Motorcycle maintenance: some advice for getting back on the road in springtime

Winter and the cold weather are beginning to loosen their grip and unless you are the type of person that enjoys winter bike trips and rallies, the chances are that your bike has been snoozing the time away on a bike stand in the garage. No problem though: those night-time trips to the garage to lift the bike cover and make sure that everything is alright are about to come to an end.

If you have followed the rules for proper winter garaging, all you need to do now to get back on the road is to take care of a few basic but important things.

  • Tyres. The tyres are two of the most important components of your motorcycle and if they are in excellent condition your trips will also be excellent, however, if you overlook tyre pressure and wear checks, your trips will soon become a nightmare. When garaging your bike for the winter, especially if you don’t use a bike stand, it is generally a good idea to inflate the tyres to 0.2-0.3 bar higher than the recommended pressure to make up for normal pressure loss. Not all of us have our own compressor at home, but the pressure gauge at your local tyre vendor or petrol station may not always be properly calibrated: a portable tyre-pressure gauge is a small thing that can eliminate every biker’s biggest worry. Let’s also keep in mind that while tyres don’t really have a “best by” date, this is only true for tyres that are stored off the rim and then not for too many years. So beware of cracking and uneven tread-wear.
  • Braking system. When it comes to braking efficiency, there is absolutely no room whatsoever for carelessness. If you are unsure about how worn the brake shoes may be, start by checking them via the slots provided. Then make sure that the brake fluid in the system is still good by checking your bike user manual or the applicable product specifications. Generally speaking, it is advisable to completely drain and replace the brake fluid every two years. No problem if the brake disks are looking a little rusty: most probably it is only a thin patina of rust caused by the dust from the brake shoes. It will rub off after the first few times that you apply the brakes, but be extremely careful the first time you ride the bike.
  • Chain. One of the most important and most often overlooked parts on many motorcycles. Raise your hand if you can honestly say that you always do the necessary chain maintenance. After a hard winter your bike chain really needs it. Firstly give it a good clean using chain cleaner and a paintbrush (white kerosene will be fine) to remove any traces of dry grease that could hinder the flexibility of the links and ruin the O-Rings. Then lubricate the chain liberally with special chain-grease.
  • Wiring harnesses, wiring and the electrical system. If you didn’t take care of this meticulous job before the arrival of winter, now is the perfect time to lubricate, check and adjust the throttle and clutch cables and lever mechanisms, spray handlebar switches with anti-oxidant spray and check wiring harnesses and rubber components for signs of cracking. If necessary, use silicon lubricant to ensure that the cables run smoothly.
  • Fuel. Unleaded petrol tends to deteriorate and therefore performance may suffer over time. If the bike has only been standing for a few months you should not have any problem starting and riding it: in any event, it is always a good idea to fill the tank with fresh petrol as soon as possible in order to ensure 100% engine performance. If the bike has been standing for an extended period of time, it is strongly recommended that you drain the fuel tank completely and fill up with fresh fuel even before starting it up for the first time. Finally, remember that petrol tends to evaporate, so if you parked your bike with a virtually empty tank (better in the case of non-metal tanks), you could well find yourself walking not very far away from your home driveway.
  • Battery. If you simply disconnected the battery in order to safeguard the bike’s starting mechanism components such as the starter motor and flywheel, it is good practice to check the battery charge level before attempting to start the engine. You can either do this yourself using a tester (the voltage between the terminals must be greater than 12.4V) or get a specialist to do this for you. If instead you used a trickle-charger, all you need to do is to fire up the engine.
  • Engine oil. Checking the oil level is an essential ritual before starting up the engine: follow the instructions contained in the user manual and top up if necessary. If instead the time has come to do a complete oil change, then do so.

Now that your bike is ready for the riding season, all that remains is to make sure that you are just as ready. Check the condition of your biking gear and safety equipment and then go out and join those diehard bikers out there who never stopped riding their bikes, not even in winter.