Every year, we go through this. We have a couple of nice days and suddenly, riders just fall out of the bushes with bikes they’ve drug out of hibernation. About that same time, too, folks in the U.S. are getting their tax refunds from Uncle Sam and blowing it on brand new bikes they aren’t sure how to ride, how to maintain, or how to care for.
Everybody, just take a break for a second. I know that we all want to get on the bike and ride all weekend, but a little pre-flight checkup is never a bad thing. Take an hour or two before you get on the bike and set your year up for success.
First of all, different scenarios call for different reactions. If you are new to riding, then your new bike (hopefully) came with some instructions, a warranty, and maybe some dealership service.
For the rest of us who are pulling the scoot from the garage, here’s what you need to consider:
To start with, the amount of work you have to do in the Spring is directly proportional to the amount of work you did when you put your bike up for the winter. Did you give it a full tune up, detail clean it? Winterize the fuel system? I know we talked about it, but maybe the ball game was on, hunting season was open, or it was just too damn cold in the garage because you rode until it started snowing.
If you went through all the systems on your bike and have had the battery on a trickle charger, then you might just be able to fuel it up, prime the carb(s), and be ready to start it. Don’t.
Take a couple of minutes, pull the plugs, dribble a little automatic transmission fluid into the cylinders, and then, with the plugs in the engine but not hooked up to the plug wires, turn the engine over a few times. The ATF will give you a little top-end lubrication, the starter will get some oil circulating and, at the same time, start getting some fuel into the carb bowl.
NOW, hook up you plug wires (correctly) and spin the starter over.
There’s two schools of thought on whether you should change oil that’s been sitting over the winter. Lots of guys “winterize” with new oil, then run that for a bit in the spring before a regular change. I’ve done it about as many ways as there are – changed in the Fall and changed it before firing it up in the Spring, NOT changed in the Fall and done a full tune up before Spring riding season opened, and changed in the Fall and rode for a while in the Spring. I’m sure there are experts out there who have their own ways of doing things that they feel are best, but whatever you do, please, please, please, make sure you’ve got fresh oil in the crankcase on a regular basis. Filtration is next to nothing on V-twins and with the amount of heat generated, oil simply doesn’t last.
Fresh oil is by far the cheapest insurance policy you can buy for your bike and there’s no reason that you can’t do it yourself no matter how small of a work area you have.
Now, I know that some of you guys still have snow up to your waists (my buddy out in Colorado sent me a picture of the door of his garage where he keeps his Road King – snow is drifted 5 feet on the back door). Here’s a hint for you:
Get your riding leathers cleaned professionally. Sure, it’ll cost you a little money, but you, too, can start the riding season as clean and fresh as the engine in your bike. What’s more, you’ll be able to get all the “funkiness” out of the leather so it’ll actually last longer, freeing up your bike budget to get more goodies.
Here’s another hint – take a look at all your gear. How old is your helmet? After 5 years, you really shouldn’t be trusting it to keep your head together – the fiberglass can be weakened by UV rays and all the little bumps it takes just being around you. The last thing you want to do is to tempt fate by “running around the corner” with a helmet that can’t save your life.
How about your gloves? Goggles? Did the kids get into your tool kit or “borrow” your rain gear? Take the time right now to make sure that everything is tip-top because we both know, when the sun is out, the call of the open road is strong.
Down here in south Georgia, riding season is definitely here, but the pollen is killing me – clouds of the yellow stuff is just blowing all over and has me sneezing like crazy – something I hate to do on the back of the bike. That’s not to say I haven’t gotten in some riding, but I’ve had to pick my days and routes wisely. Another week or two and it’ll be gone and I can really get out of the house and put some miles on the bike.
Keep the shiny side up – and get ready!