As the sun emerges from the gloomy winter, many motorcyclists will be dusting off their bikes and getting ready to head out on the highway again.
And while it’s tempting to thumb that starter and head off over the horizon, it’s worth taking some time out to conduct some pre-flight checks, to ensure bike and rider are ready for the summer ahead.
If you and your bike have been off the road over winter we recommend taking some time to check over your machine before riding. As a rule, you should be checking over your bike frequently anyway, but take extra care looking at safety critical items. Check your oil, make sure the brakes are free and working as they should and give the tyres a good inspection. Ideally the bike will have been off the ground on stands over the winter to stop the tyres getting flat spots but, even if it has been, check the pressures and inspect the tyre and sidewalls for any cracks or cuts. Any sign of damage, sort it out! While you’re at it, check the drive chain or belt if you have one, adjusting and lubricating where required – replacing if necessary.
Once you have checked the bike over, fire it up and let it come up to temperature. Take a look for any leaks or anything untoward, like warning lights on the dash. If anything doesn’t seem right, switch the bike off and carry out repairs if you can. If you aren’t mechanically minded, it’s best to bring in the experts. If your bike is due for an MoT soon, it’s always worth getting it done before you start racking up the miles. You can get the MoT test carried out up to a month before the expiry date of the current certificate, and it is a great way to be reassured that your motorcycle is roadworthy.
It’s not just the bike to consider. Give your riding gear a good once over too. Hopefully you kept it somewhere dry and warm but check it over and make sure it’s in good order, with no broken zips and the like. Best check it still fits too, after the excesses of Christmas and New Year!
Not everyone knows it, but motorcycle crash helmets generally have a shelf life of around five years. Spring is a good time to audit your riding gear and the crash helmet should be at the top of the list. If your lid is coming up for that fifth anniversary it might be time to start looking around for a new one but, at the very least, give it a good inspection. If you can’t remember when you got your helmet, you’ll usually find a date of manufacture stamped somewhere on the inside, so look for this.
If you didn’t take the removable scull cap out and clean it before the onset of winter, it’s a good idea to do this now. Sweat, and some hair products, can cause the inner lining to deteriorate and reduce its effectiveness. Have a look at the inner foam lining. If it shows signs of looseness, flaking or general deterioration it’s definitely time for a change.
Also, don’t forget your earplugs. These are some of the smallest and least expensive pieces of protection in the motorcyclists armoury, but some of the most important too. Wind noise generated at motorway speeds can cause tinnitus, a permanent ringing in the ears and even permanent deafness. This can be avoided by wearing appropriate hearing protection underneath the helmet. Starting the riding season with clean earplugs is essential. Wearing dirty plugs is a one way ticket to an ear infection, but reusable hearing protectors like Auritech Biker (which feature a patented ceramic filter to block out harmful wind noise, while allowing lower frequency sounds like speech and engine noise to be heard) can be washed and sanitised between uses. Make sure this is done before taking your first ride out.
When you’re happy all’s good with your bike and kit, it’s time to go on that first ride out of the year. Just like an athlete training for a marathon after a lay off, it makes sense to break yourself back in gently. Take a leisurely shakedown ride out locally, on roads you know well, to get back into the swing of things. Build up your confidence and bike fitness slowly, making sure your bike is in tip top condition before tackling those longer and more adventurous rides.