The ULTIMATE spring dirtbike prep and check guide

Spring has come for many parts of the world, however, for those just dusting off the bike and filling up the tires there is much to do to make sure your bike is ready to rock and roll another riding and racing season!
Here are some tried & tested tuning & check tips to make sure your steed is up to the new years of awesome riding ahead of you!

adjust chain guide factoryminibikesphoto
Photo: factoryminibikes

Check your chain
Press your chain side to side on the top swingarm glider, pull it away from the rear sprocket and see how large the gap is between the sprocket and chain, anything more than 1/4” can mean your chain is too worn. Also, note the “cupping or dishing” on the sprockets themselves to see if you need to replace them. Your front sprocket will wear much faster than the rear

Check your master link for thinning of the outside clip and see if your chain guide is in good shape and not rubbing on the chain. Changing it out for a new one is always a good idea, keep the old one for a backup, it can be worth 4 hours of walking trailside!

ALWAYS run an O-Ring chain! It is less likely to break and last WAY longer, Non-O-Ring MX chains have way too much chain slap and after 2-3 rides will be extremely loose if riding in rough or sandy conditions.

If you put a new chain on you will need to reset your chain tension after 1 ride as it will wear in just slightly. You can set your new chain a tad bit tight on the first go and it should be fine midway through your ride.

Remember the 3 finger rule at the back of your upper chain guide. If your chain is too tight it will put a strain on your countershaft sprocket and chain itself, chains with proper slack can become too tight if in very sandy conditions as dirt will go between the chain and sprockets.

A chain that is much too tight, with a high compression situation, can snap potentially taking out a motor, however, if your sprockets are so worn your chain is slipping, tightening your chain may be the only way to get you back to the truck.

Photo: dirt bike planet

Bleed your brake lines.
First things first, see what DOT fluid you require!

Magura, Brembo & Nissin Brakes all use different fluids!

The cheapest way to a stronger & better feeling braking system is to change out your fluids regularly and after every race & hard ride, It’s super easy to do and can bring the solid lever feel back (except on Yamaha & Honda they are notorious for being spongy with Nissin Caliper & master cylinders).

An easy way to see if fluid needs changing is to look at your rear master cylinder window and open the cap if you see a dark brown colour change it out! You don’t want your brakes to fade during the race or spongey brakes halfway into the ride or race.

The fast & easiest way to bleed your fluid is to reverse push in the brake line from the caliper up, this requires a good syringe and proper tubing size. And a zip tie on the caliper so it does not come off premature, or you can try the old pump & close method.

Old Brake fluid contains contaminants and can cause the following issues:

  • Spongy Brakes
  • Overheating rotors
  • Brake Fade
  • Caliper seal failure
  • Premature pad wear

Watch the video guide below on how to do this!

Cable check 1, 2, 1, 2

Every motorcycle out there today has or at some point had, a Cable for the throttle! Even fuel injected models have a cable for the throttle to the throttle body.

While this cable can last for years without breaking, an old cable will show signs of strain and not be as fluid or easy to rotate, and can even become stuck with internal frays.Additionally, when the throttle cable breaks, you will be 20KM from any quad trail and you will have to shove a stick into the throttle slide to get back at ¾ throttle, it is not fun!

We buy an extra throttle cable and keep it in our airbox! $15 well spent. And you can sell it for $35 in the middle of the bush quite easily! It is also good practice to take your throttle tube off and air/clean wipe and polish underneath, DO NOT LUBE THIS AREA WITH ANYTHING! Micro aluminum powder and plastics will build up here naturally acting as ball bearings, however if you introduce a lubicant it can become a metal plastic sludge, all bad!

If you have never replaced your tube or bars, expect 1-2mm of bar to be worn from the throttle rotating. 

Photo: motocross action magazine

Most Japanese Bikes come stock with a Cabled Clutch, while this can give you better feel, over time they will stretch, fray, rub & wear out creating extra drag that makes for a stiff clutch, adding lube in the line can work for a bit, but it will just keep extra dirt inside the cable and make things worse. Spend the $15.00 and get yourself a clutch cable and be done with it. Keep the old one as an emergency spare in the parts bin and race rig.


We also keep an extra one of these in our air box! There is one thing you do not want to lose while riding and it is a clutch cable, we “pre-rode” a race the day before an event, got a tree into our clutch cable beside our carb and broke,  it pulled it out of the engine leaving us with no clutch 10 hour before a race. Oops. Luckily someone went back to town that day and got us one so we could race the next day, thanks!

photo: rocky mountain atvmc

Those Hydro Boys & girls
If you are rich and have a bike with a Hydraulic clutch, this too can need replacement, hits to the clutch cable on the handlebar can weaken the braiding and make your clutch leak into the casing, check for dark brown spots on the line and replace it whenever you get a chance, a bit more costly of $40-60 and not an instant trailside replacement you may find yourself needing to do this.

On some models you can swap & replace the front brake with the clutch, however, you may be better off with a front brake than a clutch depending on your riding ability and style, bleeding is another story in the bush.


Touch your Heimy!

If you are in wet conditions or religiously pressure wash your bike, your linkage and heim joint bearings may experience premature failure and have their lubricant pushed out or contaminated easily.

A simple way to test your linkage or heim joints is to put your bike on a stand with the rear tire off the ground, lift your tire slowly and see where your movement is on the suspension, a friend comes in handy for this!

You can get linkage regrease kits that allow you to keep the needle bearings in place while you put new grease into the bearing. Replacing your linkage bearings is time-consuming and requires a multitude of different socket sizes or specialized press tools. Heat & Freezing bearings is an easy way to install new bearings and remove rusty old ones.

The linkage that is sticking and clicking can severely hamper how your suspension works, essentially sticking or refusing to move properly.

We have seen linkage so seized a 300lbs rider would not move it. Making a nice hardtail dirt bike!

The new linkage guard/protector are great additions, but they cost money, and add weight, so just learning to wheelie and miss the linkage is the best step to prolonging the life of the bearings, and you will look cooler.


Wobble your wheels!
Your wheel bearings have a lifespan, and more often than not they will not last an entire season, moreso depending on where you ride and how often you pressure wash and push water into the bearings themselves.

If you have a little play side to side it can affect handling on the front tire and make your rear end suspension less stable in extreme condition, worn bearings will heat up much faster and can start to bind.

On the front of the bike, the telltale sign of worn bearings is a subtle “click” in the handlebars when your forks fully extend when in the air off a larger bump or root.

If you ride winter with special Ice tires on frozen lakes you will want to replace your front and rear wheel bearings before the season starts to prevent your forks from getting chewed as having 20 extra pounds of metal on your wheel can add strain to a bearing not designed for such forces.

It is recommended to repack your bearings with a high-quality waterproof grease after 10-15 hours of riding or if you are in a very wet environment all the time. Many riders put a high-grade water-insoluble formula grease in their bearings to prolong life. AquaShield is a very well-known high-quality grease used in the marine world with qualities of an NLGI Grade 2 lubricant.

Tap those spokes!
Spokes can become loose over time, take a 10mm wrench and tap each and every spoke, listen for a duller noise and tighten that spoke, a loose wheel at the beginning of a ride can destroy itself midway through a race.

Ditch the grips, Kinda.

Grip technology has evolved, and they are pretty awesome now.

New Lock on Grips require no glue at all, never spin and will not come loose (unless you do not tighten them enough to begin with.

Locking Grips are worth the extra cost and you will never have to rewire your spinning grip.

Costing $20-$30 they are worth every penny and many Aftermarket parts suppliers now have Lock on Grips.

Basically, there is an Allen bolt you tighten that pinches the bar on the clutch side and keeps it from spinning. The Throttle side is galvanized to a throttle tube. Worth every penny if you have ever had a grip twist during a 3 hour Cross Country and swore all the way to the finish line.



Filter This!
The air filter is the most important part of your dirt bike, without a properly fitting & clean filter your engine can and will fail sucking debris into the engine destroying the cylinder walls and burn out your pistons rings. A dirty filter that is properly fitted can still fail you as it will suck harder (heh) around the filter boot, and with enough throttle, it will bypass even the most lubed filter out there.


A properly oiled air filter should be saturated both inside and out, DO NOT WRING FILTERS OUT, squeeze them and move excess oil around, using 100-200mm of oil is perfectly fine. The more the better! This is the lungs of your machine!

If you are riding in very dusty conditions, tape the bottom of your airbox over (the water drain) as dust can be tossed around inside the box speeding up the soiling of the filter. You can also put furnace filter in and around your filter (as ISDE teams did to survive the dusty 6 day events) to prevent the dirt from constantly being tossed around, filter skins work great but even they too can become overwhelmed. Try and prevent excessive dusty dirt from being in the airbox to begin with. A New oiled filter $30, engine rebuild $500+ and a walk home.



Drain it!

Drop your bowl on the carburetor at least twice a year to get rid of excess debris, if you see many dark specs, check your tank for dirt & debris, you may actually have an O-ring failing somewhere or a broken screen on your petcock. Some cheap gas cans can have o-rings not designed for petrol products and will break down over time. Not so friendly for fuel injected machines! Cleaning your carb can ensure that your bowl float never becomes jammed or stuck open or your pilot starter jet does not become clogged.


Lefty loosey, Righty, Tighty

It is good practice to go over most of the bike with a torque wrench or handle and check your bolts for tightness, temperature changes, transport can loosen weirdest things, and if you have a CR500, just loctite everything, you animal.


Photo: motocross Action

Sharpen those teeth

New footpegs are costly, and not really necessary, you can file your old footpegs to a sharper point to allow your boots to grip better, if you find your feet are flying off the pegs more than usual, grip your tank with your knees, it will help lessen arm pump as well.


Downsides to sharp foot pegs are they can grab your boot a bit too well and you may have triple removing your boot depending on its sole material, also they will chew through the soles VERY QUICKLY, and you will need replacing your boot sooner.


Your Exhaust is too loud, we guarantee it.
Spend the $15 and get new packing for your dirt bike, it will sound WAY better, not annoy your friends, keeps other users happier as you are not “that guy or girl” on a dirt bike riding. And it can actually improve power on your dirt bike. If you have a 4 stroke that pops and backfires randomly for some reason, check all joints on your exhaust system and use high-temperature silicone on every joint, what happens when the throttle is closed the exhaust can suck in cooler air through these joints and backfire in the system popping making you look less cooler than you really are.

On a 2 stroke excessive exhaust splooge may mean 2 things, you are too rich on your jetting and your premix is not vaporizing properly, or your crank seal is going and transmission oil is being sucked in through your crank seal on the clutch side!

Run 2 strokes at 40:1, nothing leaner, The oil is there to Lube your bearings, create compression. Less oil means less power, hotter temperatures! Ice racing we run 20:1.

Leaky Fork Seals

If your fork seals are weeping or leaking you might be able to save them from losing their oil and keep the seal for another couple of rides. Once your fork seals let go you can introduce dirt into the suspension system at rates that will have complete seal failure in hours. Wearing bushings & valving components that can cost you hundreds of dollars and down time.

Cleaning your seals is a 3 step process. 

    1. Wash your fork tubes properly and thoroughly.
    2. Lower your dust seal and clean it
    3. Use a fork seal cleaner


 Wipe your forks BEFORE you load the bike (crusty old dirt will wear your seals fast)

There are many tools you can use to clean your seals, however, the solid twist type fork seals cleaner works easiest. If your seals are leaking, they most likely will need replacement very soon.

Replacing fork seals and fork oil regularly ensures bushings last as long as possible and suspension operatres opimally.

Did we miss something? Do you have a tip or trick you do to ensure your ride stays running all year?
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