One of the most exciting times of the year for a motorcyclist is when the weather starts to break, and you can start riding again. If you happen to live in a warmer climate year-round, you wouldn’t understand this type of joy. However, for those of us that do, we can only do somuch winter modding. Before you go and hop back on the bike though, there’s a lot you need to do in order to make its road ready for the new season. For this, we are going to look at four DIY maintenance items to do before you turn the ignition on.
One of the most important – and typically overlooked – items on any vehicle, especially motorcycles, are the tires. The first thing to check is that you have the tire pressure set properly to the requirements by the manufacturer. Many people who store their bikes for the winter usually over inflate the tires to keep them from flat spotting. If you do this, you only need to remove air to get to the proper pressure, not inflate, and this is much easier. Next, make sure the tread depth is where it should be. Most tires, unless it’s a tracked bike, will wear quicker in the middle than on the sides. If the tire is beginning to square off (lose its rounded radius) then it’s a good time to replace it. Also, if they haven’t worn but are aged (maybe turning blueish) they should be replaced. Over time the rubber begins to harden and doesn’t retain the same grip as it used to. Most tires have a five-year “good till” date. Remember, this is what connects you to the road, so don’t be lazy and assume they are still in proper shape.
Hopefully you used some sort of fuel stabilizer in your tank over the winter to keep away any moisture from forming. Still, you should put some fresh fuel in there anyway if it isn’t topped off. Now is a great time to make sure your oil is at the correct level or needs to be changed. Most people change their oil based on time or mileage, or maybe even riding habits. Always remember that you should change your oil when the engine is hot, not cold. A good half hour ride should be enough to get it warmed up. Also check your brake fluid (are the levers firm to pull?) and coolant fluid if your bike has that.
3. Fit and Finish
You should be completing a full once over on all the major bolts and nuts on the bike to make sure they are torqued to spec. Many times, a bike may loosen up over the season, but it’s so slow, you might not realize it or feel it happening. Check axles, steering, shocks/forks, chains/belts – everything that could be jostled or vibrated loose. Make sure your brake, clutch, and throttle cables are all tight and without any extra play. It’s also recommended at this time to make sure all the lights are functioning properly. It’s better to find out now if one of your blinkers or headlights has gone bad, than while in the middle of a ride.
Take a step away from the bike at this point and examine your riding gear. Has your helmet been dropped or scraped at all? Has it reached its end of life yet? Have you had your helmet for a while but haven’t washed the inner liner (gross)? Are your boots getting worn down? Is your jacket still comfortable and fitting properly (have you gained/lost weight)? Now is a good time to clean your jacket or your helmet visor(s). You want to make sure these items are still in the best possible conditions to protect you if an incident arises. Or, now is the best time to buy new gear for the season.
At this point, you should have everything ready to go out and start enjoying the new season. Some riders keep a journal for what they have checked or changed and when they have done those changes. This is a great idea because then you can go back and see when you actually did that oil change or which bolts you found loose previously (is it becoming common?). Above all else, have fun and be safe. Rubberside down!