How to keep your classic motorbike safe for the road

The government’s decision to scrap the requirement for pre-1960 motorcycles to undergo the annual MoT test has made maintaining your bike more important than ever.

Indeed, unless you’re a dab hand at motorcycle maintenance, you may feel it’s worth taking the test in any case to help keep your classic wheels in roadworthy condition.

The government’s thinking was that the owners of classic bikes – and cars – are more likely to look after their pride and joy than the owners of modern vehicles.

But while that’s almost certainly true, owning a classic doesn’t automatically imbue you with the knowledge required to make sure the brakes, steering, cables and wheels are fit for the road.

Here, specialist classic bike insurance broker Bikesure provides 10 basic tests you can do at home to keep your bike safe for the road.

  1. Cables: Closely inspect the cables at the point of connection rather than just a cursory look at the casing – paying particular attention to any loose or poorly cased cables which could get tangled up in moving parts.
  2. Brakes: The most important part of any moving vehicle, the brakes on older bikes can often cause problems, and brake lines should be checked regularly. Brake fluid should be replaced more often than on a modern bike – every two or three months depending on use – and regularly check for leaks. Check the operation of the brakes by applying and releasing them and checking the wheels rotate freely.
  3. Horn and lights: Check your horn intermittently – you may not know it doesn’t work until it’s too late otherwise. Sounds obvious, but checking all the lights work and the headlight beam is adjusted correctly is easily overlooked.
  4. Steering: Check the handlebars move freely left and right, and stop before they reach the petrol tank.
  5. Suspension: There’s plenty to go wrong with the suspension on an old bike, and the swing arms and front forks will need regular cleaning and regreasing.
  • Check for oil leaks from the front fork seals, and there are some fairly simple tests you can carry out to ensure the suspension is functioning correctly, as follows:
  • Check the rear suspension by bouncing the rear of the bike, and check for leakage from the rear shock absorber. At the front, sit on the bike, apply the front brake and pump the front forks up and down.
  • Lifting the rear wheel, try to lift it up at its highest point. Any movement could be caused by worn bearings in the suspension linkage or swingarm pivot
  • Now with the front wheel off the ground, hold the forks at the bottom and try to push and pull on them – again there should be no movement.
  1. Exhaust: Check the condition of the exhaust regularly to spot any corrosion early while it can still be repaired rather than replaced. Also inspect the mounting is secure and that no gases escape when revving.
  2. Tyres, wheels and chain: Checking tread depth and tyre wear regularly are a given, but you should also ensure the front and rear wheels are in alignment, and inspect for any damage to spokes or cracks in the wheel itself. Checking for wheel bearing wear involves trying to move the wheel about the axle – it should be rigid. The drive chain should be lubricated and, if necessary, adjusted.

These simple checks and tests will give you a certain level of peace of mind that your bike is safe to ride, but it’s no substitute for either expert knowledge or an MoT test. If you are in any doubt, get a qualified mechanic to take a look.

Bikesure has a policy to suit almost every type of bike, from vintage and classics to modern superbikes.

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August 8, 2023