This year NC actually had all 4 seasons and if you live your life by a motorcycle calendar, the new year didn’t start January 1. It started March 20, the first official day of spring (even if it was still a tad bit chilly). And with a new year and a new warm season comes the refreshing feeling of riding your bike again for the first time. But you can’t just walk back into your garage, sling off the cover like you just unveiled something incredible at a motor show, hope on, and go. You need some motorcycle maintenance, to nurse your bike back into running condition.
Before hitting the road, you need to do a thorough overlook at everything and anything that might need changing or replenishing. Everyone knows that a small problem in the beginning can quickly flip into a bigger (and much more expensive) issue later. Trust us, a couple hours or so of checking out your bike to make sure it’s fit for the road now can save you precious weeks of hassle later. Spend some time (and a few dollars) and set yourself up for a great riding season ahead.
Check all your lights.
If you kept your bike on a battery tender over the winter, your battery is likely in good shape to start the season. Turn on the electrics and get a friend to help you make sure your headlight’s low beam and high beam functions both work, as well as front and rear turn signals and brake lights. Lights in your instrument clusters should be in good working order, as well. If anything isn’t working as it should, now is the time to replace affected light bulbs before you get out on the road. If nothing comes on, your battery needs to be jumped or possibly replaced.
Check Your Tires
Real talk: You should check your tires every single time you ride. On four wheels, you might be inconvenienced by a flat or a slow leak in one of your tires. But when you’re relying on only two wheels, you absolutely need both those tires to be properly inflated and to not be damaged, because your life depends on it. Check the info on your bike (it’s often on the VIN plaque or the chain guard) to find out proper cold tire pressure, no matter what rubber you choose to stick on your bike. Your bike has been sitting in one place all winter, so it isn’t surprising that your tires might be a couple pounds low. Replace your rubber, if it’s damaged, badly squared off, or too worn down.
Check Your Oil, Brakes and Coolant
The last thing you want on a nice day of riding is to find out that your fluids are either no longer performing like they should, or that you don’t have enough of them in your bike to do their jobs. If you don’t already have a solid maintenance schedule set up where you’re checking and changing out all three of these fluids on a regular basis, now is a great time to start.
If you just bought a bike on the used market and have no idea when any of these fluids were last changed, start your bike season out right and have them all changed. Then get a notebook or binder and start keeping a dated and detailed maintenance record. This will not only save you the hassle in the future — it could help you make a little more money if you ever sell the bike later on. Complete service histories instill buyer confidence — especially if you’re selling a classic or a bike that has a reputation for getting seriously abused on the track or the street.
Check Your Chain and Sprockets
Ideally, you have a regular maintenance schedule over your active riding season, where you clean and lube your chain every X amount of miles. We’ll assume that you do (and if you don’t, a new season is a good time to start such a schedule). Check that your chain is neither too loose nor too tight (your owner’s manual should have specific instructions about this, and your chain guard might have a gauge on it to help you adjust the chain properly).
Check that it’s clean from debris or grime buildup and that it moves smoothly as you turn the rear wheel. Use a rear stand to check this, if your bike doesn’t come equipped with a center stand that lifts your rear wheel off the ground. Examine the sprockets for any obviously worn-down or chipped teeth — as well as rarer problems, like cracks or other significant and dangerous damage. Replace chain and/or sprockets they are worn or in bad shape.
Clean Out Your Fuel System
Ideally, you filled your gas tank before you put your bike away at the beginning of winter. (Why? A full tank leaves less room for condensation to build up, and less possibility of freezing water in your gas tank. It’s good practice to help prevent rust — particularly if you have a metal tank.) Even if you did that, though, your bike still sat idle for a few months. That means the fuel system may be gunked up simply from not being used. This is especially relevant if your baby is an older bike, and/or is carbureted.
Examine Everything In Detail
Check your frame (and fairings, if you have them), torque everything properly, tighten screws — basically, look over every square inch of your bike. Check that things like your fork seals aren’t cracked, and that your forks aren’t weeping oil. Isn’t your bike beautiful? Oh wait, what’s that crack on the frame? Phew, it’s just dirt. Better to know that now (and wipe it off) than to find out that it’s a serious piece of damage that puts you in danger when you’re going 140.