July 6, 2015
By Bob Gregor
It's a matter of life or death ... well, maybe just painful injury and damage to your scoot. Keeping your motorcycles controls in top condition will not only increase your chances of avoiding an accident, but will keep you from shelling out for some expensive repairs. The good news is these are easy procedures that can be done just about anywhere with only a few basic tools.
The most important tool you'll need is one of the biggest secrets in motorcycling, that only a few people know about: Hidden under the seat or behind one of the side panels is an obscure technical document called an "Owner's Manual". If you have an older bike and are missing the manual you can download one off the Internet. This will give you the specific details on control adjustment for your make and model. Please refer to it on each of the adjustments we cover.
Shift levers should be positioned so you have easy foot movement in both the up and down position. You really don't want to be taking your foot off the peg so you can downshift. And you want to be able to easily get your toes under the lever for smooth up shifting.
There are two basic styles of shifting mechanisms. The most common one is where the shift lever is mounted directly on the transmission shift shaft.
On cruisers and sport bikes with rear sets you usually see a linkage mechanism called a "bell crank".
First thing to check: make sure your lever and linkage aren't bent and rubbing against an engine case. If your bike uses a bell crank linkage the shift lever will pivot on a shaft. Take the lever off the shaft and apply a liberal amount of grease so you don't get any sticky shifting.
If your shift lever is mounted directly on the shift shaft, chances are the shaft is splined and the only way you can make an adjustment is rotating the shifter to a different notch. After you get the lever in the best position make sure the clamping bolt is tight and keep an eye on it whenever you inspect the bike. We see way too many loose shifting levers on customers' bikes.
Bell crank shift mechanisms give you a much bigger range of adjustment, letting you get it precisely in the desired position. There will be one or two locking nuts on the ends of the rod that need to be loosened. Be careful because one of them can be a reverse thread. Put too much torque on it in the wrong direction and you'll be sitting out the weekend ride waiting for a new rod. Once the lock nuts are loose, just turn the rod to get the lever position where you want it.
Your foot brake lever only has one adjustment if you have a rear disc brake. Locate the linkage coming out of your rear master cylinder, loosen the lock nut, and turn the linkage to get your desired position
Please check your owners' manual on this one, since the procedure can vary. While you are working in this area, make sure your rear brake fluid reservoir is topped up. If the fluid is over two years old you will want to change it. Don't forget to make sure the lever pivot point is properly greased.
You have two adjustments if your bike has drum brakes. Set the rear pedal height adjustment using the bolt and locking nut located close to the lever pivot point.
Next adjust the rear brake actuating rod nut.
Support the rear wheel off the ground and spin the rear tire. Keep tightening the nut on the rod until the brake just starts to drag. Back the nut off one turn and spin the wheel once more to make sure it spins freely and you're good to go.
In the second part of this article we will discuss what it takes to get your hand controls working perfectly.
DISCLAIMER: The methods in this article are guidelines, provided and performed by a trained mechanic. If you are not comfortable performing routine maintenance on your bike, it is recommended you get a trained mechanic to complete these and more difficult tasks on your bike.
BACK TO CURRENT COLUMNS
Chains and Sprockets: R & R
Switched Accessory Wiring
Drive Chain Clean, Lube & Adjust
Tool Guide for the Home Motorcycle Mechanic – Part 2
Tool Guide for the Home Motorcycle Mechanic – Part 1
Tire Inspection & Maintenance
The Cold Hard Facts about your Cooling System
Clutch Cable Free Play Adjustment
Hydraulic Brake System Maintenance
Belt Drive Adjustment & Care
Charging System Inspection
Chain inspection, adjustment and lubrication
Battery testing and maintenance
Checking your controls PT 1
Checking your controls PT 2
Tires and Wheels
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