So, you’ve just gotten your hands on a brand new motorcycle, and you’re getting ready to hit the road. Before you do, it is vital that you know the proper way to break in your new motorcycle’s engine. You may have already scanned through your owner’s manual or received advice from friends who have experience riding motorcycles. All of this information can be confusing, but it is incredibly important to break in a new motorcycle’s engine correctly. Otherwise, there may be risk of impairing an engine’s performance or damage it over time.
During the earlier days of motorcycle manufacturing, many of the casting and production processes were performed manually. This usually resulted in variances in different components, and how each motorcycle was put together. However, recent technological advances have allowed for many of these processes to be performed with computer-controlled systems with precise functions and programming. Nowadays, there is a higher degree of uniformity between parts, and greater precision during motorcycle assembly. While this hasn’t completely eliminated all production issues, engine failure has become a rarer occurrence in new motorcycles.
Some Problems to Bookmark
Although engine failure in new motorcycles has been significantly reduced, drivers should avoid riding their new bikes as hard and fast as they possibly can. Some people believe that pushing a motorcycle to its limits “opens up the engine” and makes the bike quicker. However, this is simply a myth, and our team does not recommend doing so, because an engine’s components usually need a period of running before limits are tested.
Additionally, vital parts, such as valves, cylinder bore and piston rings in a new engine all require time to break in, so they can align and work properly with the surfaces in which they interact. Valves that do not sit properly against the cylinder head combustion chamber can cause the engine to lose compression and proper combustion. A loss of compression and combustion can lead to a blow-by of exhaust gases causing power loss, and further compromising the lifespan and reliability of the engine.
Finally, it is important to ensure that a motorcycle’s cylinder bore is sealed and running properly. For new engines, a cylinder bore make look smooth, but it may still be rough and coarse from the production. In this case, the piston rings will need more time to create a good seal. This is necessary to keep the combustion gases separated from the engine oil. A cylinder bore that is not sealed and run-in properly can become glazed, which can cause lubrication issues. These issues can cause more problems down the line, leading to overheating, loss of performance and premature wear on the cylinder.
Options for Breaking in Your New Motorcycle
When breaking in your new motorcycle, there are two methods that can be followed. One method strictly follows manufacturer’s recommendations, while the other is less rigid in its directions. Motorcycle owners are recommended to pick the option that they are most comfortable with so that they can carefully and effectively break in their new motorcycle engines.
With the first method, you are asked to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for breaking in an engine, which can be found in your owner’s manual. Typically, motorcycle manufacturers will recommend that you go your first 500 miles without using full throttle, and avoiding high engine speeds at all times. Manufacturers also suggest that you avoid sudden acceleration or deceleration, except when in emergency situations. Avoid over-revving when the weather is cold, and never lug the engine (riding in a higher gear than you need to be in with the engine turning low RPMs). Always downshift gears before your motorcycle engine begins to struggle.
Although it is commonly suggested by riders, we do not recommended riding your motorcycle at a constant speed for extended intervals of time. Generally, we believe that it is better to use a bike’s entire rev range, including short periods of higher revs. While we do recommend exercising caution when revving towards your bike’s limits, it can also be harmful to be overly cautious. Finding a balance between the two can help to effectively break in your bike’s engine.
Option two tends to be less stringent than the manufacturer’s recommended method of breaking in a new motorcycle engine. However, you should exercise the same amount of caution using this option. Avoid lugging the engine, cruising at the same RPM and speed for extended intervals and aggressively starting and stopping. If you happen to live near a canyon or race track, they make great locations for breaking in a new motorcycle engine, because you can fluctuate your revs and engine speed more freely and consistently. Riding on the freeway is not recommended for the first 500 miles, because driving on the highway usually means going at a constant speed and RPM for a long period of time.
Note: Stick with conventional mineral oil for your engine for the first 500 miles. After about 1,500 miles, you can change it out for synthetic oil.
Step-By-Step Guide to Breaking in a Motorcycle’s Engine
Before setting of on your new motorcycle, make sure that everything meets the manufacturer’s requirements in the owner’s manual. This includes oil level, temperature and tire pressure. Allow your bike to reach acceptable operating temperature before you get on and start driving. Remember, these are merely suggestions, and none of these rules are set in stone. It is important to read the owner’s manual and understand what the manufacturer recommends. To break in your new motorcycle, try following the required steps, which include:
- Find a road with light traffic and enough space to open up your bike, at least for the lower gears. Vary your engine speed often, from low mid-range to the upper mid-range for about 20 miles. Generally, you want to remain in the first 1/3 of your mid rev range. If your motorcycle red lines at 15,000, try to fluctuate between 4,500 and 7,500 RPM.
- After riding for about 10 miles, stop the bike, turn off the engine, and let it sit for 20 minutes before starting it again. Once you start up again, continue riding how you have been, but raise the RPM to 8,500, and try to use engine braking as much as you can.
- Continue riding in 10 to 20 mile increments, but each time, raise your rev range by about 1,000 RPM.
- When you reach 500 miles, change the oil and filter while your engine is still warm, but not while it is sizzling hot. Check the oil for any signs of debris, although finding metal flakes is completely normal. After 500 miles, you can begin to ride on the freeway.
At about 1500 miles, it is time to change your oil and filter, once again. Use a high-quality synthetic oil or mineral oil of your choice. At this point, the engine on your motorcycle is considered broken in, and you are ready to ride!