Off-Road Essentials: New Year Makeover

In Motorcycle Maintenance, Motorcycle Product Reviews by Julian

It’s the New Year – traditionally a time to throw out the old and bring in the new. But when it comes to your dirt bike, trading in the faithful hack for something brand new and shiny really isn’t necessary, it’s just time for a motorcycle makeover!

 

Time for a motorcycle makeover
IT MIGHT BE A BIT GRUBBY, BUT A BIT OF GARAGE TIME WILL BRING IT BACK

Underneath the muck and corrosion there’s still a great bike, you’ve just got to put in the effort, twist those spanners and splash a bit of cash to find it.

So we thought we’d give you a plan of attack in the form of our New Year Motorcycle Makeover.  You might not need or indeed be bothered to do the full twelve on the list, but as every step will improve your scoot, you can only win.

All products listed are included as suggestions and examples, not necessarily recommendations from RIDE EXPEDITIONS, although we have used many of those featured.

Let’s get busy ….

TRANSMISSION VAMP

As the only way that the power is getting from you engine to your wheel, the chain and sprockets are a good place to start our motorcycle makeover.

Of course, you all know that changing the sprockets without changing the chain is as dumb as running a new chain on knackered sprockets don’t you? So lets get sensible about this – if we are bothering with a spruce up, lets do a proper job.

Motorcycle makeover - new chain
WHETHER O RING OR X RING,  A NEW CHAIN IS A GOOD INVESTMENT

For everything but the all-out motocross boys, then you will be looking at an O-Ring chain or  X-ring.  Either way the addition of the ring, whatever shape it might be,  increases longevity of the chain by sealing in the lubrication of the internal surfaces, so that’s a good thing.

You can but OEM manufacturers chains, but as most will tend to source their chains from similar manufacturers like DID , there is little advantage except from maybe the fact that it will be the right length to start with. For off-the-shelf chains, you may need to cut to length using either a chain splitter or a grinder if you know what you are doing!

motorcycle makeover Twinring sprocket
STEEL TEETH AND ALLOY CORE – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

For sprockets you will have options too. As the front, there will be the choice of OEM or pattern, both should be steel but you can vary the number of teeth to alter the gearing. Don’t go mad on this as going up or down just one tooth at the front makes a big difference.

At the rear, there are further options of alloy, steel or even dual-metal versions  like –  Renthal Twin ring or Supersprox

Stealth – that have steel teeth on an alloy centre for maximum longevity with reduced weight. You can also get funky with the colours if you feel like it …

As with the front, you will be able to buy different sizes which will alter your gearing – see our blog post covering this: 100 upgrades to improve your dirt bike.

RUBBER SOLE

If there is one thing guaranteed to improve the performance of your bike, then it’s the black things that connect it to the ground. And hence it follows that any attempts to improve your bike should include changing worn-out rubber for fresh.

But what to change them for. Bikers tend to be creatures of habit and go for the same brand and type each time as an “it’s not broke” option. But how about experimenting a little? Why not see just how grippy trials or hybrid tyres can be when fitted to an enduro bike? Tyres are not that expensive and the differences between an enduro and more sticky hoop when ridden on rocky or stony terrain can be immense, and if you don’t like it – just wear it out and don’t go back, or if you can’t stand it, pass it on for a mate to try.

 

motorcycle makeover - Maxxis TrailMaxx
MAXXIS TRAILMAXX – AS STICK AS WARM LIQUORICE

And for the adventure bike riders, how about experimenting too? If you never go off-road, why not ditch the dual sports and head for some super-sticky road rubber? You’ll be amazed at how agile your 250 kg monster can be when it’s got more than two square inches on the road!

The same goes for you venturing off-road on stock and slippery OEM dual sport hoops. Why nor invest in something really suited to the job and see how good your bike can be. OK you might be limited by tyre size on some bikes, but most adventure machines off-road performance can be improved with the correct rubber.

Motorcycle makeover - Dual sport tyres
METZELLER KAROO 3S LOOK THE PART AND OFFER GOOD OFF-ROAD GRIP

CANNED HEAT

So if we are just looking at a New Year motorcycle makeover, then clearly investing in new exhaust parts may be stretching things. But at the very least you can make what’s there as good as it can be. And that means tackling a silencer service

For both the strokers and the thumpers , this can be something that’s too often overlooked, but is in fact a cheap and simple option that will have a beneficial effect on the bike and the environment you ride in.

motorcycle makeover - Exhaust packing
NEW PACKING IS SO CHEAP, YOU SHOULD DO THIS TWICE A YEAR

For less than £10 you can buy yourself silencer packing from either your local dealer or eBay – we know we’ve just done the can on the KTM EXC250.

With most silencers capable of being unbolted, then replacing the often black and, in the two-stroke case, oil-soaked packing is simple.  Remove the old stuff and clean off the central pipe  – carefully and in a well-ventilated area if using solvents before reassembly with the new padding. Hold the padding in place by wrapping a wide spiral of cotton around it and tying off, before slipping the whole assembly back into the outside can. Job done

You bike will now sound better and perform better as it now has the correct back pressure from the end can.

 

GET A GRIP

Another cheap and cheerful option here, but one that makes an instant and very noticeable effect. As the attachment point between us and the bike then the grips are essential but often overlooked. Yet considering they cost less than a ten spot, this seems a bad idea.

motorcycle makeover - PRO TAPER GRIPS
PRO TAPER GRIPS AND THREE LOCKWIRES – TEXTBOOK STUFF

And now that some of the manufacturers even supply non-messy and instant grip glue, there is really no excuse for keeping knackered grips in place.

Get out the Stanley knife, slice of the old ones, clean off the old glue, apply the new glue and slide on the fresh ones. Lockwire as appropriate.

Easy and indeed peasy.

STOP SHOP

motorcycle makeover - BREMBOS AND GALFER DISC brakes
NOW THAT’S A SET UP RIGHT THERE  – BREMBO CALIPER AND GALFER DISC

Once upon a time, your brakes looked like this. Shiny precision components carefully assembled and capable of bringing your bike to a swift and controlled halt within seconds. Now look at them –   rusty and scraped discs are gripped by simlarly rusty and worn pads, fed by a weathered hydraulic pipe filled with murky brown fluid. It’s not good.

So the least we can do is a full caliper service, removing the whole unit, taking out the pistons and giving everything a full clean. If you are really keen you can replace the piston seals and if going mad, the master cylinder seals too before fitting new pins and pads, adding new hoses and bleeding through with fresh DOT4. Perfect.

As for the discs, this is going to take a bit more cash, but if they are on their way out, replacing them can only help your bikes braking efficiency. At around £30 for a pattern part, then both ends should come in well below the £100 mark. Go for something like the mid range MotoMaster discs and you are looking closer to £90 each, and high end BRAKING discs, favoured by top motocross and Supercross teams, are double that.

If you are constantly riding in really muddy conditions, changing from ventilated to solid discs night be an option as this will reduce brake pad wear.

MOTO MASTER DISC                                                                                                                           BRAKING DISC
Motomaster disc
BRAKING Disc

SADDLE UP

OK so if you’ve changed the grips, it might be worth looking at your other main point of contact – the saddle. Most riders put up with the stock seat from initial purchase to eventual sale without ever questioning whether things could be better. So KTM riders put up with rock hard planks while DRZ owners never move from one position, trapped in place by the soft foam engulfing their rear ends.

But there are plenty of other options – KTM and Husky offer tall seats, low seats, gripper seats, humped seats in their Powerparts / Husky Sport catalogues, and all those options can be created on your OEM seat simply buy buying a replacement cover and either buying replacement foam or trusting it to an automotive upholsterer. If you are really hard core, you could try the Acerbis X seat

Changing your saddle won’t cost much and will seriously change your riding experience – trust us.

motorcycle makeover Acerbis X seat
PICK AN ACERBIS X-SEAT AND YOU’LL NEED TO BE FAST AND STAND UP A LOT

LIKE OUR BLOGS? OUR TOURS ARE JUST AS GOOD!

WHY NOT COME AND JOIN US?

From the deepest Cambodian Jungle to the highest road in the world in the Indian Himalayas, the RIDE EXPEDITIONS team are busy running the finest motorcycle tours. Combining Western standards with local hospitality and guides, it’s a winning combination …

BEARING DOWN

Now we are going deep and this phase may involve some technical ability if you intend to do it your self.

The bearings on your bike take a hell of a beating every time we go out, yet most of us are fairly lax at servicing them and even checking them until the MOT test comes round.

Wheel bearings are left unmolested despite the ravages of the regular jet-wash blasting, the head bearings are left until they clunk and as for the swing arm and linkages, they are as unvisited as a lonely pensioner at Christmas.

 Bearing image
BEARINGS ARE CHEAP AND RELATIVELY EASY TO FIT, SO DON”T WAIT FOR THEM TO FAIL

So at the very least you should be looking to stripping down the components to check and regrease if all is OK. At worst. you may need to replace the bearings that are dry, notched or on their way out. None of those listed are difficult to do, but you do need enough knowledge before you start, and sometimes it’s a good idea to spend some time watching suitable You Tube instructional videos.

SPRING BREAK

Suspension image
YOUR SHOCKS TAKE A LOT OF ABUSE – SHOW THEM SOME LOVE

After a year of keeping the best of the landscape from bashing you and the rest of the bike to pieces, your suspension deserves some TLC. This is probably one thing that we’d suggest you leave to a qualified professional unless you are really on your game on the mechanics front.

Changing oil and seals in the forks is eminently acheivable with a relatively basic knowledge, as is replacing the front springs. But for anything beyond this, and especially when it comes to servicing the rear shock or shocks, we’d firmly suggest you pay the money.

As our blog on suspension tells you, setting up your suspension correctly is the single most cost-effective performance upgrade you can make to your bike. So keeping it working correctly once set up should be a no-brianer …

WP Image
DOES YOUR GARAGE LOOK LIKE THIS?  THEN MAYBE LEAVE THE SUSPENSION SERVICE TO EXPERTS

LEVER FEVER

Like the stock seats, most of us just run the stock levers on  our bikes without bothering to investigate alternatives. Over the months they get battered, twisted and loose and yet still they remain unloved and unreplaced, So maybe the winter rebuild is the time to change that.

There are some very good replacements out there, from the shiny and fresh OEM items to anoodised bits of bling from the big parts houses like 24MX or Parts Unlimited. These look super cool but really don’t do anything different from the stock alloy items, except maybe span adjustment.

Lever image
ANODISED REPLACEMENTS MAY NOT BE BETTER THAN OEM, BUT LOOK PRETTY

But if you are looking to upgrade to something better, then there are plenty of options, from the hyper-bendy and unbreakable Renthal Intellilever to the high end Clarke One Light Clutch.

As an in between option. you could also look at the MME Clever Lever  which promise to reduce the pulling force by an incredible 50% over stock and come in about £70 – comparing favourably to the £532 for the Clarke unit!

We’ll be testing the MME controls in the spring so watch this space for a full review.

RENTHAL INTELLILEVER                                          CLARKE ONE LIGHT                                                     MME CLEVER LEVER

 

Renthal Intellilever
Clarke One light
MME Clever Lever

FILTER FITTER

Changing your oil filters should be part of your regular maintenance, but certainly in the case of air filters, we are all guilty of eeking out the lifespan of a product far beyond the manufacturers intentions. Let’s be clear, an air filter is not for life and it’s sensible to change them regularly if you value your engine.

As with the other components OEM versions will be relatively cheap  and often come from big brand names like Twin Air to start with. Pattern filters will be cheaper, but be careful that the fit is correct before trusting your motor to a £5 version.

motorcycle makeover 2018 - Funnel Web filter
TWICE THE SURFACE AREA AND LOOKS COOL AS – WINNER

But if you are looking to upgrade, then maybe something like the Funnel Web filter may be an option. These offer an impressive 100% increased surface area over stock and hence longer service intervals according to the website. They look super cool too, but as you’re the only one who will see it, it’s not a deal maker!

PLASTIC FANTASTIC

OK so unlike of all the points above, uprating the plastics or graphics on your bike will have absolutely no effect on the performance or handling. Throwing away scratched but serviceable mudguards, radiator shrouds and number boards  to replace them with new is an entirely pointless waste of time, but man it feels so goood. For a shade under £100 you can make your bike look so much better, and invest the same again in custom graphics and your bike will instantly feel fresher, newer and faster. Ok it’s the same shed underneath, but it’s now a shiny shed!

Plastics image
KILLER GRAPHICS ON THE DERESTRICTED.COM EXC300 BUILD

PLUG LIFE

Spark plug
ONE NGK PLUG  – IT’S NOT MUCH TO ASK

So if all our advice and recommendations feel like too much effort, the very least you can do for your bike at the start of another year of abuse is treat it to a new plug.  Who knows, you might realise you’ve never changed the plug, and commonly, discover you’ve been riding with the wrong plug spanner in your backpack since you bought the bike …

So that’s it. You’ve battled through a full twelve steps and now your bike is better than it left the showroom.

BACK OF THE NET!

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Acknowledgements: Renthal, MME, BRAKING. Motomaster, Hu more...