If you own a bike, you want it to always be ready to ride. It needs to be reliable and drive without any jolts or jumps. Most importantly, you have to be able to count on it when you're out on the road and have nothing else you can count on to get you wherever you're going.
The thing is, if you want to be able to rely on your bike, it needs to be able to rely on you to do basic inspections and maintenance regularly so that you can be sure to avoid most of the common problems bikes have.
When it comes to motorcycle maintenance, it’s often best to start from the inside and move out. Though it may sound like the complicated part, it can actually be easy to do and learn.
A basic jumping off point is knowing how to change your own oil. There's no reason a motorcycle rider shouldn't be able to do this themselves, given it is a reasonably simple and straightforward process requiring no special tools or jacks.
First, remove any fairing or body work to get to your oil pan, loosen the oil fill cap (to allow air to fill the vacuum created by draining oil) and remove the oil drain plug over a bucket or container. While it drains, replace the crush washer with a new one (optional), check the o-ring if present and wipe off any metal shavings that were stuck on the plug.
Replace the oil filter (rub some of the drained oil on the rubber seal of the filter for lubrication), wipe around any openings, replace the drain plug and add new oil. Start the bike briefly (a few seconds), wait about a minute and then check the oil level. Once you're at the right level, you're done.
While you're down there, inspect the chain. Make sure that it can move roughly one inch up and down from the center and tighten or loosen if needs be. Make sure your sprocket teeth mesh well with the chain. If necessary, clean the chain. Afterwards, spray it with lubricant, not neglecting the inner links.
With a couple of the critical hard parts in the bag, take a look at some of the outer parts.
Begin with the tires. It’s good practice to before each ride to do a visual inspection of your tires, looking for punctures and tears. Checking the pressure once a week is also characteristic of a good maintenance regiment.
You can also use a quarter to check the tread levels. Place the quarter in the center of your tread. If the rubber from the tire extends beyond the top of George Washington's head, you’re good. If not, it's time to start thinking about replacement.
Finally, check for any debris that may have gotten stuck in crevasses and open areas of the bike, including the wheels.
You can't avoid every problem, but you certainly can side step a fair number of them by making sure that you do regular maintenance on your bike. You are the keeper and caretaker for your bike. Its condition at any given moment is your responsibility. With this in mind, make sure you take the effort to keep it clean and running in top shape, inside and out. It doesn't take much, but it will be worth the work.