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Tips & Tools



To have a successful racing program, understanding how your bike works and being able to keep it working, are both very important.  I was lucky growing up as a racer in that my dad owned a motorcycle shop and he was patient enough to teach me how to work on my own bike.  For years now, I have done all of my own work (as well as for others) and learned how to take care of my equipment.

I have a checklist that I go through after every race. It doesn’t take very long – maybe a couple of hours – and it doesn’t cost very much. Obviously, there are other things to keep an eye on as well, and races held under brutal conditions require more work and care. But, here is a list of simple (and often overlooked) tasks to keep your bike going.


1)      Start off with cleaning your machine. After I wash my bike I take off the seat, gas tank, and side number plates (not on the new KTM though). I block off the fuel line connection and remove the air filter and install a wash cover. I them wash the bike again although a do NOT spray excessive water around the electrical stuff (some water is fine just don’t drown them) or the TPS (throttle position sensor) if your bike has one. Having the bike clean makes it easier to inspect for loose fasteners or wires/hoses that have been rubbed or pinched. Plus it keeps dirt from falling into spots where you will be working. I use a 50/50 mix of Simple Green and Purple Power on my bike as well as my gear – but don’t spray it on your vehicle.


2)      Clean the air filter (yes every race). Your bike needs clean air. Since the airbox has been washed out, clean off the filter sealing surface and inspect the airboot for dirt or contaminants. If dirt is getting through, find out why. I drench the filter with Silkolene Filter Oil and then apply a bead of Silkolene grease to the sealing surface of the filter. Make certain that the filter/cage fit into the boot properly.


3)      Change the oil every race. Preferably drain the oil into a clean container and inspect it for discoloring or a burnt smell. This is your best indication of a clutch that is on its way out. On four strokes, I change the oil filter every other race and inspect it for any excessive debris. The KTMs’ come with magnetic drain plugs that catch some of the trash floating around in the engine and are helpful in detecting potential problems. Silkolene Pro 4 15W50 is my engine oil of choice.


4)      If you have a non-EFI motorcycle, drain the float bowl into a clean container and inspect it for dirt and/or water. Typically, you can drain the bowl thru the small allen head set screw that will allow fuel to drain out the overflow hose. If you find trash, then remove the large hex drain from the bowl. If you still find trash, it’s time to take the carb apart.


5)      I change the spark plug every race. It is no doubt overkill, but changing a plug in a hurry on modern day bikes, is generally a nightmare. If nothing else, inspect the plug and look for discoloring. Four strokes are far less prone to fouling a plug than a two stroke, but I change them either way. I have had excellent luck running NGK Iridium plugs and they seem to help the four strokes start easier.


6)      Check your coolant level.  Most bikes have their "happy place" which is typically just above the radiator veins.  If you have a bike that likes to boil over, running a catch tank is a good idea. I always ran them on my WR450 or in extremely muddy or difficult races. Evans coolant is also a good idea for boil over problems.


7)      Change the rear brake fluid – often. When brake fluid gets hot it will boil and when that happens you have no brakes. Once the fluid gets hot, it will boil again, and this time at a lower temperature. I am a brake dragger so I am especially anal about having fresh fluid. I start every race with fresh fluid and in NEPG events I will flush it a couple of times between checks. The darker the fluid comes out, the hotter it’s been. Silkolene Pro Race 2000 brake fluid is what I use and it has pretty much put an end to me overheating the brakes.


8)      If you run conventional inner tubes, check your air pressure before each ride. Air pressure changes over time. If you have access to a nitrogen tank, that works better as it is unaffected by temperature.


9)      Bleed the air from your forks. I do this while sitting on the bike to force a little extra air out. I have noticed that the KTMs build up a lot of pressure so I try to remember to bleed them during NEPG events.


10)  Inspect the masterlink. I run my masterlink with the clip side on the back side of the sprocket since almost anytime that a chain guide gets bent, it will get bent inward and rub on the masterlink since it is wider than the rest of the chain. Also find out the proper chain tension for your bike and keep it adjusted properly. This affects the way that your suspension works.


11)  Keep your controls cleaned and lubricated to make your life easier. It’s also a good idea to check your control cables while you are cleaning.


12)  Fresh oil, seals, and bushing will keep your suspension working and feeling good. Many times, the stiction in forks is caused by worn bushings – an often overlooked part in a suspension service. My theory is if your changing the seals then change the bushings. Don’t forget about the rear shock. The oil in the shock  gets unbelievably hot and breaks down.


13)  Keep your exhaust packed. They are designed to have some back pressure and    the packing provides this. Also, loud bikes are annoying. Leo Vince makes the best aftermarket exhaust components in the industry and they are passionate about sound and keeping bikes quiet while still making awesome power.


These tips should help make your next ride more productive. Like I said, it doesn’t take long to do these things and it should eliminate some unnecessary problems. I make a checklist and keep a stack of them in the garage for each race so that I don’t forget anything. I keep each list and write in any extra stuff that I did so that I have a record of it (when did I put that new clutch in?).

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