Breaking in the big bike

I don’t have my new big bike yet…but I’m confident it’s just a few more weeks.

So I’m doing some more research on the whole “break in controversy”. I mentioned on here once before that the Hard break in method seemed to make some sense. To which, a few posters said they didn’t agree with it. But the more I look around…the more confirmation I see.

And then I saw this in reference to how they break in Goldwings before they are even sold:

They do the same thing with plane engines…take them right up to redline for hours on end…to help them break in.

If you don’t seat the oil rings properly…what will happen? You won’t have a perfect seal…and with time…lots of time…contaminants will enter the engine. And maybe in 2 or 3 years…you’ll need engine work done or possibly a new engine.

Why would the bike company tell you to “take it easy” when breaking it in…if in fact that’s bad for the bike? Well…there are many parts other than the engine that need breaking in as well…not the least of which are the brakes and tires. So if the company told you to redline your brand new bike…and your new tires slipped…and your new brakes failed to stop you…who might be responsible? I’m just guessing here…I’m not saying they just tell you to take it easy to not get sued.

I did a very “kind” break in on my 1100cc Yamaha back home…and by 30,000km it had a noticeable loss in power.

So is it possible the companys tell you to take it easy…so that you don’t kill yourself…and they can replace your engine 4 or 5 years down the line? Or is “taking it easy” really the best way to break in a bike? If so why do Goldwings need to be specially broken in due to the Goldwing owners riding too slowly?

I’m not too clear here…do you have a question?
Seating the rings early reduces wear. Changing the filters removes metal bits from the motor.
Interestingly…I also had an 1100cc Yamaha, a 1984 model, that is still running with its current owner at approx. 26,000 miles when I last heard from the owner(last Oct.).

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]I’m not too clear here…do you have a question?
Seating the rings early reduces wear. Changing the filters removes metal bits from the motor.
Interestingly…I also had an 1100cc Yamaha, a 1984 model, that is still running with its current owner at approx. 26,000 miles when I last heard from the owner(last Oct.).[/quote]

I see a few question marks in my OP…so I’m guessing there was a question or two in there, but I’m too lazy to re-read it to specifically find one.

I had a Virago, btw.

that story and the conclusions you are drawing from it are over simplifying the equation a bit… I have little doubt every engine that ever leaves a reputable bike factory is run and prepped before it’s put into a bike in a similar way to what was described above to seat the rings, ensure nothing’s buggered etc. etc. I know BMW engines are… In all factories, when they leave the factory’s engine test center the skeleton engine is fully built and sent down to the assembly line and attached to the gear box and the rest of the bike… when the completed bike leaves the factory it is ideally prepped to reach an ideal level of operation after proper user run in, the engine, gear box, clutch, drive train, suspension, bearings, pivots, buts, bolts, you name it bed down and seat together as a unit during the first few hundred km’s… the factory suggests run in procedures, RPM’s and speeds to optimize this process for the engine and the other sub systems and yes, perhaps there is an element of “get used to the bike before you push it’s limits” built into those suggestions… for a bloody good reason… it takes anyone, even MotoGP riders, many hundreds of kilometers before you gel with a bike you’ve never ridden before and become fully used to it’s handling and performance…

if you want to thrash the bejeezus out of your bike the day it comes out the crate, go right ahead it’s your bike… in my personal opinion, the worst case scenario (crashing, voiding warranty, weakening/damaging components and severely shortening component, subsystem and engine performance life) hugely overshadows the best case scenario (a fraction of a horsepower increase and marginally reduced oil consumption) in doing something like that, but again, if you think you’re doing the right thing and you’re happy with that then off you go… just make sure you don’t put too much faith in online anecdotes and crack pot websites, like I said it’s your bike, on the line… but that’s also the best part, you can do whatever the hell you want with it, it’s new and it’s yours… :sunglasses:

An old timer once explained to me to just drive a new engine normally, and explore the rpm range, within reason. i.e. Keep the revs in the normal range and take it up to near redline every now and then thru the gears.
Don’t hold it there, but likewise and more importantly don’t under-rev and labor the engine around corners etc.
Make sure the engine is warm whenever you ride it, and keep the oil changes regular with good oil and all should be well.

I’ve run in a number of engines based on this approach and have had no problems. IMHO when people ‘take it easy’ they tend to under-rev and labor the engine without even realising it.

Disclaimer: That’s my 2 cents worth, and it’s just an opinion, not technical advice per se.

Umm, No. The best case scenario would be a much more reliable engine with an engine life that would far outlast an engine broken in using the factory method.

I often people saying that, “If you break it in hard…you get more power for a shorter time. If you break it in soft you get less power and a longer life.” . But that’s not what the “hard” method claims to do…it claims to give more power…AND a longer life…much longer.

And by using the factory method…the worst case scenario might be…burning oil, loss of compression/power, and a short life span. Might take two or more years to see the symptoms (after the warranty runs out).

In this pic the piston on the left supposedly used the factory method for break in…and the one on the right…a “hard” break in…going to redline within the first few kms… and after about 6 months both pistons were taken out and compared. The pic could be false…could be. Original source:

I know many people don’t believe “motoman” about this…but he has dozens of other “tips” that no one argues with:

So why would he create dozens of good vehicular tips…and one completely false one?

People who vehmently disaggree with this…often give me the feeling its more from stubborness than an actual trust in the factory way. Plasmatron aside, they often say things like “If the facotry says that’s how to do it…then that’s how I’ll do it…case closed!”…and when the opposite side has so many hard facts to offer…then “whatever they say is good enough for me” isn’t going to cut it for me.

I found the rest of the above Motoman’s break in article…it explailns in more detail (a shitload more) why the manufacturers will tell you to break in your motorbike incorrectly. It also mentions that all new bikes do a full throttle run before leaving the factory.

[quote] New Nissan Cars Fully Blasted:
A number of years ago I was in Japan working for Nissan Canada and we were invited to visit an assembly plant. You should see the final road test they submit the cars to on a dyno. The driver floors the accelerator and takes vital statistics from dials for about 3 minutes. If they pass this test they are OK. The Japanese must be laughing when they read the lines about engine break in.
All of the motor vehicle industry insiders have been laughing at this situation … for a long time.

New Ford Cars Fully Blasted:
I once took a tour of the Ford plant. The engines are all dyno tested and screamed to top RPMs at full throttle. That’s when I knew the easy break-in engine damage warnings weren’t true. The funny thing is that they checked my bag for cameras or video recorders – that’s not allowed !!
Why all the concern about video & camera equipment ?? If there’s nothing to hide, why is there an effort to hide it ??

New Honda Motorcycles Fully Blasted:
At Honda at Marysville Ohio the new bikes are strapped to a dyno wheel and run to red line
and at over 100 mph before it is crated up and shipped.
Didn’t they read those easy break-in articles ?? After all, they helped pay for them.

Diesel Blastage @ Ford:
I can only speak for 1.8 Diesel for Ford as that’s what I’m assembly engineer for, but once the engine is built its conveyered into a cell and then started. After idling for 30 secs (with a lot of auto checks on oil pressure, coolant temp etc etc) it’s then taken up in 500rpm increments every 10 secs until the grand finale of 10 secs at max no load speed. I still cringed this afternoon when I walked past them screaming (as much as a diesel can) away. Of course, every so often half way through this a con rod will emerge from the side of the block but this is what the test is for, to show up any manufacturing defects.
Screaming Diesels !!

New Aprilia Motorcycles Fully Blasted:
Every bike that leaves the Aprilia factory (and every other OEM factory)
goes through each gear to the {rev} limiter, no bull, its part of quality control.

Bikes used to come in without the high speed indicator reset, quite often the bikes would have 175mph on the dash. I saw a Factory {model type} with 182mph on it, and I know I sure didn’t do it. [/quote]

Mordeth, Congrats on your future new bike…as far as “breaking in”…I’ve always just operated the motorcycle as per what the manufacturer says in the owners manual for “breaking in period”…and I stay within these limits and keep my style inside this zone…It’s never caused me any issues and I’ve never had any crappy engine performance from any bike I’ve owned…The only thing abo0ut break-in that is important is to try to give the bike as mamny different riding parameters as posible ie: putting load on the engine by going up mountain roads, using engine beaking coming down, cruising at a constant speed while selecting different gears to maintain that speed. (without going over the limit set by the manufacturer)…

I believe that the manufacturer’s recommendation is the best to go with…engines are thoroughly tested before hiting the market and I’m sure that their “break-in period” advice is spot-on…


I’ve never broken a bike in yet and had around a dozen of them. Never had a thown crank or anything much go wrong either and I raced them hard.

I take it easy for about 30 minutes.

Regarding manufacturers recommendations. The ideal manufacturer recommendation would read like this.

[quote]Your product has a 3 year or 100,000km warranty which ever comes first.

Please leave your product in the garage for exactly 3 years from date of purchase then take it out and do whatever the hell you like with it. We’ll sell you the spares to fix any problems at an enormous mark up.[/quote]

Interesting. As described on the Motoman site, and discussed elsewhere by “top tuners” hard break in seems to make sense. Presumably if you had an accurate enough compression guage you could monitor the ring bedding process during break-in and use that as a guide.

It seems strange though that manufacturers dont simply run them in for you under controlled conditions, for customer delight and a better product. If its as quick a process as claimed it wouldn’t be very expensive. I don’t really buy planned obsolescence as, for example, a Honda Motorcycles marketing strategy. Sportsbikes get removed from the market by crashing, anyway.

The rationale given for hard break-in is that tolerances, metallurgy and especially the cylinder honing pattern from the major Japanese manufacturers are all finer than they used to be. Back in the real (local) world, I wonder if this applies to local product? Should a Wolf, (which, unlike a superbike, needs all the power it’s got) be given a hard break in?

I don’t know about automotive but I am 100% certain that in other areas some manufacturers have a profit centre based on spares. Such as covers that are vulnerable to breakage but not warrantied items when broken in use and have huge markup.

I also subscribe to the theory that the entire rev range should be used, and that it is easy to glaze the cylinder bores if the engine is babied too much in the first few hundred km. It’s also much harder on the engine to give it high loads at low rpm than light loads at high rpm. The important proviso (and I’m sure I saw this also on motoman’s site) is the engine has to fully warmed up before any high rpm outings. I pretty much drive a new vehicle as I intend to during most of it’s life… just leaving out the lugging high gears or racing flat out uphill and holding top speed for ten minutes at a time (on an enclosed track and under professional supervision of course :wink:).

From what I’ve read and heard, the engine RPM needs to be varied during the first few hundred km. The engine shouldn’t be kept at the same speed for too long, but also I don’t think it should be run too hard or too fast for too long. City riding is supposed to be pretty good for breaking in a new engine because you’re continually varying the engine speed.

Nobody’s mentioned heat cycling. Any opinions on this?

Heat cycling is supposed to be right at the beginning of the life of the engine. If you’ve already done some miles on it, there might not be much point.

What it involves is this: you get the engine running and leave it at idle for a few minutes so it warms up gradually. Then you ride the bike fairly normally for a little while – say between 10 and 30 minutes. Then you let the engine idle for a few minutes more so it can cool down gradually (apparently if you switch an engine off directly after riding it actually heats up for a little while because no oil or air flows to cool it down). Then you let the engine cool down completely before repeating the cycle. You could do it between 5 – 10 times. I did this the last time I broke in an engine and it was fine. But then it probably would have been fine anyway. Anyone else tried this?

I’ve concioulsy done heat cycling on a couple of new engines…hard to say whether it helped or not. But on the motoman site he states that it isn’t neccessary. He says that…wait let me look it up…he says

[quote] What about “heat cycling” the engine ??
There is no need to “heat cycle” a new engine. The term “heat cycle” comes from the idea that the new engine components are being “heat treated” as the engine is run. Heat treating the metal parts is a very different process, and it’s already done at the factory before the engines are assembled. The temperatures required for heat treating are much higher than an engine will ever reach during operation.

The idea of breaking the engine in using “heat cycles” is a myth that came from the misunderstanding of the concept of “heat treating”. [/quote]

Here is a list of his other Tips and Tricks…if someone (smarter than me) could find major fault in one or two of them…then maybe we can discount this guy as an idiot…if not…then it should be harder for some people to take the counter to this arguement:

I don’t think anybody seriously thinks they are heat treating the engine.

It has to be about the expanding and contracting of hot and cold metal. The engine is made of different materials expanding and contracting at different rates. So, even though I don’t do it, I can still see why it would be considered a good thing.

Yeah, but he says with today’s materials…this doesn’t happen. With older steel? parts it would…but not with aluminum…etc. That’s how I’ve heard it anyway.

[quote=“Ironman”]I don’t think anybody seriously thinks they are heat treating the engine.

It has to be about the expanding and contracting of hot and cold metal. The engine is made of different materials expanding and contracting at different rates. So, even though I don’t do it, I can still see why it would be considered a good thing.[/quote]Right. That’s it. Not heat treating of course. (I guess you’d need a blowtorch if you wanted to do “home heat treating”!)

I’d love to hear what Redwagon thinks about heat cycling.

Road-going four-stroke engines don’t run hot enough to need heat cycling, or run close enough piston clearances. On road racing two-strokes we used to hone the cylinders to the piston manufacturer’s specs and then run the engine (on the track, gently) until the coolant was at normal temp. Then we let the engine cool all the way down. Repeat this three or four times. Then we’d strip the cylinders and look for signs of scuffing on the piston skirt, which showed where there wasn’t enough clearance. No matter how well the pistons were made they wouldn’t be perfectly round at operating temps. The pistons were (are?) not round at room temps, but rather a barrel shape top to bottom and slightly squared viewed axially. The idea is that since they are going to deform with heat anyway, you make them out of shape to start with so that they’re round when hot. It works, but not perfectly. Heat cycling shows the tight spots with scuff marks and you then relieve those high spots by very gently sanding. I kid you not.

I don’t know if this still done these days. I haven’t looked into this stuff for maybe 10 years. The issue back then wasn’t that the piston machining tolerance were too great, it was inconsistency in the forged or cast blanks, the material itself. It might not be necessary anymore.

Back on Topic:

I found a really neat “Break-in” suggestion. Uhh…damn can’t find it.

Well…the gist of it was that the first start up is one of the worst things your bike will ever experience…since all the oil is at the bottom and therefore as the bike starts it’s pure metal on metal contact.

They suggest helping stop this by…removing the spark plugs? Then pushing the bike around in 2nd gear…to churn up the oil. Not sure why it said to remove the spark plugs…maybe to reduce compression to allow the oil to more freely move upwards.

P.S. Could one of the mods flounder the above posts starting from where I quote redwagon and comment on his odd assumptions?


See!?! I’m not paranoid!!! Thanks Ironman! Just because I’m on a binge and haven’t slept in 4 days doesn’t make me paranoid!!! Who said that?? What? Ok, you just be quiet now…[/quote]You don’t drink so what are you binging on for 4 days? Crystal meth? Gasoline? Varsol? Glue? All of the above? :laughing:

Not about big bikes but I’ve replaced pistons and sleeves on both our Yamaha BWS and at 900NT each, I figured I wouldn’t worry about breaking the new engines. Just drove them as usual wich is pretty much full throttle (while accelerating) all the time whenever it’s safe enough. (Not a fast machine) It’s been months now and both scooters are running perfectly.