Fixing up: Your 10-point checklist for looking after your bike

Ready to Ride with Amazon


One of the joys of motorcycle ownership for me is being in the workshop and getting the tools out. It’s a way of unwinding and learning the detail of maintaining and looking after your bike.

This goes hand in hand with reading and absorbing the detail in the owner and workshop manuals. I’ve spent over 40 years working and living with bikes and I am still picking up tips and new ideas today.

The 2019 Kawasaki Z1000SX used here is the subject for our new Amazon Ready to Ride series. We will be using this machine in the coming weeks to show how easy it is to get your bike in tip-top condition and add some suitable accessories.

And at the end of the series, which also features three awesome videos, we will be giving the bike away! In this first guide the tenpoint check list can be applied to any bike that’s just been purchased, but can also be adopted as part of a regular maintenance routine and of course expand the list to suit your specific bike.

Next week we will be looking at the simple steps needed in order to complete an oil and filter change on your bike… but first, here’s our 10-point checklist of key jobs that will help you maintain your bike and spot safety risks.

  1. Measure pressure

Tyre pressures need maintaining to the level recommended in the owner’s manual. Also check the condition, there should be no cracks or cuts and there should be sufficient tread all the way round. A tyre that has been used mainly on motorways could be ‘squared off’, creating poor handling. But incorrect tyre pressures can also affect handling.

2. Keep an eye on your engine oil level

A sight glass level (seen here) usually has a minimum and maximum line and the level should be at least half way up. If you have a dip stick instead, remove it, give it a wipe, then replace it but don’t screw it in (unless the manual says otherwise). Again the level should be at least half way between the marks. Always check your oil level with the bike upright.

3. Chain check is vital

The chain on a bike must be adjusted correctly, with finer details on adjusting in the owner’s manual. Generally a figure of between 20mm and 30mm of up and down chain movement measured in-between the front and rear sprockets is normal. Quite often the measurement is on a sticker located on the chain guard or swingarm. Don’t forget to lube the chain.

4. Now you’re torque-ing

A nut and bolt check is a must and the best way to ensure everything is tightened correctly is to use a torque wrench. caliper bolts, spindle bolts and steering head bolts all need to be carefully done up. Be careful tightening up yoke pinch bolts and follow the quoted torque. In my experience, the quoted torque for these is often less than you think it should be.

5. See the light

Making sure the lights all work is very straightforward. A motorcycle has a brake light that should work independently when either the front or back brake is applied. The headlight should of course have a high and low beam. The indicators should flash between 60 and 120 times a minute. Check them all carefully.

6. Inspect your stoppers

Check the condition of your brake pads – it’s often easiest to do this by removing your calipers. There needs to be an obvious amount of usable friction material still in place. The pads need to have a minimum of friction material, sintered pads are 1mm and organic pads 1.5mm; this applies to front and back.

7. Keep fluid filled up

The front and rear brakes both have a reservoir. There is usually a lower indicator line and an upper line. The level goes down with brake pad wear, but should never go below the lower line even when pads are at the limits. The level with new pads fitted should be set at the up level line, the same applies to the rear reservoir.

8. Seal the deal

The forks contain springs that are damped, usually by oil. This fork oil is contained by seals that can leak over time. They usually emit a smear of oil on the chrome part of the stanchion, this is an indication that they need replacing. Use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe around the chrome stanchion to detect any oil residue.

9. Tighten the terminals

It’s a really obvious thing but a common cause of non-starting or cutting out can be attributed to the battery terminals not being tight. Usually located under the seat, the battery terminals can be tightened with a screwdriver or spanner. To keep the battery in good condition we used the Noco battery conditioner charger.

10. Take proper control

Give your control levers and throttle a check over. A poorly fitted front brake lever guard or badly fitting heated grip can often make a throttle bind. The same goes for front and rear brake levers, they should be smooth and free moving with no binding when the lever isn’t being actuated.

The products we used

  • Castrol Power 1 engine oil – You want your bike’s heart to be healthy

When it comes to keeping your engine running smoothly, engine oil is absolutely key. Developed specifically for bikes, Castrol Power 1 manages heat and friction at high temperatures.

  • Amazon Basics Torque wrenches – Doubling up makes a lot of sense

The smaller torque wrench is ideal for smaller bolts, particularly engine casing fasteners and can be set 3.95-22.5Nm, while the larger wrench has a range of 20.4Nm to 108.5Nm for day-to-day maintenance and larger jobs.

  • Castrol Brake Fluid Dot 4 – Stop with confidence

Castrol’s motorcycle-specific brake fluid is designed to cope with hard and fast braking. It can withstand high temperatures and high pressures to keep confidence levels high when braking hard.

  • Castrol Chain Lube Racing – Chain reaction

Castrol Chain Lube has been developed to combat corrosion by means of chemical action and to resist fling-off, leaving a uniform layer of contaminant protection.

Ready to Ride in partnership with:

The Ready to Ride video series and related content provides practical sports and performance bikes information for use as general information or for educational purposes. We do not know your particular vehicle or circumstances and the information we provide may not meet your motorbike repair, maintenance and/or health and safety requirements. It is up to you to contact a motorbike mechanic professional if you are concerned about the repairs, maintenance and health and safety of your motorbike. MCN and Amazon do not give mechanic advice in relation to an individual case or motorbike, nor do we provide mechanical or diagnostic services, and this information should not be relied upon as such.

Bruce Dunn

By Bruce Dunn

Datalogger, professionally testing bikes for over 25 years.