With the weather finally improving around the country, we know that many of you are eager to wheel your bikes to the track for your first laps of the year. And some of you might have even picked up a brand new machine in the offseason! But before you load up for a day of riding, there are a couple of important maintenance tasks that you should take care, whether this is your first season with you motocross or machine or your tenth.
With the price tag of new bikes hovering around $10,000 these days, taking the time to properly prepare it for its maiden voyage in the dirt is more important than ever. New machines are assembled at the factory with the properly specified amounts of grease, lube, and oils, but in most cases, this isn't enough to ensure the long-term durability of your shiny new bike. Our friend Ryan Collins is a factory technician at Kawasaki Motors, and with past Monster Energy Kawasaki race team and Team Green experience, he's a wealth of knowledge when it comes down to properly prepping a new bike. Collins insisted that when taking delivery of a new motocross bike, the six following maintenance tips are imperative to ensure your bike's longevity.
#1 | OIL YOUR AIR FILTER
As delivered, the air filter in your bike is not properly oiled for use in dusty conditions. During shipping, oil from the factory has likely either dried up or dripped off the filter, leaving it dry and unable to trap fine dirt particles.
– Remove the air filter from the airbox and filter cage, and pour a generous amount of high-quality air filter oil on it over a bucket or trash can. Squeeze and massage the oil throughout the filter, but don't wring it like a towel, as this could damage the filter at the seams, creating holes and gaps to let dirt in.
– Make sure that the oil has permeated through to the inside of the filter by turning it inside out. Add more oil to the inside if it's dry. Let the oil on the filter tack up a bit before taking to the track.
#2 | GREASE THE STEERING STEM
The steering stem bearings on your new bike are greased at the factory, but disassembling the front-end of your machine for a good greasing and tightening of all the fasteners is an excellent idea. See your owner's manual for the proper torque specifications on all the fasteners.
– The first step in steering stem maintenance is loosening the top triple clamp bolts and the steering stem nut. This will allow the entire front-end to drop out of the frame, granting you access to both steering stem bearings. Take care when you loosen the steering stem nut, as the front-end may drop out of the frame suddenly. I like to place a block of wood or something comparable beneath the front tire to support the front-end.
– Apply a good amount of grease to the steering stem bearings. Make sure that they rotate as you grease them, ensuring complete coverage. If you don't have a grease brush, using your fingers is fine. Repeat the process on the bottom bearing, too.
– Apply a light coat of grease to the bearing race, as this is what the bearing slides on inside. Repeat the process on the bottom race.
– As you tighten the steering stem jam nut, it's important to tighten it to the specified torque spec—or your preference for front-end feel—then back it off a bit. This helps seat the bearings in the front-end without placing an undue amount of pressure on them. Some riders like to tighten this nut for a more stable front-end, but understand that doing so could cause premature wear on the bearings. After tightening the jam nut, install the top triple clamp, tighten the steering stem nut, and then the triple clamp pinch bolts.
#3 | BLEED THE BRAKES
Bleeding both brakes is something that we do to all new bikes at Kawasaki. When a new bike is packed inside the crate, the front brake master cylinder is left hanging, which can allow air bubbles to make their way into the brake line. Additionally, the brake fluid used at the factory is not the highest of quality and should be replaced with a high-temperature resistant DOT 4 fluid.
– Find a catch container and route a looped section of fuel line into it. The loop helps keep air bubbles from finding their way back toward the caliper bleed valve, where you attach the other end of the hose to. The process of bleeding brakes is simple: Pump the pedal or lever several times, and while maintaining pressure on it, crack the bleed valve open and closed to allow a small amount of brake fluid out. Repeat this process until either the feel of the lever or pedal is improved or all of the fluid has been replaced with new fluid.
– As you are bleeding the brake, be sure to keep an eye on the fluid level in the master cylinder. Be sure to add more fluid before the level gets too low, or you will actually pump air into the brake line and cause even bigger problems for yourself.
– A good trick for gaining the most power and feel out of your front brake is leaving a large rubber band on the lever overnight. This opens the plunger and forces the air to rise in the reservoir. Some mechanics use zip ties, but as the air rises and decreases the resistance on the lever, rubber bands continue to add pressure at the lever.
#4 | LUBE CHAIN ADJUSTERS
One part of the motorcycle that's delivered dry and left prone to seizing is the chain adjuster bolts. This area of the bike gets sprayed frequently during washing, and the combination of the aluminum swingarm and steel bolt is a recipe for disaster. Lubing the chain adjuster bolt with a combination of grease and moly can help prevent water damage and subsequent seizing.
– Remove the rear wheel to gain access to the chain adjuster bolts. With the rear wheel off, this is also a good time to service the shock linkage!
– Loosen the chain adjuster lock nut, then use a T-handle wrench to remove the chain adjuster bolts completely from the swing
– Apply a liberal amount of grease and/or moly lube to the threads of the chain adjuster bolt, then reinstall into the swingarm. Moly lube is more tenacious than standard grease and can stand up to power washings better. A combination of moly and grease is ideal for this application.
#5 | GREASE THE SHOCK LINKAGE
The shock linkage is a critical component of your bike's ability to handle well, yet it is also highly neglected when it comes to maintenance. As delivered, the amount of grease inside its pivot points is barely enough to survive more than a few rounds with a power washer. Place a block of wood beneath your rear wheel to support the swingarm after you remove the linkage bolts.
– As you are removing the linkage and bolts, notice the way they are mounted so as not to reinstall something incorrectly. Once removed, lay out all of the parts and take inventory of them.
– A removable seal washer protects the bearings inside most suspension links. Gently pry this off with a screwdriver to gain access to the bearing. Once the washer is removed, gently push the bearing sleeve out.
– Most linkage needle bearings are sealed units that are contained inside a cage. Grease these and the bearing sleeves well, then reinstall the sleeves and the seal washers.
– Apply a light coat of grease to the linkage bolts. Even though all of the movement occurs between the bearings and sleeves, this will help things from seizing up before the next disassembly.
– Take extra care with non-sealed needle bearings, as they could become dislodged from the bearing seats. Grease these with care.
#6 | THREAD LOCK CERTAIN BOLTS
There are several nuts and bolts on your bike that should be addressed before you ever ride your bike, as they will most likely come loose or seize eventually. If your bike has a plastic fuel tank, remove the bolts that attach the radiator shrouds and apply a light coat of grease to the bolts. This is to prevent the steel bolts from seizing inside the brass thread inserts in the tank. After months of power washing, these areas tend to seize up and this will cause the inserts to spin, rendering the shroud impossible to remove.
– Blue Loctite secures bolts, but not so tightly that they are difficult to remove. Bolts that should be treated with thread lock include those that attach the airbox and rear fender to the subframe, radiator shroud bolts, fork guard bolts, and front fender mount bolts. Do not thread lock bolts that are removed on a regular basis for routine maintenance.