HOW TO GUIDES
HOW TO PREPARE FOR SPRING RIDING
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
It's official, spring is on its way. And we all know what that means: it's time to get your bike out and go for a ride! This is unless you've been riding through the winter, of course, which, if you have, congratulations. To ride or not to ride is always a split matter of opinion, and we hope you made the right choice for you. But, if your bike has been neatly tucked away in a garage for the past few months, it'll be time for some maintenance.
Depending on how you prepared your bike for winter storage, less, or more work could be required at this point. Your owners' manual will also tell you what needs to be done specifically for your model, so have a read of that, bear in mind what you've already done, and then, hopefully, this guide should help make sure you've got everything covered.
1. Spring Cleaning
Remove the cover, then clean and store it. Lower the bike onto its stand and dust it off. At this point, you'll also want to remove any rags or plugs etc. that you'd used to protect the exhaust pipes. Give your bike a thorough cleaning, making sure to wash away any coatings you may have applied to protect it before storing. A final waxing will be applied later, once you've made sure your bike is healthy.
If you took your battery out and connected it to an intelligent charger over the winter months, then this part should be pretty easy for you. Simply clean your cables and terminals, removing any dust, debris or corrosion – this can interfere with its electrical performance – then lubricate with copper grease and reconnect, making sure that everything is securely attached. If your battery is sealed, then your work is done. If it's not, check the acid levels and top up with distilled water if necessary.
If you didn't leave your battery charging over winter, there's a good chance it'll have gone flat. Again, give the cables and terminals a clean, and reconnect. Has anything happened? No? Check the main fuse and the solenoid (starter relay) connections. Has anything happened now? No? Well, it's probably dead. Every time a battery goes flat, its life gets shorter and its ability to recharge decreases, eventually killing it. This can happen after only a couple of times, so if you've made this mistake, bite the bullet and buy yourself a new battery and call it a lesson well learnt. It's best to leave batteries charging on a trickle charger.
Hopefully this won't be the case, and a slow charge will bring it back to life (Wemoto recommends BC's K900 Automatic Battery Charger, which is great for recovering deeply discharged batteries from as low as 1.5V). But, if after all that, it struggles to hold a charge, you may want to consider replacing it. Especially if you have a fair amount of equipment/ accessories, as they'll also need a lot of juice from your battery – and a battery that loses charge fast isn't going to cut it.
3. Fuel & Fuel Tank
Did you empty your tank before storing or not? If not, did you use a fuel stabiliser?
It's all a matter of opinion here, some say that an empty tank is more prone to rust and that it's best to leave it filled up, others swear by emptying it. But, if you left fuel in your tank and didn't use a fuel stabiliser, then the chances are that it's gone off.
Fuel has a tendency to separate when left in a cold tank, and can go clumpy when the tank warms up again. Gone-off fuel is not healthy for your tank, and it could lead to problems with your fuel injectors/carbs clogging up. If you used a fuel stabiliser then you shouldn't have this problem, and you should be good to go. If you didn't, and the fuel smells funny, drain the tank completely.
For those with either a pre-winter or newly-drained tank, check the inside of it for corrosion, rust, and any gunk. You can use a fuel tank cleaner or rust remover, and then a sealant to deal with any pinholes you may have. Then clean or replace the filter, clean your injectors/carbs and fill the tank back up. If it's still not running nicely after all this, it's possible that you might need to replace your injectors, or use a carb repair kit. If your carburettors need a clean, you can either do so by hand, or by placing it in an Ultrasonic Cleaner, which some find much either (they're cheap too), but the choice is yours.
If you changed your oil and filter before storing, check the oil levels now and top up if required. Oil can also separate when left in the engine for long periods of time, and can cause condensation which could be harmful to your engine. Check for any moisture that could have got into the system.
If you didn't change your oil before winter, you could change it now, making sure to change your filter as well (it's best practice to change both at the same time).
If you've had to remove your spark plugs to top up any oil, you may as well check those too, while they're out, and replace if necessary. Check the gaps for the spark plugs at the same time, making sure they're set to your manufacturer's specification.
5. Other Fluids
Check all other fluid levels and make sure nothing's leaking – if you have a shaft-driven bike, check your transmission fluid. If your bike is liquid cooled, check the level and colour of it inside your expansion tank. Coolant shouldn't need replacing very often, but, if it does look dirty, it could clog up your radiator, so it's best to replace it. If doing this, remove your radiator and make sure it's clean before refilling with new coolant.
Your brakes may have seized up a bit over the winter months. Test them at a walking pace to get a feel for their condition. Inspect your brake pads and discs or your brake shoes for wear. If the shoes or pads are looking thin, replace them. Clean your discs using brake cleaner.
Examine your brake lines for cracks and replace if necessary. Check your brake fluid levels. If they're low, this could be an indication that your pads are wearing, making your pistons come out further than they should. If this is you, rather than topping up the fluid, try to solve the root of the problem by replacing your pads and checking that your brake fluid has returned to an appropriate level. Adding too much fluid and then changing your pads after can cause the pistons to come out more than they should, which would lead to quicker wearing of your new pads. If your levels are fine but you haven't changed your brake fluid in a couple of years, you may want to change it, making sure to use the correct fluid for your bike.
Your tyres really should be checked before every ride, but they'll need attention now more than ever.
If you raised your bike off the ground during winter, then they should be in a reasonable condition. Tyres that have been left to bear the weight of the entire bike could be looking a bit flat. Check your air pressure and bring your tyres back up to spec. Check that there's still plenty of tread – you'll need it for the roads as they're often wet around this time of year. Inspect your valves as well.
If your tyres are looking a bit worn, if they have any punctures or flat spots, you may need to replace them.
If you've got spoked wheels, make sure they've not rusted at all. Tighten up any loose bolts. Grease your wheel bearings and then raise each wheel off the ground, spinning them to check that everything's in good working order.
Are all your lights working? Test your low and high-beam headlamps, and make sure the headlight is aimed correctly – forwards, but kicking up to the left (in the UK). Check your other lights and fuses and replace accordingly. Don't forget your rear brake lights! If any of the lenses have cracks that you failed to notice before storing, you may want to replace them. Also, check for condensation that can build up in the lenses and apply more sealant if necessary.
Test your electronics, switches and gauges. Is your horn working properly? Are your mirrors worn or scratched, and do they fit securely to the bike?
10. Suspension & Handling
That's it, you can finally get on your bike now – but don't ride off just yet. Instead, straddle and bounce. This will give you a feel for the condition of your front and rear suspension systems.
Now, sorry, but get back off the bike (not long now, we promise) and prop the front wheel off the ground. Grasp your lower forks, moving them forwards and back. If there's any movement in the steering head, tighten it. Also, check that there's no wear or excessive play in the shocks. If your fork seals are leaking, change them. If your fork stanchions are pitted, you may need to replace those too.
Make sure your handlebars are tight, lubricate your cable connections and bearings, and any bolts, nuts and drain plugs.
While you're there, check that your handlebars don't interfere with your cables and hoses. Your throttle should move freely and snap closed when released. All cables should now be lubricated, and they should be free of any kinks or bending. If they have become at all rusty or are drastically bent, change them. Make sure that all your cables and hoses are connected and in proper working order. Ensure that your levers move smoothly and pedals, freely.
Now to put the finishing touches on your frame. You've cleaned your bike, so you can now go ahead and give it - and your accessories - a nice coating of wax – it will not only look 'fresh' and shiny, but it'll be more resilient to the elements, and there are a lot of them in the air and on the roads after winter.
13. Chain & Sprocket
If you've got a drive belt, check that it's free of cracks and is not fraying. If you've got a chain, make sure it's properly lubricated and free of any tight/hard spots.
Make sure that either your chain or drive belt (as applicable) has the correct amount of tension – tightening as necessary – and that it sits properly in the sprockets. Check the condition of any nuts or fasteners and finally, if you didn't do so before storing, check for any missing teeth or uneven wear of the sprockets.
If any of it needs replacing, it's probably best to do both at the same time, as a new chain will wear quicker on older sprockets, and vice versa.
This is one of the things that could easily be forgotten but is very important in the grand scheme of things. Imagine taking your bike out for its first ride and parking, only to find that your side stand doesn't stand. Would you want to lean your bike against something? If the answer's no, then check that your stands are working properly now. They must move freely and be secure to the bike.
15. Riding Gear
Your bike looks the part, but do you? Take a moment to go through all your riding gear. Is it all accounted for? What sort of condition is it in? If you stored your clothing in a dry place, it should hopefully be fine, but if you left it in a wet condition, it could have gone a bit damp or mouldy. Replace as needed, or if you just fancy a new look.
Check that your helmet fits snugly and that it's in a suitable condition for use. Bear in mind that most manufacturers recommend changing your helmet every two to four years, even if it's not damaged.
You've checked the condition of your gear, so now you'll need to prepare it for the roads. Use an anti-fog spray for your helmet screen and a waterproofing spray for your leathers. There are a number of other cleaning and protection products you can use, such as helmet cleaner, rain repellent for your windshield – ultimately it's up to you and what you want to use.
You and your bike are now both ready for the first ride of the year, but have you prepared for those unplanned eventualities? Make sure your spares kit is up to the task and includes – among other items – spare bulbs, a puncture repair kit or tyre tubes, some wire, nuts, spare chain master links, fuses, a tool kit, and a first-aid kit.
Make sure your insurance policy is up to date and that you have covered any new accessories or parts that you may have added. Wemoto is a new partner of insurance specialists, Footman James. And you can get great classic motorcycle cover by visiting their website.
18. On the Road
Job done. Well done. Now breath a sigh of fresh air and go get out there!
We know you're probably quite an experienced rider already, but even the best can get a little rusty after a break. And it's not just down to your skills. The roads can often be dangerous at this time of year too, and we're not only talking about their salty/sandy/icy conditions, but many car drivers have enjoyed the roads all to themselves over the winter period, and they may not be as aware of motorcyclists as they could be – all this is to say, take it easy, ride safe and, ultimately, have fun!
We hope you found our guide useful. If you have any tips you'd like to add, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
24/02/16 Less layers than Winter riding
25/02/16 What prep do you recommend for all year round riders.
25/02/16 All-year-round riders still need to check their bikes regularly for any fluid leaks and check that the levers, cables, brakes and lights are all working; check the chain, tyre pressure, mirrors, electrics. That said, if you're an all-year-rounder, you're not alone. Plenty of us here at Wemoto ride all year, so well done if you did too - it can be very cold at times!
26/02/16 I've never not been out there !
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