by Liz Jansen
Updated for Spring 2016
After having your motorcycle in hibernation for the winter, getting out for that first ride is one of the most anticipated rites of spring. But before you do, there are three things to do:
- Check your motorcycle
- Check your gear
- Check your readiness to ride
They’re important rituals before any ride but especially at the beginning of the season.
This article will cover how to check your motorcycle before that first ride. Even if you were meticulous in winterizing it, corrosion, condensation, and critters may have caused damage while it was stored. A thorough and methodical check can alert you to areas that need attention and reassure you that it’s safe to ride.
Always refer to your owner’s manual for guidance for your own specific motorcycle.
Check Your Motorcycle in 10 Steps
- Tire condition. Check for tread depth, flat spots, embedded objects, bulges, damage, and cracks. They should be OK if you followed our winterizing instructions – however, it’s always good to make sure. Keeping your tires in good condition is one of the most important, and easiest, checks you can make to keep yourself safe. Read Motorcycle Tire Guide 101 from RevZilla
- Tire pressure. Check both tires when they’re cold and make sure they’re at the setting recommended by your motorcycle manufacturer. Tires can lose air pressure with time, especially in cold weather.
- Fluids. Check for any leaks before and after you’ve started it for the first time. Make sure your brake fluid is within spec, both in terms of quantity and age. It needs to be replaced periodically; fluid that is dark amber is likely due for a change. Do a full circle check, inspecting hoses, cables, and fluid levels.
- Oil and oil filter. Change your oil and filter unless it was done in the fall.
- Battery and wiring. If you’ve kept your battery on a trickle charger, it should have maintained its integrity. Examine it and make sure it is fully charged and topped up, depending on the type of battery you have. Make sure the strap that holds it in place is secure. Check the terminals and leads to make sure they’re secure and free of corrosion. Check the wiring for any signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Make sure all the lights and turn indicators are working.
- Tool kit. Make sure the tools in your bike’s kit are clean, and free of rust. Double check to make sure everything is still there and replenish if necessary. You may want to add a few small frequently used items that aren’t in your kit, such as an air pressure gauge.
- Drive chain and sprockets. Make sure the chain is clean and well lubricated. Check the sprockets for wear and before you take it out for the first time, make sure the chain tension is set to your manufacturer’s specifications. How to Maintain Your Motorcycle’s Chain and Sprockets from BikeBandit
- Air filter. If you plugged your air filter to prevent critters from nesting, make sure to unplug it now. If you didn’t, check for evidence that it’s been used as a winter residence. One season mine was full of sunflower seed shells. Also remove any plugs from your exhaust pipes.
- Fuel intake. If your bike is carbureted, make sure the gas supply is turned on.
- Brake pads. Look at each set of brake pads on your bike to confirm there’s still lots of wear left. Often brake pads have wear bars on them just as tires do. Change them now if necessary.
Even if your bike didn’t rust over the winter, to varying degrees, your skills will have. Ease back to riding gently and safely. You want to enjoy a full riding season. We’ll cover how to check your gear and your readiness to ride in subsequent posts.