How To Break In A New Motorcycle Engine

How To -

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Option Two: The second method to consider is a little less rigid than the manufacturers recommend. If you live near a canyon or a race track, they are both good places to work in a new motorcycle engine. First, never lug the engine around at low rpm and don’t cruise around at the same revs for long periods of time. You should be fluctuating the revs and engine speeds consistently. It’s probably best to ignore riding on the freeway for the first 500 miles as more often than not you’ll be riding at a constant speed and rpm for long periods of time, which is not good for a new engine.

For the first 500 miles you should stick with conventional mineral oil in the engine SAE 10W-40 is the best option and if you’re not sure what oil is in your new bike change it out for this and replace the filter too. You can change out for synthetic oil at 1500 miles.

Step-By-Step:
Before riding your new bike make sure you have read the owner’s manual to see what specifically the manufacturer recommends. Check the oil level is correct and start the engine, but allow it to reach proper operating temperature before actually getting on and riding off.

Try and find a road with light traffic and a place where you can actually open the bike up a bit, at least in the lower gears. Make sure you vary the engine speed as often as you can from the low mid-range to the upper mid-range for around 20 miles. Essentially you’ll want to be in first 1/3 to your mid rev range. For example, with a bike which red lines at 15,000 rpm you need to be fluctuating between 4,500 to a maximum of 7,500 rpm.

After 10 miles, stop the bike and turn off the engine. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then start it back up again. Then continue with how you have been riding previously varying the engine speed in the low to mid range, but this time raise the rpm to 8500rpm and try to use engine braking as much as possible.

Some people recommend changing the oil on a new motorcycle after that first 20-mile ride. Then again at 50 miles and at 200 miles. You can choose to do that. There’s no harm in doing it but it’s time-consuming and costly. The most significant point is to change a new motorcycle’s oil and filter at 500 miles.

With the running in process you should try and follow what you did on the first ride but increasing the amount of miles you do, still stopping for a short while in between and each time adding 1000rpm to the rev range and more importantly consistently varying the engine speed and revs throughout.

At 500 miles you should change the oil and filter when the engine is still warm but not baking hot. Inspect the oil for any metal debris. Don’t be alarmed if there are some metal flakes as this is perfectly normal. Once you’ve passed the 500-mile mark you can start heading out on the freeway but still mix your ride with plenty of street riding too.

At 1500 miles, change the oil and filter again. You can opt to use a good quality synthetic oil that’s appropriate for your engine and weather conditions where you live or if you prefer stick with a mineral oil. It’s at this point that your new engine is considered to be broken-in. Now just get out there and ride that bike.

There are no hard and fast rules here. As with most things it’s a case of common sense. Read the owner’s manual. Understand what the manufacturer recommends and take your time breaking in your new bike.

Have recommendations of your own? Share them with us below.

Related Links:
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How Do I Start Riding a Motorcycle
How To: Get a Motorcycle License
How To: Buy A New Motorcycle

  • Aaron Kirkland

    Uh oh, you guys should have just posted, “What religion to follow.” It would have been less messy…

    • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

      Best comment all day…

  • aj

    You gotta get rid of pagination, it is terrible. I’ll get rid of adblock if you get rid of pagination.

    • gaudette

      I’ll even click on them once in a while if that’s what it takes!!!

  • Braden

    I’m glad you guys posted this. If nothing else I’d like to hear some arguments against with specific points as to why this is somehow bad for the engine. This nonsense (http://www.mototuneusa.com/break_in_secrets.htm) seems to have been making the rounds on forums for awhile. No one can seem to answer the question why a manufacturer (you know, the guys who designed and built the thing) would suggest a variance of speeds, loads, and caution over a ridiculous track day like break-in. Even the pro-high speed high rpm article I linked above posits this exact question, but doesn’t bother to answer it. I do have a question for your Option Two. What is the reasoning behind using conventional mineral oil for the first 500?

    • Mark Jarvis

      because it will allow the parts to wear and rings to seat etc. synthetic will also but takes longer. Side note factory fill in some bikes is synthetic

    • runnermatt

      My understanding is that you need both positive (cylinder firing) and negative (engine braking?) pressures in order to seat the piston rings properly. As for varied speed I can wager a guess. As engine speed increases the momentum of moving parts increases And thereby the forces acting on those parts. If a surface is not yet completely smooth the higher engine speed would have the same effect as pressing down harder while sanding something. This in turn could cause surfaces to be damaged so that they will never be smooth, which can lead to sealing and lubrication problems and accelerated loss of compression over time.

  • grb

    In my opinion, the people who designed, built and tested (exhaustively) the engine, know a bit better their engine’s tolerance and its needs, including the break in period, so I always go by the manual.

    Now, “Some also suggest riding at one constant engine speed” thats funny because I like reading the manuals, I always read the manual on all my vehicles and others I get my hands on, cars, boats, bikes, and I have yet to find one that says that for break in you need to maintain a constant engine speed, on the contrary, every single break in process I have read specifies NOT to maintain a constant engine speed, specially not for extended periods of time…

    • Bungle

      Don’t you see how that’s a conspiracy by the manufacturers to purposefully reduce engine life and thus lead to greater revenue through repairs and replacement parts?

      I’m joking, of course, although I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised if that were true. Businesses have done shadier things to increase profits.

      • grb

        if you consider that some little thing like that might mean for the company hundreds of millions in future earnings, not only for parts and repairs, but your bike lasting less just means they sell you a new one sooner… sounds like an alien conspiracy, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were to be true, there is no doubt corporations have done shadier things… damn

  • Tim Watson

    Thanks for your comments. Not sure it’s fair to call people who have just started out riding as retards. Not everyone knows everything and we try to have a content with a broad appeal that is informative and useful. The comments section, such as this, also gives great information. We’ll be looking at great rides in the near future.

  • Joe

    For my Ducati Monster 796, the dealer told me not to run it over 5,000 rpm’s for the first 1,000 km (621 miles). That’s the point where the “wrench” appears on the instrument panel, indicating that service is required.
    Once I got that first service, I was good to ride it as hard as I liked, and it rode *better* than when I first got it! The chief Ducati mechanic told me that sometimes the bikes arrive from the factory in less than 100% ideal running conditions. I think the software update for the engine computer made a big difference.

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    Like a story on riding the 899 at Imola in the rain or taking the Mission RS up Angeles Crest?

    We put out a ton of content. If you don’t like this article, there’s a metric ton of others.

    • HollywoodRider

      You guys should create a taxonomy term for ‘How to’s’ so that you can aggregate that content to a dedicated page. Just a thought.

  • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

    Hi James – While creating content for experienced riders, we are also adding things for the next generation of guys & gals coming up. The idea being that we can start the discussing and have everyone else pile in with things they learned or knowledge they have that can help others. We appreciate the exchange of info here and so do many new riders who are just reading and are not comfortable commenting yet.

  • Gonfern

    I personally ignore all that JiberJaber. Get the bike, ride it like a normal person for the first few hundred, change the oil, do a track day asap so it knows right off the bat what kind of a life its in for.

  • the antagonist

    I’ve heard a lot of zealous proselytizing for the ride-it-like-you-stole-it break in. I’ve visited sites with anecdotal evidence and colorful charts. I’ve read about the comparisons which all seam to lack basic tenants of scientific method, such as proper sample size, constant conditions, and control groups. And, they may be right. But should I trust some random internet guy, or the manufacturer’s small army or anal-retentive engineers who have a vested interest in the performance and reliability of their product? I’m going with the engineers.

    Maybe I’m a little over-cautious, but so what? Taking it slow initially is not only good for the bike, it’s good for me as a rider. It allows me to identify certain quirks and characteristics before pushing the bike hard. Is she prone to head shake over rough patches? Does the rear brake lock the tire too easily? I’d rather discover these kind of things while running a 50% than be surprised by them mid-corner while pushing 90%.

    I kind of enjoy the break in. It’s a good excuse to take a long trip to nowhere and gradually get acquainted with my new steed before the real fun begins.

    • Gonfern

      I was once told that “You should treat your new bike like your new girlfriends….beat them from the start, so they know whats coming.” Sounds like legit advise to me. lol

      **that is a joke, the author neither supports or encourages domestic violence…just thinks its funny.

    • Paul Balcombe
  • cocoa classic

    Break it in the way you plan to ride it. Hasn’t let me down yet.

  • dtrides

    Thanks for risking and putting this article out. Your #2 version is quite reasonable to me.
    I will add that while the motorcycle company engineers are bright folks I would venture the legal dept is more responsible for what we read in the manuel.
    Some bikes have computers that “learn” and adjust parameters permanently during those early brake-in miles. These essentially can lock in how your bike will perform over it’s life time (unless the cpu is re-flashed). You really don’t want your bike to be locked in to a overly cautious break in as this has proven on some bikes to leave them with ride-ability issues (ie: 1st gen Ducati 1098′s that were given a bad rap for stalling at low rev’s in town).
    That said I would not “ride it like you stole it” until some proper heat cycles and engine compression braking to help seat the rings as you suggest.
    I did the first oil change on my wife’s Hypermotard and found a valve collet half ring in the oil pan .That caused me to freak and call the dealer. Dealer said it was not that unusual . The assembler dropped it on install and just grabbed another and kept going (remember, hand built).
    I broke it in as you described in #2 for my wife and when she traded it in she had put 35K trouble free miles on it.
    DT

  • HollywoodRider

    John,

    Motorcycling as an industry doesn’t have the constant daily news cycle that other industries have, so they increase their content cycle with these how-to’s and galleries, mainly targeting newbies. There’s no shame in that, at least you can come here daily and find new content. Check the competitors (cycleworld, motorcyclist, etc), you’re lucky to get a few clickable stories per week.

  • Justin McClintock

    Ride it hard and make sure that anything that’s gonna break breaks during the warranty period. :-P

  • Generic42

    As an experienced rider I love these How-To’s because they are great intro articles for me to send to my friends who are interested in riding but don’t have the know-how I do. Not everyone comes from an enthusiast background where they know every forum out there or even better know how to find the good information in those forums.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Same here!

  • Scott Otte

    Funny you should post this, since just last night I was reading the Ducati Hypermotard SP Owners Manual (dream bike I’m looking into it) and was somewhat surprised that while they do recommend keeping rev’s low they also suggest that you try to vary the load and rpm as much as possible. Then they suggest that you take it on a twisty hilly back road to do this. Seriously.
    It made me want the bike even more.

  • Navin R Johnson

    In the past I’ve always just stored the bike the first year so it’s not new when I begin riding it. The manufacturers could save us all alot of headache by properly aging the engines prior to installation.

    • Piglet2010

      The last four “new” bikes I bought were all between one and two years old (as most know, the month and year of manufacture are on the VIN plate). Downside is that the tires and battery have aged some – upside is that significant discounts can be had once a bike on the dealer’s floor becomes last year’s model.

    • Mykola

      Aged like a fine wine.
      Much like Triumph’s Rocket III: “Engines this large cannot simply be built, and instead are grown from embryo engines germinated in a nutrient-rich sludge medium…”

  • Darin

    Good article.. I have broken in 7 bikes in the last 5 years, I don’t stick to the recommendation but I don’t baby it either.. I just try to use as much of the powerband as possible while always varying engine speed. One good way is to get on the freeway in 4th gear, open the throttle till about 8 or 9K rpm, (you’ll be doing about 85 or so) then roll off and let the bike coast back down till about 50 or 55, then repeat.. This is easy to do on the freeway and the coasting helps to seal those piston rings.. One can go on for hours about how to break in an engine, it just depends on witch camp you fall in.. break in fast or break in slow.

  • Jay

    “…For the first 500 miles you should stick with conventional mineral oil
    in the engine SAE 10W-40 is the best option and if you’re not sure what
    oil is in your new bike change it out for this and replace the filter
    too. You can change out for synthetic oil at 1500 miles….”

    How many manufacturers must ship their brand new engines with synthetic as factory-fill before this old wive’s tale will die? All of them? The requirements for API SN oil are so strict that “conventional” base stocks won’t meet the standard. So some or all of the base stock must be “synthetic”.

    • Justin McClintock

      Pennzoil’s conventional meets API SN and is 100% conventional oil. Valvoline’s conventional meets API SN and is 100% conventional. Valvoline’s next-gen 50% recycled, 100% conventional oil meets API SN. Castrol GTX meets API SN and is 100% conventional.

      Mind you, those are all for cars, but API SN can be met with conventional oil…apparently quite easily since every major company is doing it.

      Meanwhile, checking in with Valvoline, Castrol, Mobil 1, Motul and Repsol yields NO motorcycle specific oils that meet API SN criteria, synthetic, conventional, or blended. Mobil 1 does have one oil that meets API SM. However, most companies produce no motorcycle specific oils that meeting anything beyond SJ whether they be conventional or synthetic.

      In other words, sounds like maybe you need to do some research before spreading misinformation.

      • Jay

        Justin, here’s a partial list of autos that come with Mobil 1 fully synthetic oil in their crankcases straight from the factory: http://www.mobiloil.com/USA-English/MotorOil/Factory_Fill/Vehicles_Filled_Mobil_1.aspx. Will all of these brand new engines not break-in properly because of the factory-fill synthetic?

        GM has a new requirement, dexos 1 and dexos 2, for their newer gasoline and diesel engines. Motor oils meeting this spec require at least 70% synthetic basestocks:

        http://www.pinkbird.com/news.nsf/8d7e3f1a0a36785e852576c4004b311e/5f3f905e1a19905b852577f8005d7c09/$FILE/New_GF5_and_SN_Specifications.pdf

        Dexos 1 and 2 are factory-fill as well as service-fill requirements. So, all these GM engines shipping with dexos 1 and 2 oils aren’t going to break-in somehow?

        • Justin McClintock

          Never said that. Simply responding to your point about API SN rating being too difficult to meet with conventional oil…which again is clearly not the case.

          There are really two main advantages of running synthetic. The first is longer oil life. But the truth is, is most cases manufacturers aren’t really all that concerned about that one (although with the higher performance models they are as the lifespan of conventional oils would be EXTREMELY short). The second reason is their primary reason for interest…reduced pumping losses and reduced friction for the sake of increased fuel economy. My wife’s CX5 is a perfect example of this. It runs full synthetic by necessity. They’re chasing fuel economy with that platform. So the oil that Mazda chose is 0W-20. Nobody makes a 0W-20 in conventional (and as far as I know, they can’t). Therefore, synthetic becomes a requirement by default.

        • Justin McClintock

          Additionally, they don’t state WHY the requirement to meet dexos1 (or dexos2) necessitates the use of synthetic oil. There may be an oil life minimum (as would be suggested in the 4th bullet of GM’s own description here: http://www.gmdexos.com/licensedbrands/dexos1licensedbrands.html ) As I mentioned before, yes, synthetic will allow the engine to go longer on an oil change. However, if you are already planning on running a fairly short life on your oil (as you would with the first oil change), then that particular requirement is of no use.

          And again, you’re talking about oils that are not motorcycle specific oils anyway. You put any dexos1 or 2 rated oils in a bike with a wet clutch and you can plan on degraded clutch performance.

  • Chanson

    My no-fail strategy for break-in: Buy Used.

    It does not seem to make that big of a difference 10-20k miles down the road.

  • Paul Balcombe

    This another great article on Running In a new Motorcycle
    “Running In” By Kevin Ash

    http://www.ashonbikes.com/content/running

  • Wilfred MacLean

    Most of today’s bikes have more power than is safely usable , legally, on the road. So a loss of anywhere between 2-10% from easy break-in is pretty much a non-issue to manufacturers. The bikes will still last and perform for many years, just not as long or well as they could or should. The manufacturers/dealers get to sell parts and services because of this, that keeps them from closing their doors. Simple.

    The piston ring seal is really what the break in process is all about. Piston rings don’t seal the combustion pressure by spring tension. Ring tension is necessary only to “scrape” the oil to prevent it from entering the combustion chamber. Rings Seal Against Tremendous Combustion Pressure from the actual gas pressure itself. It passes over and gets behind it to force it outward against the cylinder wall. The problem is that new rings are far from perfect and they must be worn in quite a bit in order to completely seal all the way around the bore. If the gas pressure is strong enough during the engine’s first miles of operation (twist that throttle !), then the entire ring will wear into the cylinder surface, to seal the combustion pressure as well as possible. The Problem With “Easy Break In” is the honed crosshatch pattern in the cylinder bore acts like a file to allow the rings to wear. The rings quickly wear down the “peaks” of this roughness, regardless of how hard the engine is run. There’s a very small window of opportunity to get the rings to seal really well … the first 20 miles !! If the rings aren’t forced against the walls soon enough, they’ll use up the roughness before they fully seat. That’s bad, ok ?

  • Dave Day

    Mineral oil? You guys are my favorite source for motorcycle information but your proof reading skills are lacking.

  • timmaxcoll

    When I bought my bike I got told ‘Don’t use a whip, but don’t baby it either.’ Simple, and helpful.

  • tbowdre

    Engines are broken in during production, on a dyno, in a controlled environment at the manufacturing plant.

    Just look at all the different opinions on how to do this procedure! No way would a manufacture let the general public actually break in a new engine.,, at least not any more.

    Purchase a new vehicle and then enjoy it however you please.

  • Emmet

    I was just discussing this with friends at the local bike shop. I asked the shop owner about keeping the bike under load at varying rpm vs. revving it in neutral. Revving in neutral won’t hurt the bike as under load for obvious reasons. Use a low/no detergent oil for the first 50 miles or x-amount of run time (applicable to old British bikes) as the oil is more abrasive and will help seat the piston rings (abrasive as in polishing the surfaces). Change oil, run 20W50 (standard summer season oil for Brit bikes). Ride it without beating it to 500 miles and change oil and filter. As for the varying the rpm-it sounds to me like more of exercising the bike in a manner that it will see during its lifespan and for the owner to listen and better understand how the engine behaves.

    I can’t help but think of the racebikes at the dirt track that are built to run around 14 hours before needing a rebuild. They make a few practice laps before going full throttle. Standard break-in policies apply here since the motors are running at a far more destructive pace than you’d see on the street that proper break-in isn’t going to add much to their lifespan (loss of performance would be the main concern here).