Motorcycle Touring Tips – Monsoons, Hills and Off-Road
With monsoons in full swing, here are a few tips that will help you have the most fun on your motorcycle while touring.
The touring bug has bitten many and we notice that even a long weekend is an excuse for many to swing a leg over your machines and hit the road. Considering this, we’d like to share a few tips that will help you keep your machine in order and improve the overall riding experience.
Chain and Cables
Even a few kilometers ride in the rain and in slush or prolonged highway riding can dry out your bike’s chain. This reduces chain sprocket life drastically and increases chances for your chain to snap. While on a tour this can cripple you.
Our suggestion, invest in a Motul chain lube and cleaner kit. Remember the chain has to always look like it’s just been oiled, a grey/reddish chain is a warning sign (lubricate immediately). This miracle lube works well on cables too. Please use when your lever’s action does feel smooth. You can also use the same on the break cams, gear lever links and rear break lever pivot.
If you do not feel like oiling constantly transmission oil used in cars works just as well (90 or 140 grade). Please DO NOT use the same on cables. Transmission oil is used by motocross tuners across the country. It is so thick and viscous that the coat of oil prevents dirt and grime setting on the links of the chain.
As a backup do carry a spare chain link lock whenever you are riding, it is a simple DIY job, else, any small workshop can sort out your snapped chain in minutes.
This is a critical part of the riding experience. The ground rule – a soft suspension setup for off-road and bad roads, hard suspension for fast sweeping corners and high speed riding. Setting up the suspension is not as complicated as one would think. In-fact, every motorcycle has the provision for the same, unfortunately, not many of us exploit this provision.
Tighten and loosen the adjuster with the spanner and check if it feels looser or tighter, adjust as per the need (mentioned in ground rule). If done correctly, you will feel that your bike is pleasure to ride and becomes a different beast.
The front fork on the other hand is a different story, only high end bikes have a provision to adjust pre-load. But there is a way around, if your bike does not have the option. Our take on the situation, 30 – 70 ML more oil to stiffen the ride, reduce the same amount of oil from the fork to soften the front fork up. Do note the amount of oil reduced is influenced by a number of factors like rider weight, pillion or single, luggage and road conditions. Keep experimenting till you achieve perfection – it is worth it. You will find yourself gliding on patches of bad road / cornering faster with ease.
In our view, mountain passes and the twisties are places where one can derive maximum pleasure from a motorcycle. Unfortunately, quite a few riders who endeavor to the hills face challenges like loss of power, misfiring, etc. The reason is the lack of oxygen. As altitudes increase, oxygen level declines. This causes the bike to run at lower than usual capacity (clear indication is a black spark plug or black smoke from the exhaust).
There are quite a few instant fixes –
1) Swap out the air filter with a brand new one or a free flow filter like a K&N (Fuel injection / Carbureted)
2) Punch a few holes in the stock air filter with a screwdriver (Fuel injection / Carbureted)
3) Loosen your carburetor air screw by half a turn (Carbureted)
4) Carry a smaller carburetor main jet that is .5 to .10 less than the original (reduction from a 100 main jet to a 95 or 90 for instance), this is an easy DIY job. Do go back to the stock jet once you descend to lower altitudes, else, your machine will start running lean and cause overheating or even a piston seize (Carbureted)
5) Increase spark plug gap (always carry a spare even for highway riding), go back to stock one done with the hills.
A Word of Caution
After carrying out solution 2 or 4 of the above do a test ride for 5 to 10 km and check your spark plug colour (only remove when engine is cold). The plug should not be red (over heating) or white (lean tuning). The ideal colour you are looking for is grayish. In both scenarios you need to increase the petrol flow – tighten the airscrew half or one turn or replace the main jet to a bigger size. If you choose solution 2, please ensure you replace the filter the moment you start the decent. For solution 3 make sure that you tighten the air screw to stock position after descent.
The above may seem a lot to get one’s head around but trust us a couple of attempts and you will be an expert.
All the best and happy touring!