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Getting Your Bike Ride-Ready in 10 Steps - - BlackboxMyCar Canada

Getting Your Bike Ride-Ready in 10 Steps

Just when you’ve had enough of the cold and snow, the sun’s out, and spring has sprung! Time to fire it up and go - but wait, is your bike road-ready?

Unfortunately, there's much more to it than just unhooking the battery tender to start’er and ride away. Winterized or not, your bike needs a little attention before you hit the road. Here’s a 10-step checklist that will guide you through the process of checking your motorcycle from tip to tail before that first ride.

10 Steps to Getting Your Ride Ready

1. Do a thorough walkaround

As silly as it sounds, fluids can leak when the bike sits for a long time, especially in cold weather. For example, during the winter, fuel leaks could develop due to the expansion and contraction of fuel lines. If you see drips under the bike, you need to investigate if it’s coolant, oil, fuel, etc. Do the sniff test.

You might also want to give your bike a thorough cleaning. After all, a clean bike is easier to inspect. Look for cracked rubber parts, cables, electrical lines.

2. Check the Tires

It is easy to put the bike away for the season and say, I’ll check the tires next year. Then next year rolls around, and you forget that you said that. Then you end up stranded on the road waiting for CAA roadside assistance because your tires are not properly taken care of.

In fact, you should check the wear on your motorcycle tires regularly, and it’s always a good idea to check periodically during the winter storage period to make sure they don’t go flat over the winter. When checking the tires, look closely at the sidewalls and treads for cracks, stress marks, flat spots and abnormal swelling. If you have a rubber valve stem, check for cracks or swelling as well.

3. Lube the Chain

Cleaning and lubricating your drive chain will extend the working life of your motorcycle drive chain and sprockets. While it is not required, you might want to get the rear wheel off the ground - it makes this step much easier. Check for any binding, seized links, or excessive chain and sprocket wear that would indicate it’s time for a replacement. Also, check chain alignment with an alignment tool and measure tension with a gauge.

If all looks well, clean your chain to remove all the gunk and rust, and then lubricate it using a drip bottle - not an aerosol or spray bottle as the overspray can get into the rotor and brake pads, which can ruin your brakes. Wipe off excess lube with a cloth/rag.

4. Check the Brakes

Refer to your owner’s manual to assure you have plenty of wear left. Check the condition of the brake pads and discs or shoes to see if they are thin or if they are wearing unevenly. Measure the remaining depth of the pad material against the spec in your service manual. While sitting on the bike, take it out of gear and roll it forward. Gently apply the front brakes. The brake lever should operate smoothly, and the bike should slow to a stop with no squeaking or screeching, aka noise. Release the brake lever, and it should return smoothly into position, and the bike should be rolling freely with no dragging of the brake callipers. Inspect cables for fraying signs and look for signs of brake fluid leaking from the master cylinder or callipers.

Don’t forget to check the brake fluid. Check your manual for a replacement interval, but if you’re one of those track-days riders, you might need to replace the brake fluid more often.

5. Drain out old gas

Typically, you should winterize your motorcycle with a full tank of gasoline and use a fuel stabilizer. If you missed that, you would need to drain the old fuel and put in some fresh gasoline. While the tank is empty, you should check it for corrosion or rust as it will cause your motorcycle to run poorly or not at all. If you didn’t run your carburetors dry before storing your bike, then you want to clean out your float bowl. If your motorcycle has a fuel filter, this is a great time to replace it.

6. Top off fluids

Top off all of your fluids and make sure the ones within your bike are clean and still useable. If you find that your fluids have gone bad (gunk or stratification), you will want to drain these and replace them with new ones. If you're not sure, just go ahead and do this to make sure your fluids are good for your bike.

7. Charge the Battery

If you have ever had a car sit in your driveway for a long time, you know that the battery can go dead. Same goes for your bike. Now, do you charge the battery or buy a new one? Most motorcycle batteries have a lifespan of three to four years. Things like extremely hot and cold temperatures can impact this lifespan. If your bike is being stored in less than 0°C, it’s best to remove the battery and keep it in a warmer location.

Check the health of your battery before charging it and continuing use. Probing with a multimeter can give you a pretty good picture of your battery’s overall health. If you have already gotten four good years out of your motorcycle battery, you should probably just purchase a new one so that you aren’t stranded with a dead battery. Check your battery terminals and clean if needed.

8. Rev Up the Engine and Inspect the Frame, Suspension, and Steering

As we get into the motorcycle’s main components, you may not feel comfortable handling these areas on your own – that is why mechanics are good at their jobs. If you didn’t spray fogging oil or lubricate the top of the cylinder before storing your bike, now is the time to remove those spark plugs and pour some oil in each of the ports.

Ensure all the frame, suspension, and steering parts are in working order and don’t have any hairline fractures on them. Go over every nut, bolt, and fastener, tightening the ones that need it. Lubricate all the bearings and moving parts.

9. Check the Electrical System

The electrical system of your motorcycle is probably another item you feel best left to the experts. You can handle the simple stuff on your own, though. Check to see if your lights work. Headlights? Check! Turn signals? Check! Brake lights? Check!

You may look at checking the circuit for leaking currents or faults in the wiring harness for the more in-depth stuff. For these, you will need special testing equipment. Things like circuit testers, multimeters, and LED multifunction testers should be available at your local auto parts store.

10. Double-Check Your Insurance Policy

Much like car insurance in the United States, most of the states have made motorcycle insurance mandatory. New Hampshire and Florida are the only states that do not require coverage or proof of financial responsibility for motorcycles. The amount of minimum coverage needed varies by state, just like with car insurance. Still, the main factors determining your pricing are who you are (age), where you are, and the type of motorcycle you have.

In Canada, it is mandatory in every province for motorcyclists to have motorcycle insurance. There are also licensing requirements that are different than those in the US. You will need to check these, especially if you purchase a new bike. Minimum coverages will vary based on the province. Still, in Ontario and British Columbia, you will need to reach out to a broker to insure your motorcycle before you ever think about getting on the road.

In either country, you will want to check with your insurer to ensure you have the coverage needed before you hit the road. Some people choose to insure while riding only, whereas others will insure for the whole year. Check your policy and make sure it is valid on your motorcycle.

Almost ready

Your bike is ready - are you? You do know that your gear needs to be in as good shape as your bike, right?

1. Your gear

Don’t let your first ride out in the spring be ruined because of inadequate gear. Check your gear from the bottom up.

  • Clean and check your boots, bindings, buckles, snaps, bottom soles, etc.
  • Inspect pants for rips, tears and worn spots, and make sure they still fit comfortably.
  • Check all padding and protectors for chest, elbows, knees, etc. You want to make sure these stay in place if you ever need them.
  • Clean and inspect gloves. If the material has thinned, get a new pair.

Has your helmet expired and needs to be replaced? You can find the production date on the chin strap or label. Your sweat and hair oils can break down the protective materials in your helmet, and manufacturers recommend replacement, no matter how it looks, every seven years from the production date or after five years of use.

Look for any wear on the straps. Make sure the padding is firmly in place with no tears. Check the exterior for any unusual-looking wear or stress fractures. If your helmet has ever suffered an impact through a crash or other means, you may seriously want to consider replacing it. What you may consider a minor impact may in fact compromise the integrity of the helmet. Your helmet is your best and last line of defence in a crash. Don’t hit the road without the ultimate in head protection.

2. Brush up your skills

Even riders with years of experience will need to refresh their riding skills after a few months out of the saddle. Give yourself some time to get reacquainted with your bike. While a rider education/refresher course is always a good idea, you can always do a few laps around the block to brush up on your emergency/quick stop, push steering, hand signals, sharp right hand turn from a stop, going slow without wobble, etc.

Improve the safety of your motorcycle

In the United States, 4,985 motorcyclists were killed in 2018 in accidents. Canada saw an average of 187.4 motorcyclists killed in traffic accidents per year from 2009 to 2013. Motorcyclists are highly vulnerable on the road, especially during accidents. How can you be ride-ready this season and be the safest you possibly can be?

There is a way for motorcycle riders to increase their safety and back up their side of an accident – with a dash cam. Dash cams can be used and installed on motorcycles in the United States and Canada. Two popular models are the VIOFO MT1 Dual-Channel Motorcycle Dash Cam and the Thinkware M1 Motorsport Dual Channel WiFi Dash Cam. With these, you don’t have to worry about telling your side of the accident. It will be right there on camera.

Now, your bike, your gear and your skills are in peak condition, and you’ve got your motorcycle dash cam onboard - get out there and enjoy a rockin’ and ridin’ season. Ride safe!

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