Motorcycle Ride Ready Tips to Start Your Motorcycle Season Right
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Motorcycling with friends on a weekend ride or with an
Winter’s departing, and as the weather warms you’re awaiting the first chance to hop on your motorcycle and go for that long awaited ride. Both your motorcycle, operational ability, and your reflexes need to be in top form to ensure a successful start to the season.
Whether you’ve picked up your motorcycle from its winter storage at a dealership or you’ve winterized your bike yourself, the following provides you a check list to ensure you’re both ready. Follow these motorcycle ride ready inspection and tips to make sure you’re off to the best start.
Along with the following guide, be certain to refer to your motorcycle owner’s manual to best manage your motorcycle maintenance needs.
- Remove and thoroughly clean all the grease you’ve placed on the bike as anti-rust proofing over the winter. You can use gasoline for this, brake cleaner or a general motorcycle de-greasing speciality cleaner.
- Check your oil level to ensure sufficient oil.
- Check your brake fluid levels front/rear. If needed, top up or change (refer to owners manual)
- Inspect coolant if applicable. If low, fill.
- Inspect petrol level.
- Inspect the tension of the chain and adjust if needed. Refer to your owners’ manual.
- Check front and rear sprocket wear. Inspect points of the teeth.
- Grease your chain if needed.
- Check the tire pressure level with your gauge; add or reduce air amounts if needed.
- Inspect tire rubber/wear level and look for objects inside the treads.
Hopefully your batter has been on a charger over the winter. If not it’s likely dead and will need an immediate charge and test to ensure its health.
- Check the electrolyte levels if a standard battery and add distilled water if needed.
- Install the battery and ensure connections are clean.
- Check brake pads visibly for wear (pads may be worn down; check your owners manual)
- Pull in the front brake lever and ensure smooth responsive application/use
- Press on rear brake lever/pedal to also ensure smooth application/use.
- Inspect brake cables for wear.
Connectors, Bolts and Fasteners
- Check and adjust mirrors
- Inspect footrests/pegs/floor boards that bolts etc are tight and in place.
- Check license plate holder to ensure adjusted/fastened and don’t forget to update your license plate sticker/registration for the New Year!
- Check the rear shock shaft and fork tubes for rust that may have accumulated during winter storage to avoid torn seals.
Lights and Lighting Systems
- Confirm that lighting is in good working order.
- Check rear brake light by depressing the rear brake pedal (reach and hold your hand in front of the brake light to see illumination)
- Check headlight, high beam and horn.
- Test indicator/turn signals as well.
Before you ride ensure your gear is clean and ready for the season. At the first good sign of riding weather, you don’t want to rush out on a ride with an old helmet visor you can’t see through.
- Clean inspect boots, buckles/fasteners and bottom soles ensuring good grip. If not, replace.
- Inspect pants for rips and/or deterioration of material.
- Inspect knee and hip protective inserts and that they will stay in place.
- Clean and inspect jacket and protectors – shoulders, elbows back. Be sure zippers etc. are not old/worn and still work.
- Clean helmet and inspect. Remember a helmet needs replacing every 3-5 years.
- Clean and inspect gloves. If material has thinned, get a new pair.
This is often overlooked in the excitement of getting out on the road yet is extremely critical be certain you head to a parking lot to refresh your skills after a long winters’ pause. It will just take a few minutes!
- Practise an emergency stop in a straight line.
- Practise push steering
- Practise a lane change and using your hand signals.
- Practise going slow
- Practise a sharp right hand turn from a stop
Traffic Preparedness – Mental Readiness
- Unpredictable Road Conditions. Many riders wait until there have been a few rain showers to help clean off the roads before taking their first ride of the season. If you can’t wait for the roads to get cleaned off, be aware of the hazards you may meet. Road crews typically use salt or sand to melt ice on the roads during the winter and much of it is still waiting for you in the spring. Also look out for ice hiding in the shadows and snow melt running across roads that can be extremely slippery. Corners and intersections are where you are most likely to encounter bad traction, so stay alert to avoid logging your first crash of the year.
- Ride Defensively: You need to be aware that other motorists haven’t seen motorcycles on the road for months and they may have forgotten they share the road with you when spring comes around. During this time of year more than any other, you need to be on the look out for cars straying into your lane and turning in front of you. It’s your life on the line, so take responsibility and assume they don’t see you — always drive defensive
- Getting in Riding Shape: It’s great to be riding again and it may feel like you haven’t missed a beat but your skills are not going to be as good as they were last fall. Your reaction speed and timing can be a little off and corners can sneak up on you unexpectedly. Start out with a nice easy pace and slowly blow off the cobwebs on both man and machine. The first ride isn’t the time to be pushing your limits. An accident now could easily end your riding season before it’s even begun.
- Review your blocking and lane positioning tactics including your traffic checks (looking over both shoulders after a stop etc.)
Temperature may still be cool on your first ride which includes the temperature of the road where it will take longer for your motorcycle tires as well as engine, to warm up.
- Snow-melt, hidden ice and wet roads are all hazards to contend with during early spring rides. Sand and debris is common on the roads after winter’s snow ploughs have dominated the roads. Watch for sand and grit near the edge of the road/in many sections in curves, corners (off/on ramps)
- Watch for potholes from frost damage.
- Automobilist’s have had quite a number of months driving without the presence of motorcycles or scooters among them. Be extra alert while they realize you too share the road and have come back out to play.
Despite all the dangers of early spring rides, there’s nothing like the feeling of being back on the bike again.
Your enthusiasm will be extremely convincing to you. Be smart, use extra caution on your first ride as your skills will be out of practice.
Allow for sufficient space during your ride to allow time to react both physically and mentally. Statistics show that it’s these first rides of the year where the highest amount of mishap occurs.
And one last check before you head out – do a round the bike inspection.
If you prepare your bike and ride cautiously, you’ll jump start the season with success.
Get out there and ride and a have a super skill-fully fun season!
MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic and advanced motorcycle instructor – certified for over 28 years. She is an on-road and road racing motorcycle licensing examiner and has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European, Caribbean and North American training institutes.