How to Tune a Dirt Bike

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Keeping your dirt bike in good condition is an important part of riding. Keeping the engine finely tuned is a routine task that can be easily overlooked, but when your bike breaks down on the trail and leaves you stranded, you’ll be wishing you had taken a few minutes to perform these simple tasks. Because they endure more abuse than street bikes, dirt bikes need to be tuned with particular diligence, with some tasks even being performed after each time you ride your bike. Although this may sound like a lot of work, it is actually quite easy and takes less time than you think.

Things You'll Need

  • Basic tool set
  • New filters
  • New fluids
  • Check your air intake filter. This should be done following each ride. Because a dirt bike is typically used in dusty or muddy environments, the air filter becomes clogged and obstructed very quickly. Remove the filter from the case and blow it out with compressed air if it is mildly dusty. More severely dirty filters can be washed with soapy water and rinsed clean. If the filter has any tears or physical damage, you should replace it with a new one.

  • Change your spark plug. How often you change the plug ultimately depends on how much you are riding your bike. A new plug every month is a good guideline, but every three months is probably sufficient if you rarely ride your dirt bike. Remember to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for how to set the plug before you install it. Properly setting the gap in the plug head will optimize performance and give you better mileage.

  • Check the oil level in your gearbox. If you have a four-stroke dirt bike, also check the engine oil level. This should be done monthly, or every couple of weeks if you are a frequent rider. The manufacturer of your dirt bike will have recommendations for the type of oil to use when refilling the levels. You should also completely drain and replace the oil once per season.

  • Lubricate your chain as needed. Pretty much all chain lubricants are good. The primary difference is in the thickness of the lube. Thick and sticky chain lubricants will remain on the chain longer, but can also be very messy. Thin lubricants are less messy, but need to be applied more frequently. The one you use really depends on the type of riding you use your dirt bike for. If you are spending most of your time riding on trails in the middle of nowhere, you will probably get best results with a sticky chain lube, otherwise, go for the thin lube that is easier on cleanup. Apply a generous amount of lubricant to the under-side of the chain, where the teeth of the sprocket roll into it.

  • Check the air pressure in your tires. Each manufacturer has their own recommendations for air pressure. Make sure to note whether the pressure listed in your owner's manual reflects whether the air pressure is for a cool tire or hot. If it reflects the air pressure of a cool tire, you will need to let the bike sit after riding before you take your reading.

  • Visually inspect your radiator for any leaks or other physical damage. If you are doing any kind of jumps or riding through brush, it can be easy for your radiator to develop small leaks. It is best to identify these leaks early and get them taken care of before they lead to more serious engine problems. Always make a quick radiator inspection part of your normal riding routine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Give your bike a general inspection to look over the brake pads and all nuts and bolts. Make sure everything is tight and that nothing has jarred loose during the course of riding your dirt bike.

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  • Photo Credit tonylanciabeta, Flickr.com Creative Commons License
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