Quarantine and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 

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Kickstands & Kevlar is a blog hosted by Overland Expo’s own Motorcycle Community Ambassador, Eva Rupert.

Follow Eva @augusteva.

A little over two weeks ago, I crossed the border back into the US after an awesome motorcycle trip in Mexico. When I left in February, my plan was to take a little time off before the event-planning season kicked into high gear. When I returned, the world was in a much different state.

I’ve started and re-started this blog post a dozen times since my return. I assumed that I would get back from Mexico, knock out an awesome ride report and point you in the direction of my favorite fish tacos, beach camping, and dirt roads along the Baja peninsula. But with the current COVID-19 situation impacting every aspect of our lives, I’ll save that ride report for another day when I’m not busy laughing at toilet paper hoarding memes and pouring over my favorite pandemic map (is it weird to have a favorite pandemic map?).

I know I’m not the only one out there who heard social distancing and immediately thought this is a great time to go riding… I assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re an overlander. You’re stoked on adventure and thrive outdoors. You probably have a rig that has at least two wheels (off-road unicycling is struggling due to the stock market situation, unfortunately). You’re a motorcyclist, hiker, four-wheeler, RTW pioneer, avid camper, van-lifer, or weekend warrior. 


Because of your overlanding spirit, you are well-equipped to handle whatever may come your way, be it a breakdown or novel virus. So, I thought to myself, what better than a pandemic to go for a ride and riff on these strange days. Well, actually, there are a lot of things better than a pandemic… pandemics suck, but I still think you should go for a ride.

Since you’re going to use this time to do a bunch of moto-distancing, you definitely want to be doing regular pre-ride inspections of your trusty bike. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Pre-Ride Checklist is a great refresher to remind you of all the systems to take note of. Their acronym is T-CLOCS and it stands for: Tires/wheels, Controls, Lights/electrical, Oil/fluids, Chassis/suspension, and Stands. For actual information, grab the MSF’s checklist for the technical stuff because I’m about to ramble on with a bunch of mechanical metaphors. 

After scooting around on a socially-distant Sunday ride and washing my hands thoroughly, I got to thinking that if we do regular pre-ride checks on our motorcycles, we ought to be giving ourselves a thorough inspection, as well. So, I put together a mental checklist to run through while doing a standard bike inspection. I suggest giving your bike a once-over, heading out for a ride, and have fun riffing on your own metaphors. Here are my musings from my ride the other day…

Controls… Motorcycles are brilliantly designed with all the controls right there at your fingertips, so make sure your levers are lubed and adjusted for your freshly sanitized, gloved hands. One of the things I love most about riding is that you are in full control of your machine (except for when you’re going down those steep descents over a bunch of rugged loose stuff… oh wait, am I supposed to be in control then too?). On your bike you get to decide what line you’re going to take through the gnarly sections of the trail. This pandemic state of affairs is no different. When it gets rough, keep it smooth and stay on the throttle. You can’t control the terrain, but you can control how you react to the situation at hand. Stay loose and maybe cover the clutch because, at some point during this quarantine, you’re going to have to slow down and you don’t want to stall out when that happens. 

Fluids… You know how when you put lousy, low-octane gas in your tank and your bike starts running really rough? There’s that disturbing knocking sound and your MPG drops significantly. Well, the same thing happens when you spend too much of your quarantine time sitting on the couch binging on Youtube and Doritos (I know, it sounded like a good idea at the time). Keep your body running strong with healthy food, exercise, and plenty of quality time outdoors. Check your oil levels and make sure your chain is clean and greased before you head out. Once your bike is back in the driveway, I’d also recommend a nice bourbon to take the edge off if you plan on watching the 6 o’clock news.

Electrical… You and your vehicle are fully wired for success. Over the next few weeks or months one of the most important things will be keeping your battery charged and, like your bike, you have to keep moving to do that. Right now, our normal momentum has been disrupted and we all know what happens when we leave the bike sitting in the garage for too long… So for those whose daily routine is out of whack or has come to a halt, you might have to give yourself a jumpstart to keep on rolling. Now, I doubt that will happen to many of you because overlanders all know that getting out into the mountains is the best thing to clear your head.


Tires… For weathering COVID-19, I believe that the Center for Disease Control recommends a solid 60/40 tire to be prepared for a variety of changing conditions. Just kidding, the CDC doesn’t have a recommended tire… but who wants to stick to the pavement during a time like this. Check those spokes, look for signs of bearing wear, and always keep an eye on your tire pressure. Just as temperatures affect tire pressure, the emotional climate is going to affect your patience. We all know what we want our cold tire pressure to be at, but your PSI increases by about a pound for every ten degrees that temperature rises. When stress levels rise, your patience can get stretched thin. So if that guy on Facebook spouting epidemiological nonsense is pushing your adrenals to the max, take a deep breath and air down. Stress has a way of compounding itself, so check your internal PSI on a regular basis so you’re not dealing with a blow out when you’d rather be riding. 

Finally, the Kickstand… your stands are always always there for you, keeping your bike upright when you get home from a ride, after you’ve hoisted it up out of the pile of rocks that you dumped it in, when you’re prying a nail out of your tire or adjusting your chain. The kickstand has your back, that unsung hero that we rarely take time to acknowledge (until your kill-switch malfunctions and you can’t figure out why the bike won’t start… asking for a friend). When you’re doing your pre-ride check, make sure the spring tension is good and that there’s no damage to the stand. While you’re at it, call your mom, call your friends, reach out to the good people in your life and remind them that you’ve got their back. We all need someone to lean on when things get tough… not in the literal sense though, since we’re all supposed to stay six feet away from each other. 


Anyhow, hope you’re all hanging in there and that your life hasn’t gone through too much of an overhaul since the coronavirus swept across the globe. I figure most of you are at home, pouring over maps and planning your next adventure for as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, have fun detailing your rig, get out on some solo adventures, and remember to wash your hands.

Photo Credit: Matt Beaty @mattbeaty

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