Author’s Note: In light of our current situation surrounding self-isolation and social-distancing, we ask that you ride responsibly – please ride alone, and avoid large groups.
Everyone knows January 1st is the beginning of the New Year, but for me the year really doesn’t get underway until the snow melts and the open road beckons. When I feel that urge to pull my motorbike from its winter slumber, here is my checklist to make that first run of the year a little more enjoyable:
Lights – I always pull my battery in fall and put it on a battery tender over the winter. In spring it is primed and ready to install back in the bike. Then, I can check all of the lights and gauges. Headlight (low and high beam), taillight, brake light, signal lights and even the instrument cluster are all a vital part of having a safe ride.
Tires– I am relying on two wheels to keep me upright so I want to know they are up to the task. I check the air pressure and visually inspect front and back for sidewall cracks, cuts or other damage. It’s also a great idea to slowly roll the bike and have a friend check between the treads for cracks and excessive tread wear.
Fluid levels– We all know this one right? Brake fluid, engine oil, coolant are all very important to giving your bike a longer life. If you didn’t change your motor oil just before parking for the winter, now is the time. . . before firing up the engine. Draining the pan helps remove the sludge that settled while the old oil sat over the winter.
Drive train– If you have a belt drive look for cracks, splits or nicks. For chain drive give the chain and the sprockets a once over. Look for unnecessary wear and tear and also check the tension of your chain – too loose or too tight are both a bad situation. For me its shaft drive – I check for lubricant leaks and dings or dents to the drive cover.
Air flow– When I park my bike, I sometimes forget to inspect the air filter. Now is a great time. The engine cannot run efficiently if it can’t breathe. I look for leaves, dust, debris or heaven forbid… a small critter that may have used the air box as a home for the winter!
A hands-on inspection– I push, pull and prod as much of the bike as possible. Checking for loose bolts or nuts, rust spots, cracked hoses or frayed wires. If I forget to use a fuel treatment in fall, I drain and replace the fuel.
And maybe the most important – I take it easy on that first ride. I want to be confident my iron horse is in peak shape before I try setting any land speed records. I let myself get used to the feel of the throttle, clutch and brakes before hitting the highway. And I keep a wary eye. . . patches of sand and gravel on a corner can be bad news!
So, once you have your bike out and ready to go, take it for a little spin – the fresh air is good for you!
~ Ron Heizelman