Save for a few hardy souls, motorcycling in the UK and the United States is a largely seasonal activity. As the nights draw in and the days get colder, so it is that many bikes get laid up for the winter months.
But with spring officially here, and summer on the horizon, lighter nights and the weather awaken the urge to bring your bike out of hibernation.
But before you hit the road, here are a few recommendations from UK bike insurance providers Bennetts to make sure the wheels keep turning on your awakened steed.
Of course, how you recommission your bike largely depends on what you do prior to laying it up.
Adding some fuel additives (often called preservatives or conditioner) such as a fuel Stabilizer, can save the heartache of the fuel degrading and blocking up the injectors or carburetor jets and are well recommended, and we would definitely recommend an optimizer to preserve the battery.
If you have paddock stands then we would also recommend using these to take the weight off the tires, and if possible the strategic and liberal squirting of something like a corrosion inhibitor, before covering your pride and joy up and placing it in the warmest spot in your garage. There’s also a school of thought that suggests giving your bike an annual service before laying up too…
Assuming you don’t, there’s no better time than now to get your bike serviced. Whether you do it yourself or get a mechanic to do it, it’s the perfect time to look over all the safety critical aspects of your machine. If it’s not in need of a service, then here are some key things to look out for. It’s not a definitive list, and many of these checks should form part of your regular pre-ride routine anyway.
If it’s been laid up, the chances are that your brakes may have seized up a little and that the fluid will have absorbed some moisture, making them feel spongy. As a minimum, a thorough visual inspection and test at walking pace is required. We’d also recommend cleaning up any surface corrosion from your brake discs and ensuring that any protective fluid you sprayed on has been washed off. If in doubt, we’d highly recommend changing the brake fluid and changing pads if need be.
Hopefully you’ve had this on a tender (more commonly known as Optimate) over the winter but if not, your battery probably needs a dose of TLC. If your battery isn’t sealed, check the water level (using distilled water to top up) and clean up the terminals (using a little grease on the connection).
Hopefully a slow charge will bring it back to life. Do be aware that non-use can affect the battery and may ultimately mean that the battery will no longer hold a charge. If the battery struggles to turn the engine over, or quickly loses charge, you should consider replacing the battery – especially if you run additional electrical items (such as heated grips, a sat nav or alarm) that place a larger-than-usual strain on the charging system.
Ideally, you put some fuel additive in the tank before laying up but, if you didn’t, there’s a chance that the fuel will have gone “off” and can lead to the fuel injectors (or carburetor jets on older bikes) getting clogged up. We’d recommend putting fresh fuel in as a minimum, but if it runs rough, new fuel filters and a clean-up of the injectors/jets could well be required.
If you changed the oil and filter before laying up, you’ve probably got nothing to worry about, though we would still check the levels and check for any moisture that may have got into the system. If you didn’t change it, then do it now!
Pay particular attention to your tires. Check the pressures and make sure that they are as per the owner’s manual. If your bike has not been on paddock stands or moved around over winter, you may find that the weight of the bike has caused some damage to the tires. If there are any cracks on the sidewalls, change the tires. Don’t take any chances.
Suspension and Steering
Give these a thorough inspection, checking for any excessive wear or play in the steering or shock absorbers. Tighten up any looseness in the steering head and check for any leaky fork seals.
If your bike is liquid cooled, check your coolant. Remove the radiator cap (when the engine is cold) and check to make sure that it is both clean and above the minimum level. Dirty coolant can clog up the radiator and water jackets, so if it doesn’t look clean, flush out the system and replace with a fresh mixture of anti-freeze and water.
Check all your lights are working properly and replace any faulty bulbs or fuses as necessary. Finally, w washing your bike is always a good way to get intimate with it and check for any damage or excessive wear. Give your bike a good clean and wax, removing any surface corrosion and oily corrosion inhibitors you may have lashed on before the winter.
And while you’ve given your bike the once over, don’t forget the rider too. Make sure your riding gear is in good condition and still fits well after a winter of indulgence. It’s also advisable to start off with a nice gentle first ride out to get back into the swing of things and blow the cobwebs off both man and machine.
Before getting back on the road, make sure that your riding gear is also in a good state of repair. Don’t forget the rider too. If you’ve been out of the saddle for a few months, ease back into the groove and make sure you blow the cobwebs off with a nice gentle first outing.