Spring Riding Tips
It’s time to get your motorcycle ready for spring. If that, or any part of it, is a DIY project, this blog will help you. Before you do anything else, use your maintenance manual. It will have a section that covers spring maintenance, with all the particulars and parameters specific to your bike. If you’ve never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, give it a try. It’s a strange and wonderful book. Use common sense about the order in which you perform these checks and changes—various authorities work in various orders. Just be sure to cover all the bases. And, as Robert Pirsig might say—adopt a Zen-like attitude.
If you added a stabilizer to your gas or drained it, your tank should be safe from rust, gunk, and condensation—all of which can cause problems. Otherwise, drain the tank, check for problems, and fill it with new gas.
Before tackling fluids, look for leaks. You’ll need to get them fixed, if you have any. If you didn’t change engine oil last fall, do that now. You might as well change the filter now, too. Your manual has the procedure to follow for your motorcycle. Check and change (if they’ve gone bad) or top up: shaft drive oil, hydraulic fluid, gear oil. Check and if need be change your battery fluid. Now, here’s a spot where your manual will help: if you have a lithium battery, don’t top up the cells with water. It’s best to change your brake fluid, but at least check it and top it off your brake fluid. (Remember that different DOT brake fluids don’t mix.) It’s best to flush your coolant and then use white vinegar and distilled water before replacing the fluid. If your bike runs hot, now’s the time to add a racing-approved coolant.
Check that the battery terminals are clean and the connections are secure. Use baking soda and water to clean the terminals. If you used a trickle charger over the winter, your battery should be fine. If not, you might need to charge your battery. And if it won’t take a charge, you need a new one. Get a friend to check that all your lights work: hi-beam, low-beam, turn signals, brake lights. Check your hoses to see if there are any bulges or cracks, which would mean you need a new hose. Be sure bolts on metal hoses are tight. Check all your cables to find any kinks, or fraying, or other damage; lubricate your cables as the manual instructs. Check all your levers and pedals to see that they’re not broken or bending. Check that the throttle moves smoothly. Be sure your brake pads aren’t worn. Mice love to live in air filters. Check that. Now might be a good time to replace filters, anyway.
Check the frame to make sure it has no cracks or dents. Ensure that the forks and shocks are correctly adjusted. Check the tension on the belt and chain. Check the chain for dirt and embedded debris. Be sure the teeth are correctly mounted and that none of them are cracked, chipped, or worn down. Check that the fasteners are tight. Examine the drive belt for cracks or uneven wear and replace it if need be. Your manual will tell you how much general wear is acceptable before the belt needs to be replaced.
As you should before every ride, check your tires. Be sure there are no flat spots (from sitting too long in one place). Bring the pressure to standard (that manual again). Check for wear, low tread, and bulges. If you need new ones, start the season safely.
Finally, give that beauty a good wash and wax; shine that chrome. Use leather treatment on any leather parts, like seat and handgrips. Record what you’ve done in your maintenance journal—if you don’t have one, you can start now.
These tips aren’t meant to guarantee a safe ride. They are suggestions culled from a number of sources. Even if you do all your own work, you might still have your motorcycle checked out by a professional.