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Shane Watts DirtWise Riding Tip: Bike Preparation - Part I


Shane Watts

It is very important to have a well prepped machine BEFORE the start of your next ride because there is nothing worse than having your roost session cut short by a mechanical failure – no one likes being “that guy”!

First off, it’s critical to have the correct tire pressure. With our tire pressure now, generally we like to have between 10 and 14 PSI in normal conditions. In muddy and sandy terrain you will want to try and get a little extra traction by dropping it down to between 8 and 10 PSI. That’s going to be more beneficial by allowing the tire to spread out a little bit, getting a wider tread pattern and hooking up a lot better. Any lower than 8 PSI definitely increases your chances of getting a flat tire which is what we don’t want, plus your tires don’t perform as well at this very low pressure setting because they start “rolling” out from under the rim.

You always want to have a good set of brake pads – not just pads that have a lot of “meat” on them, but pads that also perform well. Some brands out there are atrocious at slowing you down. Sometimes you may needs to bed in a new set of brake pads to form the shape of your existing disc, or you may need to even generate an excessive amount of heat into them before they start working well – A great way to work on your skills improvement and to bed in front brake pads is to perform the “Front brake skid” exercise that we use at our DirtWise Academy of Offroad Riding schools. In very muddy conditions you may even consider using sintered brake pads for increased durability for the gnarly conditions you are going to be faced with.

Be sure to have the correct chain tension on the motorcycle. When the swingarm is horizontal that’s when the chain tension is at its tightest. Initially you will need to either push down on the rear of the bike until the swingarm is horizontal, or remove the rear shock to make this easier to do. Keep adjusting the chain and checking it at the horizontal point until the chain is situated there with a little bit of slack in it. You want that little bit of slack in the chain especially in the mud and sand as the chain will tighten up even more when this muck gets forced in between the chain and sprockets. You definitely run the risk of snapping the chain, or locking the engine up if you’re running your chain too tight. Once you have the correct tension on the chain go ahead and position the bike back on a stand or leaning against something and then make a measurement of the resulting “slack” in the chain at a easily identifiable reference point/mark on the swingarm/front chain guide. Use that knowledge in the future to easily and accurately obtain the correct chain tension for your machine.

- About Shane

- Dirtwise Academy of Off-road Riding

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