10 jobs that aren’t as difficult as they seem

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Some tasks sound scary but aren’t. Here’s how to save yourself a fortune on bike maintenance this year

1. Change your fork oil

Most people never change fork oil unless it’s dribbling out of a leaky seal. But it’s usually way past its best after three years of even fairly light use. At five, it’s going to really detract from suspension action. Draining, flushing and refilling fork oil isn’t a complex task, especially on basic non-adjustable forks. Fresh, quality fluid will make your front suspension feel like new.

2. Ducati cambelts

This is a job long touted by anti-Ducati types as a reason to avoid the Italian exotics. But the truth is, it’s dead simple. Access is a little fiddly on some models, but changing the belts in the desmodromic system is actually a straightforward task – you need a tool to lock cam pulleys in place, and a tensioner tool makes it easier to apply correct tension to the new belt. Buying the tools and belts for just one change costs less than getting it done professionally – every future change is a significant saving.


3. Valve clearances

Got most of your fingers and reasonable vision? Reading and numerical skills passable? Then you can check and adjust your motorcycle’s valves without shelling out. Accessing them is usually the hardest part – radiators, airboxes and bodywork usually need removing to get room to work – the process is simple, and on screw/locknut adjusters, so is adjustment. Shimmed valves just need a set of Vernier gauges to measure the shims, and a pen/pad to work out the change in thickness you need to correct them.


4. Chain and sprockets

It’s a safety-critical area and a snapped chain can do massive damage as it exits the motorcycle, but too many bikes are pushed to the limit of usable final drive condition because it’s not a cheap job to replace the chain and sprockets. If you’re going to own bikes for the foreseeable future, invest in a quality chain tool – not a £30 eBay special – and have the ability to cut and replace chains, and know that the link is properly secured too. If anyone tells you to use two hammers, use them on their skull instead.


5. Brake overhaul

Considering the immense force, heat and pressure a simple stroke of a hydraulic brake lever creates, they’re remarkably simple mechanisms. A few pistons, seals, o-rings, hose and fluid. That’s it. They’re another area often left too long before receiving care because people worry about getting it wrong, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Largely, cleaning and bleeding is all they need – periodic hose and seal replacement is barely more difficult. The worst bit is dealing with disgusting fluid – just use gloves and protect your bike from the corrosive effects. Brake bleeding kits can make maintenance a far easier task.


6. Head bearings

Bad steering bearings would make a Moto3 bike feel like a wonky shopping trolley. But the thought of dismantling the entire front end makes some shy away. You shouldn’t. The key is having a secure means of supporting the bike by the frame or under the engine. It needs to be rock steady. But removing wheels, brakes, forks and yokes isn’t hard. The top bearing just pulls out – the bottom bearing on the stem is interference fit, so takes more effort. If you have other transport, it’s a quick job for an engineer to press the bearing off if you’re not confident of removing it without causing damage, and you’ll still save cash over dealer costs.

7. Electrical repair

We’ll forgive you for not delving into CAN-BUS diagnostics, but anything with conventional electrics is just a matter of logic. Think of it like a central heating system: you have a power source and storage, with periphery components connected by pipe work (wires, in this case). Most gripes are merely a matter of ensuring power passes unhindered and uninterrupted. A cheap multimeter, a wiring diagram and developing a basic understanding of the components and their relationships is all it takes. Materials and connectors for proper, factory-standard repair are easily available – don’t settle for crappy car shop bullet connectors.

8. Suspension linkages

Many bikes don’t reach the check/grease interval while under warranty, and in later life they often don’t see a main dealer and a full service schedule, so they deteriorate and fail. Again, supporting the bike is the main hurdle – beyond that, you just need the back wheel out and to remove the bolts. Some cleaner and grease keeps most sweet, and knackered bearings only need simple tools to remove/replace them.

9. Single-sided hub bearings/wheel bearings

Circlip bearings, bearing drifts and pullers. That’s all it takes to overhaul these needlessly feared components. If you’re of the mind to work on your own bike, the cost of investing in these tools will be spread across many tasks anyway. The parts still aren’t cheap in the case of single-sided hub bearings, but removing the labour cost takes the sting out of this critical safety job.


10. Stripping an engine

This is at the more adventurous end of this list, but once you’ve done one, you’ll realise it’s not that bad. It takes a while, and you must follow certain processes as well as taking care to remove and store parts with care. They only come apart and go together one way – get a good manual, perhaps have a knowledgeable mate look over your shoulder, and give your bike the most intimate care it’ll ever need.