Discover how to Prepare your Motorcycle
Motorcycling in winter can be daunting. However, there are ways to successfully navigate through the dark, wet, and cold months. To achieve a smooth and safe ride, your bike needs to be in top shape. So, with winter fast approaching, discover how to prepare your motorcycle.
Winter is a harsh mistress, and freezing temperatures and wet or icy conditions can make riding treacherous. Follow these simple steps, and with a little initial planning and some timely maintenance, you’ll be ready to take on everything this harsh season throws your way.
Wash and Brush Up
The first thing on the to-do list is to treat your motorcycle to a thorough wash. Forget the jet wash and instead opt for good old fashioned, soap, water and sponge. It’s essential to do this task first. Once you’ve rinsed and dried your bike, you will find it a lot easier to identify any trouble areas that may need your attention.
Issues including petrol or oil leaks and cracks in fairings can easily be hidden thanks to months of summer dust and grime.
Once clean, wax your tank and bodywork and apply a proprietary anti-corrosion spray.
Time for a Service
Establish the last time your motorcycle was serviced. If the next service interval falls in the middle of the winter season, carry it out before it falls due. At the very least, change the oil and filter.
Ensuring your motorcycle engine is in good working order in terms of valve clearances and carburettor or injector balancing, is essential for keeping it running smoothly.
Riding in winter is all about control and smoothness of action. Anything that contributes to the engine snatching, jerking or running roughly is exaggerated in slippery conditions, and this can be dangerous.
Keep your Cool
For liquid-cooled engines, part of your inspection should include checking the coolant. If you’re conscientious all year-round, your coolant may only need a top-up.
Manufacturers recommend draining and changing coolant every two years. Don’t ever be tempted to top it up with water. Water freezes at 32 degrees F, while coolant will still work at -32 degrees F. This difference can equate to a wrecked engine.
It’s all too easy to take tyres for granted. The technology behind their design and manufacture is impressive. Precisely blended compounds allow for high mileage and grip, while innovative tread patterns direct water towards the tyre’s edges.
As part of preparing your motorcycle for winter, you will need to give your tyres a thorough going over. Close inspection may reveal bald spots, or wear on the tread and sidewalls.
Cold temperatures can also reduce tyre pressure as the air inside condenses. It is advisable to check your tyres for correct pressure at least every couple of weeks.
One final word of advice, be realistic regarding the shelf life of your tyres. It’s better to fit a new one before your bike starts to lose grip in the wintery conditions.
Power on Tap
When winter sets in and the days get darker earlier, your lights will need to be on for longer. Although your battery and alternator should be able to cope, it doesn’t hurt to give them a helping hand.
Invest in a meter and test your battery for suitable charge. A healthy battery should read 12.6v. Next, check that the battery terminals are tight. It's also a good idea to smear a little grease over them to keep moisture at bay.
While you’re checking the battery, carry out a visual check on the wiring loom for any signs of wear. Look for bare wires caused by contact with the seat or frame.
If there are any signs that your battery is failing, for instance difficulty turning the engine over or headlights dimming, test the alternator and/or replace the battery.
Lights, Sound, Action
Where the wiring loom is exposed, such as near the steering head or under the seat, check for general wear and tear. Also, look for worn or exposed wires. Test all lights and indicators, and check for breaks or cracks in the lenses. Make sure your horn is in good working, audible order.
As we now know, riding in winter is all about control and smoothness. For this reason, if your motorcycle uses cables for the throttle, clutch, or brake, make sure they are well lubricated.
Lubrication reduces friction, and a smooth throttle response and clutch operation help to minimise jerky riding. A smear of grease on the adjusters is also a sensible idea.
For hydraulically operated clutch and brake systems, either top-up or renew the fluid. Check all hoses for splits or wear as well as making sure the gasket around the reservoirs is in good condition.
Stop Right There
For a trouble-free winter of predictable braking, strip the callipers down and clean/grease the bushes, bolts and pistons. Depending on their condition, this may also be a good time to inspect or replace the pads.
For drive chains, remove, clean and lube before correctly adjusting. Shaft drives need some attention too! So check the joints and rubber boots for wear and if the shaft runs in an oil bath, check the level.
Banish those Winter Blues
As mentioned earlier, riding through winter is all about keeping your acceleration, braking and cornering smooth, hence the importance of a pre-winter service.
So you can operate your motorcycle safely, it is equally important to stay warm and dry, so make sure your riding gear is winter-proof too.
Riding through the winter months can be low on laughs. By preparing your bike for winter, you will give yourself the greatest chance of risk-free riding.