Prepping for the spring
5 things every biker should do this spring
You've dreamt of this moment all winter, tugging the covers off to reveal her shiny chrome, settling into your seat, revving the engine and speeding off down the open road...
Woah there, Leslie! Before you get on your bike for your first outing of the spring you'll need to make sure she's in full working order. Why not follow our simple checklist to make certain that both you and your bike are ready for… your first time (this year)?
(You'll notice that most of these tips start with something you hopefully did before laying your bike up for the winter. If you fall foul of these, then in the autumn make sure you watch out for our advice for laying your bike up!).
5. Safety Check
So while you were wrapping your bike up for the winter you obviously removed the battery and possibly even put it on a trickle charger. If not, then your battery may need a bit of TLC. With a non-sealed battery, check the water level and top up with distilled water if required.
Clean up the terminals and put it on a slow charge. Non-use can affect your battery and it may no longer hold a charge, so if it struggles to turn the engine over or loses charge rapidly, you probably need a new one.
Remember when you laid the bike up for the winter? You did put some additive in the tank, didn't you? If you forgot, then the fuel in the tank may have gone ‘off' and could clog your fuel injectors. At a minimum we'd recommend fresh fuel, but if the engine runs rough, you may also need to change the filters and clean the injectors.
Again, preparation was the key here. If your bike was on paddock stands overwinter, then in all likelihood the tyres will be fine – just do your normal pre-ride checks for tread depth, bald spots, cracking on the sidewalls and that the pressures are correct.
If your bike spent the whole winter on her wheels, you should ensure that the tyres haven't become misshapen – flat spots, cracking etc. as well as ensuring you bring the pressure up to spec, as air will certainly have leaked out. If the tyres show more than minimal wear, it could be wise to replace them now to ensure you have good rubber for the whole biking season.
Here, we're talking oil, brake fluid, water and coolant.
Assuming you changed the oil before the winter, you should be ok – just check the levels and inspect for any moisture in the system. If you didn't change it, then do it now! It's also good practice to change the filter at the same time, but at the very least you should give it a check for particle and contaminant build-up.
Brake fluid is a hygroscopic fluid, meaning it takes on moisture from the air. This is why your brakes can feel spongy if you haven't used the bike for a while. Check the levels and top it off if necessary, but again best practice is to flush the system and change the fluid entirely. It's also worth cleaning any corrosion on the brake discs and replacing them if necessary – there's no point risking worn pads for the sake of a few quid.
Water/Coolant – ideally you should do a full flush of your coolant system, but again at the very least make sure it's topped up and that it's clean.
5. Safety Check and Final Prep
- Check the drive belt, chain, or shaft
- Check the suspension – look for rust on the forks tubes and the rear shock shaft – remove with steel wool
- Check all the lights are working and change any broken bulbs or fuses
- Wash or apply a pre-wash, and then thoroughly "bathe" your ride
- Apply leather treatment to leather components
- Polish and wax all chrome and painted parts
- Check your riding gear making sure you've washed any fabrics, and apply waterproofing to your leathers
- Polish your helmet, and clean inside with mild soap before drying
Lastly, allow yourself a bit of time to re-engage your muscle memory. After a few months out of the saddle you might be rusty – the reaction speed might be a fraction slower or your timing a little off, so take it easy. Try to make your first ride a gentle one, and don't push the limits – this will also allow you to identify any hidden mechanical issues which may have developed on the bike.
Practice your braking, turning, shoulder checks, and slow-speed riding before you need these skills in a pressure situation, and be aware that it's still springtime and the road conditions can be changeable.
It's also worth noting that other road users probably won't have seen many bikes on the road in recent months, so ride defensively – don't assume they've seen you and won't move into your lane or turn off right in front of you.
But more than anything once you're good and ready, get out there and enjoy our beautiful countryside from the best vantage point you can get – the seat of your bike.