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Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance - Rookie to Rider


Courtney S · March 19, 2020

The Rookie to Rider series is written by experienced rider Courtney, who first hand has faced the many challenges and fantastic experiences that two wheels has to offer. The series aims to help all riders improve their skills and get more out of life on two wheels.

The sixth part of the Rookie to Rider Series can be found below. Enjoy!


I’ll be the first to admit I’m no bike mechanic, but there is some basic maintenance you absolutely need to learn if you’re going to keep your motorcycle in good working order and keep yourself safe on the road. It’s important to carry out some basic checks on your bike before each ride as well as to generally pay attention to what your bike is telling you.

That’s right, your motorbike will speak to you, and it’s important that you listen. Strange noises (like whistling or grinding) and odd vibrations can all be trying to warn us that our bike may have an impending problem, and it’s good to take heed of them to save bigger issues down the line. The more you ride your bike, the better you’ll know it, and you’ll start to get a sense of what’s normal for your machine and what’s not.

Warming Up and Pre-Ride Checks

Allow the bike to warm up for at least 30 seconds before you pull off. Engine oil will sit at the bottom of a cold motorcycle, so this warm-up time will help get it stirring and lubricating any moving parts.

Do a quick check on the condition of your tyres. Keep your manual handy so you can check the correct tread depth and tyre pressure for your bike.

It’s always good to quickly check that your lights and brakes are working correctly too before setting off on a ride.

Chain Maintenance

A loose chain can be very dangerous on a motorcycle. But, you don’t want it too tight either. Place two fingers under the lowest part of the chain and lift it – approx. 1.5 inches of play is about right but double check your manual.

It’s also important to keep the chain clean and lubricated. This is best done after your ride to give the oil a chance to soak into the chain.


The engine, brakes, clutch, steering and cooling system all require liquids and oils to help lubricate them or provide pressure to the bike – and it’s important to stay on top of them. Your manual will explain where these reservoirs are and how to top them up.


As mentioned, always do a quick brake test before setting off on any ride. It’s also good practice to do a more thorough check of your brakes regularly. Once you’ve checked your brake fluid levels you should also check the pads themselves for any signs of being worn down. If you suspect this to be the case, it’s absolutely vital to replace them. For this you may prefer to take the bike down to your local garage or, if you’re feeling up to the task, break out your manual and try replacing them yourself. Just make sure to test them before you ride!

Air Filters

When learning how to be your own bike mechanic, cleaning your air filter is a great place to start. Dirty air filters reduce performance and must be cleaned or replaced. To clean, remove the filter, wash it with kerosene, ensure it has dried and then coat with a light layer of engine oil. Watch a tutorial on how to do this or simply refer to your manual.

General Checks and Good Practice

If you notice any loose bolts or screws while inspecting your motorcycle, be sure to give them a tighten. It’s also good to give your motorcycle a regular clean and to do the above checks to help keep your machine healthy and safe on the road.

Muc off starter Cleaning kit

Even with regular checks, you should get your bike booked in for a service every 5000 miles or every six months. You might even want to book onto a course to learn more about the basics of motorcycle mechanics after you’ve passed your test.

Read more of the Rookie to Rider Series by Courtney:

How to improve your clutch control - Rookie to Rider 1 by Courtney

How to change gears on a motorbike - Rookie to Rider 2 by Courtney

How I learnt to corner better - Rookie to Rider 3 by Courtney

How to deal with poor conditions on a motorbike - Rookie to Rider 4 by Courtney

How to clean a motorcycle correctly - Rookie to Rider 5 by Courtney

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.