GEARING CHANGES: When you change sprocket sizes, you gain one thing but lose another. If you increase your torque, you are going to sacrifice some top speed. There is an Excel sheet that allows you to estimate loses/gains (it does not account for chain and tire weight changes). You will have to know your SPECIFIC model's gear ratios (search the web for model specs), then plug in YOUR values for ALL 17 boxes highlighted in pink...

download the Excel spreadsheet: GEARING CHART


CHAINS: The drive chain is one of the most neglected parts of any bike. Keeping the chain clean and lubed will save you money and headache in the long run. Put the bike on a rearstand and spray a rag with WD-40 or other mild solvent. Wrap the rag around the chain with your fist and spin the rear wheel with your free hand. Do this until the rag isn't turning black. If you want to go a step further, follow that with a soft-bristel brush and soapy water then a dry rag. Once the chain is clean, it is a good idea to ride your bike for 5-10 mins to warm up the chain. This will help the chain lube adhere to the chain rather than fling off. Avoid spraying the tire, try to get all the o-rings, then let it dry before you ride it again. Try to do this at least 2 times a month and more often if you're riding in the rain. And keep in mind, you should always replace chains and sprockets as a set since old drive components will greatly decrease the lifespan of new components.


BATTERIES: Gel batteries have the potential to last a very long time ...IF you take care of them. A motorcycle charging system is not as powerful as a car - it's designed to maintain a charge rather than recharge a low battery. Buy yourself a Battery Tender and keep it plugged in if you aren't going to be riding in a few days. Batteries kept topped-off will always outlast one that isn't. If you suddenly have an electrical problem that is not fuse-related, the first thing you want to do is check that the battery is fully charged and doesn't have any bad cells. Even a slightly low battery or one with a bad cell can prevent certain bikes from starting up.


OIL DEBATE: Oil is like music - we all have a preference and think everyone else is crazy. As long as you replace your oil at the recommended intervals with a name brand product, you will be fine ...buy what is within your budget. Years ago, people thought synthetic oil would prematurely wear your clutch out. Any premature wear usually comes down to poor set-up, improper shifting, or oil level. However, if you have worn your fibers down and find it slipping with synthetic, you might be able to get a few hundred miles back out of it with non-synthetic ...fascinating, really. If you want to try synthetic for yourself, wait until you have about 3000 miles on the odometer with the regular stuff.


PROPER SHIFTING: It may seem like common sense, but I've seen it many times. Bad shifting can be caused by poor lever/cable settings, lack of proper operational knowledge, or bad/dumb habits. Firstly, the clutch lever is there for a reason - use it or you risk expensive transmission damage. Make sure the cable is near-taught but allow enough slack for slight movement in the lever before you feel resistance. A tight cable or dragracing "holeshots" can wear, burn, and warp your clutch fibers and plates. A loose cable can cause damage to the transmission itself. If you bike isn't shifting into gear, check your foot lever linkage or for a very loose clutch cable and don't ever stomp it into gear if the problem cannot be fixed on the road. Instead, put it into 2nd or 3rd gear with the bike turned off, then feather the clutch from any dead stops, and limp it home. Replacing a worn out clutch is always better than breaking off chunks of tranny.


LOWERING: Chassis win superbike races. So, topping the questions with obvious answers list is, "Why does my bike handle like crap after I lowered it?" Because you just reverse-engineered a machine that a factory spent $millions on trying to perfect its geometry. And don't get me started about how much I despise stretched sportbikes. However, if you may be a little vertically challenged and safety is the primary concern, please lower it the right way ...better yet, have a reputable shop do it (trust me, I've seen/fixed some ridiculous and unsafe attempts). Either way, you'll need lowing links for the rear end, you'll need the front forks raised proportionately to level it back out, and you will probably need the kickstand cut and rewelded. Before you change anything, it is a good idea to use a degree finder to determine the stock baseline. Once everything is lowered, you should get the same reading - this will give you a better chance at getting a decent ride out of your bike (though you'll still have to suitablly adjust preload and such).


BUYING A BIKE: I tell people new to the sport to buy what they want and can afford, but be prepaired to drop it at least once (newbies should install framesliders early). I'm tired of hearing debates about the perils of a 600 versus a 1000: listen, a knife and a bullet can both kill you, you're just choosing which way you want to die. So instead of dying, you can ride smart and ride anything your heart desires. Another squid-note: the Hayabusa is not some ultra-superbike engineered by magical pixies ...it's a pig. I bought a new 1999 Busa when it was fast before all sportbikes were restricted and before the GSX-R1000 was unleashed. All of those "ultra-displacement bikes" are only cutting-edge during the first year of their decade-long production run ...they make me yawn. On the other hand, I do actually recommend them for older guys because of their comfortable ergos.

My best advice to buying a used bike is to be weary of one with a custom paint job, especially if it is a crumby paint job. At least 90% of the time, bikes are repainted because they were crashed, not because someone has extra money to throw at them. So be careful that you aren't purchasing a polished-up turd. Check the rim lips for dents. Listen to it idle - if it sounds like crap just sitting there, it probably runs like crap. Does it smell like oil or antifreeze now that it's warm? If it has a cheapo exhaust pipe or other similar flaws, did the owner also skimp on oil changes and other maintenance? Look behind the radiator for oil from a leaky headcover gasket. Have the owner ride it - watch and listen to the shifting/tranny, keeping in mind that a "clunk" in some models is normal as long as it is a single, solid, smooth clunk. Check to see if the chain is rusted, caked with dirt, or kinked - if it is, what else has been neglected by the owner? Missing hardware is another red flag for neglect. Jiggle everything - if it's loose, ask why it hasn't been properly mounted or adjusted? I like buying from older people since they take care of their stuff and even their high-mileage bikes can last years. I love finding a bike with the OEM signals, the "mud flap" intact, and the original exhaust - that means there are no hidden nightmares of half-assed attempts at DIY that I now have to fix and it doesn't have some over-priced, Two Brothers hunk-o-junk falling off of it. If you see dozens of random zip-ties, speaker wire spliced into the electrical system, or paint overspray on the frame, chances are you are setting yourself up for disaster later. When in doubt, go buy something else ...there's plenty of quality, good deals out there.


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