Who among us didn’t grow up seeing that yellow and blue can in the garage that came out whenever dad worked on the car or lawnmower? You may have heard the rumors that WD-40 was made from fish oil (it’s not) or that it’s not really a lubricant and shouldn’t be used on motorcycle chains… both are incorrect. “WD” in fact stands for “Water Displacement”, the 40 represents the 40th “recipe” of the original product. WD-40 has come a long way and I was surprised to here from them about (more…)
I have nearly 60,ooo miles on my ’05 Suzuki V-Strom and recently started noticing the stock seat cover beginning to split along the seams. A bit of searching landed me on the ebay store for Northwest Classic Seat Covers. Kevin carries replacement seat covers for the V-Strom as well as several Honda, Yamaha, BMW and BSA models. I ordered the V-Strom cover for $54 (plus $10.50 shipping). The new cover arrived in a few days and I have to say I could not be more impressed with the way it turned out.
The cover came with instructions that were simple to follow. I’m not blessed with the most patience in the world and it took me a bit of time to get the cover perfect but I am ecstatic about the new look, the time spent (only about an hour or so) was well worth it. This is really a quality product that fits perfectly. The driver’s area is a carbon fiber vinyl with a plain vinyl on the passenger area. Both are made with UV inhibitors to help eliminate fatigue due to weather. I noticed the carbon fiber material is slightly less slippery than the stock material, which I really like.
The installation is pretty straightforward. You start by removing the staples from the stock cover. I used a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers. The instructions said to attach the front and back by aligning the included marks with the edge of the stock seat pan. The photo to the left shows the alignment marks that came pre-marked on the cover. The cover is cut so well and the material so pliable that stretching it over the seat pan is a snap. After a bit of stretching and massaging I got it as close to perfect as I could. I think it looks fantastic and the carbon fiber pattern is an upgrade to the old rather plain looking stock seat cover. If you take your time, tack the cover in place, then carefully stretch, pull and staple you can get it nearly perfect. Note: You’ll want to use a heavy duty stapler that allows you to get some force behind it (I used a Powershot stapler from one of the home stores).
Northwest Classic Seat Covers makes an excellent seat cover. I was not compensated for this post, I just felt compelled to give a hat tip to a class product. If you’re looking for a replacement seat cover, look no further. Check out the rest of the photos and if you order one tell Kevin that Zen Motorcyclist sent you. You won’t be disappointed.
There are many aspects of motorcycle maintenance and servicing that you can do yourself. There’s no reason not to – it’s cheaper than getting someone else to do it, and you get to know your bike better. While it’s always a good idea to have a model specific manual, all you really need are the right tools and a quick guide, and many jobs can be completed at home. These are some of the top motorcycle maintenance tips:
- Oil – The oil in your bike’s engine is vital for good running and longevity, and it doesn’t take long for it to degrade. For this reason, changing the oil and filter in line with manufacturer recommendations is essential. All that needs to be done is for the plug to be removed from the sump, the oil drained away, and the refilled. The old oil filter screws off and the new one screws on.
- Air Filter – Bikes generally have a flat filter, made from paper or foam. Usually, this easily clips in and out of its housing for cleaning, but if damaged or very dirty it should be replaced. Some are washable, and you must remember to apply oil before fitting. Most air filters and oil filters are very cheap to replace.
- Drive Chain – The drive chain will naturally have a little slack of around 3cm, but it should not be more than this unless your handbook states otherwise. There will be adjusters on the bike so that you can change the tension of the chain to the correct amount.
- Brake Pads – Having brakes that work as they should is essential. For this reason, the pads should be checked often. Eventually the material will wear away, and the pads must be changed before this happens in order to avoid compromised braking ability. Pads are generally easily removed from the caliper.
- Lubrication – There are plenty of levers, cables and pivots on a bike that are in constant movement, such as the stand. These should be oiled to ensure they move without excessive friction, which can impair their use and cause early degradation.
These are all simple parts of what should be a regular maintenance schedule. You can save money doing jobs yourself, but you can also save a considerable amount of money in the future. Proper maintenance prolongs the life of mechanical components on your bike. CMPO motorcycle spares have a huge range of parts for Chinese motorcycles, so if you need any of the parts used in maintenance, like filters, then it’s a great place to buy from. There are detailed engine diagrams making it easy for users to quickly identify their required parts.
Over 10 years of working on motorcycles has taught me many, many lessons. The most important of which is not to panic. There are so many inexpensive solutions available to help you fix the myriad of problems you will inevitably encounter that there’s no need to panic and run to a shop that will charge you an arm and a leg to make a repair. There’s something empowering about maintaining your own ride. I love it; but I occasionally encounter a problem like I had last week. After changing my rear brake pads I was tightening the last bolt (the one that secures the caliper to the mount that holds it in place) when it snapped, leaving part of the bolt lodged inside the mounting bracket. What I learned later by searching the discussion boards at Stromtrooper.com was that the bolt is designed to fail when over torqued. This to prevent the bolt from protruding into the brake rotor.
I did the damage on a thursday, the ride was saturday and no local shop had a bracket in stock. I had no choice but to either settle down, roll up my sleeves and figure out how to repair it or cancel the group ride. As it turns out I also had an interview scheduled about the group just prior to the group ride. A potentially embarrassing situation should I show up without a ride.
After removing the rear wheel and the bracket I was able to remove the broken bolt by carefully drilling through it with progressively larger drill bits. The next day I was able to find an 8mm tap that allowed me to create new threads in the damaged hole (this done late in the evening while my girlfriend Cori held a flashlight for me). I found the tap at the local Home Depot along with a replacement bolt. I’ve ordered a replacement bracket but the repair enabled us to ride with our group, make the interview and enjoy the weekend.
If you relax, find the right tools, do your homework and stick to repairs you know are within your skill set you will become more and more proficient and capable and before long you’ll be saving money and time by doing most, if not all, of your own repairs and maintenance.
Motorcyclists use the word “Farkle” to describe customizing a motorcycle for both fit and function.
A lot of riders, new riders especially, are unaware that motorcycles can be tweaked and adjusted to fit the rider and need not be ridden using the configuration set at the factory. Handlebars can be raised, lower, widened, made narrower. Mirrors can be adjusted and swapped for better rear view. Seats can be covered or changed. Suspension can be altered to raise or lower the bike. Shift and brake levers can be adjusted for a rider’s hand size. Hand grips can be replaced with more comfortable or better gripping ones. Brake pads and lines can be replaced with higher quality ones for better stopping power and longevity. Tires and chains are another area you can customize to suit your riding style and needs. Headlight bulbs, turn signals and brake lights can also be swapped and adjusted. I swapped the stock brake light on my KLR with a programmable LCD unit that flashed at a pre-set interval with each application of the brakes.
There are no limits when it comes to “farkles” (well other than your wallet). Over the years I’ve had various bikes that caused me lower back strain which I remedied by trying different handlebar heights and styles. There are risers available that can raise bars up to 2 inches that take literally minutes to install. Handlebars can also be ordered in a multitude of different configurations of width, rise and sweep that can allow you to raise or lower the bars or bring them nearer to you.
“Farkles” also refer to “extras” you can add like hard cases, tank bags, top boxes, GPS, satellite radio, cup-holders, replacement pipes, paint, power adapters, anything and everything you can add to personalize your bike.
You can spend a little and get a lot or if you have the budget for it you can spend as much as you like and really create a one of a kind ride. It’s a lifetime project for some as new products are being introduced all the time. Personally I value the feel and function over the look so that’s where my focus lies. A top box with a back rest that could hold a laptop and a full face helmet, GPS and side cases for all weather clothing were my first priorities. Most of the changes mentioned are well within the grasp of most bike owners so, while you can pay to have them done, they are not technically difficult. Some farkles will be mentioned later in specific posts. Whatever your focus, customizing a motorcycle is one of the joys of ownership.
Now go farkle yourself 😉
If you’re a motorcycle commuter and haven’t stowed away a package of zip ties and a roll of duct tape you may want to consider doing so. Both items can be invaluable should the need arise. Bolts come loose, straps break and having these items handy can mean the difference between getting to work and calling in because you’re stuck on the side of the road.
On one occasion the bolt for a brake line clamp magically removed itself from my V-Strom leaving my front brake line loose and flapping around against the front fender. Should the line have broken or caught on something or split I may have been left without front brakes. A simple zip tie fix and 5 minutes later I was back on the road. You can get 200 zip ties for around $5 and a roll of tape for around $10. Get a bit of each, stow them under your seat or in a saddle bag. You never know when they may come in handy.
I am pleased to announce that rider training/coaching is available upon request:
Please see the training page for details.