Quick Tips to Properly Break-In Your Engine and Motorcycle

Do you break in your bike easy? Here's a tip to properly breaking in your ride

Breaking in your motorcycle and engine
Don't break in your motorcycle and its engine too easy, because it can lead to other problems.Photography by Dean Groover

We occasionally hear from owners of big twins that their bikes use too much oil, smoke or have other problems even though mileage is fairly low. When we ask about break-in procedure we inevitably hear that the owner "broke it in real easy." In other words, they never did break it in.

Because big twins make such good power at the lower portions of their powerbands, it’s possible to get perfectly acceptable performance out of them without running them hard. The problem is that unless your run them hard once in a while, you don’t put enough pressure on the piston rings so they seat fully, which can lead to oil-control problems and varnish on cylinder walls.

Breaking in a new motorcycle involves lots of components from brake pads to valve seats to tires. There is always the possibility that something will crack or warp during break-in, so those initial miles should be ridden with some caution and an eye and ear alert for problems like leaks or unwanted noises. The heating and cooling process is also part of break-in; parts expand and contract and adjust to each other.

By the time you have ridden 100 miles with no signs of problems, your engine should have gone through a few heat cycles, the brake linings should be adapting to their friction surfaces and the tires should be scuffed in enough to deliver good traction. It's then time to make an occasional full-throttle run, taking the engine right up to redline or the rev limiter. If that idea horrifies you, see if you can get a tour of one of the American motorcycle factories. You'll find that you weren't the first one to run it that hard. Before it's put in the shipping crate, every bike gets a full-throttle trip to redline under the watchful eye of several measuring devices ready to cancel its ticket if it doesn't produce full power. Some factories also send them around a test track once or twice.

Here is another shocker for those timid about their new motors: The break-in procedure for piston aircraft engines calls for them to immediately be run at maximum power for about an hour. These engines cost $20,000 and up, and a failure involves much more than coasting to the side of the road and cursing.

Though those high-rpm runs may seem like abuse, in fact, you are simply ensuring that your engine has a long, strong life. Babying it too long simply means that it will grow up to be weak and unhealthy. You should also run it hard occasionally even after break-in. And don’t ignore that first scheduled service where a mechanic should probe for problems.