Understand your bike | Why it’s important

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Over the years I’ve met plenty of people that love riding motorcycles, but don’t actually know the first thing about them. They know how to turn them on, where the throttle is and all the important stuff… but quite often, that’s where their knowledge ends. And that’s fine. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of its technical specification to enjoy it. It’s by no means essential that you know how your engine, your brakes and your suspension works. But having half an idea how all them things do what they do will make your entire motorcycling experience better; in every way. Here’s why it’s important to understand your bike.


If your bike starts rattling, or develops a misfire it could be a fairly terminal engine problem. But it might not be. In fact it probably isn’t. If you’ve had the bike for a few years, you’ve worked on it yourself and you know it like the back of your hand, there’s a good chance that you’ll know exactly what’s causing that sound, straight away.

That’s great when you’re at home, but it’s even better when you’re not. When you’re at home, you can faff and fiddle until you find the problem. But if you hear it when you’re out and about, you’re unlikely to have the time (or the tools) to faff and fiddle with much. If you know straight away what you need to look at, it can be the difference between getting home in time for tea, and not.

Be a money saving expert

And of course it’ll save you money. If you’ve got the confidence and knowledge to sort any issues out yourself, you won’t have to pay someone else to do it. And with some bike garages charging over £60/hour for labour, a simple fault, easily fixed, has the potential to really sting.

I’m not suggesting anyone attempts an engine rebuild after watching a YouTube video, or tries to service their suspension with the tools they keep under the pillion seat. That would be really daft. But everyone with a pair of hands is capable of unbolting stuff and bolting it back on, and that’s where you start. Before long you’ll be taking more and more bits off your bike, until you can strip the whole thing down with your eyes closed. At which point you definitely won’t want to pay someone £60/hour to do something you can do at home; for free.

Development rider

And when you’ve spent all that time pulling your bike apart, learning what does what and how it all works, you’ll no doubt notice things that can be improved. Because no bike comes out of the factory absolutely perfect. You might decide to adjust your foot-pegs, or the position of your levers, now you know how easy it is. Or maybe new brake pads. Maybe better suspension.

The more you know about how your bike works, the more you’ll understand what it’s doing underneath you. And, therefore, the more you’ll know what you want it to do underneath you. You might want a bit more bottom end pull; so change the gearing. You might want it to breathe a bit easier; so go down the exhaust route. There are loads of ways to make your bike better. And the more you understand your bike, the better chance you stand of actually improving it.

You’ll enjoy riding more

And the better your bike is, the more you’ll enjoy it. Especially if you’ve made it better yourself, through your own personal development program. Because straight off the production line, bikes aren’t unique; but each one of us motorcycle riders are unique. We all want something slightly different from our bike, and that usually means they need tweaking ever so slightly to really make them our own.

So next time you’ve got an hour or so spare, why not spend it working on your bike. Learning what’s liable to fail or fall off on that particular model, and what can be done about it. Because time spent holding a spanner is seldom wasted. Time spent holding a telly remote, on the other hand…


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