By Bones Bacon
Time is what we run our lives by. It dictates almost everything we do. There is only so much time in a work week before the weekend when we can ride our dirt bikes. There is only so much time in a work day, or school day, before we can go and practice.
Time can also be used as a tool to allow you to do a better job maintaining your bike. To use time to your advantage, you first need to invest in an hour meter to keep track of it. Hour meters are inexpensive and easy to install. Once you’ve installed your hour meter, get yourself a simple log book to start keeping track of how much time is on not only your bike, but the different parts of your bike and when you’ve serviced them. You might think this is a waste of time, but trust me, it is beneficial in the long run.
Let’s talk about the amount of time you have on your suspension and when you should service it. This may sound cut and dry, but it is far from it. How so? Suspension internals and oil break down very slowly over time. The breakdown sneaks up on you and can easily go unnoticed. Most racers wait until something happens to their suspension, like a blown seal, before they get it serviced (if it’s not completely worn out inside). When you get your suspension back is the time to log in how much time was on your hour meter when you sent your suspension off to get serviced. You now have a clear idea of how long it took you to wear it out. The exact amount of time it takes to wear out suspension depends on the rider. Christophe Pourcel could put twice as much time on his suspension as Ryan Villopoto. Your hour meter and log book will help you know when to get your fork and shocks serviced.
If you really want to get crazy, you can keep track of how much time it takes to break in your suspension (usually not much) after getting it back from being serviced and before you take it to the starting gate. This could ensure the best possible performance out of it at race time.
Your hour meter and log book can keep track of pistons, clutch plates and linkage. As far as linkage goes, if you’re like most people, you forget it’s even there. Have a routine that you follow to maintain your bike during the week. Do you wash your bike every time you ride it? Do you use a power washer? Do you spray off your shock linkage? The linkage bearings can’t last forever. Pick a number that sounds good, like 15 to 20 hours. At that point, take your linkage apart and look at it. If it looks fine, then just slap some extra grease in, check your bearings to make sure they haven’t walked out on you and put it back together. Now, you have an indication of how long it will last before it needs service. If it is shot, you will know how long you can’t go the next time. The same system can be used with your steering stem bearings.
Engine parts are more critical. If something breaks in your engine, it can cause a lot of damage. So, don’t take chances. Yes, there are Yamaha YZ450Fs that have gone 200 hours without a piston or valve job, but there have also been YZ450Fs that have blown up at 25 hours. You definitely don’t want to wait until something breaks before going through it.
Thanks to your log book, you will know exactly when you need to service your suspension, rebuild your linkage or replace the piston. You may think that all this service will cost you a lot of money, but it will actually save you money in the long run.