Bike Check

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AFTER A DAY OF ROCK-HOPPING, bashing the skid plate and banging the handlebars, or even a soft-butt day of 400-500 miles on interstates, the last thing I want to do is crawl around on the ground looking for damage to the underside of the motorcycle. I would rather get out of my riding gear, shower and sit around a dinner table reflecting on the adventure. Unfortunately, merely surviving a long or stress filled day is not the end of daily two wheel adventuring.

TIPS AND TRICKS
Deal with potential problems before getting out of dirty riding gear, showering and changing into your casual evening chin-wagging clothes. The first thing to do is stop at a gas station and top off the tank. This prevents peeling off riding gear two minutes into the start of the next day. A full tank is also better when rangers walk into the restaurant, advising patrons that the town is being evacuated due to a fast-moving fire, authorities have turned off the electricity for safety reasons and there’s no power to the gas station pumps. Walk around the motorcycle while at the pump, glance down at the tires, see how far the chain is sagging and look for oil or other drips that should be addressed while still dirty and wearing riding clothes. If needed, dig out the chain lube and give the chain a bath, away from the parking space or where it might drip on walked pavement. During a quick walk around after refueling in France, I noticed my luggage had started to slip off to one side. That one glance also indicated that the American license plate had lost one of the two securing bolts. Closer inspection found the second bolt was at the end of the threads, about to make my French adventure even wilder. Had it fallen off, I might have spent the next week explaining to French, Spanish, Swiss and German authorities why I was riding without a registration plate.

Closer inspection found the second bolt was at the end of the threads, about to make my French adventure even wilder. Had it fallen off, I might have spent the next week explaining to French, Spanish, Swiss and German authorities why I was riding without a registration plate.

The next morning, when fresh and filled with adventure. vigor, do another walk around the motorcycle, looking for anything missed the night before. Examine exposed tires, looking for protrusions, cuts or any metal objects sticking in them. This is also a good time to check to the oil level and tire pressure. It is better to find a leaking tire close to base camp than an hour or two later, away from amenities like a repair shop, air compressor or auto parts store.

On one walkaround inspection, I noticed a small glint in one of the lugs on the rear tire.
Taking off my glasses to look closer, I saw the rounded head of a screw. I slowly twisted the head with my easy-to-access multitool. Fortunately, it was a small sheet metal screw, less than a quarter inch long. Anything longer might have become a flat and wasted an hour gluing a thick patch to the inside of the tire and patching or replacing the inner tube. Morning walk-arounds should include a close look at the ground, gravel or pavement under the motorcycle’s engine.

Drip marks might mean anything from a cracked engine case to a tired crush washer in the oil drain plug and are often met with anger at the motorcycle gods and intense growling, like a cur dog at a mailman. The thought that a day of adventure might instead be spent wrenching, with epoxy in a hot parking lot, or worse, that the entire journey could be over. “Grrrrrr!”

A smile returns if it is discovered that the oil drops are from another vehicle that parked in the same spot. Make a final lower engine inspection while down there rejoicing, then make another random inspection of both tires and wipe the spot clean.
One upside of being down on hands and knees is bending can be likened to a morning yoga exercise, loosening up stiff muscles and joints from the day before. Like the old saying, “An ounce of inspection is worth a pound of cur,” as in that cur dog growling at a more serious break down.

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