Befriend your bike

By B R Gurunandan. Published on 16 Dec 2008 in the New Indian Express

We start this serial with a list of common problems which are unfortunately familiar to most regular riders. Some of them are so silly and their prevention so simple that it is a surprise (and a shame) that they are so commonly prevalent. With a bit of interest & involvement, a rider can prevent most of the seemingly complex problems as well. The aim of this serial is to systematically equip the rider with knowledge that would go a long way in minimising, diagnosing and repairing breakdowns. Even if you have no intention to do that yourself, awareness could save you from becoming the victim of the occasional wily or incompetent mechanic. So stay tuned! Anyone spending a few hours at a bike workshop will be witness to several bikes being pushed in because:

  • The bike ran out of petrol
  • The rear-tyre is flat
  • The clutch-cable is broken
  • The accelerator-cable is broken
  • The engine does not start
  • bike crashed after skidding...
  • chain jumped off the sprockets

The sight of a sweating person struggling to push a bike, sometimes with children & ladies trailing morosely, is quite distressing. But what is even more distressing is that it was all avoidable! True, some of those would require a bit of knowledge & awareness on the part of the rider to avoid or repair, but some are so trivial that I am hesitant to even mention them here! But seeing that they are so common, let me record the obvious basics before we go on to the principles & practical stuff... it may well induce a few careless souls to mend their errant ways & avoid inconvenience/risk.


Bikes run out of petrol because the rider did not refuel on reaching Reserve. Simple? But many persons habitually ride in Reserve all the time, relying on the odometer, their memory and their luck to refuel before the tank runs absolutely dry.


It only takes a traffic-jam or diversion to upset their delicate calculations and run dry before reaching the destination. With thousands of Rupees invested in the bike, it is really difficult to understand their reluctance to invest another 50 Rupees to ALWAYS keep the fuel level above Reserve! Remember, riding in Reserve allows the water/ rust/ dirt lying harmlessly at the bottom of the tank to reach the carburettor and that could cause further trouble. What about the plastic-tank scooters with no fuel-tap & hence no Reserve? The fuel gauges are of little use due to their poor resolution. If you are prone to procrastinate about refueling, you should consider keeping a small, sturdy bottle of fuel in the bike so that you can ride rather than push to the petrol station eventually.


Nails do puncture new tyres occasionally, but the vast majority of punctures are observed in bald, cracked tyres run way beyond their useful-life. Each puncture on the road takes a serious toll in terms of time, money, inconvenience... besides being a serious accident risk in todays traffic. Not only is an overdue tyre-change a big risk, it is also a pointless one because tyres never get cheaper! Even if you avoided punctures/skids/ crashes and pushed the inevitable tyre-change a few months further, you may end up paying more for your new tyre eventually. No, I have no shares in any tyre company! Nor are all flats the instantaneous result of riding over a nail-like object. A considerable number are due to causes like -

  • under-inflation
  • small nail embedded in tyre eventually penetrating upto the tube
  • internal crack in tyre eventually cutting the tube
  • patching eventually giving way, etc.
which are mostly preventable by elementary inspection done regularly.
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