The weather is warm and it’s time to fire up that motorcycle that has been sitting in the garage all winter and go for a ride. Not so fast. Here are 10 things to do before you take to the pavement.
Owners repair manual. Find the correct repair manual for your make and model of motorcycle. This is available from your local dealer or over the internet. It will contain invaluable information specific to your bike. While you may never use it to rebuild the engine or transmission it will contain the specifications needed to keep your bike on the road.
Tires. There are only two (on most bikes) so pay attention to your tires. Check the tire pressure with a tire gauge. The recommended pressure is found on the tire sidewall. Check tire pressure when the tires are cold before you ride. You can also purchase a tire thread depth gauge, sometimes these are attached to the tire gauge. While you are there eyeball the side walls of the tire. Any cracking or disintegration means get some new tires, pronto. Tires can also develop flat spots from sitting all winter and they can also wear flat with age. You are trusting the tires with your life. When in doubt, change ’em out.
Battery. If you have a battery with caps then you can remove the battery and check the fluid level. Refill to the marks with distilled water. If there are no caps you have a sealed battery and it gets no maintenance. If your bike won’t start the battery is the first suspect. You can charge it with a conventional battery charger and if that doesn’t work you can haul the battery to the store and have the technician do a load test. Replace as necessary.
Fuel. Of course last year before you quit riding for the year you filled the tank and added a fuel stabilizer. Right? If you didn’t you should drain that old fuel out and dispose of it in a safe manner. You may need to flush out the bowls on carburetor equipped models also.
Spark plugs. Remove the old spark plugs and replace them with new ones. Set the gap as recommended in the service manual.
Air filter. Check the air filter for dirt and contamination. You might be surprised what you find in the air filter. Small critters like to make a home in there over the winter, so remove any debris. Usually you can gently tap the filter and see if anything falls out. Replace if the filter is remotely dirty. Remember this filter keeps you on the road just as much as any other part of your bike.
Fluids. Check the motor oil, primary oil and the transmission fluid. Also check your brake fluid in the front and rear. Check your engine coolant on bikes with radiators. After you get a few miles on the bike, change out the engine, transmission and primary fluids.
Lights. Check your headlight making sure you have a bright and a dim and also check any passing lights or auxiliary lights. Check your turn signals front and rear are functioning. Also make sure your brake light works with both the front and rear brake levers.
Clothes. Make sure your clothes still fit. Sometimes they shrink over the winter months.
Take some time to look at your footwear. Do your boots still have sufficient tread so you can keep a grip while sitting at stoplights and stop signs? Also take the time to reapply waterproofing to them so your feet stay dry if you get caught in the rain.
Helmet. Check your helmet for wear and tear. If your helmet has ever been dropped it must be replaced. They are good for one impact and the fall from the seat to the ground counts as one hit.
So there you have 10 things to do to get you back on the road safely this spring. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. There are lots of things to check on a motorcycle and if you are intimidated by the mechanical side, then make friends with your local dealer or independent shop.