Despite the recent bout of freezing weather, this time of year is traditionally when motorcyclists dust off their leathers and get back in the saddle.
As such, we’ve compiled a bumper list of springtime tips to make your two-wheeled return to the roads as safe and smooth as possible.
Bear in mind that it’s worth considering getting your bike serviced by professionals before heading out on the road, but make sure you’ve checked the following yourself as well.
Seasoned bikers will know that it’s a good idea to use a fuel stabilizer while your bike has been in storage over the winter. If you have done, then your fuel should be fine, provided its been less than a year since you’ve had your bike out. Even so, it’s worth opening the filler cap for a look to see if there’s no gunk or stratification.
If your fuel is all good, consistent and clean, think about draining the tank, the fuel lines and carburettor before firing up the engine.
Also, consider removing the spark plugs and pouring two tablespoons of oil into the ports – this will help lube the top part of the cylinder walls before you fire up your bike.
OIL BE DARNED
Even if you haven’t changed your oil before storage, checking your oil before doing anything on your bike is essential. Oil degrades as it sits, so it’s worth considering an oil and filter change.
Cold weather saps a bike’s battery life like you wouldn’t believe. If it isn’t fully charged, don’t head out – it might end up packing in and leaving you stranded.
Make sure you’ve checked the leads for sign of corrosion, too.
DON’T BE A DRIP – CHECK FOR LEAKS
Now’s the time to check your clutch, coolant and brake fluid levels. Make sure they’re all topped up.
If you stored your bike properly and kept weight off it while it was in storage, then there’s a good chance that your tyres and suspension are still in good nick – but it’s still worth giving them a check – they’re the bit of your bike which connects it to the road, after all. Pay attention to wear and inflation levels.
Take special care if your bike was rested on a kickstand – are there any strange marks, cracks or flat spots on the tyres?
Don’t just saddle up and hit the road – let the bike idle for a while to get its fuel circulating.
TIME TO ADJUST
It’s not just the bike which has been idling over the winter – your skills will have been, too. Take a while to get yourself re-accustomed to the bike, and for heaven’s sake, take it easy.
“The most common problem is for riders to come to a left or right hand bend and overcook the turn”, says Simon Walsh, of Celtic Riders motorcycling school.
Bear in mind that car drivers won’t have seen many bikers on the roads for a while, and lack of awareness usually makes for more accidents.
(DON’T) KEEP UP
If you’re heading out with fellow bikers, focus on what you’re doing and not what they’re doing. “Don’t try and keep up with them, and if you lose ground, don’t try and catch up – this is when you’ll begin to ride past your limit” says Simon Walsh. “You can help to avoid this by starting your journey with a full tank of fuel – lots of riders will set off without one and then have to stop to get more, and then try and catch up.”
Continuous Vehicle Insurance legislation which came into force a few years ago means that even if you aren’t using your bike over the winter, you’ll have to keep your bike insured unless it’s been registered as off-the-road with the DVLA.
But if now’s the time for renewal, it doesn’t make sense to pay over the odds. You can compare bike insurance from a wide range of brands on Gocompare.com to stand yourself with a great chance of getting a good deal.
BACK TO SCHOOL
There are a lots of national courses which will help improve your biking ability – and now’s the time to put your name down. Bikesafe and Bike Down are two such courses and come highly recommended by instructors.
If you're a less experienced rider, then it may even be worth booking yourself in for a morning of afternoon's teaching with an instructor to get your skills back up to speed.