Whenever you buy a new motorcycle, you always have to go through that awkward re-adjustment phase where you acclimate yourself to your new machine’s ergos and other little quarks like throttle sensitivity, shifting and clutch engagement. Sometimes, even after riding the bike for a while, you still never feel quite at home. Maybe you’ve heard in a riding class or read in a magazine that you can make adjustments to various components on the bike to make it more suited to you, but nobody has actually shown you how to do it.
Well, that’s what I’m about to do here. Below are some short, simple tips on things you can change to make your bike fit you better. All of these things, with a few exceptions, can be done with a basic, metric (or standard if you own an American-made machine) tool set that you can you purchase complete from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Harbor Freight Tools, Sears, or Pep Boys for sometimes as little as $50.
Adjustment #1: Your Mirrors. No tools required.
This is the most basic, yet the most essential adjustment to maintaining visibility and thus, surviving. Luckily, this adjustment does not require tools to complete. All you need to do is sit on your bike and have someone stand about twenty feet behind you and to your left (for your left mirror) then to your right (for your right mirror). While they’re standing behind you, adjust your mirror with your hands until you can comfortably see that person in your rear view. You may catch a glimpse of your shoulder as well on a sport bike, so you’ll need to pull your eblows in to make them visible
Adjustment #2: Idle. No tools required.
Your idle adjustment is important to allowing your motorcycle to run smoothly whenever parked at a light or pulling forward in first gear. Maybe you’re having some stalling issues you can’t seem to figure out. It could just be the result of your engine not getting the fuel it needs in the lower r.p.m.’s. This is something that can easily be fixed with your idle adjustment knob, which can generally be found on the lower left hand side of the bike, right about where the inside of your knee would be.
Your idle should typically hover around 1,500-2,000 r.p.m.’s depending on the machine. Twist the knob to the left to bring the idle down (more of a sputter). Twist the knob to the right to bring the idle up (more of a roar). You’re looking to hear a low, steady hum from the engine. This is it’s happiest place.
Adjustment #3: Clutch lever
To be most comfortable on your machine, it’s best to adjust your both your clutch and brake levers up or down on the handlebar so that when your fingers rest on the lever, they are directly in line with your shoulders.
You can use the 5 or 6 mm allen wrench to loosen the two bolts holding the clutch lever purch to the handlebar so you can adjust it up or down. Remember. Lefty-loosey. Righty-tighty. Just remember to tighten both bolts evenly when finished. In essence, they should be pointing downward instead of say, level. This could prevent a lot of discomfort and cramping on long rides.
You can use a digital caliper, tape measure or ruler to check your clutch lever tension or that small gap of exposed cable between the lever and clutch adjustment knob. You generally need about 5 mm’s of freeplay before your clutch engages to ensure your clutch has a long and happy life (assuming your not messing around with burn outs). Too little or too much freeplay could prematurely wear your clutch and cause it to drag or slip (I’ll explain that some other time). All you have to do to adjust the tension is turn the knob between the lever and the clutch cable left or right with your fingers until you obtain about 5 mm’s of freeplay (use freeplay picture here, may need a red arrow show the gap I’m talking about (exposed silver cable).
Adjustment #4: Brake lever.
Just as you want your clutch fingers to be in line with your shoulder or pointing downward on the clutch side, you want the same thing on your right or braking side. You can also use a 5-6mm allen wrench or socket/ratchet to adjust the lever up or down on the handlebar. If you have short fingers like I do, sometimes the front brake lever can be a bit of a reach from the throttle grip. Some bikes have an adjustment knob on the brake lever that moves the lever in or out from the grip.
To adjust the knob, pull the front brake away from the throttle grip or toward the front of the bike, then adjust the knob down (or to the lower numbers) to bring the lever into the grip or up (to the higher numbers) to take the lever away from the grip.
This could make hard braking in panic situations a little bit easier when you don’t have an uncomfortable reach to the lever.
Adjustment #5: Shift lever
To adjust your shift lever up or down, you’ll need to adjust your shift rod,which connects the shift lever to the transmission or shift shaft. There are two lock nuts, one on either end of the shift rod.
Use the two 8mm or 10mm wrenches (depending on model) to loosen the lock nuts from the ends of the rod. The rod is reverse thread, so to loosen the lock nut, pull the wrenches away from each other (pull one toward the bike, the other toward you).
With the lock nuts loose, get on the bike and have a friend twist the rod in either direction to bring the shift lever up or down. While sitting on the bike, let your friend know what position that the shift lever feels most comfortable. Once you’ve found it, have your friend pull the wrenches toward each other to tighten the lock nuts.
Adjustment #6: Rear Brake
To adjust your rear brake lever up or down, you ust loosen the lock nut on the rear brake master cylinder assembly, located just behind (to the back of the motorcycle) the right foot peg.
Use a 10mm wrench to loosen the locknut so that you can make an adjustment. Use the 12mm wrench to adjust the 12mm nut just underneath the rubber boot.
Turn the wrench forward (to the front of the bike) to adjust the rear brake lever up. Pull the wrench back (to the back of the bike) to adjust the rear brake lever down. If you adjust the lever up, it will increase the sensitivity of the rear brake, thus giving you more rear brake feel. If you adjust the lever down, it will dull the rear brake feel and require more pressure to engage the rear brake. Once you have completed the adjustment, don’t forget to tighten the lock nut.
So there you have it. Six simple adjustments you can make to your machine to make it fit you better. In upcoming issues of the newsletter, I will delve deeper into optional adjustments you can make for more aggressive riding such as throttle adjustment and GP shift. We’ll also take a look in the future at how to adjust your chain. Until then, ride safe and keep the rubber side down!