Spring is here, are you and your motorcycle ready for the roads?
by Mark DT
There is nothing better than that first motorcycle ride of the season. Some years, I’ve kept my insurance on for the entire winter and have ridden in some pretty miserable weather. However, when I finally figured out I was spending more time cleaning the salt off my motorcycle after each winter ride than I was on the road, I gave up and became another “seasonal” motorcyclist. The weather here on the west coast has been great this spring and I’ve been fortunate enough to get a nice early start. I plan to ride until early November this year before parking the bike again. Before I take that first motorcycle ride there are a few things I do to make sure that both my motorcycle and I are ready to hit the streets. If you haven’t pulled the cover off your motorcycle yet, consider the following as a short list to make sure you get a great start to the riding season ahead.
Ensure the Motorcycle is ready for its first ride.
There are several must-do items to work through before starting the engine and taking that first ride.
1) Charge the battery… If you don’t already have one, be sure to get a Battery Tender. We have two motorcycles in our garage. On my wife’s Ninja, the battery is hard to easily access, so I have attached the optional ring connections to the battery with the lead out to its waterproof connector plug. I’ve zip tied and hid the wires so that it remains on the motorcycle full-time. Now I just plug the Battery Tender into the connector plug and let the batteries safely get brought up to a full charge.
On my motorcycle, the battery is easy to get at. All I do with my Triumph is remove the seat, and attach the spring-loaded clips to the battery poles. The Battery Tender takes care of the rest. Typically, I let both bikes have a full day on the charger. The battery tender has an indicator showing whether or not the battery is fully charged or not and will not boil your batteries if left unattended.
2) Inspect your tires and brakes… On my motorcycle both my front and rear tire dropped about 2 psi over the course of the four months I had it parked. We have a very detailed article/video that shows you everything you need to know to ensure that your motorcycle tires are fit for the road. Before taking that first ride, I make sure my tire pressures are perfect, that I’ve checked my wear indicators to be certain that I have decent tread, and look over my brake discs to be sure there are no signs of warping. After looking at the discs, I check brake fluid levels, and make sure that the brake lines are in decent shape. If you have rubber brake lines and they are over five years old, be especially careful looking them over as rubber will break down over time. If you have steel-braided brake lines you generally will have few issues.
3) Fuel considerations… I’m a big fan of using only fuels without ethanol on my motorcycle. Especially when it comes time to store the motorcycle. Provided you stored your motorcycle in the fall with a good ethanol free fuel, and added a good quality fuel stabilizer you should be good to go. If you choose to store your motorcycle with fuel in the tank, be sure to make sure it is 100% filled up leaving no room for condensation to form in the tank. Now if you chose to drain your fuel system completely in the fall, don’t go adding fuel from whatever is left over in that jerry-can in the garage. Empty last seasons gas into your lawnmower or take it to a service garage that will safely dispose it for you. You should only put fresh gas into your motorcycle.
4) Dig out your owner’s manual… Every motorcycle is different, and there is no way that one article can cover everything needed to be done for each and every motorcycle. Thankfully your owner’s manual will give you a good detailed list of what you need to do to your own ride before firing it up this spring. If you don’t have an owner’s manual for your own motorcycle try finding one here on Amazon.com.
5) Don’t wait long on that oil change… If you haven’t changed the oil in a year, make it a priority to get it done within the first week or so on the road. If you don’t do it yourself, make sure to book early in at your local shop as it is normal that they get pretty swamped in the spring with everyone wanting to start riding at once.
OK, now the motorcycle is ready for spring, but what about you?
The first ride of the season is not the time to start pushing your limits. Start slow, have fun and consider the following when getting out the first few times of a new riding season.
1) You are even more invisible to motorists than usual… Last month I shared some tips on how to be seen when you are on the road. Despite local governments making the laws tougher on distracted drivers, the sad reality is that you must always ride like the other drivers can’t see you. In the spring when motorists are not used to sharing the roads with motorcycles this is especially true. Be sure to wear high visibility gear, and keep your lights on. Make sure to be in the proper lane position, and remember if you can’t see the other drivers face in their mirror, they can’t see you.
2) Watch out in the corners… City streets are not maintained like a track, and spring is the worst time of year for both potholes and loose gravel. Depending on how long it takes to get the street sweepers out, expect that spring rides will mean that each corner has the strong risk of lost traction. Don’t push yourself and your bike too hard straight away.
3) Tires warm up slowly… When you are riding in cool temperatures, it will take longer for your tires to warm up. Until the tires warm up, you run the risk of reduced traction when you need it most.
4) Never stop learning… Whether you decide to read a good book on riding, watching a DVD by riding expert Keith Code, or taking a refresher MSF course, make an effort to keep learning and striving to be a better rider.
Finally smile and remember… Nothing is better than being free and in control on a motorcycle. Being a rider puts you in a position envied and coveted by those not willing to take the risk and learn how to do it safely. Now is the time, get out there and take your first motorcycle ride of the season as soon as you can.