When it comes to motorcycle parts and accessories, bearings truly are the unsung heroes. This is due to bearings being somewhat invisible on your bike. However, they are actually found everywhere on your bike and have a great affect on how well your bike will ride. Dirty or worn out bearings will make riding your bike feel like riding an old rust bucket with steering feeling like a task and the suspension a bit stiff.
Bearings are found in the steering stem, the wheels, swingarm pivot and the suspension linkages. Most often these will be made up of sealed ball bearings, however, your bike may also use thrust bearings as well as needle roller bearings and in some cases shims. All of these parts should be treated as short term consumables which will need to be replaced regularly, just as motorcycle tyres are, as they will inevitably wear out.
Bearing races left loose in the steering stem can lead to small dings in the races which can impact the steering, making it feel off and notchy. Taking corners will start to feel like work.
Worn out wheel bearings can make it harder for motorcycle wheels to spin which can lead to overheating and in extreme cases the collapse of a wheel. You will start to notice a humming or rumbling feeling in your handlebars when wheel bearings need replacing.
Swingarm pivot bearing that are loose can affect suspension, taking away the smooth feel of a ride. Swingarm bearings can be easily checked by grabbing the gear wheel and trying to move it from side to side. You should not be able to move the gear wheel at all, so if there is movement the swingarm bearings will need to be replaced. Suspension linkage bearings can also affect the smoothness of the suspension and can even start making a squeaky sound once they start to wear out, so if you do hear a squeaking sound make sure to check the bearings here too.
In some instances you may find that only one set of bearings will need replacing, however, in most cases it is best to replace all bearings at once. Just to be on the safe side, and avoid repeating the replacement process in the near future. As checking and replacing bearings can become quite tricky it is best to take your bike to your local motorcycle maintenance shop and get them to do it. It should not cost you too much, and it will be better paying for this service, rather than having to pay for any other damage you do to your bike while trying to replace bearings yourself.