10 Mistakes We Bikers Make (It's not too late, though): Part I
We’re all humans and humans make mistakes. But when we operate certain equipment, certain mistakes become common ones. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by us bikers, broken down into two parts for better understanding.
1. Letting Others Ride Your Bike
You’re back for Raya and your excited nephew wants to “feel” your new superbike; but all that he’s ever ridden is his Honda EX5. What do you do? Do you tell him “No” and break his heart? Or do you hand him the key?
Good call on going with option number two, because loaning your bike to just anyone is a no-no. In fact, loaning your bike to “experienced” friends isn’t such a good idea, either.
That’s because that person will “test” your bike’s capabilities. It’s safer to do so at the track, but it’s an entirely different matter out there on public roads.
There’ve been so many cases of accidents involving those who test ride their buddy’s or uncle’s bikes, some ending in tragic consequences.
2. Not Cleaning the Chain
The drive chain is the only thing that transmits the power from the engine to the rear wheel.
An unmaintained chain i.e. dirty, dry or loose one will cause loss of power, increased fuel consumption, abnormal wear on the sprockets and may eventually snap. When that happens, you’d be thankful if it dropped clear of the bike, otherwise it’ll cause the rear wheel to lock if it jams in the space between the sprocket and swingarm. In extreme cases, the snapped chain turns into a whip which injures the rider or passenger.
You should always clean and lube your chain every 400 kilometres or so by using chain cleaner (or kerosene), then spray on a penetrant (ideally), followed by chain lube. Don’t forget to spray into the spaces between the links with the tube, instead of spraying it like a can of Ridsect.
Finally, adjust your chain so that it has a 25mm freeplay between the lowest and highest positions, at the midpoint.
3. Not Checking Tyre Pressure
Next to the chain, tyre pressure is the most neglected aspect.
Underinflated tyres cause increased fuel consumption, abnormal tyre wear and lifespan, and handling imbalances that could very well lead to loss of control.
Do check at least once a week and test using your own tyre gauge. Or better yet, install a tyre pressure monitoring system, such as EBAT’s.
4. Letting the Engine Idle
We see this all the time.
The rider starts up his bike and lets it idle for the better part of 15 minutes while he leisurely suits up.
Firstly, oil needs some engine load to circulate so only small amounts get to the important parts at idle. Unless your engine uses a separately powered oil pump, an idling engine doesn’t provide enough pressure to circulate the oil.
Secondly, and most importantly, small amounts of sulfur will be left behind in the cylinder(s) as a by-product of combusted fuel. When the engine cools overnight, the cool metal surfaces inside the combustion chamber condensates moisture in the air. This moisture now reacts with the sulfur to form a small amount of sulfuric acid.
A low engine load such as idling will not have enough positive pressure to push the gasses out of the combustion chamber. Now the caustic mix gets circulated in the combustion chamber and starts eating away at the parts of the chamber, valve seats and piston rings.
So what do you do? Just start and go, but do pull away smoothly (not pinning the throttle right away).
5. Neglecting Fork Oil
It’s easy to forget that there’s oil in the forks (unless you’re riding a motocrosser with air forks), since it’s out of sight. That’s until it starts oozing out onto the fork legs, rim and brakes!
The oil in fork legs are subjected to extreme conditions, almost as harsh as those inside the engine. The oil wears down from shearing, heat and contamination from rapid movement (up to 2 m/s). There’s also fine metal flakes due to the spring scraping the inner fork tube from compression, rebound and flex. Those metal chips will then go on to gouge the fork’s oil seal, resulting in a leak.
When should you change the fork oil?
Every 20,000 km to 30,000 km would be a good practice.