It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like….SPRING!!!!! Woohoo!!!
Yes, the signs are telling us to dust off the cobwebs, pull out the gear and start getting ready for another or new riding season. So to make sure we do this in an organized fashion, let’s start with a few basics. Let’s make sure we cover the three basics:
- Your gear
- Your bike
Now you might be asking why ME? The first step should always be about us. Have we maintained our level of fitness over the winter or did we hibernate? Keeping ourselves in decent physical shape will ensure we are safer on the road. Being physically fit also helps with alertness and response time. Now having said this, it doesn’t mean you need to be an Olympic athlete but let’s not forget motorcycles are heavy and pushing them around the garage or on the road takes some effort. So, while we have some time, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to make sure we are the best we can be physically AND mentally. A good physical state also helps with having a good mental state. As with any physical activity, let’s make sure we aren’t getting in over our heads. See your medical provider to make sure you are good to go and then go see your local gym/fitness coordinator to help set-up a program for you. The added bonus of being fit is that not only will it enhance your riding now; it will also prolong your riding career by years.
Next, let’s have a look at our gear. We’ll start at the top and work our way down. Our helmet, what’s its condition. Did it fall off the shelf over the winter or did something hard and heavy fall on it. Did I store in my unheated garage over the winter or in the backyard shed? Also, how old is it and what condition is it and the visor in. The normal rule for helmets is 5 years of use or no more than 8 years from the date of manufacturer. Now, these are guidelines and also depends on well you take care of it, how it is stored, how much you ride, exposure to the sun or harsh chemicals, etc. Most helmets now have a manufacturer date stamp so refer to your owner’s manual or online to find out where that date stamp is. Also, if you are in the market for a new helmet, please make sure you look at this date too. I have gone into local shops and seen them trying to sell “new” helmets that were manufactured 4, 5, sometime 6 years earlier. They may be a great deal but only you can be the final judge. Lastly, you’ll want to smell the liner (stinky or fresh). If it’s removable, go ahead and wash with a mild soap and air dry. Again, refer to your owner manual for details. Never use solvents or chemical cleaners on your helmet.
Onto the jacket. Did you wash it before you put it away? If not, many have removable liners so you can wash the liners in the washing machine as per the washing instructions. I have several types of jacket. For mesh jackets, I usually remove the pads and simply throw it in the washing machine in gentle mode and hang to air dry. If yours has a waterproof liner, make sure to remove it before washing. For any waterproof jacket or liner, you’ll want to do a bit of research into your particular type and then strictly follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning. Gore-Tex type material is particularly sensitive to the types of cleaning agents. Using the wrong kind can either clog the pores or worse, damage the material. Lastly, Old School – leather jacket. Leather has and continues to be one of the preferred materials because of its durability and longevity. I have 3 different leather jackets for different seasons and uses. For cleaning, a damp cloth and a bit of elbow grease are all that is needed. To go the extra step and to make your leather jacket last even longer, use the approved cream/conditioner for your brand/make of jacket. It will add years to the jacket. Many of these creams and conditioners also form a protective layer that helps the leather in rain and prevents those pesky bugs from sticking. The same cleaning techniques can apply to your gloves, pants and boots. In closing this paragraph, ensure that all your gear is in good working order, void of rips or tears.
Now onto your bike. Like many of us, we ride well into the fall telling ourselves we’ll give the bike a thorough cleaning and do all the proper maintenance before putting it to sleep for the winter. Reality is, we often ride until we can’t ride anymore (simply can’t bundle up enough) and the day we have time to wash the bike it’s snowing and -5. Don’t fret, it happens to all of us. There are some things you can do now that will minimize the long cold winter. First, have a look. Are there any puddles under or around your bike that would suggest an issue? If nothing, then carefully pull your bike out of the garage or shed and have a good look. Many of us use the MSF TCLOCK or TCLOCS method to inspect our bikes (checklist available on the WWW). It makes sure you go through your motorcycles various systems like fuel, fluids, brakes, tires, electrical, suspension, and chassis. This way if a mouse built a nest in the airbox (don’t laugh, had it happen to me a few years ago) or, while nesting Mr. Mouse decided to feast on your wiring, you’ll pick it up before you hit the start button and sparks start flying. While I have the airbox open, I check to make sure everything is on order and clean or replace the air filter. Ok, so the bike isn’t leaking and nothing is living inside it. For me, the next step is to give it a good washing. While washing, again, pay attention to every detail just in case you might have missed something. Also, dirt can hide stuff like scratches or cracks that you may not have noticed before.
Once the bike is clean, I usually take the battery out and give it an overnight charge. This way I know if the bike doesn’t start, it’s probably not the battery. For those of you who have the trickle chargers installed (and you know they work), you can probably skip this part. Oh, in passing, motorcycle batteries have a lot less volume than car batteries so tend to lose their charge more quickly and do not last as long as a car battery. I am really happy if I can get 4- 5 year out of a properly maintained battery. Now that I am happy everything is in order, I start the bike and let it warm up. Once warm, I shut it off and do a full oil/oil filter change. Now many of you are going to say, hey!!! You are supposed to do that in the fall so that the bike doesn’t sit the entire winter with dirty oil and, I agree with you. However, like I said, none of us are perfect. A spring oil change is better than no oil change. Even if I change the oil in the fall, I tend to only ride half as long as normal before doing another oil change in the spring but that’s just me. The important point to take away is looking at the oil. Is it frothy, milky, does it smell funny (possible coolant or gas in the oil). Also look at the filter. If you are lucky and have or have installed a magnetic oil drain plug, check it to see if there are any large filings, etc. Once you have completely refilled your engine with oil, oil filter. Start the bike and check for any leaks. I also take this opportunity to lubricate everything on your bike. I use automotive silicone as it is safe on metal, rubber, and leather. I have conventional forks on one of my bike and liberally spray silicone on the fork tubes (being careful not to lubricate the disc brakes). The silicone seeps into the seals and keeps them supple, adding years to their life. Re-inflate the tires to the right pressure and it’s time to take the bike for a short ride around the block to make sure everything works as it is supposed to. Take your first couple of rides easy just to make sure all is well with both you and the bike. One of my favourite thing sot do is find an empty parking lot and practice turns, stops and emergency stops. Spending a half hour to an hour in the parking lot exponentially helps us to bring up our riding skills back to almost what they were the season before. After that, its ride, ride and ride some more.
In the end, it’s to our advantage and our own self-preservation to make sure we, our gear and our motorcycles are in the best condition. Good luck and enjoy!