As the topic suggests, it is wiser to ask how many miles does a bike last rather than how many years.
Well, that truly depends on how well you care for the bike. I’ve seen people with bikes over 100,000 miles and I’ve seen bikes crap out at 4,000 miles. As long as you keep up with consistent oil changes and don’t abuse the machine then a motorcycle and its engine can last you a lifetime.
So if you want to:
- ride your bike for a really long time,
- or you are looking to buy a used motorcycle,
- or planning to discard yours,
Read along this post to get an idea – how a bike can be maintained which increases its life, and when is the right time to discard one.
Twelve to Fifteen years – a general Perception
The general perception on average is, if the motorcycle has not suffered any accidents or major falls, it can last you up to twelve to fifteen years. But, this period can be extended if it is a high-end vehicle that has had exemplary upkeep and maintenance, in addition to having been lucky enough to not suffer any crashes.
On the contrary, if we skipped scheduled maintenance appointments with the mechanic and the motorbike is a low-end model, we must be prepared to accept that it is unlikely to last that long.
7,000 miles – time for maintenance!
My research on over 100 different motorbikes led me to the conclusion that – regularly ridden bike clocks at least 7,000 miles per year (on an average) on the odometer.
At this point (possibly not in the very first year) the wear and tear takes a toll on the bike – cables are shot; the mechanical components have worn out, sprockets are damaged, etc.
All these are clear indications that it is time for maintenance. And you can obviously replace all these parts and keep your bike going.
So let us move to the anatomical break-down of the bike, and address each major part of a bike separately to get a better understanding about its maintenance and lifespan individually.
Keep Your Bike Alive with Routine Motorcycle Maintenance
Climbing the Maintenance Ladder
Most of the routine maintenance procedures are quite simple. In the initial stages you just need to glance over all the components for signs of damage, change the oil and battery water, make minor adjustments and tighten a few screws.
Remember that the engine and battery are the most vital organs. They are heart and lungs of a bike. So regular oiling and battery servicing is most important for any bike.
As time and mileage increase, the inspections start getting a bit deeper and will require more time, skill, and in some cases, special tools. But in case, you don’t feel comfortable performing the work, then don’t; do only what you can and leave the rest to the professionals – because that’s what they are there for.
Steel or titanium parts are supposed to be the most durable and they’re repairable by anyone who has proper skills and right tools.
Rust will bother the steel frames if the frame is exposed to humid weather without a thorough drying afterwards. Consequently if you start getting rust you have to deal with it immediately or else it gets nothing, but worse.
Aluminum is not as sturdy as steel and more susceptible to cracks through years of use as it is not very tensile, and buckles more easily (once something buckles, most people won’t want to ride it).
Carbon frames just aren’t repairable as far as I know and they’re usually crashed permanently in a race anyway. You don’t get to see many carbon motorcycles on the road. This could change in the future, but I doubt it.
Carbon can be repaired- it’s just more difficult or rather expensive, and since Carbon has only been used in bike frames in the past 10 years, – expertise in this area is only just starting to catch up.
So, provided the frame isn’t exposed to severe elements or used abusively, it will last you a life time.
Brake maintenance of a bike is more or less like a car, in fact much simpler than that, because a bike is so compact you can bleed the brakes all by yourself without any help. The brake levers and the bleeder screw can be reached by both hands at the same time. Unlike a car you don’t require someone to push the pedal down while you bleed the air out.
One point to keep in mind is that your front and rear brake systems are entirely independent because they are topped off by different cylinders. This means that – the life of both brakes are to be calculated separately. While checking the brakes do not forget to check the brake pads to see if they need to be replaced.
When was the last time you checked your bike tires’ pressure? Experts recommend that the pressure should be checked weekly or at least in 10 day intervals. But most of us take it for granted and overlook this crucial element of a bike set up.
If you ever feel that you are losing judgment or can’t maintain proper balance or you seem to be riding sloppily just check your tire pressure. I bet you are low on air.
Under-inflated tires affect your braking system greatly. The soft walls create a lack of pressure for friction forces to work effectively.
On the other hand over inflation is neither good for a bike as it reduces the contact patch resulting in lesser grip over the tires.
To gauge the life of tires special grooves containing small raised points are provided in the tire itself. These are called wear indicators. When these indicators wear out, it signals you are overdue to change your tires.
The rule of thumb is that – the rear wheel will wear out long before your front wheel does, so you need not worry if wear and tear is uneven.
The perfect way to maintain the life of your chain is to ensure it is of the correct tightness. Over a period of time it will start to stretch, so you need to make sure it doesn’t get very loose. The owner’s manual contains the slack and adjustment specifications. If it’s too loose, you’ll need to adjust it.
No matter how well you take care of the chain, it will eventually stretch to the point that it is too uneven to straighten or tighten. Now it’s high time for a replacement. Generally you don’t need to replace the sprockets along with the chain as it has longer life. But I would suggest this as a good opportunity to change the same as well.
Lubrication is another important factor when it comes to chains. The lube helps the chain flex smoothly and doesn’t allow it to bind up. Mind you that the lube itself is sticky, so it tends to gather a lot of debris and particles, which can act like sandpaper. So you need to regularly clean all that off too.
Ooh, nice and shiny!
So after the basics of maintenance, we should address the next most important question-
How do you determine the life and resale value of any bike?
The answer is plain and simple – just have a look at three important measures:
- Odometer – It will tell you the age of the bike, by telling you how many miles the bike has completed.
- Manufacturer supported lifespan – Most of the motor manufacturers have the life-cycle mentioned for the product. The Motor Vehicles have regulations and expiry dates according to the Transport Department of the resident’s country. They have made these rules after studying all the technical details of/about a motor cycle or motor vehicles.
- Consumer handling – As for the consumer lifespan it depends a lot on how the vehicle has been handled.
Remember that points one and two just give you a holistic view, but the most important point is the third one – the lifespan of a motorcycle completely depends on how well it is handled and maintained. A properly maintained bike should last the lifetime of the owner or even out number his age. I have witnessed people using bikes for more than 20 years or so. (However, more than often the manufacturer will not support the bike for that period. You may have to out-source the spare parts from the third party companies).
- A regularly ridden motorcycle will have an approximate life of seven to ten everyday-riding years before it starts losing steam,
- A racer bike generally meets its fate in a crash,
And both kinds of bikes just die due to neglect– something or the other wears out, owner loses interest, things rust and/or get timely out of fashion.
And now – If you’re talking about how to keep a motorcycle running for a VERY long period, that is definitely possible if it is maintained meticulously. All parts can be quite easily replaced on almost all types of motorcycles.
Right time to change your bike and which one to avoid when buying a second hand one
Tires, rims, brakes, chains and miscellaneous accessories can all be relatively economically replaced as discussed shortly, providing the motorcycle with infinite lives, but motorcycle manufacturers like to change paradigms around every 12 years, and finding spare components for a bike that is 2-3 paradigms old from the current is often quite difficult to source out.
Besides mechanical problems, there are externally visible features of a motorcycle that can give us clues that it is nearing the end of its life. For example, rusted surfaces, or grease stains on the vehicle which reveal that the vehicle has already been used quite a lot.
Another key factor in determining whether the life of a motorbike engine is nearing its final stages is its Mileage. Once a motorcycle odometer has clocked more than 90,000 km, you can easily say that is has achieved a respectable mileage and start looking out for a replacement.
If the roads we regularly ride on are well paved and the bike has been used by a single rider then we can add a few more kilometers to this figure. But if you have abused the bike by riding it on rough potholed roads and it has been ridden by numerous riders then you might just have to do the opposite by subtracting a few miles to the 90,000 figure.
As a motorcycle tends to age – it will inevitably begin to develop a lot many problems that require more attention and further investment.
So at a point of time it becomes an expensive affair to maintain a motorcycle and obviously in such situations it is better to replace the motorcycle, and if you are looking for a second hand one – you definitely need to avoid this kind of bike.
If you don’t misuse or abuse your bikes and maintain them as they deserve to be, most modern four stroke motorcycle engines of adequate displacement will outlive you. The only cause why most motorbikes can’t reach a very high mileage is because they usually crash, or are misused severely, or aren’t paid attention to.
So, finally with a lot of research, I will like to answer the question “how many miles is a lot for a motorcycle?”
For a very well maintained bike – 100,000 kilometers (62137.119 miles) is the optimum. And if we are talking in years, so at an average – 12 to 14 years is its most. After that you need to put it to rest, either in your backyard, or at a respectable motor collectible centre.
And if you are looking to buy a second hand bike (essentially a well maintained one), just look how many miles it has clocked, or how many years it has performed on the road, and you will get an idea about how much life is still left in it.
So with all this – I’ll take my leave as my bike has plenty of miles to complete.