Dirt Bike Season is Almost Here! October 1st in California is the start of Red Sticker Season so it’s time to make sure your bike and gear are as ready as you are. A little pre-maintenance goes a long way! Our friends at Thousand Oaks Powersports have you covered! Read on to make sure you are dialed to hit the trails!
Our shop is buzzing with anticipation for the upcoming riding season! With all the new gear and bikes rolling in it’s hard not to get amped up. There is also word that we may see another El Nino style winter which means desert riding will be perfect again!
First of all, if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, start your bike. Let’s see if it fires up!
Fuel, Air, and Fire
If your bike hasn’t moved in awhile and you left gas in the tank then you may need to clean out your fuel system. Generally the pump gas we use begins to evaporate and separate after only a couple weeks. As it evaporates it leaves behind all of the grime that is mixed into the gas. This separation will cause your gas to “gum up” your fuel system and restrict the flow of fuel from the tank to the engine. It’s almost like having rubber cement in your fuel system. If your engine isn’t getting the correct amount of fuel it won’t run properly. The amount of fuel running through your carburetor or fuel injector is only ounces at time so a little clog makes a big difference. The best way to know if your bike needs a carb clean is to turn it on. If your bike doesn’t idle with the choke off or you’re getting popping from the exhaust when you turn the throttle then your fuel system is dirty. Your carburetor may work okay like that at sea level but when you go up in elevation (Hungry Valley is 3000-6000 feet) you’re going to have a bigger problem. If your bike warms up and idles with the choke off you should be in good shape. Using something like an enzyme fuel treatment or “ring free” treatments can help prevent and alleviate fuel system clogs. If that doesn’t work then get your carburetor or injector cleaned. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosage when using fuel treatments.
If you’re going to clean your carbs or injectors it's a good idea to have your spark plug replaced at the same time. Having an extra spark plug in your gear bag is always a great idea as well. Your bike needs to breathe so make sure your air filter is clean. Cleaning an air filter is messy but it’s pretty easy to do. If your air filter is falling apart then replace it. Air filters are pretty inexpensive so throwing a new one on is a good idea.
Most dirt bikes require the oil to be changed every 10 to 15 hours of riding. Changing the oil, filter, and crush washer is a pretty easy job on a dirt bike. A lot of dirt bikes call for a 10-W40 or 10-W50 oil and usually take a quart or less. KTM and Husky’s are about 1.1 quarts and use a full synthetic oil. Your local shop should be able to tell you what the oil specifications are for your bike. Try to avoid looking at forum pages to see what you need for your bike’s oil. We’ve seen some disastrous results based on opinions in online bike forums. Bel-ray has a great lubricant advisor to tell you what your bike needs.
Your tires are the only part of the bike that should be in contact with the ground when you ride. If your tires are worn, cracking, missing treads or the treads are peeling off then it is a good idea to put on new tires. Pushing a dirt bike with a flat back to camp is a bad time. When riding dirt the earth is always moving underneath your tires so it’s a good idea to have plenty of traction. If you are unsure about which tires to put on your bike give us a call and we will go over the differences in tires with you. Also, check your tire pressure and make sure your tubes are holding air. Whenever you change your tires always put in a new tube and check your rim band. You may also need a rim lock. We recommend using a heavy duty tube over a regular tube.
You’re going to want to make sure your controls work as well. Pull your levers and make sure they pull smoothly. If not, the cables may need to be lubricated or replaced. A lot of new bikes have hydraulic systems. Make sure you’ve got fluid in these systems before you go. If you check your brakes and they seem soft then it probably means you need to add or replace brake fluid. Brake fluid heats up and cools down when you ride. This thermal change breaks down brake fluid. Brake fluid lasts an average of 6 months before it begins to go bad. Check your brake fluid levels as well. This is also true for street bikes. Going fast is a lot more fun if you know you can stop when you want to. While your checking your brakes make sure you have a look at the brake pads as well.
In our experience most riders over look good chain maintenance. Cleaning, lubricating and adjusting your chain will help your bike run more efficiently. It will help to keep your sprockets in good shape as well. At the very least, apply chain lube to your chain before every ride. If you clean your bike after every ride don’t forget to use some chain cleaner on your chain and sprockets. If your chain is rusty and has a bunch of kinks in it then it’s time to replace your chain and sprockets. It’s always a good idea to change your front and rear sprockets each time you put on a new chain. You can lose up to 20% power delivery with a poorly adjusted chain.
You’re going to need one to ride most places in California. Modern bikes and exhaust systems are so much better than the old days that running a spark arrestor full time offroad won’t hurt the performance of the bike nearly as much as legend may have it. If you do have an older bike then you may want to invest a little money in a new pipe with a spark arrestor. It will probably help the performance of your bike a both low and high speeds and more importantly it’ll make your bike sound cool!
So maybe your bike has a battery and it’s been on a charger or tender for the last 3 months. That doesn't mean your battery will be charged. Check it early before you go just in case you need to replace it. Lithium Ion batteries are a great replacement battery for dirt bikes and they save a lot of weight as well.
How old is your helmet? If you don’t know the answer to that you can check under the padding and there should be a date the helmet was created. If it’s more than 5 years old it’s time to replace your helmet. The Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) liner in helmets break down over time. This means if your helmet is more than 5 years old, when you need it to work for you it will be about as useful as wearing a styrofoam cooler on your head. That vintage helmet you picked up might look cool but leave it on the shelf at home. Maybe your helmet isn’t too old but you ‘re wondering if it’s still in good condition. Look under the liner and check for white cracks. Sometimes the inside of helmets are painted black to make it easier to identify if a helmet is no longer safe. If you see some cracks in your EPS liner it’s probably time to change your helmet. In the picture below there is a small crack in the EPS liner near the front part of the helmet. This helmet is no longer safe to wear.
Buying a new helmet? New helmets should fit snug but not tight. Your cheeks should feel squished like you couldn’t chew gum without tearing up the insides of your mouth. Over time this eases as the helmet padding packs in a bit. When you go to try on a new helmet, wear it around the store for at least 5 minutes to make sure the shape of the helmet won’t give you any headaches. If it doesn’t make it 5 or 10 minutes in a shop it won’t last an hour or more out in the dirt. Different brands have different shell shapes and many of the top brands have removable padding that you can swap out for different thicknesses to get just the right fit.
If you are buying a new helmet get the best you can afford. It’s your head and it’s worth way more than the cost of a cheap helmet. Stick with brands that you’ve heard of. Working in a motorcycle shop we hear horror stories all the time, please get yourself a good helmet!
One more thing on helmets, never throw them around or let heavy objects rest on top of them. Take care of your helmet so it can take care of you.
Bike prep checklist
Check running condition
Thousand Oaks Powersports
1250 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362