Tuesday Tip: New Bike TLC
With Kawasaki’s Spencer Bloomer

You’ve just unwrapped a shiny new ’07 moto weapon from under your Christmas tree, and the only thing on your mind is heading straight to the nearest track. But wait! Your bike is brand new, clean, and nothing’s been worn—there’s not a better time than the present to begin the break-in process with some tender lovin’ care.

Fresh off the assembly line, your new high-performance piece of motocross machinery is still one step away from ripping up the track and leading a healthy life. A lack of grease, inadequate fluid levels, loose spokes, and miscellaneous loose nuts and bolts are among the many potential ailments that your new steed may be suffering from. So to protect your bike and your safety, and to ensure that you’re both able to perform at an optimum level, postpone that inaugural voyage until you complete this course in new bike TLC. To walk you through the basics, step by step, we recruited our pal Spencer Bloomer from Kawasaki’s Tech department. Spencer preps dozens of machines this time of year, so there’s nobody more qualified to show you the ropes.

Recommended Tools: High-quality waterproof grease, assembly lube, steering head nut wrench (thin 32mm), petroleum-based oil for break-in, synthetic or blend oil for post break-in, contact cleaner, torque wrench, spoke wrench, air pressure gauge, and a basic tool set.

LINKAGE & SWINGARM LUBING

STEP 1: To get started, take off the chain, rear brake pedal, and the rear wheel. Separate the rear brake caliper from its guides and hang it off to the side of the swingarm. Loosen the swingarm nut, all of the linkage nuts, and the bottom shock nut. Now, pull out the swingarm pivot bolt, the front linkage bolt, and the bottom shock bolt. At this point, the entire swingarm/linkage assembly can be pulled off of the rear of the bike and set aside.

STEP 2: Pull off the collars and slide out the sleeves from the linkage and the pullrod. With a thick dab of grease on your finger, push grease into the bearings. Repeat until you have gone around and completely covered the entire bearing for each of the linkage and pullrod bearings. Now, take the collars and sleeves out of the swingarm and pack the grease in a similar manner. Reinstall all of the collars and sleeves in their correct places. While you have the swingarm off, pull out the chain adjuster bolts, as well. Apply some grease or assembly lube to the bolts and reinstall. These bolts have been known to seize over time, so it’s good insurance to keep them moving freely. Now, reinstall the linkage to the swingarm and the bottom of the shock, the pullrod to the frame, and then the swingarm to the frame. While pushing up on the swingarm (you always want to tighten the rear suspension/swingarm in its compressed form), tighten all of the linkage nuts, the bottom shock nut, and the swingarm nut to the recommended torque specs (see your manual). Reinstall the rear brake pedal and caliper, the rear wheel, and the chain.

HEADSET LUBING

STEP 1: Start out by removing the front number plate and the front brake master cylinder from the bars. Loosen and remove the steering head nut with the appropriate tool, and loosen the top triple clamp pinch bolts. Pull up on the handlebars to slide the top triple clamp off of the forks and lay the whole assembly on the tank (cover the tank with a rag to protect it from being scratched).

STEP 2: Loosen the spanner nut with some pliers and push up on the front wheel with your foot to make it easier to remove the nut completely. Slide the entire wheel/fork assembly out from the steering neck of the frame.

STEP 3: With some grease on the end of your finger, begin globbing it onto the steering bearing as you rotate it around. Once you get the bearing completely covered in grease, smooth it out while forcing it into the bearing. Now, grab a blob of grease and placet in your palm. Take the top bearing and force it down into your palm repeatedly while rotating it. This should completely pack the bearing with grease.

STEP 4: Carefully guide the wheel/fork assembly back into the steering head and slide the top bearing down onto the stem. Tighten the spanner nut as tight as possible with your hand, and then use some pliers to get it nice and snug. Once it’s tight, you may have to back it off just a bit to get the desired feel. Place the handlebar/top triple clamp assembly back on the forks, using the handlebars as leverage to slide the clamps down. Tighten the steering nut and torque the top pinch bolts to the proper specification. Reinstall the front brake master cylinder and the front number plate.

WHEELS ‘N TIRES
The spokes on a new bike take a little while to get properly broken in. I recommend constantly checking them during the first several hours of use. It’s best to tighten the spokes in a manner that won’t throw your wheel off to a serious wobble. Start in a specific spot, such as the rim lock, and tighten the spoke if needed, but no more than a 1/2 turn. Now, skip two spokes, go to the third, and tighten it if needed. Continue checking the spokes in this pattern until you return to the “rim lock spoke. Now, move to the next spoke over and continue the pattern again until you return to that spoke. Repeat the process one more time and you will have checked every spoke in your three rotations. The idea here is to get roughly the same torque on all of the spokes while retaining the trueness of the wheel. Repeat this process again if you still have some loose spokes.

MOTOR OIL 101
Proper break-in of your new motor is very important. The key to a good engine break-in is to ride the bike somewhat easy, but not so mellow that the rings can’t seat (a high load at a low RPM is the best for seating rings). You can break in your bike on the track, but you may wish to short-shift it for the first hour or so to avoid high RPMs. Also, I recommend using a good petroleum-based oil for break-in (avoid running a high-dollar synthetic oil at first). Use a petroleum-based oil for the first few hours, then drain it, clean the oil pump screen (if your bike has one), change the oil filter, and refill with a good synthetic or synthetic blend if you desire. If you are abusive on the clutch, you may want to go with a synthetic blend rather than a full synthetic. Full synthetic oils offer the best protection for engine parts, but may lead to some clutch slippage if abused.

CHAIN TENSION
With a new bike, it’s normal for the chain to stretch a bit during the first few rides, so keep an eye on it to prevent it from getting too loose. It’s a good idea to keep a small ruler in your toolbox to keep the chain properly adjusted. Every time you lube the chain, place the ruler right behind the chain guide, pull up on the chain with your finger, and measure to the bottom of the chain link. This way you can monitor the chain stretch and adjust it accordingly.

WARNING!
Don’t you just hate those pesky warning stickers that are a pain in the butt to remove from your rear fender? Here’s a quick and easy way of removing them without putting gouges in your plastic… First, lift up a corner of the decal with your fingernail. Pull it up just enough to get a good grasp on it with your thumb and index finger. Now, in one swift motion, rip it off quickly! With any luck, less than half of the adhesive will stay on the fender, and the remaining will be left on the decal. Dab the adhesive portion of the decal repeatedly on the fender to remove the adhesive that was left behind.

PRE-RIDE CHECKLIST

  1. Grease the linkage and swingarm bearings
  2. Grease the steering head bearings
  3. Check spoke tension, and tire pressure
  4. Use a petroleum-based oil for proper break-in
  5. Check chain tension
  6. Check the coolant level
  7. Clean brake rotors with contact cleaner
  8. Adjust the cables
  9. Oil the air filter
  10. Adjust all controls to comfortable and efficient positioning
  11. File the sharp edges from seat brackets to prevent scratching the side panels
  12. Wheels, suspension, and brakes need to be broken in before racing
  13. Have a blast on your new ride!

d tire pressure

  • Use a petroleum-based oil for proper break-in
  • Check chain tension
  • Check the coolant level
  • Clean brake rotors with contact cleaner
  • Adjust the cables
  • Oil the air filter
  • Adjust all controls to comfortable and efficient positioning
  • File the sharp edges from seat brackets to prevent scratching the side panels
  • Wheels, suspension, and brakes need to be broken in before racing
  • Have a blast on your new ride!