In my opinion the best $100 you can spend on your motorcycle is buying the factory service/shop manual. I’m not talking about the little owner’s manual booklet that comes with the bike but instead the several hundred page and sometimes several pound book that shows you everything from the proper amount of throttle freeplay to how to remove the crankshaft.
I own the service manual for each of the bikes in my garage and sometimes even hold on to them even after I sell the bike. Some manuals I have purchased while others I have “found” in a pdf format. For the pdf manuals, I still print them out and stick them in a 3 ring binder. I know I can view them on a phone, tablet or laptop but when my hands are covered in grease and oil, the last thing I want around is a $1,000 electronic device.
There are two common excuses I hear from people when I suggest they purchase or at least “acquire” the service manual for their bike.
- Service Manuals are expensive: While it’s true many manuals can run $100 or more, it’s also possible to pick up used ones on eBay (I just bought one for Kristen’s Honda CRF100 for $24 shipped to the house and it’s in excellent condition) or find pdf copies available for sale or download. Even if you have to pay full price for the manual it’s a drop in the bucket compared to an hour or two of labor at your local dealer or mechanic. Labor rates can run anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour depending on location making the $100 service manual a total bargain buy.
- I don’t plan to do any of my own work: I get that not everyone has the mechanical knowledge to work on their own bike, some don’t have the space or the tools while others may have the knowledge, space and tools but no desire to do the work. I still think the service manual is a valuable investment. Having it at your disposal even if you plan to have someone else work on your bike can still save you money. By knowing what’s involved in a repair or maintenance task you’ll know when a shop is trying to overcharge you for labor
Owning and more importantly READING through your service manual will give you a much better understanding of your bike and how it works. You may start to realize your bike is not quite as complicated as you thought and you may decide to attempt some maintenance or repair work yourself. It may also save your butt on the road. For instance, it would be nice to know where the fuse block (in case of a blown fuse) is or how to replace a headlight should one fail on a ride.
Next time you’re looking to buy something for or ‘upgrade’ your bike, consider picking up a service manual. I think you’ll be glad you did.