Getting Your 2-Wheeled Ride Ready
Ah summer. Finally, the days have arrived where you hear those tell-tale sounds; birds chirping, kids playing, lawn mowers mowing, and of course, the sound of a motorcycle engine roaring to life.
If like me, you can’t wait to hit the open road and eat a few bugs along the way, you’ll want to make sure your two-wheeled chariot is safe and ready to go, after a long winter spent quietly tucked away in the garage. So here are a few tips to make sure your motorcycle is ready to provide you with a summer full of safe and happy riding:
1. Tires – you’ll want to check for tread wear, and most tires have “wear indicators” that will show the status of the remaining tread life. These indicators will be little bumps or bars in the tire grooves themselves and can be found by locating little arrows on the sidewall of the tire. Check for cracks in the rubber, and if they appear, tire replacement may be required. Check your motorcycle’s manufacturers’ guide for the proper tire pressure rates, and make sure your tires are inflated to the right level. Finally, visually check the wheels and spokes for any noticeable damage.
2. Brakes – the front brake is used most of the time on a motorcycle, so make sure to check the pads for wear. Same applies to the rear brake. Check the feel of the front brake handle, make sure it fully engages without hitting the handlebar. Check the rear pedal as well, and check that the whole braking system feels solid and not “spongy” which can be a sign of air in the brake system. If in doubt, have your mechanic take a look. Brakes are nothing to be taken lightly!
3. Battery – if you were smart, last fall when you tucked your baby away you plugged a “trickle charger” into your battery to keep it nice and charged over the winter. If not, then you’ll need to check the water levels on the battery cells and top up with distilled water if necessary. If the battery seems weak and struggles to turn the engine over, then replacement with new battery will be your best option.
4. Fluids – a fresh oil change is the way to go when starting out for the new season. I prefer to run synthetic oil, and while it may cost a little more, your engine will appreciate the higher quality and better protection that synthetic oil provides. As far as your gas goes, if you didn’t drain the tank before putting your motorcycle into it’s winter sleep, hopefully you remembered to add a fuel stabilizer! Either way, the sooner you can get a fresh tank of fuel into your bike, the better it will run.
5. Lights – make sure to turn your bike on and check all the lights to make sure they’re in good working order. Check the headlight (low & high beam), the turn indicators (front & rear), and especially the brake. When checking the brake light, make sure to check both the hand brake level and the foot lever separately, to make sure both are activating the brake light properly. And don’t forget to check the horn too!
6. Visual – do a final visual (and physical) check all around your bike and make sure that all the lines, cables, chains, belts, guards, etc. are in place, tight, and well connected. Check every hand lever and foot pedal to make sure there’s no loose play, and that they move freely.
7. Personal Equipment – finally, check over all your personal protective riding gear, especially your helmet. Make sure it’s up to date in terms of its D.O.T. certification (most expire after about 5 years), and that the straps, visor, and padding are all in good condition. Check the fit as well, and make sure it’s still snug. After time, the padding inside your helmet can compress, making for a loose, and dangerous, condition. Check your gloves, shoes, and “leathers”, and make sure all are in good condition with no rips or loose bits. You want to make sure that you’re well protected, while looking good at the same time!
As you hit the road, remember to take it easy at first until you get your 2-wheel “chops” back. Take the corners slow, and remember, the car drivers out there haven’t seen a motorcycle on the road for a while, so drive defensively. Assuming the other driver can’t see you is one of the best ways to keep out of trouble. Riding safe is the main ingredient to having fun on the road, so keep your head up, the rubber down, and explore the open roads!