Preparing for Spring Riding

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By George Tranos

We’ve had a long, hard winter but riding season will be here shortly. Now is the time to begin your preparation for that first Spring ride. We know you’re itching to ride but it is wise to get your bike, your gear and yourself ready before heading out the door.While the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has a great pre-ride checklist (see: http://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/T-CLOCS_Inspection_Checklist.pdf), there are a number of other things to do in addition to what MSF recommends. Take a look at the recommended checks below as you may want to add them to your Spring preparation routine.

  1. Make sure your battery is charged! Hopefully, you removed and stored your battery at the end of last year’s riding season and have kept it on a trickle charger. If so, you’re probably good to go. If it’s a non-sealed battery, top off the electrolyte with distilled water. Check the battery voltage with a voltmeter if possible. If you didn’t charge it over the winter, now is the time to do so. If it doesn’t hold a charge, then you’ll need to replace it. Check the battery connections to make sure they are tight and corrosion free.
  2. Change your oil. Condensation can form in your engine and new oil will ensure miles of trouble free running. Make sure to check your oil level regardless of whether you change your oil.
  3. Check all other fluids. Especially check your brake fluid and your coolant (if liquid cooled). Check hoses for cracks and leaks. Always use new fluids from sealed containers (especially brake fluid as it’s hydroscopic – it absorbs moisture).
  4. Check your tires. In addition to air pressure, take a good look at the tread. Check the wear bars, make sure there are no cracks, bulges, worn spots, or flattening. Check the wheels, rims and spokes. Nothing should be missing, broken or dragging!
  5. Check your drive system. If you have a drive chain, make sure it is properly adjusted and lubricated. It should not be too loose or too tight. Check the sprockets to make sure they don’t look worn. Check drive belts for proper tension and drive shafts for leaks. Change shaft oil according to manufacturer’s specs.
  6. Check brakes and suspension. Before driving off, make sure the brakes work and stop the motorcycle. Test that the motorcycle suspension is working by pushing up and down on both ends. If anything is amiss, do not drive off without investigating!
  7. Check all nuts and bolts for tightness. Don’t assume all is good. Put a wrench on all fasteners to insure something didn’t vibrate loose and is ready to fall off.
  8. Test all controls. They should move smoothly. Check visually for signs of damage. Turn handlebars left and right, rotate the throttle and make sure it snaps back.
  9. Start the engine. Check for leaks. Let it warm up. Check the idle speed and adjust if necessary. Shut it down and recheck the oil level.
  10. Check your paperwork. Make sure your license, registration and insurance are up-to-date. If your state requires a vehicle inspection, check the expiration date of your inspection sticker.
  11. Perform the MSF T-CLOCS pre-ride check.
  12. Take a test ride. Keep it short. Test out all operating controls. Verify the bike is operating at the correct temperature and it’s not overheating. Run it through the gears and make sure it shifts up and down smoothly and that the clutch is operating properly.

This is only a short list of some of the more important things you should do before hitting the road. It will be time well spent. You will feel more secure and comfortable knowing that you’re on a bike that’s ready to go.

Don’t neglect yourself or your gear! Are you ready to ride? Do you feel awake, alert and focused? If not, you may want to get some rest before venturing out. Do you have all of the proper riding gear? Sure it may be a nice day, but don’t forget your helmet, boots, gloves and jacket. Think about refreshing your riding skills too if it’s been a long time since you were last on a bike. After all, you want that first ride to not be your last ride! Ride safely!

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