I believe this winter will go down as one of the most brutal of all times, at least for riding that is. Here in the south, we typically can count on two to three good weekends a month of winter riding. But this winter has been different, with practically every weekend since December 1st.having temps in the mid to low 40s and almost all of them included the threat of precipitation. Die hard riders can deal with the low temps but I’ve never talked to anyone that enjoys riding in the rain much less a cold rain.
So what do we do with all the down time on those frigid Saturdays now that football season is wrapped up? Well, it’s a great time to prep your bike for that first good weekend of 2012, and since safety is a top priority, you should start by performing a safety check on your bike. So pull up a rolling stool, pen-n-pad and a digital camera if you have it and let’s get started.
First, go around the bike checking every nut and set screw that provides structural support or secures something that you would miss if it fell off like a fender, head light, or a wheel....... ensuring that all are tight to specs or your comfort. If you find that you are missing a screw or nut, make a note of it with your pen-n-paper and with your digital camera, snap from different angles, a couple of shots of the part location. I’ve found that it is easier to show what part you need rather than try to describe it. It’s not a bad idea to buy two of the missing screw or nut and keep the spares in a pouch or baggie somewhere on the bike. Chances are if it fell off once it will fall off again.
The electrical system is obviously a vital part of our bike and historically is one of the prime factors in roadside failures. So starting with the battery, check the main cables for a clean and secure connection cleaning any corrosion you see with a battery spray cleaner. Re-connect or tighten the main cables and any other connections that are made at the battery including fuse holders and fuses. While on electrical, hopefully your bike has been connected to a battery tender or you’ve been cranking it every week or so, otherwise the first electrical failure just might be the battery itself. It’s a good idea to have a fuse kit that includes spare fuses for each fuse type on your bike.
Tire inspection is next and it really helps if you have a hydraulic lift handy, as getting the wheels off the ground makes this process much easier. If you don’t have access to a motorcycle lift then you’ll have to do a roll and inspect. This is a little more difficult, especially on large bikes, but it’s worth the effort. With a bright shop light in hand, you roll each wheel slowly while you inspect the tread looking for any cuts, nails or abnormalities. If you find anything suspicious and you’re uncertain to the hazard of it, snap a shot of it with the camera and X mark the side wall in line with the spot should you need to get it to the dealer. Oh, don’t forget the air pressure.
Probably one of the easiest things to do on the bike, oil and filter changes, are the life blood of the engine and should be done regularly. I hit mine about every three thousand miles, plus or minus a few hundred and I do it myself. It’s ok if you’re not comfortable with doing this yourself but it should be the first thing you do before you roll off on that first spring road trip. The fuel filter is one of those out of site out of mind parts on your bike but take it from me, it can strand you hundreds of miles away from home at the most in opportune time, so consider replacing it when you get that oil change.
Visibility, or the lack of, is probably the number one cause or excuse used in motorcycle accidents. Remember to do this each and every time before you start out on a ride.... roll your bike to a point where it is clear to walk around, crank her up, and starting at the rear, go around your bike checking each light ensuring that it is working properly. Brake lights can be difficult to see when operating the controls and can be checked by reflecting off another vehicle or a mirror. In the writing of this article, I discovered that my front brake, the brake I use 95% of the time, was not engaging the brake light.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff, the clean up. Believe it or not, damaging dust particles will settle on your bike over the course of winter hibernation. So to ward off those harmful dust boogers, I keep my bike under cover whenever it’s park it in the basement. However, a cover is only part the story. A thorough cleaning and wax are the real secret to an eye popping shine. I’ve been using Eagle One Nano Wax spray wipe-n-shine and micro fiber cloths to clean my current bike and the finish looks as good as it did when I bought it back in 2007. Wheel cleaners will depend on the type of wheels you have. For my aluminum wheels, I use Black Magic Wheel Clean. Now you may prefer a different wax or cleaner and that’s ok. Just remember, a clean bike is a happy bike.
Well that takes care of my bike. What about yours, are you ready for the first ride of 2012?