Part of the joy of owning a bike is being able to understand how it works, and be able to fix it when it goes wrong.
There's a lot more to looking after a bike than there is a car. Every week the chain needs to be tested - too loose and it could come off, too tight and it could snap. Both options end in a horrible mess.
It needs to be kept lubricated (much easier with a ScottOiler). If you plan to carry a pillion, everything needs adjusting to the extra weight. Tyre's need to be inflated properly at all times. Brakes need to be able to stop in time. Rust can be a pain (and it shows more than a car!).
If like me you're not yet confident enough to carry out the more complicated tasks, you need to be able to find a good garage that can do it for you.
Just before moving down to university in London, I made sure everything on my bike was in top condition. After all, I'd be riding 100 or more miles in one trip, every week now.
Everything was fine until 2 days before I was due to leave. Then my back brake started playing up. With my usual garage unable to find space, I had to use someone else.
I took it to the only place I could find that had time to look at it and fix it. They told me the brake disc needed changing - but when I asked about the pads, I was told they should last another 6 months at the very least.
I paid up and had to work done. Everything was fine until about two weeks ago when I noticed a sound coming from the back wheel.
It turns out my pads have worn through, right to the metal, and have been rubbing on the new disc. I now need not only new pads, but new seals and another new brake disc - just two months after it was done.
Trust the Professional
I know if I'd known enough about my bike to understand what was going wrong then there would have been a chance this wouldn't have happened.
I am learning, but only as things come up that need to be looked at. My mistake was to trust the guy who seemed to know much more than me: and after all, he did work on bikes for a living.
The total cost to me for having a new disc, pads and seals was £205. I had to get it fixed while down in London, as by the time I realised what was happening, the back brake had become dangerous to use, and certainly not up to a 100 mile trip.
When I had my new brake disc fitted the first time around, it cost me around £100. As a student, I can tell you that £100 goes a long way. That's about two months of food shopping, with change to spare!
This time however, I made sure the garage I went to had a good reputation. I took it to Grays Moto Bikes in Harrow: not the closest garage to where I am living but the one I felt most confident going to.
I also looked into ways to tell what kind of a reputation motorbike garages around you have. I found a website that allows you to search for garages that have signed up to a code of practice - hopefully meaning they are more trustworthy.
The best way to find a good garage is by word of mouth. When I first moved down to London and didn't know any bikers, I headed to the Ace Cafe one day on a ride out and asked around. The garage I took my bike to was one of the ones mentioned.