Tech talk: Know your bike servicing
Fast Bikes (FB): What is the idea behind getting your bike serviced?
Dan Miles(DM): In reality, you need to be servicing your bike not only to keep it on top of the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, but also to keep everything at its optimum. Oh, and to reduce the risk of any unnecessary issues as well.
FB: How different is a service schedule between track and road bikes?
DM: Massive. For instance, a tyre that would last thousands of miles on the road would probably last you about a tenth of that when pushed on track, so if you use that as a marker, that’s how much harder every component is being worked.
FB: How often should you service your bike?
DM: Essentially, there’s two types of service. Let’s just take a road bike as an example, which does the odd few thousand miles a year. You’d really want to have a basic service every year, and then a major one every couple of years. Stick to these rules, and you should be fine.
FB: What does a basic service consist of for a road bike, and can you do it at home?
DM: You can definitely do it at home, but you just need to know what to look out for, although a lot of riders don’t bother. The main thing I’ve realized is people don’t like to go over their pride and joy – they’d rather spend the time riding them. Just say, for example, someone brings in a bike that’s not had a service in a year, but has been ridden all year around 5000 miles. The first step I like to do is clean it; by cleaning it, any apparent issues become obvious straight away, and it also helps keep everything that little bit nicer. I’ll then do the usual oil and filter change (essential – this should be done at least every 6000km), followed up by checking simple things that can wear: like brake discs and pads, chains, sprockets and even bits like bearings. These are all things that need to keep an eye out for.
FB: What about the major one?
DM: You’d be surprised how many people avoid having major services because of the cost, but then end up blowing more money on fixing a badly damaged engine. A major service includes everything from the basic, but includes a load of nitty-gritty important stuff, like checking the valve clearances. Think of it like a car wash – a basic service does the outside, while a major does the whole lot, down to the very last detail. It’s worth it.
FB: What happens, say, if you don’t check valve clearances?
DM: Well, the more mileage that’s done, the more risk there is of them being out, and if you drop a valve, that’s the engine absolutely destroyed. It’s not even just about that though, as it’s always important to check little things that would go unnoticed, like bearings, for example. You’d be surprised how many bikes I see with spoilt bearings, and riders who are none the wiser.
FB: And what about on a race bike?
DM: A race bike service isn’t massively apart in terms of work, but there’s always different aspects of the machine which take different abuse. Ideally, a race bike should be stripped and rebuilt after every race weekend – you only need to look in the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks, and even British Superbikes, to see how the pros do that. Realistically though, there aren’t many people that have that amount of cash floating about, which is why it’s important to do the best you can with what you have. For race bikes, I like to see an oil and filter change after every weekend, followed by maintenance checks on the suspension, brakes and even fiddly bits, like the wiring. Especially if the weekend’s been a wet one.
FB: Do you have any horror stories?
DM: There’s loads! The main problem I find is people not looking after their machines until something has gone seriously wrong, and by that time it’s already too late. I’ve got one in at the moment that’s got a crank seized, but then when I pulled the sump plug out the oil looked like it had never been changed. Some bikes are better and worse than others. Old R1s, for example, have quite tight valves.
FB: Got any tricks to keep your bike tip-top?
DM: My advice would be to not hold out, or cheap out. As an example, I always use Motul 300v oil. Why spend all that money on a bike not to look after it? It just seems like you’re asking for trouble. Also, always give your bike a thorough clean and polish. It's the easiest way to spot any issues.