Just a few of the things you should check before you start flogging your bike again this spring
Maybe your bike hasn’t sat idle all winter. Maybe you’ve been riding every weekend. If so, good for you. Some of you guys, we know, put your bikes away and spend the winter in front of the boob tube, and that’s fine too. Us, we stud up, flog it through the snow and ice and park in front of a warm hearth at sundown. Cold spikes on wet ice isn’t for everyone, but sooner rather than later, you are going to ride again, and you know your bike needs some work before spring pops.
There are a myriad of things that we put off doing during the riding season, making winter the perfect time to get them done. Maybe your e-start needs a cleaning or is broken. Maybe you want to the do the “wet mod” to the KTM e-start. Are your suspension pivot bolts squeaking? Maybe there’s rust going on somewhere you really don’t need it. When was the last time your suspension fluids were changed? The doldrums of winter are the perfect time of year to get into some of those ancillary maintenance tasks we put off during the riding season. Sometimes things can be caught before causing a headache. So, grab your favorite libation and head to where you keep your scoot. We moved ours into the office as it’s nice and warm there. With a little time well spent, some of these items may just make it until next winter before needing some attention. Either way, it’ll be a lot more satisfying than another afternoon in front of the tube.
Most bikes have drain holes in the bottom of the swingarm that allow water and dirt to drain after a mud hole or water crossing. Sometimes the drain hole gets clogged and traps water and moisture inside the swing arm. Take a look at where the drain hole is positioned. Most likely the hole isn’t at the lowest point of the swingarm. This will allow moisture to accumulate inside even if the drain hole isn’t clogged. Often, the end of the chain adjuster bolt sits in that water causing it to rust or seize in place. Ever had a chain adjuster bolt seize inside the swingarm? Ever snap it off trying to get it out once it’s seized? Calling it a headache is an understatement.
Every time I swap out a chain I crank the chain adjuster bolts all the way out and lube them with something like Liquid Wrench, or some other rust removing penetrating oil. Do it when the bike is brand new, and do it every time you replace your chain. It saves a lot of hassle.
Now here’s an exciting way to spend an hour or two out of your day: re-greasing your steering head bearings. OK, it’s not particularly glamorous or exciting, but it is important to get inside there and spread the grease around. This is actually a common failure point on older bikes. Make sure to use a good quality waterproof grease. Some old timers used to fill the steering tube with grease. I haven’t had to yet. Can you imagine the mess on a hot day?
With today’s ethanol additives, it’s a good idea to give the carb a good cleaning, especially if you just drained it and left it for the winter. Today’s fuels gum up quickly, which means you’ll want to remove the jets, blow out the passages and replace any worn parts. When you’ve finished, hit everything with some gum-out. Take the floats off and give them a thorough inspection. I had a bike that randomly began peeing gas. Turns out a piece of gummed up gas formed on the backside of the floats and caused them to stick. It took me three tries to figure it out! So give the floats a good cleaning. And while you’re at it, see what you are running for jetting specs.
If your e-start is still working then you are in a good position to ensure it stays that way, courtesy of a little preventative maintenance. If it needs a rebuild, there are several good videos on YouTube from Jeff Slavens. What happens with many e-starts is that the grease inside the protective housing dries up and gets hard. In turn the teeth on internal cogs get chewed up and won’t engage. To keep this from happening, Jeff Slavens recommends inserting roughly four ounces of lightweight oil (# 3 or 5 weight fork oil – even some transmission fluids will work) into the ignition housing. This keeps the internals properly lubed and increases longevity. Again, check out the YouTube video by Slavens Racing for the step-by-step process; it is worth it. You will need to install a vent or the pressure will push the fluid into the wiring harness. The video provides easy instructions and is worth a look.
What better time than the winter to check all of your electrical connections. With the bike apart, now would be a great time to inspect the wiring. Trace them the entirety of their length (within reason) and look for tears or breaks in the wires. Disconnect the connections, clean out the dirt and inspect for rust or corrosion. Spray some WD-40 in there while you’re at it.
Steel bolts and aluminum don’t mix, and steel bolts and magnesium are even worse. Steel on steel becomes nasty after a season of neglect, so pay attention to your bolts. There are a few attachments on every bike that need Loctite, especially after a few pieces of your fine machine drop off on the trail. lf it calls for Loctite, use it (but don’t use it on or near plastic—one drop of Loctite turns most plastic as brittle as glass). lf the part in question doesn’t need Loctite, lube it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your nut/bolt attachments must be clean and dry when you put them together. You can actually get a better, more reliable attachment by using a product like Never-Seize on the bolts first, so that you don’t have the threads binding or galling on each other.
There is no excuse for a dirty airbox. Given the airbox covers of today you should be able to gently spray the interior of an airbox with a detergent and water. Still, I am always amazed at the dirty state of most air boxes. Some people don’t even take the time to wipe them out with a rag. lf the inside of the box is squeaky clean, there’s less chance of sucking dirt into your carb and having it stick wide open on you.
ODDS AND ENDS
Not everyone gets a new bike each year. In fact, if you’ve bought a used bike recently, chances are a lot of the above maintenance tasks haven’t been done yet. Winter is the perfect time to tackle some of those maintenance tasks that get overlooked or put off during the year. We have only touched on a few of things we generally do, a long list that covers things like truing the wheels and having the suspension fluids changed. When was the last time the heim joints on your KTM were changed? Grab that libation and head for the garage, it’s worth it.