Trail bike facelift – transform your bike for £300

Trail bike facelift - transform your bike for £300

We all know what it’s like at this time of the year. All the manufacturers have released their new and totally wonderful bikes that boast everything from dual power switches and fully adjustable fuel injection to reduced weight and optimised centre of gravity that makes your bike look like a fully loaded Honda Goldwing. When you open the garage door, you no longer see the faithful companion you’ve travelled hundreds of happy miles on, you see a tired heap of metal that is still dirty from the last ride. Like an unloved rabbit in its hutch at the bottom of the garden, if you don’t lavish some attention on it soon, that boy is going to get proper sick.

So to regain the love for your scoot, it’s time to lavish some TLC on your bike. We‘re not talking a wallet busting ‘Pimp my Ride’ style transformation or indeed a exhaustive list, just a general run through and freshen up to help you love your bike once more. All for small money.



Before we launch into this, let’s make sure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.  Your bike should be as clean as possible – maintenance and mud don’t go well together, so in the unlikely circumstances that you chucked the bike away dirty – Shame on you! Put the laptop down, go jet wash the bike – maybe using our handy guide, and come back when it’s dry

OK, so clear a decent space in the garage and if the floor isn’t spotlessly clean  – put down a decorating dust sheet. That way as and when parts / bolts / washers / circlips fall off, they don’t bounce and get lost under the workbench, and they stay where you can see them.

A magnetic dish – bike shops sell them for a few quid – is a smart buy to keep all your bolts together, although it does rely on you remembering where they came from – if in doubt, bag them and label them up clearly and if they need to go back in a definite order, push them into a piece of card or polystyrene.

If you’ve got overalls, put them on so that you’re nor worrying about getting crap on your decent clothes, and invest in a pair of mechanics gloves – they feel weird at first, but protecting your delicate pinkies from the numerous solvents is a sensible move – hundreds of GP spanner twirlers can’t be wrong.

Right then – Radio on, cup of coffee provided by loving partner – OK make it yourself then and we’re good to go.


STRIP IT OFF. Image H Mitterbauer / Husqvarna

Whoa there!  The bike not you – mechanics in the buff is just plain stupid. If we are going to give the bike a full check and freshen up, then we really can’t do it well without losing the plastics. Everything needs to be taken off, from mudguards to radiator cowls, sump plates to disc covers. It might seem a bit of a chore, but it will enable you to inspect and check bits of the bike that never see the light of day. If your bike has a removable subframe, lose this as well – the rear suspension will suddenly become much easier to work on. If the airbox comes away with the subframe, make sure the carb inlet is properly covered.


Now your bike it stripped back, you can give the frame and chassis components a good inspection. Assuming there isn’t anything cracked or broken, then it’s out with the spanners again. Although jet washing is a quick and easy way of cleaning the bike each week, a season of high pressure blasting will take its toll on you bikes bearings. So rather than wait for them to fail, now is the time to get busy with the grease.


Being careful to only work on one bit at a time, you should strip down, inspect and re -grease the steering head bearings, swinging arm pivot and bearings and all suspension linkages and attachment points. Your workshop manual will give the correct procedure on how to strip down and rebuild your particular bike and which bits should be greased and what grease to use  – KTM’s PDS linkless system, for example, require very little lubrication. In the absence of any guidance from the manual, go for something like BelRay Marine Grease – if it works underwater, it will probably stay in place during most of the planet’s weather.


Wheel bearings are often overlooked, only getting any attention when the scrutineer fails you bike for being more like a clown car than a GP racer. For such a relatively cheap, yet crucial component, it’s false economy to wait for them to fail before replacing them. So while both wheels are out, you might as well whack in some new wheel bearings.

If you don’t want to shell out on OEM bearings, simply taking the old ones to a local bearing manufacturer will get you identical spec parts at a fraction of the price. But whether genuine parts or copies, new bearings are surprisingly short on grease. In order to make them last longer and perform better, prise off the dust seals and pack as much good quality gloop into both sides of the bearing before clipping the seals back in place – simple.

If you buy a full kit, you’ll get the spacers and dust seals so that’s where the smart money is.



Now the bike is back together, it’s time to turn your attention to fluids. During it’s the ravages of regular trail riding will have left their mark on the various liquids keeping your bike going. Whether it’s sludge in your radiator or mud and water in your fuel tank, it ain’t good for the engine and needs to go.

We’ll assume you are all up to date on the oil / filter changes, especially the four-stoke riders – but if not, add this one to the list.

Firstly, drain off the cooling system  – there’ll be a bolt on the water pump- and flush with cold water. Once it’s running clean, replace the drain bolt and refill the system with fresh new coolant / antifreeze & water mix. If your bike runs hot, you might want to try ad additive like ‘Water Wetter’ to reduce the running temperature, or you can ditch water entirely and go for Evans Waterless Coolant that we are running on the KTM 250 EXC. If you chose this option you need to buy the flushing liquid first to remove all traces of water and then add the coolant. After that it will run cooler than Miles Davis.

Now you are on a roll, so whip off the fuel tank, drain it and if you are running a stroker, remove the petrol tap to give the filter a good clean – it’s surprising how much muck can find it’s way to the bottom of the tank in the course a year. Just in case anything has got through, drain the float bowl too.

Final fluid replacement task unless you are going to go mad and do the forks as well is the hydraulics. Brake fluid is hygroscopic – it absorbs water from the air, and even in a closed system it can take in enough to seriously reduce braking efficiency. Therefore, it’s sensible to take this opportunity to check, flush through and then bleed both brake systems.  If you own a KTM or Husqvarna, you should also do the clutch, though not with the same fluid on the older models.


Just a quick one here – pop in a new plug – no questions please.



KEEP A CLEAR COCKPIT. Image H Mitterbauer / KTM

Nearly done – time to look at the cockpit now. Tired and sloppy levers and grips will make you bike feel older than it is, so it’s smart to look a putting on a set of new grips and properly lubricating the cables and levers so that they all move freely. Cable oilers are inexpensive and allow you to send WD40 down the length of the cable without too much mess – throttle cables should be removed from the carb, as you don’t want to flush dirt and oil into the float bowl. If you cables won’t easily free up, then ditch them and replace with either OEM or upgrade to braided or silicone lined hoses and cables.

It’s also worth spending a bit of time on stripping down and cleaning the whole throttle assembly. Even with good grips, it’s easy for crap or grip glue to find its way into the throttle tube. Starting out with a jammed throttle sending you into a hedge ain’t a good look!


Last up is bar risers. If you find you are constantly stooping forward, then taller bars may not be enough and you should invest in a set of risers to make things fit better. Be aware that if you go up too much in height, you will need to invest in extended cables.

With all the controls detached, it’s worth considering changing your handlebars too. A different bend will totally transform the feel of your bike and often makes you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. In the past we’ve been massive fans of Renthal 996s in the Windham bend – a common enduro choice, but recently we’ve swapped to FatBars in an Enduro bend and are loving the feel. Have a look at their website and you can see lots of different options. Of course you might also look at Neken, Pro Taper or  another favourite of ours – Easton bars Woods bend as in the image above.


Before reassembling the bike is to restore some grip to your footpegs. Those rounded lumps on either side of the bike aren’t really going to allow you to ‘Scrub like Bubba’ are they? Dig yourself out a decent file and some thick gloves and after a few minutes you’ll have turned them back into factory fresh metal. Follow that with a clean and oil for the pivot pins and they’ll snap back into place like obedient Rottweilers.



Freshening up your fluids will cost you around £50 or $70 if you are going to buy quality products  – they will make a difference straight away. Changing to waterless coolants is going to add to this by about £20 or $30.


OEM bearings  and kits will cost more than pattern versions, so you need to make e decision whether having genuine parts matters. A bearing kit alone will be around £15 – 20 or $20 – $30 and the full kit around £40 – £60 or $50 – $70


A full set of replica plastics is going to set you back around £80 0r $105 for am MX kit and slightly more for an enduro kit as there are lights in there. For an OEM kit expect to roughly double that, but bear in mind that with newer models, the graphics are often sublimated into the plastics, so you save on graphics. If you do have graphics made, be wary of copying registered trademarks – KTM especially!

Bars and grips

Although you can get cheap bars we do not recommend these at all – pay up for top quality kit and you will bet quality kit. Renthals are going to cost between £80 – £100 or $100 – $120 and are worth every penny.

Grips are only around £15 – £20  – $20 – $28 so you should change these regularly.


New plastics will lift the look of your bike like nothing else. OEM sets can sometimes be expensive but companies like Polisport make great replacement sets that will bolt straight on. And what’s more you can change the colour, so if you’ve always wanted a black Honda or indeed a fluorescent KTM, those options are available for less than £100. Left plain they’ll look a bit odd, so take a trip to your local graphics guy and design yourself something cool and personal. But no howling wolves, Native American chiefs, naked women or skulls please.


Right, you’ll have already done some of the rebuild, but now it’s time to put the bike back together. Carefully reassemble all the stripped parts, ensuring that you swap any damaged or rounded fasteners with good quality replacements  – Sod’s Law dictates that a crappy bolt will be in the most inaccessible place! To make sure that the bolts don’t come loose, or indeed do come undone when you want them to you will need to use either Loctite and Coppaslip, being careful not confuse where to use each product – but hey, you knew that anyway…

And there we go – job done – you bike looks great and is ready for battle once again.

Time for a beer?


We run incredible tours in amazing countries. From the waterlogged trails of Cambodia to the jungle tracks in Vietnam, we've got it covered

Leave a Reply