Spannerman, despite appearances, is a very canny mechanic. Here he gives us a great big helping of wily workshop wisdom.

In the workshop:

  1. Prepare for each job, do it in one go if you can and clean up afterwards. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  2. The $2.00 shop hand cleaner is as good as the standard workshop products.
  3. The cotton clothes you eventually throw away won’t be worn by anyone else. Wash them and use them as workshop rags (but take the buttons off first!)
  4. A toilet brush dipped in diluted degreaser is great for cleaning heads and barrels.
  5. Maintained shadow boards will let you find your important tools every time you need them.
  6. Read the workshop manual before, not after, you attempt the procedure.
  7. Working with someone else will bring out the best in you.
  8. Try not to get too much used engine oil and other bike lubricants on your hands and wash it off quickly if you do.
  9. Collect used lubricants in appropriate containers and take them to your local council recycling centre. If you ring them up, your local council will tell you where the recycle centres are located.
  10. When things don’t work as they should, stay calm. Have a break and think through what you’re doing. Give it enough time and you’ll come up with a solution.
Save yourself a bunch of pain and read the manual!


  1. Manufacturers always underestimate how long everything will last on a bike (brake pads, discs, air cleaners, brake fluid, fork oil) but overestimate oil change periods. Go for half to three-quarters of the recommended intervals for engine oil and gearbox oil if it’s separate.
  2. Tyre manufacturers all think their products will work better with higher pressures than those recommended by bike makers. An extra 4psi in the front and 6psi in the rear is common.
  3. It’s hard to over-tighten nuts and bolts if you use standard-length spanners. Notice how 10mm spanners are shorter than 17mm spanners? Even cheap torque wrenches will give you more consistent results than guessing. Go with the torque settings in the workshop manual (and clean but don’t lubricate nuts/bolts before reassembly as it will distort torque readings).
  4. New spark plugs (with new washers) should be tightened half a turn extra after they seat. If they’ve been in more than once, 1/8 turn extra is enough.
  5. Big hose grips make good ring compressors but need to be greased first to help the pistons slide into the bores. You can make piston holders for any bike with a suitable length of wood, a 10mm drill and a saw.
  6. Surfaces with gaskets (head, barrels etc) will only seal properly if the surfaces are completely clean before they’re joined. Paint stripper is a good gasket remover and surface cleaner, but wash the components before reassembly.
  7. Start all nuts and bolts (if it’s physically possible) with your hands – if they start easily you can move on to a tightening device and you won’t strip threads.
  8. Keep everything you dismantle in the order in which you take it off. It makes reassembly that much easier.
  9. Sockets are best, followed by ring spanners, followed by open-ended spanners, followed by shifting spanners, followed vice-grips and the like. Go with the best first.
  10. When things don’t work as they should, stay calm. Have a break and think through what you’re doing. Give it enough time and you’ll come up with a solution.
Shadow boards look good and keep things in their place.

Routine maintenance:

  1. Check the tension of spoked wheels by tapping the spokes with a small spanner. They should all sound the same (no change in pitch) if the wheel is going to stay straight.
  2. Keep your bike’s engine clean as it helps cooling and lets you recognize problems as soon as they occur.
  3. High pressure hoses (commercial car washes) are good for engine grunge but keep the pressure hose away from the drive chain, swingarm bushes, steering head bearings and instruments. Remove the ignition key before washing as the key will drain water into the ignition barrel.
  4. Don’t over-lubricate the drive chain with pressure packs as it encourages the collection of road grit which turns quickly into grinding paste.
  5. A correctly tensioned chain will last longer and maximize the efficiency of the gearchange experience.
  6. Belt drives need a wipe with soap from time to time to stop grinding noises.
  7. A worn rear tyre or worn rear shocks (or both together) will encourage high speed weaving which is invariably blamed on the front end.
  8. The best suspension compromise for normal riding is the factory setting. It’s in your owner’s handbook. If you want to experiment, start from there.
  9. Australia has the finest dust particles in the world. Don’t ignore air cleaner maintenance.
  10. When things don’t work as they should, stay calm. Have a break and think through what you’re doing. Give it enough time and you’ll come up with a solution.

Bits and pieces:

  1. Change your brake fluid every 12 months. It will last longer than that, but changing it keeps the plunger in the master cylinder from corroding and keeps all the seals lubricated.
  2. You’ll maximise battery life and ease the starting process if you plug the battery into a trickle charger (like a Battery Doc or Optimiser) when you’re not using your bike.
  3. Vibration is just as big a killer of batteries as overuse – keep it secure in a rubber mount and keep it topped up with distilled water if you’re still using a lead acid battery.
  4. Anything more than 95 RON petrol (unless otherwise specified) is a waste of money. Unless your bike has a knock sensor and automatically adjustable ignition timing, the engine can’t take any advantage of the higher octane.
  5. A lead replacement additive is useful in fuel for pre-’86 bikes. The occasional dose of straight ULP won’t hurt your engine.
  6. There is no scientific evidence, whatever their exotic claims might be, to support the use of any fuel or oil additive. Everything you need is already in the fuel and oil.
  7. Fitting wider tyres than recommended for your bike will slow its handling and increase bump-steer – stick with recommended sizes.
  8. If you MUST modify your bike, concentrate on the chassis rather than the engine. Suspension performance can be improved if you can identify the conditions in which you want to ride faster. The best performance modification you can make on your bike is to do an advance rider training course.
  9. E10 fuel (10 per cent ethanol) won’t do your bike any harm in occasional use but if you use it regularly you need to monitor its tendency to lean out the fuel mixture and corrode some line fittings on older bikes. If you own a two-stroke, never use it.
  10. When things don’t work as they should, stay calm. Have a break and think through what you’re doing. Give it enough time and you’ll come up with a solution.
Want to be faster? Improve yourself before spending bucketloads on go-fast bike bits.
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2 years ago

Fabulous. Some great tips there…