The First Motorcycle Ride of the season… Are you and your motorcycle ready to ride?
by Mark DT
Nothing is better than that first ride on your motorcycle after taking it out of its winter hibernation in the garage. It’s a topic I seem to cover each and every year. We have been extremely fortunate on the west coast of Canada with one of the warmest winters on record. While most of Canada is knee-deep in snow, those of us lucky enough to be on the south coastal areas of British Columbia have started gardening, enjoying the flowers, but most importantly we’ve started to ride our motorcycles again.
Yesterday I visited my local insurance broker to get a sticker that will cover me until November this year. The girl in the office told me she has seen more riders than drivers in the last two days.
Now if you are new to riding, or are at a loss as to what to check over when getting ready for your first ride of the season here are few things to consider.
Batteries need some love, make sure they get charged and are ready to go.
If you haven’t bought one yet, please get yourself a Battery Tender. These inexpensive devices keep your motorcycle battery in perfect charge during months of cold weather neglect. The battery tender is a simple and idiot proof device designed so even those that never attempt any maintenance, will have zero issues. Simply clip red on red, black on black, and plug the tender into an outlet.
There is a flashing LED light that tells you whether it is in rapid charge, trickle charge, or maintenance mode. When the light goes from flashing red to steady green you are ready to ride.
Once the batteries are fully charged you are good to go. I typically charge both my wife’s Ninja and my Tiger’s batteries once a month or so each during the winter. The night before the first ride I make sure that the batteries are on charge. Nothing is more disappointing than getting all suited up and ready for your first ride and having a dead battery. (Yes, I speak from experience.)
Batteries are only part of your motorcycles electrical system. Make a point to check all of your lights, signals, and horn. It should all be fine but better to detect a problem now than out on the road.
A proper check of tire pressure is essential.
We’ve ranted before about this but it is important to restate it every year. Check your tire pressures regularly! Your tires will deflate somewhat over the winter. In my case this year it was around 6 PSI each after being parked for four months in the cold.
If you haven’t purchased a small air compressor yet for your garage, make the investment. Being able to service your tires when they are cold in your own garage will ensure your tires last longer, and improve your safety with regards to braking and cornering.
To keep things easy I’ve simply taken a sharpie marker and written down the PSI requirements for both of our motorcycles on a wall inside of our garage. Now I no longer need to squint and read the decal on my frame or reference the owners manual. I simply look at the numbers on the wall and top up my tires pressure accordingly.
When you are inflating your tires it is also a good time to inspect your brakes, rims, and most importantly your tires’ wear indicators. We have a detailed article written by Anne DT on tire inspection and maintenance that is worth checking out if you haven’t done so before.
Remember that motorcycle tires need to warm up to get the full traction you require to corner and brake safely. When the tires are cold and the roads are cold in the spring this takes much more time than in the summer. Please take it easy and allow for cold tires at the start of your ride.
All fluids should be good from winterizing but still check them before leaving.
Normally I fill my tank up all the way with Ethanol free gasoline, (in British Columbia Chevron 94 works really well), and then add a few ounces of Sea Foam to my tank to keep the fuel stable, and prevent moisture and rust issues from forming in my tank over the winter. Taking this small amount of preventative maintenance each year has ensured the fuel systems have been trouble-free on all our motorcycles each spring.
If the oil was fine when you parked the bike in the winter and there are no leaks on your floor you should be good to go. Still after you have started your bike up for the first time and let it warm up, check the stick or window and make sure all is well.
Finally check the brake fluid, squeeze your brakes front and rear and make sure they are operating properly. Squeeze the clutch, click the bike into first and back into neutral. Parked in the garage is the best place to deal with any spring failings.
Cagers can be troublesome anytime, but the spring is usually worst.
As most of you know, the biggest danger being on a motorcycle is that you can be nearly invisible to most distracted drivers on the road. We’ve shared ideas in the past about how to be better seen. If you haven’t read the article it is worth checking out. The start of the season is when drivers are most unaware of your presence on the road. Ride accodringly/
I bought myself a nice new black leather Triumph riding jacket this winter, but I will stick to my bright day-glow yellow Joe Rocket jacket until the local traffic starts getting accustomed to sharing the roads with motorcyclists again.
Finally check yourself over, are you ready to ride?
The first ride of the year for me is normally a shorter one. It is about getting re-acquainted with my old two wheeled friend. Before the first ride I always go take a close look at my gear. Things like helmets should be replaced every five years or so. Zippers, and other things that break should be repaired during the winter months.
I try to read a few good motorcycle books each winter. Getting back on the bike will be very natural for seasoned riders, but those new to the sport may find that reviewing their MSF manual or a performance riding guide will make the first few weeks on the bike more natural and ultimately be safer on the road.
I can say that my first two days on the bike have been fun and trouble-free. As my primary job is as an airline pilot; and I have several long trips with work scheduled over the next two weeks, my baby is now at the local Triumph dealer getting her service checks done, as well as getting a new Arrow Exhaust and fuel map installed which I will be reviewing later this year. When I get some time off after these long stints away my Tiger will be fully serviced and ready to ride faste and smoother than ever.