Checking over your bike for potential issues before going riding is really important.
Not only will it save you from pushing your bike back to camp because of a breakdown, but regular bike maintenance is crucial to keeping your dirt bike healthy.
A healthy bike is a happy bike and that means it will operate better for you and it will also retain more value when or if it comes time to sell it (hell no!).
All it takes is one snapped chain or an empty radiator and your planned day of riding is all over.
By spending 30 minutes going over your bike and checking for loose or broken parts you will avoid this problem and your bike will last longer.
Also, if you want to start racing, then checking your bike over a few days before the race is absolutely essential if you ever want to even finish.
Bikes cop an absolute thrashing when racing so if something is going to fall off, you can bet that it will be half way through your race.
Do your bike inspection a few days before a race so you will be able to order and fit broken parts.
Over the years I have developed a formula for doing a full inspection on my bike.
The plan does deviate from time to time but the core inspection list is what I will be talking about in this blog post.
So here is my 21 point dirt bike maintenance checklist that I use to check my bike before going for a ride.
#1 Check your wheel bearings by using lateral movement.
#2 Check your steering head bearing by using lateral movement.
#3 Check your linkage, suspension and swing-arm Bearings.
#4 Check your spokes and tighten any loose spokes.
#5 Check the air pressure in your tires.
#6 Check your tread and replace worn tires.
#7 Check your rear axle nut and tighten if it is loose.
#8 Check your brake pads, calipers, rotors, lines and cables.
#9 Check the tension on your chain and tighten if necessary.
#10 Check your sprockets for wear. Replace if necessary.
#11 Clean out your air box and oil up the filter.
#12 Make sure you are using a fresh spark plug.
#13 Check your forks for leaks.
#14 Check your controls and make sure everything is working properly.
#15 Check your lights and battery if you ride a dual sport.
#16 Check your engine mounting bolts.
#17 Make sure the bike is completely lubed up in all areas.
#18 Check your bike for any leaks.
#19 Replace the fuel if it is old.
#20 Check all fluid levels.
#21 Replace worn and broken parts.
#22 Go over your bike and tighten everything.
#23 Make sure you run your bike before going riding.
#1 Wheel Bearings.
Wheel bearings take a beating and they get worn down from sand and grit over time.
Put your bike up on a stand so the wheels are off the ground, then try to move them from side to side. If they move at all then it is time to replace your wheel bearings.
Bearings from your bike manufacturer (like all OEM parts) are expensive. Try aftermarket parts instead.
I recommend the All Ballz Wheel Bearing Kit. They are cheap and high quality.
I find that when I buy new bearings, sometimes they do not have enough grease in them. A good bearing should be properly packed with grease to minimize wear. That’s why I like to pack my own bearings with grease to be extra sure. The job is easy and only takes a few minutes. to learn how to do it yourself check out this video from the Small Engine Doctor.
If you are going to change your own wheel bearings, the job is quite easy but you will need a bearing removal kit. I recommend the Tusk Bearing Removal Kit.
Here is a video that shows you to use the bearing removal tool.
#2 Steering Head Bearing.
While the bike is up on the stand, check for any movement on the steering head by using the same lateral movement.
If there is movement it means that you will need to replace the bearing in the steering head as well.
Changing the steering head bearing is a little more tricky and requires quite a few tools to get done. This is why I prefer to use a mechanic for this job.
If you want to do it yourself check out this video that will show you how to do it step by step.
#3 Linkage, Suspension and Swingarm Bearings.
Your linkage and shock area takes the brunt of all the impact on a dirt bike and so these bearings wear out fast if you are a regular rider.
Once again, this area is tricky and so if you are a beginner, I recommend taking it to a bike mechanic to get them done for you.
If you would like to do it yourself, check out this video here that will go thru it all step by step –
It’s really important to keep your spokes tight so the rims don’t buckle while you are riding.
To check your spokes, I like to tap each one with a screw driver and listen to the sound. If a spoke has a dull sound compared to the others then you will need to give it a good tightening.
To tighten spokes, get yourself a spoke tightening tool and keep it in your dirt bike tool kit.
I like the Fasst spoke Torque wrench. It will tighten spokes to the perfect tension for every spoke.
#5 Air Pressure.
Check the air pressure on the wheels. I keep my pressure at 14-16 psi.
Any more pressure than this and you will have a much bumpier ride.
Air pressure will reduce slowly over time even without punctures so make sure you keep your tire pressure at the right level.
Cheap tire pressure gauges are inaccurate at best which is not good for racing. If you want an accurate one, I recommend the Motion Pro Tire Gauge. It’s the best tire pressure gauge I’ve ever owned.
Make sure you have a decent amount of tread on the tires. If not, throw on a new set.
Do you know that there are hundreds of types of tires and tread patterns? Using the wrong one can slow you down by seconds or even minutes.
RockymountainATVMC have thousands of tires available and specialize in finding the right tire for their customers. Have a chat to them and tell them what type of terrain you will be riding on and they will do the rest.
#7 Rear Axle Nut.
Always check to see that the rear axle nut is tight using a socket wrench.
If it’s loose it will easily spin off during a ride and you will never see it again.
Losing your axle nut means that your rear wheel floating around and you may even lose your axle which would be total disaster.
Use nylock nuts!! Nylock nuts contain a plastic inner thread that will lock the nut in place. Guaranteed to stay on.
I use Nihilo nylock rear axle nuts. They are anodized aluminium so they won’t rust. They also have that aftermarket look that will impress your riding buddies. Nice.
Make sure there’s enough meat on your brake pads to last the ride that you are about to go on.
Mud and sand will wear brake pads faster than dry conditions, so if you are going on a muddy ride, make sure your brake pads are fresh.
Check the brake cables and make sure they are healthy and are not crunching or grinding. Any damage to the cables need to be replaced immediately.
Once again, changing brakes can be tricky. They contain lots of parts like pads, calipers, rotors, lines and cables that may also need replacing. Only replace your brakes if you are confident. If not, visit your bike mechanic.
Check your chain tension and re-lube the chain.
Too much slack can cause the chain to derail and too much tension can damage the bike or cause the chain to snap.
If you are riding in sand, lube the chain with a light lube spray like WD-40 so the sand doesn’t get gummed up in the chain.
Check your bike manual to know what the correct chain tension is for your bike.
For a rough guide, a chain has a movement of about 2 fingers up and down at its loosest point.
Changing the tension on your chain is easy. This video will guide you through it step by step.
I always check the sprockets for wear and replace them immediately if the teeth are worn down. Worn down teeth means that the chain will slip.
When replacing a sprocket, don’t just replace one. The chain has been stretched to fit your current sprockets and placing only one new one on can cause the chain to derail or snap. Make sure that you replace both sprockets AND the chain as well.
Use Steel sprockets! Aluminium are okay but they wear out faster because aluminium is a softer metal.
My favorite sprocket is the Talon. It’s bulletproof and it also has the aftermarket look.
Primary Drive is also a really tough brand of rear sprockets and other awesome parts. I use Primary Drive steel rear sprocket.
Check your manual for the correct tooth ratio on your sprockets. You will need different ratios depending on your type of riding to give you either greater speed or faster acceleration.
Here’s a great video that explains the gearing ratios on a dirt bike –
#11 Air box.
Clean out the air box and wash and re-oil the air filter. Clean out all the dirt that gets trapped in the bottom of the air box.
Make sure your filter is oiled right through without any dry patches.
I use PJ1 spray on filter oil. I like it because it is a sticky substance that catches all the dust and sand trying to get through. It also comes in a pack with a cleaning foam for washing the air filter when it gets too dirty.
#12 Spark Plug.
This one is more important for 2 stroke riders but it still applies for the 4 strokes as well. Check your spark plug and replace it if it is starting to foul up.
Always use the most expensive spark plug you can get your hands on!
The expensive racing plugs are built from expensive metals such as titanium & gold and they just work better and don’t foul up as much. They are also better for throttle response.
I Use NGK racing spark plugs. They cost about 30 bucks and last for ages. Worth every cent.
Release any air that has built up in the forks and check for leaks around the fork seals.
Any leaking fluid means that you will need to replace your fork seals.
Forks are another tricky area that I do not recommend you play with unless you are a confident mechanic.
Activate all your controls to make sure they are working at 100% capacity.
- Front/rear brakes
If you ride enduro, dual sport, adventure or road, check your electricals to make sure everything is working.
Check headlight for high and low beam, indicators, brake lights, horn and speedo gauge is all operational.
Check the charge on your battery, if it’s low, place it on the battery charger or replace it entirely if it has been consistently running low on charge.
#16 Engine Mounting Bolts.
Go over the engine mount bolts with a socket wrench to make sure they are tight.
Loose bolts can cause awful amounts of vibration though the bike and can even cause the mounts to break. Check these often.
#17 Lube up.
Lube your chain and lube up all other moving parts with lube spray.
Lube up your steering head bearings, linkage bearings and swing arm bearings.
If these aren’t properly lubed then they will seize up and break down really fast.
#18 Check for Leaks.
Check for leaks around the engine casing, oil drain bolt, forks, clutch or brake cables and fuel lines.
If you have a leak, identify the source by cleaning up the area first and then watching where the leak comes from.
#19 Drain the Fuel.
If your bike has been sitting for a while with some gas in the tank, I always drain it and replace with fresh gas.
Why? The chemicals in gas start to break down after a few weeks of not being used. Fresh is best.
#20 Fluid Levels.
There are 3 fluid levels to check.
Engine oil level. Always keep an eye on this as if you lose your oil then you will blow your engine. Keep your engine oil full at all times and replace the oil frequently, as recommended by your owners manual. To check the oil, place your bike on an even, flat surface and check the oil window on your engine casing. If it is sitting below the recommended line, fill it up.
Coolant level. Twist the radiator cap off and check that coolant level. If it’s low, top it up using the right coolant.
Don’t use water in your radiator as water will corrode the inside of your radiator, causing it to rust out and break down. Use coolant inside.
I use Engine Ice. It’s a high performance racing coolant that is also pre-diluted which means that you don’t have to waste time diluting it yourself.
Master cylinders. Check your hydraulic fluid on your levers. If they are low give them a top up because you really don’t want these to fail when you need them the most.
#21 Replace Worn or Broken Parts.
Replacing worn or damaged parts will always save you from a much greater cost down the track so make sure you stay on top of this.
Over time you will accumulate dirt bike parts, don’t throw these away or sell them!
Store them away in drawers or boxes and you will find they will come in handy when you have to replace worn or broken parts down the track.
If you need to replace any parts, make sure you have given yourself plenty of time to order the parts, have them delivered or go pick them up, and installed with some time to spare.
#22 Fasten Everything.
I always go over my bike with a socket wrench and screwdriver and make sure all the nuts and bolts are fully fastened, including the faring bolts.
#23 Run the Bike!
The night before your ride, always run your bike until it gets hot and go for a short ride if you can. This will identify any engine, suspension, exhaust or any other problems that you haven’t spotted from the 21 point inspection.
If you want to get the most out of your dirt bike then regular maintenance is a must. Follow my 23 point program and you can’t go wrong. Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below and please like and share this post if you liked it.
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