We know. Like several of the following items, this one seems too obvious. And for riders who keep a close eye on such things, it is. But proper tire inflation--along with routine tread-wear check--is key to a fine-handling motorcycle. It's also cheap insurance that can keep you from stepping off your bike in an unplanned way. Always be sure your bike's tires are inflated to the correct pressure(s). That doesn't mean the max pressure number listed on the tire's sidewall; that number is reserved for heavy-duty riding (two-up, loaded with luggage, etc.). We've always found the mid-30s (34-38 psi) to be a good overall pressure range. Slightly lower pressures (low 30s) typically result in more grip (and more wear), while higher pressures equal less wear and firmer ride qualities. Also, check the tread for wear, especially the uneven sort. Cupping around the edges or a flat-spotted tread crown can adversely affect handling. If you find these conditions, replace the tire.
Lube cables and control pivots
Again, a simple-but-important tweak. A small cable oiler will help you shoot proper lube deep into the cable sheath, which will vastly improve lever/pedal/throttle feel and make cables last longer. Lubing control pivots can take more time, but the improvement in feel and bike control will be significant. A rider can't make the sort of delicate, precise inputs sometimes necessary if the controls feel like the rider is trying to break a chicken's neck. Use a light oil such as Bel-Ray 6-in-1. WD40 is a water displacer and not an ideal lubricant, though it will work in a pinch. Worn cables should be replaced.
Adjust throttle cable
Carefully adjust the amount of slack in your throttle cable. Trying to feed in just the right amount of throttle when accelerating from a corner or maneuvering between cars in a parking lot is difficult if you have to wind in a yard of slack before the carburetor/fuel-injection butterflys open. Likewise, not enough slack can make throttle response hard to control. Just a slight amount of slack will do. As always, check your bike's owner's or service manual for correct settings.
Adjust controls to fit
Position your bike's various controls where they fit you, the rider. Just because the levers and pedal(s) are where the dimwitted set-up kid (that would've been most of us in our early years) put them doesn't mean that's where they ought to be for you. If you have physical issues and subsequent pains after a ride, change the bike by putting on new handlebars/clip-ons of a different bend or reach.
Lube and adjust chain
Again, an obvious one. A dry, rusty or dirty chain sucks up and wastes well-earned horsepower. And an improperly adjusted chain complicates things by adding driveline lash and imprecision to the whole throttle-on, throttle-off experience. Loose and dirty chains are also noisy, prone to breakage and ugly. Who wants that?
Change oil and filter
Be sure to use a high-quality, motorcycle-specific synthetic (or semi-synthetic) oil along with a quality filter. Do not use common motor oil from the local hardware store; it contains low-friction additives that don't agree with your bike's clutch. If you haven't done this in a lot of miles, you will be able to feel and hear a difference.
Set suspension sag
We showed you how to do this in our August '05 issue, so you have no excuse. Once your bike's front and rear suspension systems are balanced (which setting sag will accomplish), your bike will handle better and feel more precise and balanced--provided the rest of the suspension adjustments and tire pressures aren't out of whack. Also set damping (explored in our September '05 issue). If components are worn out, replace or rebuild them. Shocks and fork assemblies with 40,000 miles on them don't play well with other children.
Install headlight modulator and/or high-wattage bulb
These are some of the most effective safety/conspicuity mods you can make. Higher-wattage bulbs are available through a number of aftermarket outlets and push your nighttime see-clearly zone significantly forward.
Adding a headlight modulator is similarly helpful. Such devices vary the intensity of the headlight at a high rate of speed to catch the attention of oncoming drivers. Riders who've tried modulators swear by them. Kisan Technologies (www.kisantech.com) is a leading supplier of such devices, and has an excellent reputation.
Fit a loud horn
Today's stock bike horns are louder than ever, but if you really want motorists to hear you (or know where you are), upgrading to an aftermarket unit is a good idea. Fiamm makes a wide range of louder-than-stock horns that are available through a wide range of outlets, including www.ridesafer.com.
Change your seat
With all the improvements we've seen in the two-wheeled world over the last couple of decades, you'd think seat-comfort issues would have been banished by now. But no.
Some bike saddles--especially those fitted to certain cruisers--remain significantly comfort-challenged, so the aftermarket remains a hot spot for modifications. Corbin (www.corbin.com) and Mustang (www.mustangseats.com) are two names to look for, but try to test the seat you're looking for before you buy; a custom seat that's comfy for another rider may not work for you.
Have a reputable shop dyno your bike and check its tailpipe emissions with an exhaust-gas analyzer. Depending on the results (too lean, too rich), you might want to either rejet your bike's carbs or fit a fuel-injection module such as the venerable Dynojet Power Commander to achieve a proper air/fuel ratio. Also, treat your bike to a full tune and service, which will handle many of the above service-oriented checks (oil change, chain lube and adjustment, etc.) and ensure its valves are set correctly and its carbs are synched.
Clean and detail
Set aside a few hours one weekend afternoon and thoroughly clean and detail your bike. It's not that hard, especially if you have our November '98 issue handy to guide you through the process. Think how good you'll feel afterward--and how jealous your riding buddies will be! A good cleaning will also force you to look closely at your motorcycle so you can, hopefully, spot little problems before they become big ones. Plus, it's a real bonding experience. Now let's all play drums, hold hands and sing "Kumbaya."