Welcome to TMW’s Top 10 Tips for Spring Motorcycle Riding. If you’re like us, these recent warm temps and bright sunlight have you ready to get back into the wind! Winter is over and we’re all ready to start the riding season, but we might be out of practice and our equipment might need some attention. These ten tips will make sure we get going again safely and smoothly, and avoid any common mistakes. Extra bonus tips on each point offer up some of my own personal insights and even my own embarrassing learning lessons!
If you missed our previous article Inspiration Friday: Spring Riding Season, don’t forget to read that one too as it is full of inspiration to get you started and out on the road!
We hope you find our tips helpful and please share this page on Social Media to help your fellow bikers this year get a good safe start.
Top 10 Tips to Dust Off for Spring Riding
1. Check Your Paperwork
We all know insurance is a complicated beast, and us motorcyclists learn a whole new level of complexity don’t we? You may have downgraded your insurance to a “storage” policy over the winter, or your policy might have lapsed (Check out our previous storage articles here, here, here, here, guide). Also, a lot of us like to bolt on or slap in some accessories over the winter months. If that’s you, review your policy and make sure your new farkle is covered by your policy limits. If you added a lowjack or other tracking device, you should let your insurance company know about that too. It could swing you a discount.
Extra Tip: Keep a copy of your insurance in a waterproof folder in your main riding jacket at all times not only so you don’t lose it but it won’t get damaged either.
2. Inspect Your Gear
Round up all your riding attire and give it all a good look. Check for worn out or broken fasteners on your jackets and gloves. Pay special attention to cinch clips or snaps. Take a look at your footwear too. Your laces might be fraying, or the soles may be starting to release from the uppers. Cold temperatures can do that, especially if you store your gear in an unheated environment like your garage. Make sure all your Velcro is holding tight, and give it a few strokes with a pet hair brush if it’s not. It’ll usually perk right up if you straighten the knap.
Your helmet can use some attention too. If you have washable liners, pull them and wash them. You’ll thank me later. Clean your visors, and if you have multiple visors make sure you know where they all are. Things like that have a tendency to migrate during the winter months, or at least they do in my household. Check all your straps and snaps for damage too, and make sure any accessories, like a communicator, are charged, holding tight, and positioned correctly.
Once you’ve inspected all your gear visually, put it all on! Not to put too fine a point on it, but we all know Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day have a tendency to shrink gear. And that’s not even figuring the Quarantine 15 we’re all competing with in 2021! Make sure all your gear fits like it’s supposed to.
Even if you’re pretty sure your gear is all copasetic, you should still run through this step in case our fickle memories have let us down. If some part of my gear fails towards the end of the riding season, I have a tendency to limp it along with thoughts of replacing it over the winter. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. So it’s possible you’ve got a couple surprises waiting for you that didn’t get rectified on Christmas morning.
The wonderful part about doing all this right now is, your local bike shop is probably running some KILLER deals on gear. If you find something that needs replaced, chances are you can save a bundle this time of year. Also, your loving family and friends might have given you a gift card or something over the holidays! Don’t miss this excellent opportunity to use it.
Extra Tip: Cleaning your gear is a great way to keep the reflective bits, well, reflective! Also clean gear looks more stylish and you’ll be able to inspect it for any micro damage. At Total Motorcycle we do unbiased long term gear reviews to let you know what is good out there, check them out.
3. Check Your Environment
Wherever you store your bike in the winter, take a good long look around it. We don’t all have huge garages with extra space, and like me you might have your bike crammed in somewhere between a lawn mower and a volleyball set. Make sure nothing’s going to shift or slip or fall when you start your excavation.
Also, if you’re one of us lucky folk who live where it snows in the winter, you’ve likely tracked in some salt or gravel since the mercury dipped. Take an extra five minutes to sweep up and you’ll avoid a costly drop on the garage floor. One little scattering of gravel is all it takes to set you back two weeks and $2,000.
Extra Tip: Clean the bottom of your boots! Yes, you might think last years dried dust is cool, but just wait till you combine that dust on your sole with a clean concrete floor…a seconds wipe can save you from an embarrassing slip.
4. Check Your Bike
Start where the rubber meets the road – literally your tires. Are they ready for another season of riding, or will you need new rubber soon? Look for flat spots, and check for fluid spillage. An unnoticed leaky fork from last fall can leave a quarter-inch deep puddle of fluid in your rim. Make sure your axle bolts, castle nuts, and pinch bolts are all tight. Check your air pressures and bring them up to spec. Don’t forget your air-adjustable suspension if you’re lucky enough to have such a thing!
While you’ve got your air compressor running, switch out to the air gun and blow as much dust off your bike as you can. This is not just for aesthetic. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with your bike and peer into all the nooks and crannies. If you’ve got warts, chances are you’ll find them now. Loose or leaky connections, broken plastics, whatever.
This is also the time to check all your accessories and make sure everything is tight and right. If you store things like detachable cases or windshields in other locations, this is the time to gather them up and get them installed. Roadside emergency kits, rain ponchos, hand warmers and the like should all be put in their respective places too.
If your battery has been on a trickle charger, get all that sorted out. If it was out of the bike for the season, reinstall it now.
Extra Tip: Check the air in your tires! I just pulled my own bike out from storage a few days ago and while moving it around noticed both of my tires (for the first time in decades) were flat. Normally I’ll check the pressures anyways but maybe if they were just “low” I could have forgotten. I usually change the oil and filter at the start of the season as well because when you bike sits the oil gets more acidic. Did I mention check your oil filter bolts as well for tightness… there was this time I forgot and turned on engine and drained the oil in a few seconds…DOH!
5. Shake It Out
Once your bike is all put together and outfitted for the road, go over your controls. Turn the handlebars from stop to stop a few times and make sure nothing’s binding. Squeeze your levers and give your rear brake a few pumps, then open and close your throttle to confirm the spring return is in good working order. Check and adjust the free play on your clutch lever. Push and pull gently on all your plastics, and bounce the bike on the front suspension with the front brake pulled in tight. Listen for any rattles or thumps. Then kick it into Neutral and roll the bike back and forth a few times, at least far enough to get a full rotation on your tires. If you have a chain, roll it far enough to engage every link of your chain on every tooth of both sprockets. Listen closely while you do this step.
Now, turn the key and make sure you’ve got power. If your bike is fuel injected, listen for the fuel pump to pressurize and cycle off. Then start it up and let it idle. Use your turn signals, brake lights, high and low beams, and horn. Check any other electrical components like heated grips and 12v outlets. Make sure everything is working like it’s supposed to.
Gear up, get on, and put the bike in First gear. Check for any clutch drag by gradually pushing up with your feet to unload your weight from the bike. If it starts to pull in First with the clutch in, you may need to do some clutch adjustments. If all that’s good, you’re ready to ride.
Extra Tip: Always do this off the street if you can for your own safety. After doing a brake job, oil change, suspension work, engine work I’ll use my garage, alley or parking lot to test to make sure I got it right before I NEED to get it right and discover if I did or not. Our free Guides offer gets “how-to” articles as well as our garage forums if you get stuck.
6. Got Everything?
I always make this mistake. I’m excited, the sun is shining, it’s been a cold dark winter. I’ll head out into the sunshine, and quickly relearn everything I forgot about wind chill. Maybe you’ve been getting by with a light hoodie or sweatshirt for the last three weeks, but it will be chilly at 60mph. Get out your liners and put on your layers. And remember it will start to cool off early and quickly. Plan to be home before you’re a chattering, shivering wreck.
Extra Tip: Wind chill is temperature + wind speed over your body. Even if the wind is calm your bike moving at 60mph is the same as you standing still in a 60mph wind! At the end of a spring ride I parked my bike and put my foot down and my leg didn’t hold the bike up thanks to wind chill!
7. Clear Those Cobwebs!
Your very first stop should be a wide-open parking lot, or something like it, for a little brush-up. After all it’s been a couple months right? Give yourself some time to get a feel for your friction zone again. Let out your clutch until the bike starts to creep forward, then pull it back in and push backwards with your feet. Do that three or four times until you’ve got a feel for your clutch again, and then power-walk the bike for fifteen or twenty feet. These steps are especially important if you added any accessories or replaced any components over the winter. Your bike may not behave exactly like you remember.
Once you feel like your wasting your time with that, do some quick stops. Get up to fifteen or twenty miles an hour, stay there for a couple beats, and then bring the bike to an assertive stop. Do that a few times, and work on shortening your stopping distance. Painted rows of parking stalls are a great way to track that!
Now do a few U-turns, or ride around in a progressively tighter circle, until you’re comfortable with your balance and counterweighting. This is a chance to reacquaint yourself with your bikes weight and handling. It’s also an excellent way to work out any kinks, both in your bike and in you!
Once you’re feeling light and limber, head out!
Extra Tip: My wife and I do the wide-open parking lot #7 tip at the start of the riding year. Yes, even as seasoned riders, we still start the season in a parking lot! Sure, we get people asking us if we are new riders or gawkers, but in the end, it’s my butt on the road, not theirs.
8. Respect the Season
Here’s another mistake I make all the time! Your situation might be different, but where I live, all the fun riding is at a higher elevation than my home. It might be 63 degrees and sunny here in the valley, but by the time I’ve got my bike on a fun road with nice scenery, it’s 44 degrees and windy. Spring heat spreads slowly. Plan accordingly.
Also, remember the roads are still going to be a mess. There will be dirt and gravel in the corners or on the center line, and the freeze-thaw cycle may have shredded the asphalt in places it was smooth last fall. What was a minor divet three months ago might be a murderous pothole now. And if you’re heading out early in the day, there still might be overnight ice in the shade. Watch for it.
Drivers will still be a mess too. It’s been months since car drivers had to watch for motorcycles, so they’ll be out of practice. Give yourself lots of space and time to compensate, and stay on high alert while everyone else is working out their cobwebs too.
Extra Tip: In Canada, we use salt and gravel all winter on our roads. As much as it pains me, I won’t go out till it rains once to wash away that corrosive salt and the street sweepers at least go around once to clear some of that hazardous gravel. Maybe I’m too cautious about my safety and my bike condition but it is usually just an extra week of wait rather than a rusty bike and a corner spill.
9. Check Your People
Your local motorcycle community will be positively humming this time of year. Keep an eye out for bike night gatherings, fund raisers, “polar bear” rides and whatever else your local people have dreamed up. There will be lots of opportunities to engage with and enrich your local scene, and every bit helps. Get out there if you’re the sort of person that enjoys that, be seen and talk to people and share your knowledge and your passion!
There will also be the seasonal bumper-crop of new riders who jumped in over the winter. They’ll have gear they got for Christmas that they don’t know how to work yet, and they’ll be looking for friendly faces and places to get some mentoring. Be there for them, and help the community build strong ties.
Extra Tip: Check out our EVENTS area on the site and in our forums for community happenings, rallies, events, shows and more.
10. Take A Class
Of course, there is no better way to brush up on your skills and knock loose any rust than under professional supervision. Your local MSF affiliate program is probably running some spectacular deals this time of year, and a BRC2 or ARC is less expensive than you might guess. Schedule a class and get some time under the trained eye of an MSF RiderCoach, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in a single morning! Also, taking a class like that can usually score you another discount on your insurance! Check with your agent for details.
Extra Tip: Taking a safety class is job #1 before you get your bike, but if there isn’t one in your area (or it is just too far), then the next best step is to read our Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycling with step-by-step lessons to brush up your skills or learn new ones!
Bonus 11. Buy a Bike!
Looking to buy new or upgrade? Well sir and madam, step right up, you have come to the right place! Can I interest you in any bike from any manufacturer from 1970 to 2022? Right here, right now on TMW. Spring is the perfect time to buy a NEW bike, lots of stock in the dealerships, new models, turn the key and go without worry.
Taking these steps can make sure you have a safe and exciting start to your riding season! If you have any tips you’d like to add, you can sound off in our forums, our Facebook group, or wherever else you like to get your social media! Links below!
Subscribe to our Daily RSS News Feed https://www.totalmotorcycle.com/feed/
Thanks for supporting Total Motorcycle!