Tinker Talk: February 2019


Proper lubrication is crucial for most moving parts. This spans far beyond the liquid oils contained in the various cavities throughout a motorcycle. Moving parts such as cables, bearings and pivot points require lubrication to function ideally. If a component slides, rotates, pivots or reciprocates, it likely needs to be lubricated in some way. Unfortunately, many of these things often go overlooked. In this edition of Tinker Talk we will shed a little light on some of these neglected areas.

1: Lubricating a cable with a cable lube tool. The jaws of the tool clamp down on the inner cable. Cable lube is sprayed in through the small grommet in the tool housing. 2: You can lubricate cables just fine without a special tool, but it can make a bit more of a mess. Insert the aerosol straw about 1/2” into the cable housing and spray gently. Both methods should require only a few, quick blasts. Try to use a specified cable lube.


Cables are often utilized to translate our physical commands into mechanical actions. The older the bike, the more predominant cable actuation will be. These cables are constantly getting a workout. Allowing them to dry out will produce a sticky feel at the controls. Prolonged use without proper lubrication can lead to fraying and eventually breakage. Fortunately, cables are relatively simple to lubricate. The specifics will vary by application but ultimately the process is relatively uniform. All you typically need to do is back the adjuster off to put slack into the cable, disconnect it and shoot an aerosol lube down into the cable housing. A cable lube tool can be helpful when performing this task.

This grease fitting aids in lubricating the swingarm pivot. Applying grease through a fitting such as this one is very simple. Insert the appropriate grease tube into the gun, attach the gun nozzle to the fitting and pump the grease in. When the cavity is full you will hear a slight cracking sound or see grease begin to seep from the outer edge of the seal. Stop filling when you reach this point. Overfilling may compromise the seal.

Pivot Points

Pivot points tend to be overlooked the most. Things such as the swingarm, clutch lever, steering head or rear suspension linkage (found on monoshock applications) are pivot points that need to be greased. In some applications the grease can be pumped in with a grease gun through a grease fitting. If a grease fitting is not present, you may need to perform some disassembly to physically apply the grease. Keep in mind that even though a grease fitting may be present, unsealed bearings should be removed and repacked at varying intervals specified by the manufacturer.

This is a photographic crash course on how to repack a bearing. 1: Remove the bearing to be serviced. 2: Degrease and clean the bearing thoroughly. 3: Begin packing grease in from the most open edge of the bearing cage. 4: Rotate the bearing and continue packing it until the grease completely fills all crevices.


If your motorcycle is chain driven, you should be cleaning and lubricating it every 200 miles or after any time it gets wet. Drive chain maintenance is a very simple and quick process. Degrease the chain and scrub it with a soft bristled brush. Wipe it off and apply fresh chain lube. Should your bike be equipped with an O-ring type chain, be certain to utilize a chain lube that is O-ring safe.

Clean the chain using a mild degreaser and soft bristled brush. 2: Wipe the chain off and apply fresh chain lube. Be sure to get the chain lube well into the joints and rollers.

Try to get in the habit of performing these tasks at the intervals recommended for your make and model. Maintenance is always cheaper and simpler than repairs. Take the time to address these minor details before they can become major problems.

Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat

-Justin James

(follow more of my Tinker shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)