How to lube and protect your bike

Why bother?

The importance of this job can’t be overestimated. Over a period of time – not long with the UK’s weather – various components and controls stiffen and then seize. It could be from dry, wet, and winter conditions, or simply from overuse. Anything which can and should be lubricated needs to be. Regularly. Remember: prevention is always better than cure.

Which bits need treating?

Slick operating cables keep a bike feeling fresh, give a higher degree of control and last way longer. So a smooth clutch cable action can extend the life of your clutch, too. Pivot areas like brake lever pins and gearchange assemblies will generally be easier on the fingers as well as working to 100% of their potential. No job gives such cheap and easy benefits, or saves so much money in the long run as a simple lubing of your machine. Well-lubricated parts are a sign of a well-maintained machine which has the added benefit of your bike holding its value better than one which is covered in rust.

What lubes do I need?

A tub of high melting point lubricant like copper grease will do for many chassis applications, such as exhaust clamps and fasteners. As copper grease neither runs nor gets washed off very easily, it is ideal for coating screw threads and adjusters to form a non-corrosive barrier. Softer grease with a lower melting point is ideal for constantly moving parts, like the rear brake and gearshift mechanism and bearings. Spray grease is ideal for difficult to access parts like clevis pins and lever pivots. Protective sprays that contain slippery additives (such as PTFE) are ideal for cables.

Don’t dealer services cover all this?

Yes, and no. Not all lube jobs are specified on service schedules and many are covered under instructions like ‘inspect’ and are often overlooked. If you’re a low-mileage rider you may only be having your bike serviced every other year and as parts tend to degrade over time rather than mileage, it makes sense to keep on top of it.

1. Brake calipers are prone to corrosion if exposed to road salt. They’ll seize, damaging pads and discs and reducing performance. Coat copper grease on the caliper pins, pad backing material and piston bodies to prevent this. It’ll also aid dust removal when cleaning the bike. Wipe off excess that may contaminate the disc and pads.

2. Many fasteners, especially those with lock nuts securing them, leave some thread exposed. These will eventually corrode and cause problems when removing them. Drum brake adjusters and exhaust mounts are especially prone to seizure. Using copper grease and a paintbrush, thinly coat all exposed threads, including exhaust studs.

3. Lubricate all keyholes with an aerosol spray, or a drip of light oil. Simply stick the aerosol’s nozzle straw in the hole and give it a squirt. Do this for ignition, fuel-cap, and seat-catch keyholes, security locks plus pannier locks and any others you can find – like the garage door.

4. Folding pegs need to hinge up so they don’t get wrecked in crashes, or dig in and pitch you off, but how do we know they’ll do their stuff? Lube them. Stipple grease around the hinge and work the peg up and down. Do this for the pillion pegs too.

5. You spray-lube your drive chain, but the key to extending a chain’s life is to keep it clean, too. So, at least monthly, clean old, gritty lube off with paraffin and a paintbrush and dry with a rag before applying chain lube. If you’re a maintenance fanatic, brush on gear oil (Hypoid 80/90) every 2-3 days.

6. Front and rear suspension is prone to attack from surface water and rain – rebound adjusters on the top of fully adjustable forks especially – and will corrode. A couple of drops of light engine oil dripped on to the adjusters while turning them will keep them right. Be sure to set the suspension back to its original position.

7. A squirt of grease around the clutch and brake levers’ pivot points keeps them moving freely. It also prevents wear at the pivot – ‘ovalling’ of the alloy lever’s mounting hole. If no spray grease is available then chain lube will do – otherwise remove the lever and apply ordinary grease. Wipe off any excess to avoid greasy gloves.

8. Split switch clusters and spray with WD40 to protect the electrics inside. While you’re there, split the throttle housing too, lift the top and fill the bottom half with a light oil. Work the throttle and repeat. If the cables are still stiff, and lube isn’t finding its way through, then they’ll have to be removed and lubricated, or replaced if frayed.

9. A sticky clutch cable makes changing gear hard work and can cause premature clutch wear. To lube, remove the cable completely, tie the cable upright and make a funnel from plasticine or tape around the inner cable and fill with penetrating oil. Leave overnight to allow the oil to drain through, occasionally working the inner cable up and down.

10. Lubing single shock rear suspension linkages is not easy, requiring complete stripping. Bearings and bushes need a coating of light grease at their service date. Coat the securing bolts with grease, including the underside of the nut and bolt head.

11. Wheel spindles need a smear of grease every time they come out and go back in (eg tyre changes) but are often overlooked. It’s worth checking yourself especially if buying a second-hand bike. Only a thin film of copper grease is needed. While doing this apply the same grease to the threads of any nuts (or bolts) that retain the spindle.

12. Make bike ownership easier by insuring against seized fasteners. One at a time (so any gaskets remain intact) remove every nut and bolt – engine case screws, fairing fasteners, battery holders, tank retaining bolts – and apply copper grease to the start of the threads. The grease will be evenly spread as it’s wound in.