Essential motorcycle maintenance checklist to keep your machine running smoothly

Part of learning to ride, is learning how to look after your bike: keeping it in good shape is important for its lifespan, performance, and your safety. Regular checks can stop unexpected breakdowns and save you money on repairs. Here is an essential motorcycle maintenance checklist to keep your machine running smoothly.

Check your tyre pressure at least weekly

Tyre pressure is really important for safe braking and good performance, especially in the rain.

  • Weekly checks: Make it a habit to check your tyre pressure once a week, at least. If you don’t ride regularly then check before you ride.
  • Visual inspection: Look out for splits, nails, or any other damage. Make sure there are no obvious problems.

Related: How to deep clean your motorbike’s wheels

Look after the chain regularly

A clean and well-tensioned chain helps your bike run smoothly and more powerfully. The chain will also last longer.

  • Cleaning: Clean your chain regularly to get rid of dirt and grime.
  • Tensioning: Keep the chain at the right tension to avoid power loss and excessive wear.
  • Sprocket check: Check your sprockets, especially the front one, which is often hidden. Make sure the front sprocket nut is tight.

How to adjust the chain tension

Proper chain tension is essential for your bike’s performance. Here’s how to do it, but check your handbook for more detail.

In brief:

  • Centre stand: Put your bike on the centre stand.
  • Loosen main nut: Loosen the big axle nut a bit.
  • Adjuster: Turn the adjusters on either side of the wheel in equal amounts to move the wheel back evenly on both sides. You can also use a ruler to make sure the wheel is centred and has gone back the same distance on either side.
  • Final tightening: Tighten the main nut once the chain is properly tensioned and has the amount of play that is recommended in your handbook.

Related: How to change your chain and sprockets at home

If you ride often then check the oil level at least weekly

Keeping an eye on your oil level is key for a healthy engine.

  • Visual check: Use the dipstick or the inspection window to check the oil level when the engine is hot (or at least warm), and the bike is on level ground.
  • Regular changes: Change the oil as recommended by the manufacturer, but usually every 5000 to 6000 miles.
Oil pouring into funnel

Check brake fluid

Brake fluid is crucial for effective braking and should be checked regularly.

  • Fluid levels: Check the brake fluid levels using the window on the reservoir.
  • Replacement: Replace the brake fluid once a year or every two years, depending on how much you ride.

Adjust the clutch cable

A well-adjusted clutch cable makes for smooth riding.

  • Free play: Check that the clutch lever has the right amount of free play. Adjust the cable if it feels too stiff or too slack, or doesn’t engage the gears properly.
  • Adjustment: Turn the lock nut at the base of the gear lever to loosen the adjustment screw next to it, adjust the screw until you get the right tension, and then tighten the lock nut.

Related: Best clutch lever replacements and upgrades

Check the brake pads

Regularly checking the condition of the front and rear brake pads on your motorcycle is vital for your safety.

  • Visual check: Look at the brake pads to see how much material is left on them. Replace them when the material get too thin, otherwise you’ll soon hear metal grinding on metal when you try to come to a stop.
  • Replacement: Changing brake pads is fairly simple; check your bike’s manual for instructions.

Don’t miss your motorbike’s regular servicing schedule

Getting your bike serviced at regular intervals by a professional is important for overall maintenance.

  • Service intervals: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for service intervals, including valve clearance checks.
  • Finding a mechanic: After your warranty ends you can either continue servicing your bike at the dealer (expensive), or you can look for an independent mechanic who knows your motorcycle brand (not as expensive). 

Which is the best grade of fuel for your bike’s engine?

The fuel you use can affect how well your bike runs and its longevity.

  • E10 vs E5: E5 fuel has less ethanol and is better for your bike’s seals and performance. It costs more but gives better mileage.
  • Switching Fuels: If you’ve been using E10 but would like to switch to E5 you can simply wait until the tank runs low on E10 then make the switch to E5.
Fuel types

Carry basic tools

Having some basic tools on hand can help with minor repairs and adjustments.

  • Toolkit: Make sure your bike’s toolkit has the essentials like wrenches, screwdrivers, an adjustable spanner, and Allen keys.
  • Extra tools: Consider carrying a steel ruler for chain adjustments, and a riveting kit for replacing the chain.

Best socket starter set

Price: $70.00
Alternative Retailers

Six-point sockets (8-22mm), 72-tooth reversible ratchet and extension bars, chrome vanadium steel.

For anything over 19mm, such as swingarm spindle nuts or even smaller engine and suspension mounting bolts but which require a high torque-tightening figure, a heftier 1/2in drive ratchet should be used. Cost can be kept to a minimum by buying specific-sized individual sockets. Alternatively, you can get your 3/8-in and 1/2-in sockets in one with a bigger set.


  • Draper is a trusted brand so you know you're getting quality
  • Comes in a convenient case for keeping tools organised
  • This is a great starter set and will get the basics done


  • Not the biggest range of sizes but fine for the basics
  • Only comes in metric measurements


Regular maintenance is key to keeping your motorcycle safe, reliable, and performing well. By following these simple tips, you can keep your bike in great condition and enjoy a smooth, safe ride. Taking care of your bike not only saves money but gives you peace of mind when riding.

More on maintenance: Helpful articles from MCN on motorbike maintenance

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