The Big Checkup! - Speeds Spotlight

In some parts of the country guys get to ride year round. Lucky them. For many of us though when the cold weather hits the bike gets parked, hopefully tucked away after a proper service. With the warm weather beckoning, it’s time to take a good, long look at that bike that’s been sitting for way too long. It has to be ready when the new season comes around. Call it the “Pre-season Service Break” and it all starts with a routine oil-and-filter change.

Done with thought and the right materials, that time-honored opening bit of maintenance, the oil-and-filter change, can be anything but routine. The guys at Speed’s Performance Plus sure make it that way. For starters if you’re not already using synthetic oil, now’s the time to make that switch. “There’s just too much to be gained with synthetics not to be using it,” SPP’s Jamie Hanson advises. Synthetics lubricate better, last longer, and even make a bike run cooler, he says, listing off just some of the benefits. Synthetics work great in the transmission and primary, too.

“But don’t just sit around and watch as that old oil drains into a pan,” Jamie goes on. Now is the perfect time to “nut-and-bolt” the bike, going over that thing front-to-back. With a handful of wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers, check everything. Exhaust systems especially are prone to loosen up, Jamie warns. But don’t stop there. Look at everything. Take special note of the tires and brakes. From a safety standpoint, they’re the two most important parts on a bike. Beyond making sure the tires have plenty of tread depth left and they’re properly inflated, make sure there are no cracks or bulges anywhere on the sidewalls. On the braking side, look at more than just the pads and rotors. Pay attention to all the brake lines and fittings and make sure the master cylinders are topped off. Of course you’ll want to service the air filter during all of this, cleaning and re-oiling it if it’s one of the reusable types or replacing it if it isn’t. Now’s a good time to check the drivebelt, too. Besides adjusting for proper tension (you do have a factory service manual specific to your bike’s year and model, right?) here’s a tip from a high-mileage rider who’s racked up so many trouble-free miles, Harley put the bike in their corporate office. Whenever you wash the bike, get in there with a stiff brush and plenty of soapy water and really clean the pulleys and the belt. Getting all the way around both, making sure to get rid of all the built up abrasive grime goes a long way towards significantly extending belt life.

Throwing in a fresh set of spark plugs about now is another good move. Maybe even a fresh set of wires if the old ones appear stiff or brittle. “And definitely make sure the battery is up to snuff,” Jamie adds. “Replace it if it isn’t.” Shelling out 100+ bucks for a new battery might seem a little excessive, but consider the alternative. “A weak battery,” Jamie explains, “one that’s constantly struggling to start the bike and repeatedly kicking back when you push the button can cause all sorts of havoc. It can and will tear up a starter drive, jack shaft, and even knock teeth off the ring gear.” Having to replace all of that just to get the bike going ends up costing way more than a battery would have.

All this is pretty easy and straightforward service work that can be performed almost anywhere by almost anyone. But sometimes it makes good sense to let someone else get up close and personal with your bike, too. A fresh set of eyes, especially when they belong to a service pro, can spot things you might have taken for granted; things you’ve gotten used to over time. Is the clutch adjusted correctly? Are any of the cables and linkages stiffer or looser than they should be? “We do this sort of service work all year long,” Jamie concludes. “And more often than not, we’ll spot something the rider’s overlooked.” Next time the SPP crew is in the area roll your bike up onto one of their lifts. What’s that saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That sure applies here.