The long nights, freezing temperatures and frequent rain of the British winter are a deterrent to all but the most committed of motorcyclists.
But as the weather gets more forgiving, thousands of more casual riders are set to remove the dust covers from their bikes, brush off their leathers and make the most of the warmer months.
Lots of motorbike owners only tax and insure their bikes for a portion of the year, opting to take it off the road when the nights draw in and the temperature drops. But new Continuous Insurance Enforcement legislation, due to come into force at the end of spring, has meant that lots of riders could be erring on the wrong side of the law, even if they don’t realise it.
Now, unless vehicles have been registered as ‘off the road’ with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), car and bike owners will have to insure their vehicles for the duration of the year, rather than just cancelling their policy when the conditions get too cold or taking a short policy which just covers the summer months. “The legislation sneaked in, and lots of people outside the motoring and insurance industries aren’t really aware of it,” says Gocompare.com’s head of bike insurance, Mark Greening. “If you’re a motorbike rider, then it’s essential that you check your insurance is in order, as well as your road tax.”
The motorcyclist’s essential post-winter checklist
Once your road tax and bike insurance is up to date, then your thoughts should turn to the bike itself, not to mention your own skills.
- Your bike
“A bike under a dustsheet in a warm garage is going to keep better than a bike in a garden shed or under a waterproof cover,” says Jeff Stone, spokesman for the British Motorcyclists Federation. “For instance, if the bike has been kept in such circumstances, it could be worth checking under the seat and tank. It's not unknown for birds and mice to make a home for themselves over winter!”
Make sure the pressure is correct and check for any cracks, especially if the bikes been stood on cold concrete with under-inflated tyres.
Check the electrolyte level, if it’s re-fillable and whether it’s charged. “If it’s left standing for long, the battery may be sulphated and have to be replaced,” says Jeff.
- Lights and switches
Check that they’re still working, especially stop lights. “A spray of WD40 wouldn’t go amiss, either” says Jeff.
- Engine Oil level
When was the engine oil last changed? “It might be a good idea to start the year afresh,” Jeff recommends. “Also, if engine is liquid cooled, check radiator for fluid level and top-up if necessary.”
Discs can rust and pads and brake pistons can stick when a bike is in storage, so make sure you’ve made a thorough check. “Make sure they are operating freely,” says Jeff. "The same goes for drum brakes. Any light surface rust will quickly wear off with light applications of the brakes, but take it easy when first using,” he says.
- Handle bar controls
Is throttle action smooth? “The cable might need oiling if the bike has been left outside,” recommends Jeff. “Check the clutch lever and brake pedal for easy movement.”
Are bars free to move with no jerkiness?
- Rear Chain
Check over entire length, especially if bike’s been outside. Is the chain well lubricated, properly adjusted and the rollers free?
It’s not only the bike that can go rusty…your skills can too. “Get your head into gear before you get the bike into gear,” says Jeff. “If you’ve been used to driving a car, remember that now you’re on a bike people won’t see you as easily anymore. In fact, never assume another driver has seen you. Always assume the worst and you’ll be better off for it.”
“This shouldn’t be a problem as long as it has been kept dry and uncrumpled,” says Jeff. “If leather, a good treatment with a leather cream/conditioner will set you up for the summer.” This goes for jackets, suits, boots and gloves, too. If they are made of textiles, then they might be able to be machine washed, but remove any protective armour first! It should then be treated with a silicone treatment, like Nikwax.
Check it over. Is the visor clean and scratch free? Is it smelling fresh? If not wash the liner with shampoo (not too much!) and leave to dry naturally.