can ride with your friends.
To avoid this we’ve put together a simple 10-point checklist for dirt bike owners to go through as you prepare for your first epic ride of the off-road season. From the front to the back of the motorcycle, you’re going to check every little thing that could potentially give you a problem on a ride if you had ignored it. Once we’re done with the pre-ride checklist, we’re also going to go over some of our top recommended items to make your ride more enjoyable.
Air Filter: It’s the first and only line of defense preventing dirt from getting into your engine, so this should absolutely be on the top of your list to inspect. What’s that? You made sure to service your air filter before you stored the bike away for the summer? A lot can happen in a little bit of time. It’s still possible that the oil may have dried up leaving nothing to catch the fine dirt particles as you blast through the silty desert. Even worse, you might discover that some rodents might have taken up residence in your air box and used your filter material as bedding. Taking a quick moment pull the air box cover can potentially save you a headache and a ton of money in expensive repairs. If you just need to service your filter, we’ve got great cleaning kits to make the job easy and if you want to replace it we’ve got a ton of great options that include pre-oiled air filters that are ready-to-run out of the package or stock replacement air filters that you can oil yourself. If you could use a refresher on how to service your filter, take a quick read in our blog on how to clean and maintain air filters.
Engine Oil/Filter and Coolant: Oil is the lifeblood of any engine and to be honest you should be changing out your engine oil and oil filter after each ride. Sure you can go 3000+ miles in your car but is the engine in your car spinning consistently at 12000 RPMs and being punished in treacherous terrain and extreme engine loads? It doesn’t take long to do and gives you a chance to inspect your oil filter for metal debris, which can notify you of looming engine component failure before it happens. As for your cooling system, we’ve seen that many people never think twice about it until they start seeing signs of coolant seeping from an overflow hose or weep hole, but it’s always better to be proactive than forced to be reactive. We suggest to change out your coolant and even flush the system yearly to ensure that you can keep your motorcycle cool and reliable. Check the radiator hoses for any signs of swelling or cracking and any traces of coolant seeping past the water pump seal and out the weep hole. If you want a great tutorial on how to flush your cooling system, take some time to watch our extremely informative video here.
Carburetor and Fuel System: If you were wise when you stored your motorcycle away, you did one of two things. You either added some sort of fuel stabilizer to your fuel OR even better, you simply drained your fuel tank that prevented that pricey Premium fuel from turning into varnish as it sat. If you didn’t, chances are that you’ve not only got bad fuel in your tank but you quite possibly have a carburetor with plugged jets and air passages. If this is the case you need to pull your fuel tank and flush it out, replace the fuel line and spend some quality time carefully disassembling your carburetor and clean it out with a good carburetor cleaner. You might also want to just play it on the safe side and purchase new carburetor jets if they’re extremely plugged up.
Fork Seals: If you walk out to your motorcycle and notice some fluids on the floor by the front wheel, you might want to take a close look at your fork seals and see if there is any visible sign of fluid leaking. If the suspension on your motorcycle hasn’t been cycled in a long time, it’s possible that the rubber fork seal might have dried up and developed a crack resulting in a leak of fork fluid. Is it going to be the end of the world if you still go out and ride with a leaking seal? Probably not, but know that it’s not going to get any better and the more you now use/cycle your suspension, the more fluid is going to be pushed out of the fork tube. This will get all over your wheel and eventually enough will be drained and your suspension performance will be affected. If you want to be proactive, we sell both OEM and aftermarket fork seals for almost every motorcycle on the road and the tools to make instillation easy.
Brakes: Checking your brakes is a no brainer right? Squeeze the lever and try to roll the bike back and forth, then repeat by pressing the rear brake pedal and doing the same. Sure you can do that, but how about spending a little more time to dig a little deeper. When you’re at home you might have just enough brake material to make you think your brakes are good BUT what if you burn through the material out on your ride? This is when the brake pad backing plates start eating into your brake rotors kicking your repair bills even higher. It doesn’t take long to give your brake pads a quick look to see if they’re low and need to be replaced. Additionally take the time to flush out your brake fluid to keep your brake feel consistent. Especially on dirt bikes, it won’t take long to bleed both front and rear systems, especially with the right tools. Still intimidated? Checkout our how-to video and see just how easy it is to flush and bleed your braking system.
Chain and Sprockets: Since you’re crouching down inspecting your brakes, let’s take a look at all of the other things that many times get overlooked like your chain and sprockets. Maintaining could be as simple as adjusting the chain for the proper amount of slack or to a complete overhaul of your drivetrain by replacing the chain and both sprockets. A quick check of the chain adjuster or axle blocks can give you an idea as to how much adjustability you have for the chain, but if those are maxed out spend the $$ and replace the chain. The same thing can be said for the sprockets…. It only takes a quick look to see if they’re bad or still in decent shape. If they’re missing teeth like an elementary school kid or the teeth of the sprocket look like the perfect ocean wave, you’ve likely gone too long on those already and need to be replaced. Remember that when you do find that sprockets or chain need to be replaced, you want to do them all at the same time. Need some help determining whether or not the sprocket or chain are in bad condition? Check out our blog on motorcycle chain maintenance here to see when these items should be replaced and how to care for them in between.
Tires: Tires are probably one of the things you check before every ride but after a long time of sitting you need to make sure that A) you’ve got good tread left and that it suits the terrain that you’re riding and B) if you’re ok with how the tread is, you need to check your tire pressure to make sure that it hasn’t lost air (which it most likely has) over the course of the time it’s been sitting. When you inspect the tire, make sure that you don’t have any signs of knobs ripping off or cracks from the tire drying out. If it has good tread but maybe is worn on one side, you can extend some life out of it by taking it off the rim and reversing the direction to get some fresh bite. If either or both of your tires need to be replaced, be sure to check out our HUGE selection of dirt tires! We have all the tires you could want with the best prices you can find with some of the fastest shipping possible so you’ll make your ride with no problem.
Rims and Spokes: While you’re checking out the tires, let’s give the rims and spokes some attention. It’s not really talked about but it’s not uncommon for spokes to become loose and require tightening. In addition to inspecting the spokes, take a look around the circumference of the rim itself to look for cracks. You need to think about the things you hit while you’re riding and the impact that these rims get. If you see any signs of cracking, you’ll want to look into replacing the rim because if you’re out and the rim completely breaks on you, you could be stranded or even worse severely injured. You can just order the rim itself from both OEM and aftermarket suppliers OR you can also order a complete wheel assembly that has been assembled with new spokes and nipples. Many times these setups are stronger than stock so it may be the better way to go.
Bearings: To finish up inspection on components around the frame, you’ll want to inspect and lubricate all of the bearings on the bike. Starting with the front wheel when you‘re inspecting the brakes and spokes, check for wear of the front wheel bearings for excess play and do the same with the rear wheel bearings. In the back you’ll also want to inspect the swing arm pivot and linkage bearings. We recommend lubing these up at least once a year and when you’re lubing them you can see if they’re breaking down to the point they need to be replaced. You can finish off your inspection by checking the steering head bearings to make sure that they’re not worn and allowing any kinds of excess free play. If you find that bearings are worn, you can replace them with the OEM parts or likely save a few bucks by going with an aftermarket brand like All Balls or Pivot Works, which are just as good as stock.
Throttle and Clutch Cable Inspection: Since you’re taking care of your brake systems, why not make sure that your clutch and throttle cables are in good shape as well? Inspect both ends of each cable to make sure that they aren’t frayed leaving a potential for the end to come off and leave you stranded on the trail. Take it one step further and squirt some cable lube through the sheath using a cable lubing tool so you can get any dirt and debris that can cause premature wear out. If you want to see how it’s done, check out our informative video on cable lubing here.
Now that your motorcycle is mechanically sound for you to take out, is it ready for the terrain that you’ll be taking it to? We’ve got a small list of items that we feel are paramount to keeping your motorcycle safe and legal for the areas that you’ll be riding.
Skid Plates: If you’re headed out to the desert, you’ll likely find plenty of rocks and definitely want to keep the underside of your motorcycle protected. Whether you’re bottoming out on a jump or bashing boulders, a good quality skid plate will keep your frame and engine cases from becoming an expensive repair at your local dealer. We’ve got a huge selection of skid plates available in both plastic and aluminum from some of the top manufactures in the business like Devol, Acerbis, Moose Racing, Cycra, Works Connection and many many more at super affordable prices.
Folding Levers: When you ride a motorcycle, especially in the dirt, it’s not a matter of if but when you’re going to go down. You never want it to happen but it does, and when it does levers are usually the first things to break. I’m sure we don’t need to tell you but it sucks being out on a ride with a broken clutch or brake lever. That is why so many brads offer folding brake and clutch levers. By allowing the lever to fold upon impact, your chances of breaking are drastically reduced so you can still pick up and get back to riding with nothing more than a slightly bruised ego. You can take your pick of folding levers from Streamline or ARC, or just pick up a couple of stock replacement levers and stash them away in your backpack for a fraction of the cost.
HandGuards: They can help to keep your hands warm on a cold day. They can act as another level of protection for your levers. They can also protect your hands from bushes, cactus or flying rocks that your buddy in front of you might kick up. Handguards are a simple and quick addition that not only add a level of protection to your bike but to you as well. We’ve got a great selection for you to choose from in a ton of different styles so be sure to check out our huge hand guard selection here!
Radiator Braces: Just like levers, your radiator is extremely susceptible to damage in the event that you go down so why not spend a little extra to protect an expensive item, that if damaged can end your day and do some serious damage to your finances. We’ve got radiator braces from some of the top brand names like Works Connection, Devol, Moose Racing, MSR and more to help keep your cooling system safe.
Flag Mount / Guide: If you’re headed out to the dunes, you know that you’re required to run a whip that’s at least 6’ tall right? You also know that there aren’t many places to mount one of these required whips on a dirtbike without drilling a random hole into your fenders. We’ve got the solution to your problems with some quality mounting kits from ModQuad Racing that are available in a good variety of colors so you can at least get a little bit of a custom look.
Tool Kit: We’ve pretty much covered anything that could go wrong with a bike in our pre-ride checklist, but that doesn’t mean that bad luck can’t strike while you’re out having fun. We always suggest having a good tool kit so you can make minor trail side repairs. The Cruz Tools Econokit M1 is perfect for most dirt bike applications and easily fits into most backpacks or hydration packs.
There you have it. If you’ve gone over your motorcycle with a fine-toothed comb with our checklist and outfitted it for your ride, you really shouldn’t have any problems. Just remember that if you need anything to for your motorcycle before or after your rides, our friendly sales staff is always here to help and get you the best price possible. Till then….. Safe riding!