Sportbike How-To has recently released a motorcycle repair DVD set for the Yamaha R6. But don’t get put off by the specificity of the title, because the information on these DVDs can be used by owners of just about any motorcycle model or brand.
The two-DVD set is packed with what I’ll call vignettes (for lack of a better term) that cover a broad range of motorcycle repair projects. The topics are broken down into sections for Maintenance, Chassis, Brakes and Controls on Disc 1 and Engine, Exterior and Electrical on Disc 2. I counted exactly 100 different maintenance and repair items that are covered on the DVD set.
Each section then has multiple selections (or vignettes) which show the basic steps for the repair. Some sections are combined; for example, the vignette that describes how to change the oil also includes a vignette on removing the lower fairing, which is necessary on the R6 to access the oil filter and drain plug.
I very much enjoy working on my motorcycles, at least when I have the time. I don’t like to be rushed when I work, and I’m a very deliberate, careful and safe mechanic. I also have a complete set of shop tools, including a professional motorcycle lift. I’m also retired, so I have all the time in the world. Well, almost…
Now I realize that many motorcycle owners either don’t have the skill or the time to do their own maintenance and repair, but I really think they’re missing out on a large part of the fun of motorcycle ownership. I’m sorry, but I’m always shocked to hear that some owners will bring their bike to the motorcycle dealer just to change the oil. Not only do I not trust anyone to work on my bike (probably unjustified, I’ll admit), but c’mon — changing the oil? It should be required for motorcycle ownership.
I have always felt that working on a motorcycle — or a car — gets me “down ‘n’ dirty” with all the little parts so that I can become immediately aware of any problems that are cropping up. And since motorcycle maintenance is absolutely crucial for safety — more so than for automobiles — it’s important to know what’s going on with the bike at all times. Things can happen so fast that even a loose bolt can cause a major accident if not caught in time.
This has been brought home to me many times, but one that stands out in my mind is the time I took a new (used) bike in for an inspection. The mechanic apparently took one of the front calipers off and left the bolts hand-tight. I drove the bike home and only discovered this when I happened to look down at the front caliper and noticed that one of the bolts was missing! The other was finger-loose. This could have been a disaster…
I’m not saying that doing your own maintenance will prevent problems like this; in fact, just the opposite may be true, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. But like anything that has to do with motorcycles, the learning process is continuous.
So I think that the bottom line is that every owner should at least know how to perform the basic maintenance and servicing routine on their ride. And even though they may not want to do a brake fluid flush and change, for example, they should at least know enough about it to talk intelligently to their mechanic.
I think the Sportbike How-to DVD can do this. Some maintenance and repair tasks that are described in the brief but very clear videos will be easy to learn. But there are a few that I don’t think even the video can prepare the owner for, such as changing the chain and sprockets. The basics of that project are covered in the video, but I probably not in enough depth or detail to turn a maintenance rookie into an overnight mechanic.
But that’s really not a problem. For many motorcycle owners who have never attempted anything more complex than checking the oil level or tire pressures, I think the video will at least familiarize them with the basic steps. And it doesn’t matter that they’re performed on a Yamaha R6, because the basic steps for changing the oil, the sprockets or the chain are pretty much the same for any chain-driven bike.
Putting together a video like this is a complex task and there’s bound to be a few things that would have or should have been done differently. For example, it would have been nice to have a section that covers the basics of shop practice, like tools and how to use them; how to use a torque wrench or how to protect the bike and the owner during maintenance. A section that covers this should also recommend referring to the owner’s manual and purchasing a good shop manual before any repairs are undertaken.
Some tips I’ve picked up over the years include always covering the fuel tank with a thick towel or rag, especially when working on or around the handlebars or headstock. In the video, there is nothing protecting the fuel tank when the owner is working on removing the clip-ons. In real life, Murphy’s Law would kick in and the wrench or screwdriver would most certainly be dragged across the paint. And the more beautiful the paint, the worse the scratch!
Another faux pas is in the vignette on lubricating the chain. The owner simply takes a can of chain lube and sprays it on the back of the rear sprocket as the rear wheel is rotated. You can see the chain lube spraying all over the back wheel. Now you may disagree that chain lube should not be sprayed on the outside of the rear of the sprocket, and instead be sprayed slowly and carefully on the inside of the chain just before it feeds into the rear sprocket as the tire is slowly rotated forward.
But surely you would agree that it’s important to place some paper or cardboard in back of the chain and some paper on the floor to protect both from getting soaked with messy chain lube. Chain lube and sportbike tire rubber do not make a very safe mixture.
There are one or two others, like the brake fluid dripping down on to the rotor during the vignette on flushing the brakes, or using a flathead screwdriver as a pry bar and chisel. I just hope that greenhorn mechanics in training don’t pick up the bad habits.
But overall this is a good video for those who would like to know the basics of all the different maintenance and repair tasks that are part of motorcycle ownership. You may never try some of the projects yourself, but it will surely pay to know how it’s done, if only to have an intelligent conversation with a mechanic or to help prevent rip-offs at the dealership. I think the price of the DVD is very reasonable considering the huge amount of content and the time and effort it took to think through the work and to film it and describe it so that it’s clear and to the point.