It’s finally spring and you’re ready to ride. Right? OK, we know you’ve been ready to ride for weeks but the weather hasn’t really been all that cooperative. Nonetheless , it’s going to be in the 60s this weekend so feel free to let go of all the “let’s kill that groundhog” sentiment and just get out there and ride. You’re (more than) ready but is your bike?
As you drag the cover off your bike and move it from the far corner of the garage to center stage there are just a few things that you are going to want to take a look at before you blast off on that first Saturday morning ride of the season. Think air, liquids, and electricity. Air first, as in tire pressures.Even tires in good condition will tend to lose pressure slowly over time. If the last time you rode was in October, you’re scooter’s been sitting for nearly 6 months. Dig out that tire gauge (you DO have a tire gauge don’t you?) and make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturers recommended pressures. Where do you find those? Usually the owners manual and/or placarded somewhere on the bike – typically near one of the wheels or equally as often, under the seat somewhere. While you’re groveling around down there it would be a really good time to have a look at overall tire condition and tread wear. If they look good for another season of riding then have at it. If they’re questionable, give thought to scoring some new ones now, rather than have to interrupt your riding season mid summer when the shops are busiest. That’ll just about cover air. As for liquids, there are 5 places to scan for issues. Fuel first. If you stored the bike over the winter, then you put a fuel stabilizer like StaBil in the tank. Right? If you did, then you should have no particular issues on initial Spring startup. If you didn’t, but the bike starts and runs, then the best thing you can do is ride and flow gas through all those tiny passages. However, it’s always a good idea to head on out to the gas station and get a good fill-up with fresh gasoline as soon as practical after long storage. Gasoline is a pretty complex fluid with lots of constituent parts. Different components evaporate at different rates and the gas in your tank after the long winter is chemically somewhat different than what was in there back when the leaves were turning yellow. Now you know why gas smells “different” after sitting in the tank for a long time. Kind of like skunky beer. Fluid #2 – oil. Check the oil level. Make sure your bike is topped up. Spring is also an obvious time to think about an oil change even if you didn’t quite cover the manufacturers recommended interval since the last changes. Motor oil doesn’t just lubricate, it’s an important medium for carrying away dirt, sludge, assorted combustion by-products and miscellaneous nasty particulate stuff in your engine. Now, after a few months of sitting, all that crap has settled to the bottom of your sump. Wouldn’t you rather just drain it and send it to the recycler than pump it back up to rapidly moving, highly loaded parts of your engine? Fluid #3 – Brake fluid. Brake fluid has this rather inconvenient property. It absorbs water out of the atmosphere. Water is bad in brake systems for two reasons – it facilitates corrosion and it doesn’t work at all well as a heat resistant, incompressible fluid with which to actuate your brakes. If your brakes feel a bit sketchy in the spring it may be time to bleed them or even go for a complete flush and fill. Some manufacturers recommend a complete flush and fill every couple of years. We all do that right? 4th – how about engine coolant? It’s always a good idea to check the coolant level after a period of downtime. Air cooled bike owners – please feel free to disregard. The final liquid (OK maybe it isn’t actually a liquid) is chain lube. Hose that chain down with a quality lubricant the first time you ride – yes, it’s better to do it immediately after you ride, when the chain is warm. That will bring us around to the last item, electricity – which may actually be the first item that your attention is drawn to on the warm April Saturday. You know that distinctive sound – you push the start button and are rewarded with a particularly distinctive click, immediately followed by the dimming of lights. If you neglected your kids the way most of us neglect our batteries then the social workers would come and take them away (the kids, not the batteries. Social workers aren’t interested in batteries.) OK, so you connected the charger for a couple of hours and now the bike runs. Make sure you go for a long ride to get it up to a full charge, OK? And take note of how vigorously the motor cranks over on the starter. If your battery is more than a couple of years old it may be coming due for replacement. Once you do get the bike running, it’s also a good time to have a look and make sure all your lights are working properly and that the mice in the garage didn’t spend the winter gnawing through your wiring harness (seriously!)
That’s just about it – air, liquids, and electricity. Get that stuff straight and you’re ready to ride – with one very small exception for those of us here in Pennsylvania. State Inspection. Yeah, that old necessary evil. But wait, the stuff we just reviewed above is almost exactly the things that get checked by the inspector. Take care of the items on our little air,liquids, electricity checklist and the odds are very good that you’ll sail right through the Pa State Inspection with no surprises. Take a look at the due date on your inspection sticker and, if necessary, knock that nasty distraction out of the way as soon as possible. NOW you’re ready for the 2013 riding season!