Are you as excited as we are about the start of the riding season? it’s a tad early, but we’re already celebrating the end of the torturous winter days and a bad case of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome). However, before you wheel your pride and joy out of the garage, be sure to prepare your motorcycle for the riding season.
This spring ritual is a must for any rider, and in fact, it can be just as much fun as gearing up for that first ride. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration – there’s nothing that compares to finally hitting that open road again. Still, prepping your bike (and yourself!) for the summer can make for a busy day in the garage, especially if it’s still raining outside.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare your motorcycle for the riding season like a pro.
Are You in Top Shape?
Preparing Yourself for the Days Back in the Saddle
Experienced veteran or newbie, as a rider, you need to make sure you’re as ready for the riding season as your motorcycle. If you haven’t ridden in several months, chances are, your skills might have gotten a tad rusty, even if you’ve been riding for decades.
In addition, you need to make sure your riding gear, boots, and helmet are all in top condition. Here’s how to do this.
Hit the Gym
Let’s face it: even if you ride a comfy cruiser or sport tourer, motorcycling requires endurance. Being in a good shape makes life in the saddle easier, so if you’ve been enjoying those Christmas dinners and snacks in front of Netflix just a little too much, now is the time to shed a few pounds.
If you’re hitting the gym, focus on your core and back muscles as those suffer the most when you’re riding. A little yoga can help, too, especially if your back and neck feel stiff. Finally, some weightlifting work may come in handy if you drop your bike and need to pick it up. Yes, we’re looking at you, adventure and dirt riders.
Brush Up on Your Skills
Admit it: when you hit the streets for the first time after those long winter months, it takes a little to get used to the way your bike feels, the way traffic moves, and the way your tires grip the tarmac. For veteran riders, this may only take a quarter of an hour. For less experienced riders, it can be days. The best way to ensure your skills are up to par is booking a track day, going for an adventure motorcycling lesson, or hitting the green lanes. This way, you can brush up on your skills minus the stress of dealing with traffic. Think you don’t need riding lessons? Think again: as riders, we learn and improve throughout our entire lives. Booking an intermediate or advanced lesson can boost your riding skills and your confidence when you finally get back in the saddle again.
Check Over Your Gear
Most riders obsess over the tiniest details when it comes to their motorcycles, but often forget to give their riding gear some TLC. Don’t skip it and check your riding gear, boots, and helmets over. If you haven’t done this in the fall, now is the time to wash your gear, check for any tears or rips, reseal all the GoreTex parts, and air out your boots and helmet. Speaking of boots: a pro tip for funky odors is putting a couple of drops of essential tea tree oil on the inside soles. Tea tree is a strong natural bacteria killer and a few drops will eliminate all odors and bacteria that might have moved in.
Make sure your helmet’s inner lining is clean. If your helmet is more than five years old, or if you had dropped it, now is the perfect time to shop for a new lid.
Addicted to motorcycle travel? Now is a good time to check over your luggage. If it’s aluminum panniers and top box, check it over to see if there are any fractures or dents. If it’s soft luggage, wash everything out so it’s ready. And if you’re a minimalist who travels with nothing but a tank bag and a duffel on your luggage rack, simply clean everything and summon the courage to finally throw out those broken phone charger cables, stray washers, and old earplugs that have accumulated in your bags during the last season.
Preparing Your Motorcycle for the Riding Season
As a responsible motorcycle owner, we know you’ve utilized our winter prep tips and your bike is ready to go. However, if you skipped several steps, make sure you thoroughly check your bike before hitting the road again. Even if you have “winterized” your motorcycle as best as you could, it’s still a good idea to check everything over. There’s nothing more annoying than planning that first glorious spring ride with your riding buddies and finding your battery is dead or your tires are flat, so here’s a simple guide of how to prep the bike for the season.
Clean Your Bike
Cleaning your motorcycle after winter storage is a great feeling: as you wipe down dust and grime that has gathered on the fairings and imagine that first ride, it’s almost like you find a new appreciation for your loyal steed. In addition, thoroughly cleaning your bike helps detect any damage, loose nuts and bolts, and anything else that may appear out of order.
Don’t just wipe down your fairings and windshield, however. During the winter months, moisture might have caused a little corrosion or rust, so check over all the metal parts. Clean your brake rotors and make sure any protective sprays or greasers are cleaned off before you ride.
Finally, take a peek inside the exhaust and airbox – this is where tiny critters such as mice like to hang out in winter. Mouse nests have clogged countless airboxes and exhaust pipes, so double-check and escort the unwanted squatters out if you detect any. While you’re at it, have a look at your air filter. Take it out, clean it, and treat it: during the cold winter months, moisture might have gotten to it.
Go Over the Motorcycle
Now that your bike’s sparkling clean, go over the motorcycle again and check everything thoroughly, doing a visual inspection. Tighten up any loose bolts, inspect your wheels and brake pads, and see if there are any exposed wires. Lube your throttle and clutch cables and check that your wheels are spinning freely. Make sure that your steering isn’t locking up (or that there isn’t too much play that would indicate the bearings are going). Finally, have a good look at your forks and fork seals, ensuring there aren’t any leaks.
Check Your Oil and Fluids
If you’ve changed the oil before you stored the bike for the winter, kudos for you: your engine is coated in fresh oil. However, if you skipped this step, now is the time to do it. Change the oil before you start the bike so that the engine doesn’t get a dose of old, filthy oil.
The same goes for all the other fluids. Your brake fluid and coolant should be fresh for the riding season, so check the fluid levels and top them off if needed. Ideally, change all the fluids altogether to ensure your ride is smooth – and safe.
Finally, if you’d forgotten to add fuel stabilizer before the winter, get rid of old gas and fill up with new petrol. Gas can and does go bad over a longer period of time, and it can clog up the fuel injectors (or carb jets, if you have an older model).
Battery, Wires, and Electrics
Dead battery equals dead bike: we all know this, yet so many riders forget to put the battery on a tender during the winter or charge it before that first ride. Now is the time to do it. If your battery has gone flat, charge it up so your bike is ready to go.
This is also a good time to do a quick electrics check. Go over the fuses and replace any that have been blown; make sure all your lights and indicators are working properly. Replace blown bulbs if you find any and check that your brake light is working well.
If you’ve been considering adding some auxiliary lights, now is the perfect time to do it. Often, car drivers forget all about motorcyclists during the winter months, and as riders swarm the streets in spring, riders may be at a greater risk. Increasing your visibility as a motorcycle rider is always a great idea, so grab that auxiliary light kit and install it now.
Wheels and Tires
Now that you’ve cleaned your bike, checked it over, and topped off or replaced the fluids and recharged the battery, do one last check and inspect your wheels and tires. Run your fingers along the rims to make sure there aren’t any fractures or dents and, if you have spoked wheels, check the spokes and tighten up any loose ones. Clean off rust if you find any.
When it comes to your tires, spin the wheels slowly and look for cracks and uneven wear. If you’ve kept your motorcycle on a center stand or jack, your tire pressure should be fine, but do check it regardless. If your tires are old and worn, now is a great time to change them. Finally, replace any missing valve caps.
Chain and Sprockets
If your motorcycle has a chain drive, go over your sprockets and chain. You’ve probably cleaned them before storing the bike for winter but inspect them again. If you detect any excess oil, see if your front sprocket seal isn’t leaking. The sprocket teeth shouldn’t be worn, and you might want to check the chain tension before you ride. Finally, give it a clean and a fresh coat of chain lubricant.
Mods, Tools, and Farkles
Like most riders, we bet you love tinkering with your motorcycle. And if that’s the case, you’ve probably been hoarding new farkles and aftermarket parts over the winter. Now is the time to use them: install those new crash bars, change out your footpegs, and add that new windscreen you scored on eBay back in December. Working on your bike and farkling it out for the spring is an amazing feeling, so go nuts and do all those mods you’ve been obsessing over during winter. However, don’t forget your regular service, either. When was the last time you’ve adjusted your valves or cleaned out the carbs?
Once you’re done, go over your tools and spares. Clean out the toolbox, stock up on spare tire tubes and cable ties, and organize everything so it’s ready for the riding season.
Your motorcycle is clean, road-worthy, and ready to go. Hooray! However, before you go for a long ride, do a quick test around the block first. Wheel the bike out of the garage, start the engine, and take your two-wheeled machine for a short spin. If you’ve mounted brand-new tires, a test ride will help get rid of the initial slick feeling. The engine will get a coat of fresh oil, the fuel injectors or carb jets will get a flush of fresh gas, and your battery will be ready for the next time.
As you ride, listen for any weird noises or rattling. Do a few U-turns to check your steering, hit the brakes hard a few times to make sure the fluid isn’t clogged up and the brake pads work as they should. Finally, top up the tank, park your bike, and gear up for that first long ride after winter.
Preparing your motorcycle for the riding season is as important as winterizing it for storage. Don’t skip any of these steps so that your first spring ride is as exciting, safe, and smooth as can be! And while you’re at it, make sure you’re taking care of bike security, too. A sturdy chain and disc lock is a must wherever you go if you want to protect your motorcycle from theft. In addition, think about installing a wireless motorcycle tracker: as they say, safe is better than sorry.
What are your favorite spring prep tips and hacks? Share them in the comments below!