Feb 01

How to fix and maintain your own motorcycle…

Farkle My Ride’s three steps towards becoming a self sufficient motorcyclist, learning the art of motorcycle maintenance.

Understanding how to do basic maintenance on your motorcycle will save you a lot of money. What’s stopping you from getting started?

by Mark DT


Whether or not you have ever tried working on a motorcycle before, we’ve laid out the steps to get you on the track to being a self reliant motorcyclist.  While being an expert in motorcycle maintenance, diagnostics and repair can take years of school and apprenticeship; that does not mean that you shouldn’t learn everything you can to take care of your own motorcycle.  Besides, being able to better take care of your current motorcycle and gaining knowledge in motorcycle mechanics gives you an enormous advantage when shopping the second hand market for your next ride.

When your six hours from home, and your ride gives you grief, what will you do?  This happened to my good friend a few years ago on a big group ride through the Pacific North Western U.S.A.

When you’re six hours from home, and your ride gives you grief, what will you do? This happened to my good friend Blake Murphy a few years ago on a big group ride through the Pacific North Western U.S.A, hundreds of miles from home.  Also pictured Bryan McCook.  They fixed Blake’s hog and completed their tour.  Could you do the same?

Here are a few items for riders that want to become self reliant and take care of their own oil changes, brake inspections, cable lubrication, fuel injection mods, to name a few.  It is as easy as reading the right books, and buying the right tools. Then start small but get started.  When dealerships are charging around $100/hour to work on your bike, perhaps it is time to gain some knowledge, some new tools, and yes…get your own hands dirty!  You could equip your garage with tools and books that will last a lifetime for less than a few hours with your local mechanic.  Here is Farkle My Ride’s three steps towards becoming a self sufficient motorcyclist.

1)  Read this: The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance: Tips & Techniques to Keep Your Motorcycle in Top Condition, by Mark Zimmerman

This book along with a copy of your motorcycle’s brand specific maintenance manual should be enough for most budding home mechanics to analyze and solve most problems on their own motorcycles. Most motorcycle service manuals are written for trained mechanics.  The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance will help bridge the gap in knowledge so that you can understand how your motorcycle works, and how to diagnose problems and fix them on your own.

The above book teaches you about all motorcycles and is the best first book to buy.  Each motorcycle made should have its own specific maintenance manual.  If you don’t already have your own motorcycle brand specific repair manual, then consider buying a Haynes Manual for your own bike.  Search Amazon for all the Haynes Workshop Manuals for just about each and every brand of motorcycle out there on the road today.

Even if you don’t do the repair yourself, having this guide will better help you understand what is happening and determine whether or not that service manager is treating you fairly, or taking advantage of your ignorance.  Information is power, so read up!

2)  Get some good quality tools without going broke:

We chose the Stanley 123-Piece Socket Set as a good starting point because Stanley tools are very good quality, and this kit includes all the metric and non metric sockets you could ever need.  Why is having both SAE and MM important?

Stanley Socket Kit

Stanley 123-Piece Socket Set

You never know when you may swap your Suzuki for a Harley, then later for a Ducati, and maybe later on a BMW or Triumph.  Having both metric and standard sockets of good quality handles all brands of bikes you could ever own meaning you are set for life.  Not a bad investment for around 50 bucks delivered to most places.  However, wrenches while necessary are only one half of the equation.

The other is to get a good set of screwdriver bits that are both SAE and MM.  The TEKTON 135-Piece Everybit and Electronic Repair Screwdriver Bit Set
below does the trick nicely, and the price is the best we could find for quality tools that will last many years (These bits have a lifetime guarantee).  With both of these sets in your garage you should be able to strip down and reassemble most of your motorcycle with relative ease.

TEKTON Screwdriver Bit Set

TEKTON 135-Piece Everybit and Electronic Repair Screwdriver Bit Set








3)  For the hard core enthusiast, give yourself a lift!

A bike lift that is. Getting your bike up so that is easier to work on can be done numerous ways.  The cheapest way is to use your motorcycle center stand.  However, many bikes don’t have center stands so what else is out there?  There are two ways to go here.  Either of the lifting devices below will be a big help in performing maintenance on your ride.

Venom Stand

Venom Sport Bike Dual Rear Spool & Front Fork Wheel Lift Stand that completely lifts your bike off the ground.

a) Paddock/wheel stands.  These are simple, low tech devices which will raise a wheel off the ground.  It makes servicing the chain on a motorcycle without a center stand very easy.  Venom makes very good stands for both front and rear wheels that are universal for most brands of sport bikes.  These are nice and light and could be stored hanging on a wall if space is really tight in the garage.




b)  Motorcycle Hydraulic Lift.   For those of you who want to Farkle Your Garage, the search can start and end right here.  In the end nothing does the job better of getting your bike up and accessible to work on than a decent quality motorcycle lift.  There are many lifts out there, all have their own strengths and weaknesses.  We chose the Powerzone 1700 LB Hydraulic Motorcycle Jack based on several important factors.  It has the best lift capacity we’ve found at 1700 pounds.  The stand has recessed wheels and can even allow a lifted motorcycle to be wheeled around, or to be safely locked with its two safety locking bolts so that it will not move at all.

Motorcycle Lift

This 1700 LB capacity lift will make your motorcycle maintenance easier.

The price is very reasonable for a lift of this capacity costing close to the same as a pair of paddock stands, and it has had excellent consumer reviews. Additionally it collapses fairly flat to ensure it doesn’t waste precious garage space when not in use.

An often bought accessory with this lift is a small wheeled stool so you can easily roll yourself around the motorcycle while you work.  The Torin TR6300 Creeper Seat makes working on your motorcycle much easier and avoids a lot of back pain later on.  It allows you to move around the bike and work at eye level while it is on the lift.  We like this stool because it includes a tool tray, and it is priced cheap enough to make a biker smile.


Torin TR6300 Creeper Seat

A wheeled stool like this one from Torin allows you to move around effortlessly.

There you have it.  The three steps above are listed in the order I would consider completing.  If you are near broke, simply get The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance and start educating yourself.  However every motorcycle owner should have a good set of tools, and a means to work on their motorcycle taking care of simple tasks like chain cleaning, oil changes etc.  In time you may wish to tackle more sophisticated jobs like tune ups, fuel maps, exhaust system swapping, tire changes, etc.  Hopefully everything in this article will provide you with the means to inexpensively equip your garage with the right tools, and start you on the course to true rider self sufficiency.  Most importantly you can save those dollars spent at the dealership’s maintenance garage for gas and hotels, track days or even a second motorcycle.


A final word of warning…tool purchasing can become an obsession.  We covered the basics here, but as with anything the sky is the limit.  However the fanciest tool on sale at the hardware store won’t impart knowledge.  Read, read, and read some more.  If you have a riding friend who is smart with these things, bring over the coffee and donuts and ask if you can watch when they work on their own motorcycle.  If your local community college offers classes on motorcycle repair, take it during the winter.  Finally don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  Treat motorcycle maintenance like you treat riding.  A challenge to the brain, and the hands that can be conquered with practice and patience.

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