Sometimes winter can seem to stretch on forever. Warm sunny riding days can seem like a distant memory when our motorcycles are stored away in a garage for months at a time. But eventually spring does come, and brings with it several key maintenance and riding steps that you should take to make sure you have a fun and safe riding season!
If it’s already summer where you live, read our Summer Riding tips.
Motorcycle Spring Riding: Maintenance, Hazards, and Exercises
Dewinterizing a motorcycle, if you’ve performed proper maintenance during the riding season, is a relatively simple process with a few key steps to take. The United States Motorcycle Safety Foundation provides a comprehensive pre-ride checklist for riders to reference before setting out on any ride, but some top spring-riding specific tips are highlighted below.
Remember, it’s always important to reference your motorcycle’s user or maintenance manual for model-dependent specifications.
- Battery Check: Ideally you’ve safely stored your battery inside attached to a trickle charger over the cold winter months, but if not (and potentially even if you have) it’s a good idea to check the voltage and recharge if needed.
- New Oil + Gas: If you haven’t added a gas preservative before storing your bike for winter, be sure to drain and add fresh gas. After roughly 6 weeks, old gas will begin to evaporate and thicken (which can potentially plug your engine). Depending on your maintenance schedule, either change or top of your oil as well.
- Tire Inspection: Tires are literally the only thing keeping you from the road, so it’s important to make them a priority in your maintenance routine. Check the air pressure of both tires, and look for any bulging, cracking, rot, or excessive wear.
- Brake Check: Now that you’ve made sure that you can go, make sure that you can stop! Check your brake fluid level and assess your brake lines, assembly, and pads to make sure all are in optimal working condition. Test both the front and rear brakes separately.
- Chain Condition: Check your chain tightness, condition, and sprocket condition, and lubricate your chain if necessary (being careful not to get any onto your rear tire).
- Cable Condition: The last thing you need to happen at speed is a throttle or clutch cable snapping. Check all cable function and mobility, ensuring there is no twisting or pinching as the bars turn. Use cable lube if needed.
The condition of your riding skill is just as important as the condition of your bike! After a long winter (or even just a long break) even the most advanced riders will need to take time to touch up on their riding skills. Below are recommended exercises to help you get back up to speed:
Image: Motorcycle Safety Foundation
Slow Speed Maneuvers – Slow speed maneuvers are particularly challenging because they force a rider to coordinate their clutch control, throttle control, and body weight placement. You can practice slow-speed maneuvers by simulating “U-turns” within a predetermined space. Find a safe location to practice turning the bike as smoothly and tightly as you can, first one way, and then without stopping turn the other way as well. If you’re correctly performing a U-turn your handlebars should be at or almost at “full lock” in either direction.
Image: The Drive
Emergency Braking – Any emergency response needs to be automatic, and the same holds true for motorcycling skills. Refreshing your emergency-braking technique is a great way to not only brush up on your skills, but to confirm proper brake function as well.
Begin by executing an emergency brake in a straight line. Remember, if your front tire begins to slide, let go of your brakes and smoothly re-apply pressure. If your back tire begins to slide, maintain pressure until you come to a complete stop, then use less back brake next time. Once you’re comfortable in safely finding the limits of your bike’s braking capabilities in a straight line, execute a straighten-and-brake exercise from a curve.
Image: Hupy and Abraham S.C.
Emergency Swerving – If you’ve been off two wheels for a while, emergency swerving is another key motorcycle maneuver that is essential to practice before heading out onto the road. During this maneuver, it’s important to remember to press (not turn) your handlebar in the direction that you’d like the motorcycle to go, and then press again to bring the bike back upright under you. The bike should feel like it’s “dropping away” under you while your upper body remains upright. Do not apply the brakes during this maneuver.
Common Spring Motorcycle Riding Hazards
When you’re ready to hit the road there’s one more step to take to make sure you have a fun and safe and riding season — and that’s being mentally prepared for the hazards of spring riding.
Spring presents its own unique riding risks that every motorcyclist should keep in mind before they even swing a leg over the saddle.
- Road debris like gravel, dirt, and oil are more common in spring before the rainstorms of the season have washed them away. Be particularly careful during the first 30 minutes of any rainstorm when debris rises to the surface of the road, and in corners and around intersections.
- Deer and wildlife are also particularly active in spring. Many animals are in a “foraging” state when the weather warms, which means an increase in collision hazards, particularly during dawn and dusk.
- Roadway users are, unfortunately, not always expecting to see motorcyclists during the early spring months. Unintentional blindness — when someone does not see something they’re not expecting to see despite it being in plain sight — is a constant danger for motorcyclists, particularly in the very early and very late riding months.
- Unpredictable weather is a hallmark of spring riding and can pose a threat to even the most skilled motorcycle riders. Cold weather can decrease your mental and physical capabilities, while fog, rain, and snow can all decrease your visibility and traction. If you’re riding in spring it’s a good idea to pack extra layers and to plan time to pull over to wait out poor weather if needed.
During your first few motorcycle rides of the season it’s also important to be assessing the mechanical function of your motorcycle. Small changes in performance, like a “loose” feeling back tire, could indicate a serious mechanical malfunction like a leaking brake line. Many riders plan shorter trips for their first few rides of the season, and it’s a wise idea to stop regularly to assess your motorcycle’s condition.
Springtime can be one of the most beautiful and enjoyable times in the season to ride, and although ensuring that both you and your bike are in top working condition can seem time-consuming or unnecessary, a few extra steps in prevention and preparation will go a long way in ensuring that you have a fun and successful riding season!
For more great content tips, and to get the latest news on product releases and sales, sign up below. Don’t forget to visit the Ride Vision blog page for more great motorcycling content.