Are You Ready For The Summer Riding Season?
The sun is shining down, the birds are chirping, and you’re hearing the call of the open road. If you’re like thousands of other riders, you’ve waited months to take your bike out on a warm summer ride—and that wait is finally over. As with other things in life, it’s important to take things slowly when preparing for the first ride of the season. With this comprehensive checklist, you’ll be ready for whatever the road brings.
Dust Off Your Ride
Remove your bike’s cover first, as well as any blocks used to hold it in place during storage. Lower the bike onto its center stand and remove any covers, rags, or plugs from its air intakes and exhaust pipes. If it’s indoors, roll it outside and wash away any coatings from the chain, rims, and frame.
Inspect the Fuel System
Before hitting the road, replace the bike’s fuel filter and inspect the fuel fittings, lines, and tank for leaks and cracks. If you added a stabilizer before putting the motorcycle away last season, the fuel should be in good condition, but it’s still a good idea to remove the gas cap and look inside the tank. If the gas is clean and consistent, move on to the next step; if not, drain the fuel lines and tank before starting the engine for the first time. Inspect and clean the carburetor and be sure to use a good fuel system cleaner on the next few fill-ups.
Check Fluid Levels
Many manufacturers suggest changing the engine oil and filter when putting a bike into storage and before the first ride of the season. During seasonal storage, engine oil can separate, causing damaging condensation to build up inside the engine. Whether or not the oil has been changed prior to storage, it’s important to check its level before putting the kickstand up.
Next, check all hoses and connections for signs of looseness and leakage. Look for cracks in fluid hoses and replace them as needed. Check the consistency and levels of all fluids, changing any that look suspicious and topping off those that are low. Always use new and sealed containers when topping off or changing fluids such as oil and coolant. As you’re changing and refilling the bike’s vital fluids, replace its air filter.
Get a Full Charge
If the battery was removed and charged separately when stored, simply clean the terminals and cables with a brush before greasing and reconnecting them. Keeping a motorcycle battery on a trickle charger or tender will keep it in good shape. However, when a bike is stored without removing or disconnecting the battery, the unit will need to be recharged or replaced. In any event, check the terminals for corrosion and ensure that they’re firmly attached. Depending on the battery, it may be necessary to top off the cells with fresh distilled water. Ensure that the battery’s vent tube is routed and connected properly.
Inspect the Tires
For a motorcyclist, there’s nothing more important than a good set of tires. They are, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road, so it’s best to give them the seasonal care they deserve. Roll the bike out and put it up on its center stand. Look at the wear indicators, which are usually little bumps or bars in the tread; if they’re visible, the tires are worn. Inspect your bike’s tires for cracks and balding and replace them if problems are found. Lastly, measure the tire pressure and add air if needed.
Hit the Brakes
About three-quarters of a bike’s stopping power comes from its front brake, so it’s important to ensure that they’re working well. On most motorcycles, you can see the brake pads while they’re still on. Like tires, brake pads include wear indicators. If they’re nearly worn out, replace them before going on the first ride of the season.
Test the brakes by squeezing the front lever; it shouldn’t hit the handlebar. If it does, or if it feels mushy and spongy, it may be necessary to bleed the brakes. The same process can be applied to the rear brakes.
Measure and top off the brake fluid, replacing it if it’s contaminated. Examine the bike’s brake lines for leaks and cracks and inspect the brake shoes and discs for wear. Clean the rotors with a good brake cleaner and lubricate the brake lever. While these projects are easy for the average rider, bring your bike in for service if you’re unsure about any step in the process.
Get Revved Up
If the cylinder wasn’t lubricated before the bike was put into storage, take out the spark plugs and pour two tablespoons of oil into the ports. This lubricates the topmost portion of the cylinder walls before the bike is started. When pulling the spark plugs, check their gaps and use a gap setting tool to return them to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Look at the Steering, Suspension, and Frame
Next, inspect the fairing and frame for cracks. Pay careful attention to the areas around the transmission and engine brackets. Move the forks slightly, looking for any signs of looseness. If the steering head is loose, tighten it securely. Inspect the bike’s handlebars for problems and lubricate all cable connections, focusing on axle nuts, drain plugs, and brake lever pivot bolts. Lubricate bearings and oil the kickstand. Evaluate the condition of all nuts and fasteners, tightening them as needed.
Test the Sprocket and Chain
Inspect the sprocket for uneven wear and missing teeth before testing the slack in the bike’s chain and adjusting it to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Then, use a high-quality oil to lubricate the chain.
Inspect the Electrical System
Check the bike’s lights, switches, gauges, and other electronic components for proper function. Test the regular and high-beam headlights, as well as the rear and front turn signals. Use the rear brake light and make sure it lights up properly. Finally, beep the horn to see if it works. If you’re uncertain if the motorcycle is ready for the road, have it taken to a repair shop.
Test the Controls
Examine all hoses and cables for kinks, cracks, and other problems. Test the pedals and levers to ensure proper lubrication and use the throttle to ensure that it flows well and doesn’t jam closed when it’s released.
Gauges and Lights
With the battery connected, test the gauges and lights. Ensure that the brake lights and turn signals work and that all gauges light up. If anything is amiss, the bulbs are easy to replace.
Riding Gear and Clothing
Once your bike is ready for the road, consider spending a few minutes assessing the condition of your riding gear. If your motorcycle helmet is more than five years old, replace it. With time, a helmet’s internal protective layers may compress and degrade, which reduces its protective properties in the event of an accident.
Gloves are an important yet frequently overlooked part of a full set of riding gear. If yours are ripped or torn, get a new pair as soon as possible. Even in a low-speed pavement slide, your hands are susceptible to friction burns. A leather jacket is highly recommended, but lightweight textiles with built-in plastic armor are becoming more popular. Many of today’s riders also wear high-visibility or reflective vests to help themselves stand out in heavy traffic.
Get Your Insurance Up to Date
When preparing for a summer of riding, be sure your insurance policy has been updated. If you have added any custom equipment or parts, it’s important to get them covered. Let your insurer know if:
- Your bike has been modified.
- An operator must be added to or removed from the policy.
- The value of your vintage or custom motorcycle has changed.
- Anything has changed that may affect your insurance policy.
Riding a motorcycle is more than just a way to get from place to place. It’s a lifestyle, which is why it’s so important to have an insurance policy that meets your unique needs.
Get Ready to Hit the Road
Before heading out, let your bike idle so its fluids circulate. Determine if the engine idles smoothly and at the proper RPM after it reaches its normal temperature. Use the T-CLOCS (Tires, Controls, Lights, Oils, Chassis, and Stands) checklist, which is provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, before every ride regardless of its distance.
Get Out There and Ride But Do it Safely
Summer is one of the most dangerous times of year to ride a motorcycle. Not only are the roads crowded, dirty, and sometimes riddled with potholes, but it also means that you’ve been off the bike for months, and it may take some time to get back up to speed. Other drivers (and you) may not be used to sharing the road, so it’s best to take it easy for the first part of the summer riding season. Enjoy the open road and keep the shiny side up!