That glorious time is finally here for those of us living in the north. The snow has receded, the temperatures have risen and the call of the open road is upon us. Time to put away the snowshoes and get those motorcycles ready for the riding.
And I know, the pull to get up and running quickly is a strong force. That first trip out with the bike after months of anticipation is possibly the best feeling in the world. I look forward each year to that first taste of the open road. It is, in a word, magical. But there are some things that you must take care of before that first ride. If you do you’ll have a longer, less mechanically fraught, season on the road. Please note: This advice is for air-cooled bikes.
Here are the few steps you should take before hitting the road:
1) Uncover and wash the bike. Even a bike that has been covered all winter can get mucked up. Dust works it’s way around tarps, and small animals and bugs sometimes find a warm winter home under such protection. Dirt of any kind can speed the spread of rust, giving moisture a place to take hold. Detailing you’re bike at the start of the season also gives you a chance to check the torque of the more crucial nuts and bolts. Remember, it’s your safety that is on the line. It’s much better to find a loose bolt sitting in your garage rather than at 50 MPH in the middle of nowhere.
2) Change the oil and filter. Oil separates during long periods of idleness. Synthetic oils supposedly don’t separate as quickly as standard oil, but why take the chance. Oil is the lifeblood of any combustion engine. I generally prefer a synthetic oil to the natural stuff because I feel it does its job better. Decide for yourself what works best, or consult a mechanic. It is also very important that you change the oil filter whenever you change the oil. After months of stagnating in freezing temperatures, your oil has lost its chemical ability to lubricate. Many bikers (and I’m one of them) also change the oil at the end of the season. Some find that excessive however I can’t help but think of all the particles that the dirty oil gathered up just settling at the bottom of my engine. Makes me squirm.
3) Check and/or charge your battery. I like to keep a low voltage trickle charger on my battery all winter. This way I can keep the battery in the bike and it stays warm enough so as not to freeze. If you’ve removed your battery and taken it inside it’s a good idea to check its charge before installing it just to be sure. A battery that has been sitting idle all winter, even in a warm basement, can still lose its charge. Put the battery on a charger (keep in mind most bike batteries are 6 volt, not 12 volt). Check the battery again after charging. If it does not hold the charge, you most likely are going to need a new one.
Once those simple steps are done it is time to take the bike out on the road. Go slow at first, just to get your sea legs back. Remember, you’ve been sitting idle all winter also. Once you get yourself back up to speed you’ll be ready to enjoy the freedom of the open road and a bike you can feel safe on.