Back to Basics: Harley-Davidson Sportster Maintenance

It’s my humble and totally unsubstantiated opinion that Harley riders started slacking on doing their own work around 1984 1/2 when the last of the kickstart bikes rolled off the Milwaukee assembly line. Anyone who has to kick their bike to life generally wants to make that process less of a chore, so a little preventative maintenance is just part of life. Once things like electronics ignitions, electric starters and even fuel-injection became common, I think a lot of motorcyclists tended to get a little complacent and they backed off the knuckle-busting. Add to that the drop-dead reliability of an Evolution Sportster and you’ve got a recipe for looooonnnggg lapses in proper maintenance. I can’t count the times I’ve met some kid who didn’t know any better, running with a bone-dry, ten-year old chain, a single loose exhaust nut and no idea why his primary howled so bad. Since the bikes keeps starting and running, plenty of people will just keep hammering ’em into the ground.

The idea behind our new series of videos isn’t to complain or pick on people with little or no skills. Quite the contrary. We want to help less experienced riders learn that working on their bike is an important part of the whole motorcycle endeavor and isn’t something to be scared of. The best way to learn, of course, is to get mentored by someone with legitimate knowledge. Any pro mechanic will also tell you that using the factory manual is mandatory to keep yourself from doing things in the wrong order and a few minutes with this valuable resource can save hours of heartache. (One thing I do is invest in a decent manual for every car or bike I buy. If I sell the vehicle, I keep the manual. That way, years later, I’ve got a nice collection of manuals that I can reference for myself or friends.)

Since not everyone has an old-timer to show them the ropes, we thought it would be cool to start a series of videos that can do just that. Our buddy Rob “Rouser’ Galan works here at Biltwell and is a certified (albeit semi-retired) Harley mechanic. He’s done all the regular dealer service tasks, plus built plenty of neat choppers, Buells and dirt bikes over the years. He’s a great guy to work with and hopefully these videos will help share some knowledge with anyone who could use it. Hell, even if you don’t need to be told how to change your oil, the videos are still worth watching, and even an experienced wrench might learn a little something. Thanks, Rob! (For more details on Rob, read the interview I did with him in Pavones, Costa Rica when he thought he’d never be back here working on bikes again…)

Below are the first three and we are working on more. Hope you enjoy ’em! -Bill

 

  • Greg Bloom

    Hell yeah! I purchased an 88 sporty with one of those “loooong maintenance lapses.” Videos like these in addition to service manuals are key to keeping her on the road. Another home run Biltwell. Thanx!

  • Trinity is still my name.

    Awesome educational stuff here thank you!