How to care for your dirt bike

These top tips will have your off-roader run­ning sweetly


1 Block off your bits

A pres­sure washer is the only way to clean a well-used dirt bike, but you need to make sure wa­ter doesn’t get in the wrong places. In­vest in ex­haust bungs to stop wa­ter go­ing back up the pipe and into the en­gine, as well an air­box cover to prevent wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion in the car­bu­ret­tor. Don’t have these items? Folded cloth sealed with gaffa tape can work just as well.

3 Beat the thieves

Off-road bikes have al­ways been prone to theft, so as well as tak­ing the usual pre­cau­tion of keep­ing your bike chained up in your garage you should also fit a tracker. The lat­est GPS track­ing units, such as the one in the pic­ture, can be bought for as lit­tle as £30 and re­quire no hard wiring so can be eas­ily hid­den.

2 Breathe freely

Clear the air fil­ter reg­u­larly. The en­gines in these bikes are tuned to make power at high rpm and this de­mands a lot of oxy­gen. The air is scrubbed by a foam type fil­ter that has oil in it to help re­move small dust par­ti­cles. If it isn’t cleaned reg­u­larly the air­flow will be re­duced and the en­gine will run rich, af­fect­ing per­for­mance.

4 Chain care

Keep the chain ad­justed to the ten­sion de­tailed in the own­ers’ man­ual. Too loose and the chain could jump the sprocket, too tight and it could bind the sus­pen­sion. Never as­sume that chain ten­sion is con­sis­tent from one model to an­other, as of­ten it’s wildly dif­fer­ent. Never for­get to lube the chain when you have fin­ished clean­ing the bike.

5 Spokey dokey

Wheels need to be rou­tinely checked for loose, buck­led or bro­ken spokes. You should in­spect the spokes in­di­vid­u­ally and also make sure the rim it­self is not buck­led. Tighten the spokes with a spoke wrench or use a proper spoke torque wrench to prevent over­tight­en­ing.

7 Check coolant

Hav­ing the cor­rect coolant level is es­pe­cially im­por­tant on com­pe­ti­tion four-stroke bikes which tend to run very hot. In milder con­di­tions use de-ionised wa­ter; for win­ter stor­age and colder events mix deionised wa­ter with a con­cen­trated an­tifreeze. Al­ways make sure that any rad guards are clear of mud and that the ra­di­a­tor it­self is cleaned of­ten.

9 Have a look at your hub

Most off-road bikes don’t have a cush drive assem­bly, the sprocket is mounted di­rectly on to the rear wheel hub to give the rider the ul­ti­mate con­nec­tion to the back wheel and feel for the ter­rain. The down­side is that the sprocket mounts need to be checked reg­u­larly. Check each one in turn and torque up to spec. Also check for dam­age or wear to the sprocket it­self.

6 Bleed your forks

Off-road forks have a ten­dency to take in small amounts of air past the seals which over time can change the han­dling as the forks slowly pres­surise. This will even­tu­ally blow the fork seals. Check the owner’s man­ual for the lo­ca­tion of the air bleed screw on top of the fork leg.

8 Check crit­i­cal bolts

Reg­u­larly check any fas­ten­ings, such as the fork yoke clamps, that have their spe­cific torque val­ues high­lighted in the owner’s man­ual. Us­ing the cor­rect torque here is so crit­i­cal that the pre­cise value is em­bossed on the yoke. This KTM re­quires only 12Nm per bolt, that’s prob­a­bly half what most peo­ple would think it should be.

10 In­spect your rub­ber

Ex­am­ine the tyres reg­u­larly to check for cuts on side­walls and miss­ing tread blocks. Off-road bikes are sub­ject to much more abuse than road bikes. The edges of rocks and de­bris on some ter­rain takes its toll on tyres. Rocks can eas­ily tear off the tread blocks of knob­bly tyres, while harsh im­pacts can dam­age the side­walls.

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