Background and Identification
Motorcycles (also called bikes and motorbikes) are motor vehicles with two or—in the case of motorized tricycles or trikes—three wheels. Motorcycles have been designed for a wide variety of functions, including commuting, off-road riding, long-distance travel, and racing. The three main types of motorcycles include street bikes, off-road bikes, and dual-purpose bikes. Street motorcycles include scooters, mopeds, and cruisers. Off-road motorcycles include motocross bikes, which are usually not street legal. Dual-purpose motorcycles are made to withstand off-road conditions but are also street legal.
In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach designed the first internal combustion, petroleum-fueled motorcycle, which they called the Daimler Reitwagen (meaning “riding car” in German). The Butler Petrol Cycle, which was the first commercial design for a motorized cycle, was designed in 1884 and had three wheels for stability. Series motorcycle production began in 1894. Production greatly increased during the first World War, since motorcycles introduced a faster alternative for delivering messages.
In 2014, Honda, Yamaha, and Hero MotoCorp were the top three international motorcycle manufacturers by volume. Motorcycles are especially popular in developing countries because of their impressive fuel economy and lower prices.
Generally, motorcycles have steel or aluminum frames, disk brakes, and telescoping forks for steering and holding the front wheel in place. Motorcycles are usually powered by petrol-powered engines typically with one to four cylinders (though sometimes up to eight cylinders). The engine is connected to manual transmissions, which drive the rear wheel of the motorcycle by a belt, driveshaft, or chain. Repair on motorcycles is often performed with a motorcycle lift.
- Collection of Dirt and Debris: Dirt and debris can collect in the interior of a motorcycle, causing the machine to run poorly. The buildup of dirt and debris is one of the most common motorcycle problems but can be prevented by checking your motorcycle’s maintenance manual and following its instructions on what to clean and how often they should be cleaned. Even if you do not ride your motorcycle every day, dirt and debris can collect in the bike’s interior from simply sitting in dusty or debris-filled environments, like under a tree or near roads. Dirty spark plugs are often the cause of a poorly running engine and can even prevent the motorcycle from starting.
- Tire Wear: Improper tire pressure can easily cause premature tire wear, just like in cars. Generally, car and street motorcycle tires should be inflated in the 28 to 40 psi range, but it is important to consult your owner’s manual for proper tire pressure and check your tires’ pressure before you ride. Also, proper tire pressure ranges are often included on a sticker on a tire. If the proper pressure is not listed on the tire itself, find the tire model, and make a Google search to find that specific tire’s optimal pressure. The rear tire on a motorcycle will probably need to be changed every 3,000 miles. The average motorcycle tire set costs between $200 and $500.
- Poorly Lubricated Chains: Poorly lubricated chains can lead to catastrophic failure including snapped chains or binding and locking of the drive chain. Such failures can lead to engine damage or cause the rider to have a major accident. Riders should lubricate their chains after every 300 miles, or once every 100 miles if the chain is unsealed. It may enhance your motorcycle’s performance to lubricate the chain after every ride, but this practice is not necessary. Replacing a motorcycle’s chain can cost between $100 and $250, and drive belts sometimes need to be replaced at the same time as the chain. Chains generally need servicing around every 5,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on your bike and how you ride it. If your motorcycle is left out in the elements where parts can rust, you will most likely have to service the chains more often.
How to Clean and Lubricate Your Motorcycle Chain
- Batteries: Motorcycle battery manufacturers generally agree that a motorcycle should last, on average, around 48 months. Premature battery death can generally be blamed on a lack of maintenance. To prevent early battery death, wipe down the battery’s case occasionally with a damp rag soaked in a mixture of three tablespoons of baking soda and a pint of water. Wiping down the battery is especially important if the motorcycle is ridden under dusty conditions. It is also important to keep the battery’s terminals clean, dry, and tight. You can coat the terminals in a light layer of Vaseline or Di-electric grease to protect the terminals from the elements. Batteries work best when they are kept close to fully charged/ If the motorcycle is not used on a daily basis, it is best to keep the battery plugged into a tender to prevent loss of charge. You can test the motorcycle’s battery state of charge by measuring its voltage and consulting the following chart:
- Fuel System: Many motorcycles have carburetors, though others are fuel-injected. The hoses then run to carburetors and fuel injectors can dry out, crack, or otherwise fail. Motorcycle owners should regularly inspect these hoses and replace them if they appear damaged or broken. Fuel system problems can also include a punctured gas tank or a dirty carburetor. Motorcycle engines almost always require gasoline that has a high octane level and is ethanol free. Other gasoline types can wind up clogging the motorcycle’s carburetor. Carburetors can become clogged if the motorcycle is not used for long periods of time, so it may be necessary to clean the carburetor before riding the motorcycle.
How to Clean a Motorcycle Carburetor
Frequently Asked Questions
How many miles do motorcycle engines last?
The larger and more modern the motorcycle engine, the longer it is likely to last with a good maintenance routine. For example, a small 250cc engine on a 1995 Kawasaki Ninja may only last for about 20,000 miles before replacement is necessary. However, a 1000cc 2011 Honda CBR1000RR can last up to 100,000 miles.
How difficult is maintenance/repair on motorcycles?
Motorcycles are generally easier to maintain than cars, regardless of your mechanical experience. Motorcycles are smaller and generally require less maintenance than cars and include fewer parts which are more accessible. The average amount a person spends to maintain a motorcycle is around $200-$300 each year (compared with the $800-$900 per year spent by the average car owner).
How much does it cost to fix a flat or leaking tire?
The cost of fixing a flat or leaking tire depends on the damage. If the puncture is caught early, the repair should cost around $15 to $30. However, run-flat tires often require complete replacement. Tire plug kits are generally priced between $10 to $20, so it is relatively inexpensive to complete the repair yourself. If you use tire sealant on a punctured tire, it is only expected to last for 50 to 100 miles.
Is it possible to repair a broken moped brake handle?
Generally, moped brake handles are made of low-cost pot metal (poured into a mold). So, if the handle breaks, it is more than likely broken in pieces and will need to be welded back together. If you have access to welding equipment, it may be possible to weld the handle back together. However, for people without welding equipment, it is likely less expensive to simply buy a new handle.
What is the average cost to replace brakes and rotors?
When getting your motorcycle’s brakes serviced, the rotors will be more expensive than the brake pads. So, it is recommended to avoid harsh and sudden stops to reduce wear on your brakes. Brake pads are generally between $30 and $50 per set. For rotors, however, expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars per brake pad set.
How often should I change my motorcycle’s oil?
The standard suggestion is to replace the oil in your motorcycle around every 3,700 miles. If your motorcycle uses synthetic oil, you can get closer to 5,000 miles without performing an oil change. If you use conventional oil, however, the number is closer to 3,000 miles between each oil change.