Spring Checklist for New Riders (And Proficient Riders too!)
For a lot of you, you haven't ridden (at least consistently) in the past 2 or 3 (or more) months, but in the next few weeks will be getting that old bike out and hitting the road.
I thought I'd write up a few tips to getting the bike (and you!) ready for spring. If you have something to contribute, feel free!
Getting the Bike Ready:
Mechanical failure is sometimes a pretty silly reason to wreck, often because it's easily avoidable. Here are a few things to double check before riding out this spring;
Check pressure in both tires. This is a good habit to have anyway, doing it every week or two. However, often those first days of spring can give us a short riding window and we don't want to waste it doing anything else! But, make sure to check that tire pressure. It could have dropped 10 or 15 PSI over the winter, even a couple pounds difference can seriously affect braking and handling! Better to find it out in the garage, than on the road!
Check your oil level, and change the oil if it's time. Remember that oil does break down over time when it's been introduced to the moisture and contaminants in your engine. If you've ridden sporadically over the winter (meaning occasional warmup and cooldown; which can be hard on a stored engine), you might consider an early spring oil change. That's optional, and depends on you and your maintenance schedule. However, it's good to check the oil level anyway to ensure it's not low.
Check to make sure all of your controls are free and not binding, and that they feel like they should. Rust could have crept up into a cable over the winter, or something could have come loose. Sure would stink you be out of the driveway and coming up on a stop sign when you find out your brakes aren't working!
Check brake, clutch (if applicable) fluid levels, also take a look at coolant levels and any other fluids your bike may have (final drive, etc.)
Check and make sure your headlight, taillight, running lights and turn signals are working as they should.
You've already checked the tire pressure, but give them a good once-over and check for cracks, wear, cupping, or other potential hazards. Tires can sometimes develop damage or dry rot when stored over the winter.
Make sure that any accessories you have are securely installed, that nothing has come loose, and that everything is behaving as it should.
All of these things are good to check periodically throughout the riding season. But they are CRUCIAL to check in the spring, as winter storage; despite the bike not being ridden; can hide some really serious gremlins.
GETTING YOU READY:
If the bike is safe and ready, make sure you are safe and ready! The following is especially true for new riders, but this really should apply to all riders!
Anything you typically wear when you ride might have been stored in a closet over the winter. Riding gear, a vest, a leather jacket for the cold, helmet, etc. Check to make sure they aren't somehow damaged or frayed, which could become a hazard. Might be worth washing and cleaning everything when the weather starts to get warmer, so you don't spoil that first spring ride with a stinky helmet liner!
Once you get the bike out, get her warmed out then find a nice open parking lot or a nice open street with no traffic. Practice braking, and work your way up to a maximum effort stop from a moderate speed (Maximum Effort stop means the most stopping power you can muster from the bike WITHOUT locking up the tires)
Get a feel for the bike by practicing swerving (I like to pick out anomalies in the road, like a leaf or a filled in pothole, and make them a 'target' to swerve around, similar to a small animal that might run into my path in the spring!)
It's a great idea to get a feel for the machine by doing some basic practice exercises. I like to do this every couple of months; or whenever I think about it. But, if you're like me you've spent way too much time in a car over the winter. So; take the time to re-acquaint yourself with that bike and remind those muscles where that maximum effort stop point is, where the friction zone on the clutch is, etc.
Just thought I'd post those couple of tips as I recall we had several new riders late last summer and late last fall on this forum. Might be some good tips for those folks to remember; but again, I really think ALL riders should have a 'spring ritual' that involves checking over the bike, and a quick refresher on handling the bike in adverse situations.
If anyone has anything to add let me know and I'll add it to the list!
"8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8 (NIV)
2014 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS SE
iPod Connector Kit, Kuryakyn Highway Pegs, Mustang Touring Seat, Marvella's Hitch, Kuryakyn Trailer Wiring Kit, Haul-Master Tag-a-Long Cargo Trailer
2011 Honda Shadow Aero 750 (Wife's)
Memphis shades quick-release windshield, OEM Solo Seat, Mustang Fender Bib, Chrome Solo Luggage Rack
Past: 2006 Vulcan 900 Classic LT