How To

A checklist before that first ride

The annual storage and unpacking of the motorcycle is as much of a ritual as changing the clocks when daylight saving time comes and goes.

For those of us suffering from seasonal PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) every winter “ that is to say, pretty much everyone not living in southwest B.C. “ the annual storage and unpacking of the motorcycle is as much of a ritual as changing the clocks when daylight saving time comes and goes.

There is, however, a bit more to it than pushing a digital button or moving a clock’s hand. While it’s important for your bike’s longevity to store it properly in the fall, it’s just as important for your own longevity to make sure you set it up properly again in the spring.

Of course, aside from the bike itself, road hazards are particularly bad in the Canadian spring. There is still lots of sand (and worse, salt) on the roads, especially the secondary ones that are so much more fun on a motorcycle.

Plus, pets, wildlife and farm animals are just as wound up about the changing weather as you are, making them more active and more prone to leaping out where they shouldn’t be – in your path.

And you’re well out of practice, too.

This means that, if anything, your attention needs to be at its sharpest at the time of year when you’re least equipped to supply it. “Slow and careful” is the motto when you’re out for your first few rides.

Having said all that, of course, you shouldn’t just push the bike out of the garage or shed and expect it to start and be rideable right away. Just like you after a long nap, your machine needs a bit of time to get up to speed.

It’s still a pretty painless task if you’ve put the bike away properly, of course. That means a full tank of stabilized fuel, the battery out and charged occasionally over the winter, and the bike blocked up on stands so that the tires were off the concrete, gravel, dirt, or whatever the bike was left on.

First thing I always do is drain the fuel from the tank and replace it with fresh. Even though I put the machine away with fresh fuel with the appropriate amount of stabilizer, I just don’t trust gasoline that’s been sitting for months. Pull the hose off the tank petcock, attach a temporary hose to drain the fuel into a container, then dump the gas into your car or truck. It’ll dilute itself enough there not to cause any problems no matter how bad it may have gotten.

While the fuel is draining, I get the battery out of the basement and reinstall it. I keep mine on a “floater” charger that automatically maintains the correct voltage, but setting the charger on a timer, or just giving it a day once a month, has always worked in the past. Make sure that the terminals and wires are clean and dry when you clamp things back down.

Next, something that’s critical and often forgotten: check tire pressures.

Modern wheels and tires are excellent, but it’s certainly not unusual for them to lose a few psi while sitting for several months. The air volume is small so if they’re down a bit, a roadside emergency pump or even a bicycle hand pump will have them where they belong in no time at all.

While you’re thinking about the wheels, check the chain tension, if you’ve got a chain-drive machine. It’s something that’s easy to forget about in the fall and only takes a minute, but again it’s important to how well the bike runs.

If you were very thorough in the fall and greased, oiled, or used other protectants on chrome or painted surfaces, this is the time to clean the gunk off before it gets on your tires or just attracts a mess of road grime. This is also a good time to add a drop of grease or light oil to pivot points at the bar levers and foot pedals.

By now the tank should be empty, so reattach the petcock line and add fresh fuel.

Check the other fluid levels to be safe – engine oil, differential oil if you have a shaft-drive bike, brake and clutch fluid. I change brake and clutch fluids every spring – the stuff is hygroscopic and will absorb water over time, becoming less effective – but if you’re not comfortable with working with your brakes, go to a shop. It’s a good practice and won’t cost much.

That’s about it. Clean your visor, don your jacket, plug in your electric vest if it’s as early as I usually get out, and don’t forget to be careful about all that sand and salt until there have been a couple of good, heavy, spring rains to sponge off the asphalt.

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