A Pack of Life-Savers

June 11, 2024 | By Mike Seate

I received a text today from someone seeking repairs on a long-dormant motorcycle. This is far from uncommon as the Cafe Racer magazine garage is frequently mistaken fora general vehicle repair shop, which we certainly are not. When located in Downtown Sewickley, PA. a few years back, our garage door opened onto the patio dining area of a local sushi restaurant and was partically visible from the town’s busy main street. That meant leaving the door open for more than, say 10 minutes, brought in a delube of curious tire-kickers, men bored by their sushi dinners seeking distraction and countless motorcycle and car owners inquiring about quick fixes for this or that problem.

One day, Blake Kelly and I stood dumbfounded as a bicycle rider demanded use of our tools and air compressor. After asking him in no uncertain terms to vamoose, we heard a noise in the backgroudn of the tool room where Mr. Spandex Shorts had managed to sneak into and began rummaging for tools without permission. We’ve since relocated away from the curious crowds into a large industrial park where the public has little or no access.

Still, requests come in occasionally, like the message from earlier today. After advising the motorcycle owner to seek out a licensed repair shop to cure his machine’s various ills, I couldn’t help think about how avoidable some of this rider’s issues actually were. This motorcycle was purchased used last winter and nothing had been done to it mechanically in the eight months since. Buyers of used motorcycles often mistakenly treat their bikes like other sporting goods items, ignoring them while otherwise occupied and then yanking them from their storage spaces fully expecting the motorcycles to perform perfectly after months or even years of stagnation.

This is not only unrealistic, but potentially dangerous. Motorcycles are not tennis rackets or baseball bats and without the proper maintenance, they can injure their owners in ways that other leisure equipment never could. The guy who texted claimed his bike refused to start regularly and when it did turn over, “it runs like crap and won’t hold a idle.” I cringed thinking of the condition of his machine, which likely needed a thorough going over before he aimed the front wheel at a busy road. If you know someone with a similarly neglected motorcycle, our team compiled this brief list of safety checks- call them life-savers if you will- to make re-commissioning a static two-wheeler far less risky.

  1. Drain and replace all fluids. This is especially true for gasoline, which can go bad in just a couple of weeks due to ethanol-based fuel additives.

2. Check tire pressures. Motorcycle tires can lose dangerous amounts of air pressure during even brief storage, so always top off the pressure.

3. Check the operation of both front and rear brakes: The time to find out your brake pads need replaced or the hydraulic fluid has gone bad is not in traffic at 70 MPH.

4. Nuts and bolts. Even utilizing the cheapo tool kits provided with most streetbikes, you should work your way from one end of the motorcycle to the other, tightening all nuts, bolts and hardware.

5. Watch cable. No, not cable TV, but the clutch, brake and throttle cables on your bike and do it regularly. A snapped cable means the abrupt end of your ride while a can of cable lube cost a couple of bucks. Do the math,

There are dozens of other preventive safety measures that are cheap and easy to perform that will prevent you from having to call a garage for advice, and starting with the purchase of an owners or shop manual (better yet) will get you on your way to a better bike. And just maybe, it will save your hide out on the road. Ride on, wrench on!