Written by Graham Cutbill-White
Spring has sprung, well for most of us, and that means it’s time for the covers to come off and for riders to back on the bike for the first time.
While some diehard bikers having been braving the wind, rain and snow over the winter, most people will have tucked away their rides for the colder months and are only now starting to dust off the cobwebs and riding their motorcycles once again.
But no matter how long you’ve been off your ride and regardless of how much damage winter has done to your bike, we’ve got everything you need to get you back on the bike in time for spring.
Like all machines, motorbikes require regular use to stay in peak condition so it’s very likely that after a few months in the garage, things might not be in the best shape.
To ensure your bike is up to scratch and ready to go back on the road, here are a few essential motorcycle maintenance tips.
It’s more than likely that you will have left some fuel in the tank before locking your bike away for the winter.
Depending on how you prepared your bike before storing it, you could find that the fuel has completely changed into some sort of brown mucky gunk. This is because parts of the chemical mixture have changed, and the octane has evaporated.
This mixture can cause big issues when you go to start the engine for the first time, especially if you haven’t run the engine at all over the past few months.
If that is the case, and you find the carburettor and other areas blocked you should try and clean the carburettor, pour out any remaining fuel and use a liquid cleaner to clear out any residue. This will stop any problems and ensure your bike runs well the first time around.
Of course, if you have left a little bit of fuel in the tank over the winter, ensure that there is no condensation in the tank and if there is, empty the tank and refill it with fresh fuel.
Much like the fuel tank, a bike’s brakes can also feel the effects of a long period without being used. Brakes can often seize up and you can also find that the fluid in your brakes has absorbed moisture. If you find that when using the brake, it feels spongy, this is likely the issue.
To fix this, you’ll need to bleed the brakes to remove the moisture – you can read more about how to do this yourself, here. If you’re not sure if you can do this be sure to visit a qualified mechanic.
You should also have a quick look for any visible signs of wear on the brake pads; if you see any or feel the bike roll when trying to bring it to a stop during a walking brake test, you should strongly consider changing your brake pads.
Slow-charge or trickle-charge devices are ideal when you’re storing your bike for long periods of time. They allow you to ensure your battery is getting power in the colder months without having to continuously check up on it.
If, however, you haven’t been using one of these optimisers, you might get a bit of a shock when you go to start her up in the spring. It could quite easily have died during the time you weren’t using it so try charging it using one of these slow-charge devices.
Should the battery fail to keep the charge or if you can’t start the engine at all, you’ll need to replace the battery.
It’s fair to say that your tyres are the most important part of your bike and it’s also fair to say that leaving them locked away for months, with the weight of the entire bike pressing down on them, won’t do them any favours.
Tyres can quite easily go flat over the winter which will not only affect performance come spring but can also be very dangerous. Ensure you’ve checked the tyre pressure and that they’re inflated to the recommended pressure.
Also, spend some time looking at your wheels for any balding or cracks, and any general wear. If you see any large cracks, cuts or lumps it’s probably worth changing your tyres as even small amounts of damage could have a knock-on effect, and the last thing you want once you’re back on the road is to have tyre problems.
In many situations, your helmet is the only thing separating you between life and death. Now, it’s very unlikely that much will have changed with your helmet over the past few months, but there’s no time like the present to check that everything is still in good condition.
It’s recommended that you change your helmet every 5 years, so this spring could be the perfect opportunity to do so.
On the subject of clothing, you should ensure that your leathers still fit after the festive period and is flexible and not stiff after months without use. If you find the leather tough and tight, try using some leather conditioner to make sure you get the protection you need.
Getting your bike out for the first time is the ideal opportunity to top up the various fluids you need to ensure your bike performs at its peak.
Check your oil is topped up with the correct fluid and if you’ve emptied your brake fluid as we mentioned earlier, make sure that is filled up using the type specified by the manufacturer.
Be sure to give the bike a once over first before even getting out on the road, check for any visible signs of damage and repair and replace as applicable.
You can also take advantage of the nice weather and give your bike a scrub so it’s looking it’s best for the first ride of the year, and after doing so, make sure you re-oil your chain!
It’s just the bike that might have got a bit rusty and seen it’s fair share of wear and tear over the winter months, like most of us, a few months without regular rides can leave us with a little bit of ring rust.
If you feel like you’re not totally prepared to head straight back on the road, you should take some time to do some practice on private land or on a quiet road without many cars or pedestrians.
Start slowly with some simple circles and turns to get your balance back and refamiliarise yourself with the bike. You should also spend some time practising your braking.
Once you’ve spent time practicing and tuning up your riding skills, you should be ready to hit the road again but remember that you’re riding again for the first time in quite a while so be sure to be cautious on the road, keep an extra eye out for cars and while you should take your time in making decisions on the road, be ready for situations to change quickly and react accordingly.
Spring is surpassingly one of the most dangerous times to be a motorcyclist. In winter, most riders avoid the roads but in spring, when people are feeling confident enough to ride again, they face roads which are still feeling the effects of the winter weather, dangerous potholes and other road users who have forgotten how to share the streets with bikers.
With all these potential hazards, it’s important to take it easy for your first few rides. Accidents can have a much bigger impact on motorcyclists and the last thing you’ll want on your first ride back is to have a crash or come off your bike.
One of the most important ways to stay safe when riding is to be fully insured. While insurance can’t stop you having an accident, it can help pick up the pieces afterwards and ensure you’re not left financially crippled by a simple accident.
Having motorcycle insurance is also, of course, the law and whether you’re riding every day or prefer to use your bike occasionally, you need to have some form of insurance.
That being said; while you must have insurance on the bike, the type of insurance you should have depends entirely on your circumstances.
If you are someone that uses their bike every day for commuting or generally getting from A to B then you’ll need an annual insurance policy, but if you’re only riding occasionally, this option could mean you’re paying for insurance you just don’t need.
For occasional riders, you could save money with temporary motorcycle insurance from Tempcover. It’s the flexible, affordable approach to insurance that allows you to choose of your cover, from 1-7 days.
You get comprehensive cover as standard and because you can customise your policy to suit your needs, you get the cover you want without having to pay for insurance you don’t need. You also get access to a range of affordable extras to give you that extra peace of mind.
If you’re borrowing a bike from a friend or family member, temporary insurance protects their No Claims Discount and won’t have any impact on any existing insurance you or they may have.
For a range of everyday situations, temporary bike insurance is the ideal way to save time and money on insurance. Find out if a temporary insurance policy is best for you here and to see how much you could save, get a quote online now.